Yes, I’m confessing to a perverted lust. It’s called Thinking About Pointless Stuff. But even worse, once I get on the trail of Pointless Stuff, I have this awful longing to keep going, to annihilate my very being (or following, as it might be) in the pursuit of Pointless Stuff. But I’m not completely without pity. I do WARN people when I’m gonna hit up. So there it is. ‘You’ have been warned.
And yet – here’s the thing.
Suppose it was possible to take your brains out of your body and put them into someone else’s. White Lady, let’s take your brain and Carrie Rubin’s and just swap, ok? Is Carrie now a mix of White Lady and her former self (now she’s got White Lady’s body – LUCKY Carrie!)? Or are they both just what they were before, but in different vehicles (same as if Carrie had got out of a Toyota and hopped into the drivers’ seat of a Ford instead)?
Suppose it was possible to clone El Guapo (a great thing for the blogosphere, and maybe his wife would enjoy it too!). So we have two of him, but occupying different areas of space. Which is him? The ‘original’? Suppose we forgot which was the original, and couldn’t thereafter tell? Or what if one Missus Tribble travelled on through time till she was eighty, and the other just stopped, like a clock in suspended animation, at forty five? Which is MORE Missus Tribble?
And lastly, who sets the boundary between what IS, let’s say, Tarnation and Eudemonia, and what isn’t? At the molecular level, Seb is a pattern of atoms and sub-atomic particles, bouncing around next to one another in a particular pattern. He’s surrounded by air and other-stuff atoms, doing similar. Is there really a sharp line between Seb and Other Stuff? How do we define it? Is Seb just the part of the universe that his mind directly controls, one way or another? Then if he becomes a quadriplegic, most of what is Seb becomes ‘not Seb’. Right? Whereas if he grabs a chair and hits me with it, the chair becomes a part of Seb. Wrong? Or is it the pattern of atoms – the point where the stripey stuff constituting Seb turns into the spotted stuff constituting NOT Seb? Then what if the spotted stuff suddenly turned stripey, just like Seb? Could the whole universe become Tarnation and Eudemonia? And would that be a good thing?
Is our idea of individual ‘selfness’ illusory? Are we machines run from a control centre in our skulls? Or is the true control centre the ‘soul’ so that even when our brains turn to mush, ‘I’ am still out there? Or are we a more or less arbitrary dividing line between these atoms and those atoms, a bit like a nation state in the Balkans?
There comes a time in every philosophical waffle when it needs to be turned into fiction? Or a poem. Anybody?