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

Why do you think you're conscious in your own body as opposed to someone elses?

  1. Jun 20, 2010 #1
    Do you think it is a question of mere chance, where at this particular existance you happen to percieve is the result of a fortunate conglomeration of atoms?

    Do you think the odds of you inhabiting you're own body were the same at the time of your birth as inhabiting any other living organism? I specificy living, because I can not necessarily concieve an idea where I could exist as a non-living entity (I suppose when I say living I mean conscious, after all we can not understand anything past our own consciousness I think).

    I personally have no idea how to tackle either quandary, but it seems to me there is some undiscovered, underlying mathematical principle for each question.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 20, 2010 #2

    Math Is Hard

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    This seems to presume there was a "you" to inhabit something before there was a body.
    Now I'm lost.
     
  4. Jun 20, 2010 #3

    Pythagorean

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I'm fairly positive that "you" developed along with your brain and the rest of your body, based on a combination of genetics and environment. That is, "you" didn't exist before your body did.

    Of course, this is just my physicalist opinion.
     
  5. Jun 21, 2010 #4
    Err, sorry then, it seems I've posed my question in a painfully ambigous manner. Let me try again.

    We are aware, currently, that each of us are a particular body. I assumed when I posted my question initially that we should not posit the existance of a soul. However, I can see how it can be interpreted that when I said "inhabiting your own body", I implied that there exists some exterior entity of "you" that comes into your "body".

    So here's the thing. I am born. I can control my body parts, I slowly develop my brain until I can form thoughts, I develop ideas, feelings, relationships with other people. You can argue, that at least from my perception of time existing, that I am a unique entity in the universe. However, before my birth, we are assuming that I did not exist, that it is impossible for me to exist before my psychical parts actually come together to make "me".

    However, just as now I am aware that I am myself, and not "Math is Hard", or "Pythagorean", it seems to me that there exists a probabibility that I COULD have either been born Pythagorean or Math is Hard. I could exist as either of their bodies in their conscious state just as if they could mine, from the onset of each individual creation of our bodies, of ourselves. Now, because we already exist, it seems impossible to "be" more than one body, and because if I claimed to be Pythagorean, Pythagorean would disagree with me because he is consious in his own body and knows that only he can exist in his body, as his body, throughout his life as it progresses through time.

    And when he dies, he will cease to exist, because his body no longer exists. But, we can observe that although he, and every other living organism, will die and no longer exist, this state of non existance appears to be equivelent to that of his pre-birth non existance. So, it seems equally likely to me that the chance of his birth of his current body is equal to that of being born again as some entity in the universe after he dies, because it is irrelevent whether or not he is dead or not yet born. Those two things seem to be the same thing.

    Having said that, do you believe that there exists some mathematical principle, some cosmic behaivor that determines how the particles of a living organism assemble to form a unique identity in the universe, or is it just a matter of random probability that assesses whether or not I will exist as not just any object, but this particular object I recognize as my body, as myself, through the fabric of time.

    I hope this made a little bit more sense.
     
  6. Jun 21, 2010 #5
    In my opinion, the particles you are made of are unrelated to your identity, because you are the same identity than 20 years ago, but your particles are not the same than before. It seems to me that your identity/mind is one thing and your body/particles is another. Dualism?
     
  7. Jun 21, 2010 #6

    Pythagorean

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I'm not sure I agree. First of all, are you sure you mean pre-birth? Because pre-birth there's a lot of things already determined (by genetics and whatever developmental instances took place in the womb).

    But even if you mean preconception, I would still disagree that pre-conception and post-death are the same state. There's a number of sperms and a number of eggs in your parents. Each combination of egg and sperm leads to a different person. That's where your potential to exist comes from. Your are bundled tight into a code, highly ordered, pre conception.

    When you grow old, your body and brain are degrading, and you personality with it (dementia, senility, etc.) Eventually, the system of interactions (that you recognize as yourself). Once you've died, it's an indication that the matter that makes up your material body can no longer support the interactions required for the phenomena "you" (a system of interactions between the elements of the material body) to persist.

