Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Identity Death: Loss of Self

  1. Jun 2, 2008 #1
    Alright, I'll need some help formulating this, since my writing tends to be... well... just not very eloquent and representative of my thoughts.

    I don't believe in soul, afterlife, or other nonsense. I think our self, our consciousness, is a function of our complex brains.

    For what follows, I'll resort to the (admirably faulty) analogy of a computer. The hardware is our brain, the installed software is the mind/self, and we (the users) determine the nature/nurture.

    Suppose you had a computer, you can easily tell it's your by a glance at the desktop or even browsing its contents. Supposed it's wiped clean... you install a new operating system or something... would you be able to discern it from one which looked exactly the same? Wouldn't they by all purposes the be equal--and thus none of them would be your computer? (I know, it's a stretch)

    Suppose now you were cloned. Nobody would argue that you would be the same person as your clone. If you die, then he may still live and vice-versa.
    Here comes the question I'll probably need help articulating: is there a point in which you can damage enough your personality and sense of self (by damaging parts of your brain such as the right frontal lobe, hippo campus, etc) that you would be just as an "empty shell" as a fresh clone? And if that were true, wouldn't you be, by any purposes, as good as dead?

    It just got me thinking, when we strip us of our personality, our memories, and everything that makes us, us... isn't that death? And not just figuratively speaking, since it's unlikely that your old self will ever emerge again.

    All right, I'm done with spitting out nonsense now. =)
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 2, 2008 #2


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Your clone would only be physically the same. There would be no shared memories or personality, etc... since that is formed by experiences.

    Of course people suffer brain injuries every day with anything from amnesia to complete lack of brain function.
  4. Jun 3, 2008 #3
    Look up the very sad story of Phineas Gage....
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook