Monday, February 12, 2018

Doppelgangers

It seems to be logically possible for there to be an exact copy of you, say d-you, because it seems that such a thing might exist in a parallel space-time. D-you would be physically and mentally identical to you; but it would not, of course, be you. Now, we naturally assume that none of us have been instantaneously swapped with such doppelgangers. We can never have any reason to think that any of us might have been swapped; but, that is because such swapping would be undetectable, and that is why we cannot logically rule out the logical possibility of such swapping.

Indeed, you cannot completely rule out the possibility that you are such a doppelganger, because you would have exactly the same memories, exactly the same sense of being yourself. There would be absolutely no empirical difference; the only difference would be semantic: reference intended to be reference to you would fail to be such reference, were it to d-you, for example. And of course, knowledge would be lost, e.g. if I saw d-you at a bus-stop then I would not know that you were waiting for a bus. But of course, I would know that you were waiting for a bus if I saw you at a bus-stop (and you were waiting for a bus). There is no loss of knowledge caused by not ruling out the logical possibility of d-you. We simply assume that such swapping does not happen.

Note that we do not just think it unlikely (and similarly, we do not just think it unlikely that we are brains in vats, or being fooled by demons, and so on and so forth). We do not know for sure that there are no such doppelgangers, and we do not even know for sure that there are unlikely to be any (we can have no evidence for such unlikeliness). But clearly, we are assuming that there are no such things (and nothing else of that rather wide-ranging kind). That is just an obvious empirical fact about our beliefs. (We might not notice it, because being fooled by a demon would be like being a brain in an evil scientist’s vat, and a brain in a vat is like someone having a very long vivid dream; and maybe it is only highly unlikely that you are in a coma right now.)

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