    There are two ways you can prosper past your death: spreading your seed, and making a mark socially in the world. You already make quite a physical mark in the world (for instance, converting food to waste or exchanging molecules with the universe through your breath, skin, and orifices, or even blowing holes in mountains).
     
  8. Jun 21, 2010 #7

    alt

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Why do you think you're conscious in your own body as opposed to someone elses?

    Well, I wouldn't mind being concious in Beyonces body ..

    But that lame joke aside, I think the question is circular.

    If I was concious in John Smiths body, I would be John Smith - not who I am now.
     
  9. Jul 23, 2010 #8
    Sorry folks, this is all just such utterly rubbish. Of course, since the nervous system of some body is attached to it's brain, so that if that brain commands the attached hand to raise, it will raise it's own hand, and not the hand of someone else.
     
  10. Jul 23, 2010 #9

    DaveC426913

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Seems to come down to the definition of "I".

    How could the "I"-that-is-lacasner be anyone other than lacasner? If that "I" were born as Pythagorean, that "I" would be Pythagorean.
     
  11. Jul 23, 2010 #10
    I think everyone is part of each other in a coherent system of communication and perception. It is the area of matter known as your body where your signaling and collective mechanisms exist. You communicate and interact, just as I communicate and interact.

    So not to say you could be someone else, but that you are in a way part of someone else is plausible, before and prior your human existence. We can make up a network of thoughts and actions, and with these thoughts and actions we can make up our reality sort of thing.
     
  12. Jul 24, 2010 #11
    I am conscious in my body, cause my brain is connected to my body, not someone else's body.

    However, for someone else, that person's brain is connected to that person's body, so in fact for that person, seen from that perspective, the situation is the same. It is the case for everybody (who is conscious and has a brain).

    So why is the the phrase "as opposed to" added to the question, if in fact it is a wrong propostion?
     
  13. Jul 24, 2010 #12
    Communicating with each other does not imply that we are part of each other, we just share common heritage in the biological and social-cultural sense.
     
  14. Jul 24, 2010 #13
    During my pre-existence in the chaotic void, I tried all bodies and simply chose the best one.

    Seriously, we can't answer this question. Science has not scratched the surface of generating a coherent theory of consciousness.

    If we assume a scientific answer is possible, then it seems to me that an important starting point for a discussion is that the individual consciousness we each call "I" has an evolutionary advantage in itself, or it must exist as a natural byproduct of something else (for example intelligence) that has an evolutionary advantage. Which is it, and can intelligence (or any relevant linked traits) even exist without consciousness? If you designed and built a robot that was indistinguishable from a human in actions and abilities, in every possible way, would it be conscious? Can we answer these starting question? If not, how can we go any further?
     
  15. Jul 24, 2010 #14

    fluidistic

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Maybe curiously I've thought about it several times. All I can say is that the brain of any 1 person is a part of the universe that can think. There are several of them in the universe and each one think separately. So that the brain of any 1 person is sort of confined and cannot interact with other brains as it does with itself.
    So our brains are just parts of the universe and are "doomed" in the sense that you are you and I am me and we think separately.
    Each one of our consciences are created by each one of our brain. You're just a part of the universe that has a conscience. There is a part of the universe with a brain, so with a conscience and that's precisely you (ok a part of you, after all you're more than a brain!).
    I feel that questioning oneself such question make the illusion to oneself that the conscientiousness can be separated from the brain and can be implemented into others while it can't at all.
     
  16. Jul 29, 2010 #15
    "I" is the illusion. The I is made up of cells and bacteria who have there own sense of I. The more we learn about the world the more the illusion is revealed. Evolution shows us that we are the same. Further back, the big bang theory shows that all living and non living things are the same thing. We are just as clueless as a cell in our body, unaware of the living universe we are apart of. The idea of I comes from there only being 1 thing. Which we are. God I am such a hippie
     
  17. Aug 13, 2010 #16
    This, to me, seems to be almost a rhetorical question. While many other science questions of "how" and "why" arise, I feel this question of "why you feel yourself, as opposed to someone elses" is almost on the point of absurity.

