September 2, 2023

This Post is Old!

The post you are reading is years old and may not represent my current views. I started blogging around the time I first began to study philosophy, age 17. In my view, the point of philosophy is to expose our beliefs to rational scrutiny so we can revise them and get better beliefs that are more likely to be true. That's what I've been up to all these years, and this blog has been part of that process. For my latest thoughts, please see the front page.

Philosophy and Science Fiction, Unit 2: Personal Identity

The semester has now begun, but I'm still working on finishing up the additional scifi recommendations for the student assignments in my Philosophy and Science Fiction class. I've just finished unit 2.

The task for unit 2 will be to analyze a work of science fiction in which it is unclear whether a character A is the same person as a character B, or in which it is unclear whether a certain person continues to exist over time.

Required Reading

Week 1: The Problem and Why It MattersThe Twilight Zone, "Number 12 Looks Just Like You" (1964)Olson, "Personal Identity," in Schneider, Science Fiction and Philosophy (2016)
Week 2: The Psychological TheoryGuin, "Beyond Bedlam" (1951)Locke, selections from An Essay concerning Human Understanding
Week 3: The Physical TheoryVarley, "Overdrawn at the Memory Bank" (1976)Thomson, "People and Their Bodies," in Sider, et al., Contemporary Debates in Metaphysics (2007)

Additional Scifi Recommendations

Silverberg, "Born With the Dead" (1974)

Jorge is on a quest to locate his wife, Sybille. Following her death two years earlier, Sybille underwent a process known as 'rekindling', restoring her to life. But the experience of death and rekindling changes a person, and the rekindled usually want little to do with the living.

Dick, A Scanner Darkly (1977) or the 2006 animated film adaptation

Bob Arctor is addicted to Substance D, a mysterious drug that (among other things) interferes with users' sense of self. Bob Arctor is also 'Fred', an undercover narcotics agent who has just been assigned to surveil...Bob Arctor.

(Recommended by @cathoderayzone.)

Butler, Wild Seed (1980)

Doro, an ancient superhuman spirit, breeds humans with psychic abilities to serve as host bodies for himself.

Gibson, "The Winter Market" (1985), reprinted in Burning Chrome (1995)

Lise is an artist whose medium is dreams, communicated to the mind by direct link with a computer. Casey is her editor. Lise died yesterday, but is expected to call Casey soon from her home inside a computer to continue their work.

Stiegler, "The Gentle Seduction" (1989)

A young woman is skeptical when her boyfriend insists that the singularity will soon arrive and humans will be merged with computers, becoming immortal. Her attitude changes quite a lot over the next several centuries.

(Recommended by @acadialogue.)

Egan, "The Safe-Deposit Box" (1990), reprinted in Axiomatic (1998)

As far back as he can remember, a man has woken up in a different house, with a different name and a different body, every morning. Who is he, really?

Content advisory: child abuse.

(Recommended by @rettlerb and @MichellePanchuk.)

Egan, "Learning to be Me" (1990), reprinted in Axiomatic (1998)

In the future, everyone has a 'jewel' implanted in their head. Over time, this tiny device monitors neural activity and uses machine learning to become a perfect simulation of the brain. Then, in young adulthood, the jewel is given control and the organic brain is removed.

(Recommended by @JimPropp, @sharpblue, @AngryStrawman, @Xanaxides, and @MichellePanchuk)

Star Trek: The Next Generation, "Second Chances" (1993)

At an isolated science outpost, the crew of the Enterprise discover a duplicate of Commander Riker, apparently created in a long ago transporter accident.

(Recommended by Jeremy Pierce and James Edward, on Facebook.)

Star Trek: Voyager, "Tuvix" (1996)

A transporter accident fuses Neelix and Lieutenant Tuvok into one person.

(Recommended by Jeremy Pierce, @js_thrill, and @CareyBrian.)

Morgan, Altered Carbon (2002), or the TV adaptation

After being shot and killed by police on his home planet 180 light-years away, Takeshi Kovacs is 'resleeved' (placed in a new body) on earth. His resleeving has been sponsored by Laurens Bancroft who wishes to employ Kovacs as a private investigator to determine why, how, and by whom he (Bancroft) was recently murdered.

(Recommended by @BenVlodgi and Ryan Downie, on Facebook.)

Moon (film; 2009)

Sam Bell is the sole human attendant of a largely automated mining operation on the moon. As the psychological stresses of nearly three years of isolation wear on him, he begins to wonder whether he is really as alone as he thinks.

(Recommended by @JeanKazez.)

Doom Patrol, "Jane Patrol" (2019)

Kay Challis suffers from dissociative identity disorder. Each of her 64 personalities has different superpowers.

Content advisory: child abuse; sexual violence

(Recommended by Nichi Smith, on Facebook.)

Severance, season 1 (2022)

In the near future, a surgical procedure allows people to 'sever' their work selves from their personal selves: during working hours, they have no memory or knowledge of their life outside work, and outside working hours they have no knowledge of their work.
Posted by Kenny at September 2, 2023 2:26 PM
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