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Ian_Maxwell comments on Three Dialogues on Identity - Less Wrong

31 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 21 April 2008 06:13AM

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Comment author: Ian_Maxwell 22 April 2008 01:02:25PM 3 points [-]

It seems to me that there is an important distinction between these scenarios. Of course, it could be that I'm just not enlightened enough to see the total similarity.

In the first scenario, 'you' are at least attempting to explain yourself to the shaman. In fact, you have answered, both literally with "yes" and to the shaman's intent by explaining. That he does not believe your explanation is a separate matter.

In the second scenario, I imagine your literal answer to John would be "no"---because there is no such thing as "same stuff" anyway. Why, then, didn't you at any point tell him "no" or "there is no such thing as 'same stuff' anyway"? If John refused to believe your explanation, this would of course be similar to the first case.

In the third scenario, 'Eliezer' has refined his question to this point: "I want to know if the lower levels of organization underlying the banana have a substantially different structure than before, and whether the causal relation between that structure and my subjective experience has changed in style." What in the world is ill-defined in this question? What word do we have to taboo? (Perhaps 'structure', perhaps 'subjective experience'?) It seems deserving of a straight answer to me.

(One possibility is that you are suggesting future advances in understanding, so that you really don't know what could be ill-defined about such a question---you are just saying in general that seemingly commonsense ideas may not be as solid as they appear. In that case, it's hard to object, but it would be nice if I could imagine knowledge that would make me believe 'Eliezer' and John weren't asking real questions.)