    Why do dogs control their own tail, and not other dogs tails? Simply because, as robheus has stated, one's brain is only connected to one's body, and no one elses.

    How else would one determine the self? If the brain was interconnected, we would certainly know...
     
  18. Aug 13, 2010 #17
    You are assuming that there are multiple centers of consciousness in the universe. Perhaps you are the only consciousness in the universe (in a sense, you ARE the universe). I tend to think this is not the case, but it's an option (or maybe it's not).
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2010
  19. Aug 13, 2010 #18
    I hope I can introduce this hypothetical as a means of exploring the issue of the discussion - i.e. this is not meant to be a speculative adventure in scifi:

    If you could attach a device to sensory inputs and transmit the signal from one person's body to another's so that you could effectively sense everything from that body's perspective and possibly even control it by remote, would you have "become" that person - or would you simply be borrowing their body as a remote probe of your own?

    This is relevant because it addresses the question of the OP why someone perceives through their own body and no one else's. It raises the question of at what point one person would or could become another by inhabiting their body.
     
  20. Sep 2, 2010 #19
    The chances of you being born Neil DeGrasse Tyson against you being born yourself is an unanswerable question because you could only have been born yourself. What separates you from someone else? You're genetic make up and environment. If you we're born with Tyson's genes but we're raised in your current environment you would not be the same Tyson and vise versa.

    In a sentence: YOU are your brain, and [STRIKE]nothing[/STRIKE] almost everything else around you.

    Thanks for the criticisms, Pythagorean and George.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2010
  21. Sep 3, 2010 #20

    Pythagorean

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    To nitpick at your last sentence:

    Are you certain about that? Don't you think the rest of the cells in your body constitute a significant part of you, too? I imagine that my brain without my body would be quite a different person.

    But I think it goes even further. What about your place in society and the way you interact with things external to you? It's not as if there's an impenetrable barrier between you and the rest of the universe, you're constantly exchanging information and matter with the universe and who YOU are is subject to growth and development that depends as significantly on the external world as it does on the internal DNA code that allows you to persist in it.
     
  22. Sep 3, 2010 #21


    Actually, you are a mental state that finds it reasonable to believe its origin lies within the events that take place in it. I do too, but i don't find convincing evidence to share your complete certainty.

    Of particlar interest is the relative 'structure' of those events and how they are affected by your(whatever that is) freewill choices. That they(the events) cannot be both local and realistic is hardly a surprize, given the previous two points.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2010
  23. Sep 3, 2010 #22

    alt

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    The latter, I would think.

    Some high tech, 3D computer games nearly go as far.
     
  24. Sep 3, 2010 #23

    alt

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Do you find evidence (complete or not) to the contrary ?

    Sorry - why can't events be both local and realisic ? I experience local and realistic events all the time !
     
  25. Sep 3, 2010 #24

    Yes. The physics since the end of the 19th century has been in stark contrast with that which you dearly believe.




    Because they contradict QM.






    The question is - do you really experience local and realistic events?
     
  26. Sep 3, 2010 #25

    alt

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Though earlier you said .."I do too, but i don't find convincing evidence to share your complete certainty".. which by some degree puts you in the same boat. Not complete certaintly, but some certainty I would assume. Some certainty is better than none, I suppose.

    And am I reading your above right ? ie, the physics pre 19th century were not in stark contrast to that which I dearly believe ?

    But in my human scale, practical world, they are real. Look, here's my keyboard, and my cup of tea .. and it's raining outside .. and my son is snoring .. (1.48 AM here).

    These things and events are local and as real as I am.

    But if you claim some un-reality about them, then claim it for me as well, in which case it's semantics .. again !

    What the hell is going on ?
     
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook