Dan Dennett, Where Am I?
1. The characters
a. Yorick: His brain
b. Hamlet: His body
c. Fortinbras: His new body
d. Hubert: The computer program that functionally mirrors his brain
2. The story
a. Asked to go fetch a radioactive atomic warhead a mile underground Tulsa, Oklahoma
b. Its harmful radiation would affect the brain, but the not rest of his body
c. Leave his brain behind in a vat in Houston, Texas
d. Hook up radio links between his brain and his body
i. “Like moving the brain over an inch in your skull and stretching the nerves”
ii. “Making nerves indefinitely elastic by splicing radio links into them”
iii. “Would not alter or impair the mind”
IMAGINES HIS BODY SITTING IN CHAIR NEXT TO HIS BRAIN AND THE TROUBLES THIS CAUSES PHYSICALISM
3. Where am I in this case?
a. Sitting in a chair looking at my brain in a vat next to me?
b. Suspended in fluid in a vat being stared at by my own eyes?
4. Dennett goes with the first:
a. He thinks he is sitting in a chair looking at his own brain in the vat next to him
5. Implication: Where a person is, is not necessarily where his/her brain is
6. Example creates trouble for physicalism (the view that everything is physical, including persons, minds, and thoughts)
a. Physicalism typically argues that one’s thoughts are instantiated in (identical with) brain states
b. If we assume Dennett’s thoughts are located wherever he is (sitting next to his brain), then his thoughts are not identical to his brain states as they are separated from them
8. Physicalism seems incompatible with a person and her thoughts being separate from her brain
9. Does this help physicalism?
a. A person is her body or is at least located where her body is?
b. For then a person is still physical (just not identical to brain)
10. Consider: If a person is a mental substance (distinct from a physical substance–as in a soul), persons do not have spacial locations
a. Only physical stuff can have a location in space
b. Note: A person as a mental substance, can have temporal properties, but spacial properties ones
11. Question: Is a person only a mind or is a person both a mind and a body/brain?
BRAIN TRANSPLANT EXAMPLE SUGGESTS YOU ARE NOT YOUR BODY
12. Idea that you are wherever your body is, is easily shown false by brain transplant experiments
13. Obama brain transplant example
a. Imagine putting your brain in President Obama’s body and taking Obama’s brain and putting it in your body.
b. Would you be sitting in the White House or here in this class room? Where would Obama be?
c. Seems like you’d be sitting in White House
d. If we asked the person in the White House what he had for breakfast, who his parents were, where he went to school, what would he say?
14. Memories seem crucial to who you are
15. One implication: You can be separated from your body
a. Much less clear you can be separated from your brain
b. Though in the case of sitting in a chair looking down at your brain in a vat, it seems you are
PUTTING BRAIN IN PRISON EXAMPLE SUGGESTS YOU ARE NOT YOUR BRAIN
16. Imagine you committed a crime and they caught your brain (in a vat), but not your body
17. Locking up your brain and letting your body go free does not punish you
18. Your brain would be in prison, but you’d be on the beaches of Mexico drinking Pina Coladas
19. Seems clear they would not have successfully punished you or kept you in prison
20. So you are not your brain.
IMAGINES SIGNAL BETWEEN BRAIN AND BODY BROKEN, HIS LOCATION MOVES AND POSSIBLE NON-PHYSICAL NATURE OF SOUL?
21. The story continues...
22. He’s going down underneath Tulsa, Oklahoma to get the warhead and he goes deaf and then blind and can’t talk or move his body
23. The transceivers have broken
a. He’s lost all contact with that body
24. Now he’s in Houston, where his brain is
25. Does this provide an argument for immateriality of the soul based on physical principles/premises?
a. When radio signals between Houston and Tulsa stopped, he changed locations (instantaneously)
b. Physical stuff can’t do that
IMAGINES A COMPUTER PROGRAM FUNCTIONALLY EQUIVALENT TO HIS BRAIN
26. The story continues...
a. Technical support team sedated him in to a dreamless sleep
b. Awoke to music piped into his brain w/o ears and the voice of the project director saying they were working to re-embody him
27. Awoke with a new body (Fortinbras)
a. Leaves one’s person intact
b. One’s personality is largely preserved
c. So we are not our bodies
d. But he is now located where his new body is located
28. Went back to visit his brain (Yorik) in Houston
a. He flicked off the output transmitter from Yorik
b. Nothing happened, all the senses continued to function as normal
c. How could it be?
29. From the beginning they had constructed a computer duplicate of his brain
a. Reproducing complete information processing structure and computational speed of his brain in a giant computer program
b. Run this computer system and Yorick side by side
i. Incoming signals from Hamlet (his original body) sent to both Yorick and the inputs on this computer
ii. Outputs from Yorick go back to Hamlet (his body) but recorded and checked against the simultaneous outputs of the computer program (Hubert)
iii. Outputs were identical
iv. The computer program had copied brain’s functional structure
c. Flipped the master switch so Hubert (the computer) was in on-line control of his body (Fortinbras, not Hamlet--Hamlet was left underground and disintegrated)
a. The brain is just a computer program?
i. Could computers have consciousness (if hooked up to a body?)
b. So one is not identical with the physical brain that instantiates one’s thoughts/memories/personality?
31. Functionalism: Anything that functions the same (takes given input and puts out the same outputs) is the same thing, no matter out of what it is physically constructed
i. The matter is not important, but its function is
32. He now had a spare brain
a. Could flip back and forth between Yorick and Hubert and his consciousness would not notice
b. Could this program then insure his immortality?
IMAGINES A SECOND BODY HOOKED UP TO SPARE BRAIN
33. Would there be two Dennetts if either Yorick or Hubert where hooked up to a new body?
a. Which would be the true Dennett, if either?
b. Dennett believes as long as one brain/body or computer program/body survived he’d survive
i. Doesn’t want both to survive
(1) Compete for his wife’s affection!
34. The two could lead different lives
a. One could stay at work and earn a salary
b. Other could go out and have fun
35. Note: As soon as the experiences and memories would differ, they would be different people
Study questions, Dan Dennett, Where Am I?
1. Describe Dennett’s story where his body and brain and himself all get separated.
2. How does this story cause trouble for physicalism’s view of the person (that you are identical with your brain). (Consider looking into a vat where your brain is,)
3. Explain how brain transplants undermine the idea that you are wherever your body is.
4. How does Dennett use the idea of putting a convicted criminal’s brain in prison (but not his body) to show that you are not identical with your brain?
5. In principle, could a computer program which is functionally equivalent to your brain (given the same inputs, it gives the same outputs as does your brain), be a substitute for your brain in terms of running your body (and being you?)? Would it be conscious?
6. Do you think you are identical with your brain? Your body? Your mind/soul? All three?