Friday, November 28, 2008

Think What?


Recently I went through BBC news feeds. I stumbled upon this page posing as a great Philosophical booster. But I found almost everything in the page very illogical to think. Here is an extract from the page and my response for the same.


Suppose Bill is a healthy man without family or loved ones. Would it be ok painlessly to kill him if his organs would save five people, one of whom needs a heart, another a kidney, and so on? If not, why not?

Consider another case: you and six others are kidnapped, and the kidnapper somehow persuades you that if you shoot dead one of the other hostages, he will set the remaining five free, whereas if you do not, he will shoot all six. (Either way, he'll release you.)

If in this case you should kill one to save five, why not in the previous, organs case? If in this case too you have qualms, consider yet another: you're in the cab of a runaway tram and see five people tied to the track ahead. You have the option of sending the tram on to the track forking off to the left, on which only one person is tied. Surely you should send the tram left, killing one to save five.

But then why not kill Bill?

My Response: Never ever I will kill Bill! In the kidnapping case, I will organize a revolt along with all the six other hostages with me. I will try to over-power the kidnappers and try to free them all. Never to kill one of them to save other. Like wise, I will try to untie the people or to stop the tram. If not possible, I will not choose to kill the one on left track. Because if I divert the tram in to the left track it may end up in a much disastrous accident killing even more number of people. But in case of Bill’s organ transplant, we have many healthy people dying everyday in accidents and we have many other alternative than killing Bill. To correlate the kidnapping or the tram case with Bill’s case is clear nonsense!


Consider a photo of someone you think is you eight years ago. What makes that person you? You might say he she was composed of the same cells as you now. But most of your cells are replaced every seven years. You might instead say you're an organism, a particular human being, and that organisms can survive cell replacement - this oak being the same tree as the sapling I planted last year.

But are you really an entire human being? If surgeons swapped George Bush's brain for yours, surely the Bush look-alike, recovering from the operation in the White House, would be you. Hence it is tempting to say that you are a human brain, not a human being.

But why the brain and not the spleen? Presumably because the brain supports your mental states, eg your hopes, fears, beliefs, values, and memories. But then it looks like it's actually those mental states that count, not the brain supporting them. So the view is that even if the surgeons didn't implant your brain in Bush's skull, but merely scanned it, wiped it, and then imprinted its states on to Bush's pre-wiped brain, the Bush look-alike recovering in the White House would again be you.

But the view faces a problem: what if surgeons imprinted your mental states on two pre-wiped brains: George Bush's and Gordon Brown's? Would you be in the White House or in Downing Street? There's nothing on which to base a sensible choice. Yet one person cannot be in two places at once.

In the end, then, no attempt to make sense of your continued existence over time works. You are not the person who started reading this article.

My Response: A Traditional Christian approach towards God is a simple answer. God is One but Three in Person. Three are Equal and Indivisible. Similarly, human, body, mind and soul all share equality in the identity of a person. If some one change my memories and brain mappings to Bush’s then I will not become Bush, but I will start believing that I am Bush. Let us take a small but simpler example. A person lost all his memory except language and other cognitive abilities in a head injury. If we tell him again and again that he is John Calvin and at one point make him believe, does that mean that we have a John Calvin back? No! Similarly all your wiping and writing are just making a person to believe what he is not! It is just brain-washing. In no way it can be changing identity.

My body + My mind + My life = I

My body + Bush’s mind + My life = I, believing that I am Bush but definitely NOT Bush

Only Bush’s body + his mind + his life is Bush! This combination is unique. You can not fake it by changing any one of it!


What reason do you have to believe there's a computer screen in front of you? Presumably that you see it, or seem to. But our senses occasionally mislead us. A straight stick half-submerged in water sometimes look bent; two equally long lines sometimes look different lengths.

But this, you might reply, doesn't show that the senses cannot provide good reasons for beliefs about the world. By analogy, even an imperfect barometer can give you good reason to believe it's about to rain.

Before relying on the barometer, after all, you might independently check it by going outside to see whether it tends to rain when the barometer indicates that it will. You establish that the barometer is right 99% of the time. After that, surely, its readings can be good reasons to believe it will rain.

Perhaps so, but the analogy fails. For you cannot independently check your senses. You cannot jump outside of the experiences they provide to check they're generally reliable. So your senses give you no reason at all to believe that there is a computer screen in front of you."

My Response: Yes. We can not jump outside and check . But we have a ability to find the relative truth. While in relation, we can never achieve the absolute truth. But what we can do is we can near absolute truth. For example, above visual illusion will fall if I use a ruler. Likewise we can use a relative measure to find the approximation of absolute truth. Ruler with inches or centimeters is not a matter. Both can help me to break illusion. Likewise, we are always able to cross check with almost constant values like speed of light(C), acceleration due to gravity(g), universal gravitational constant(G) etc.


Suppose that Fred existed shortly after the Big Bang. He had unlimited intelligence and memory, and knew all the scientific laws governing the universe and all the properties of every particle that then existed. Thus equipped, billions of years ago, he could have worked out that, eventually, planet Earth would come to exist, that you would too, and that right now you would be reading this article.

After all, even back then he could have worked out all the facts about the location and state of every particle that now exists.

And once those facts are fixed, so is the fact that you are now reading this article. No one's denying you chose to read this. But your choice had causes (certain events in your brain, for example), which in turn had causes, and so on right back to the Big Bang. So your reading this was predictable by Fred long before you existed. Once you came along, it was already far too late for you to do anything about it.

Now, of course, Fred didn't really exist, so he didn't really predict your every move. But the point is: he could have. You might object that modern physics tells us that there is a certain amount of fundamental randomness in the universe, and that this would have upset Fred's predictions. But is this reassuring? Notice that, in ordinary life, it is precisely when people act unpredictably that we sometimes question whether they have acted freely and responsibly. So freewill begins to look incompatible both with causal determination and with randomness. None of us, then, ever do anything freely and responsibly."

My Response: Actually knowing future is not the same as predicting future. For a much simple example, it is like saying God knew that Adam will eat the fruit. But in truth “God knew that Adam may eat the fruit or may not! God knows what will happen if he eat, or abstains.” Complete wisdom of future is knowing what will happen on either case. Similarly I can make Fred’s prediction wrong easily. But If Fred has a complete knowledge, he will know what will happen if I read this article and what will happen if not! That is Fred will know that I will write a response if I read and I will not, if I had not. But If Fred is capable of predicting that I will read, then I can prove his prediction wrong by not reading given I know his prediction prior.

David Bain is a lecturer in philosophy at the University of Glasgow

My Response: Even University of Glasgow has an inefficient lecturer.