Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Identity, 2

I promised I'd write this and I will, ungoddammit.

So, let's recap: Two people. Same (shapeshifting) bodies. Identical memory. Different history. Do they have a different identity, or not?

The first question I ask myself is: What are the differences, and are they relevant? Difference #1, as mentioned before, is history, as before the merging moment they were separate people. History is relevant to identity, because it's what makes me the same person as the baby born some 19 years ago. We have nothing in common, except DNA and that he gradually became me. Since we don't consider identical twins to be the same person, it's not DNA, so it must be that series of small changes that added up to result in the idiot writing this blog. However, (there's always a however), something that happened in the past can only be relevant to the present up to the extent that it has consequences in it. And in this case, the consequences of each one's history are the same for both. That is to say, something that happened to Shippy affects zir and Saffy in the same way, so history cannot differentiate them. The only case in which history would be relevant would be if there was a third party/recording device/etc. observing the merging and keeping track of who was each. Assuming that didn't take place, or that they managed to pull off a manoeuvre that made them lose track, history is not a relevant difference.

Is there any other difference? I already stated that mind and body are the same, but somebody might suggest the soul. Now, normally I'd say that there's no good reason to think souls exist, but this is a fictional setting so lets allow for them. Which opens a whole new batch of questions: How do souls affect us? Are they set from birth, or do they change? Do they start out the same? What can change them?

The first one is the most important: if my soul does not affect me in any way, then the discussion is pointless. If the consequences of its existence do not apply until after I die, (in the classic afterlife "your soul lives on" scenario) then they are also irrelevant. If they determine or influence personality, preferences, etc. while alive, however, they might become relevant. Onto further questions, there's the issue of souls changing. If souls change, then what can change them becomes the most important question. If souls influence personality, and personality is determined by our experiences, it would be reasonable to assume it's our minds that determine how souls change, and therefore they would've been matched in the merging. So, down that avenue, again, no difference.

Let's say souls are set at birth, in which case the question is, how do they start out? We'll assume the start out different, because otherwise, again, no difference. Next part, how much of our personality is determined from birth? Not all of it, of course, because people change. Does the soul set some personality range, within which you can move as determined by personal experience? In that case, it's all a matter of luck, really, there's only a difference if the personality ranges don't overlap. If the soul acts like some sort of filter which interprets experiences and determines how they change us, then different filters mean a different identity, regardless of having the same memory.

So, there's the only possibility I've found for Saffy and Shippy to be different. A very specific form of an unproven and untestable entity. Since this all depends on how I build my fictional universe, and I know myself well enough to know it'd never be like that, screw it, they have no separate identity. I hate using the God clause to win, but I was arguing against myself, so...

A comment I've been meaning to make: Were I to follow my usual methods, I'd have approached this by looking at what defines the identity of each and seeing if it's the same thing. However, identity doesn't work too well definitions. I touched upon this in the previous post, but it's impossible to find something that is the definition of a person. Look at any person, and tell me if you can find something about them that is both unique to them and remains constant throughout their lives. There's no such thing. DNA doesn't work, because as I said before we don't consider identical twins to be the same person. Souls haven't been proven to exist, so don't bring that up either. Identity is, to quote myself by proxy through Shippy, a long chain of related links in which the first one may have nothing to do with the last one.

No comments:

Post a Comment