Rebecca Goldstein asks: “Personal identity: What is it that makes a person the very person that she is, herself alone and not another, an integrity of identity that persists over time, undergoing changes and yet still continuing to be — until she does not continue any longer, at least not unproblematically?”
Are we the same person that we were 10 years ago? I am going to make the slightly ridiculous case that you are not you. What is human identity? If you replace every element of a car, is it still the same car? Should your ownership title still apply?
1. Every 7 years, every cell in your body has been replaced.
2. Your taste, aesthetics, preferences, beliefs, etc have all changed, either subtly, or dramatically. Your movies, music, palate, etc are all different.
3. Your memories are not your own, or even necessarily accurate, and your memories change as well. Every time after the first time you remember something, you are remembering a memory of an event, and not the event. Many studies have shown how memories are easy to change, and still believe that they are valid.
4. The way that you perceive the universe and the world changes.
5. The way you perceive yourself has changed.
6. Your relationships with the divine, with nature, the surrounding world, and your friends and family has dramatically changed.
7. Your possessions have changed.
8. Your place in space and time has obviously and cosmically changed.
What gives us any continuity of being? Nothing. There is not a single thing about you, that gives any real continuity to your being.
The only thing you can argue for is the connectedness of all of these elements through time, but if time is like gravity, and merely exists without any flow, and it is only our limited perceptions that interpret these sensations and observations as time, then we exist in an eternal now, like Schrödinger’s cat, where all of these elements are a cloud of probability, and depending on which date in the cloud you randomly pick, determines which accidental causal cluster of truths about an individual exist at that probability point. Every moment of your life corresponds to an infinite point in the infinite probability cluster which is your life: each of the above 8 variables in every permutation and possible configuration, all existing around a hole in the nexus that is you. Effectively, if time is the eternal now, we become like the electron cloud model. The electrons effectively exist in all and none of the points at the various energy levels above the atom. Imagine each facet of your life as its own “shell”. Then you exist in every possible and impossible configuration of every moment of your life.
Thus you like spinach and hate spinach. You love blue, and hate plus. You are dead, and you are alive. You are all that you have been and all that you will be right now. For there is only the eternal now. The trick is to decide which probability dot strand you wish to create and then actualize it through your will. Most is unconscious and is the product of random chance, or pre-existing causal conditions that tilt the probability toward certain states of being. However, the human will is the only force in the universe that can correct for probability and bend the possible universes and possible states of being into the probable universe and state of being. Every little choice we make and every course correction we make adjusts the connect-the-dot causal probability string in our cloud of potential being and determines our fate and destiny.
The only people who are controlled by destiny/fate/stars/crystals/demons/gods/etc are those who unconsciously or consciously allow themselves to be controlled and have their connect-the-dot causal probability string determined entirely by forces outside of themselves. Don’t merely be a droplet in the ocean: be a quantum entangled droplet.
On the continuity of self? There is none. We merely .