Saturday, April 7, 2012

Essay on Derek Parfit

Derek Parfit’s Bundle Theory

Derek Parfit’s “Divided Minds and the Nature of Persons” raise a lot of important questions and provides the views upon the personal identity by means of two theories- Ego and Bundle theory. Parfit himself supports Bundle theory, which claims that there is no continual existence of the definite ego, but only there is a series of particular mental event and states that are united with different kinds of casual relations. In the essay Parfit presented two different cases and probable explanations according to Ego theory and Bundle theory, emphasizing that Bundle theory has more structured and argumentative approach to the matter.

Parfit starts building up his arguments pro Bundle theory with the description of the “split brain” experiments which were performed on patients with severed two brain hemispheres. They were shown the screen, one half of which was red and the other was blue. When they were asked how many colors do they observe, they answered with both hands that they see just one, and when they were asked what was that color, they answered red and blue correspondently with each hand. So, it can be assumed that there are two persons in one body, or one person with dominant and sub-dominant brain hemispheres, but Parfit is sure that there is none.

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What is involved in the person’s continued existence? As I have already mentioned there are two rival theories. According to the Bundle theory claims that in relation to the person it is impossible to explain the unity of consciousness in time, but series of mental states and events (thoughts, sensations, etc.) should be evaluated to find the right answer. So, life appears to be the series of experiences and memories. And in such a manner the existence of the person is thus denied. It seems to be nonsense of course, but still Bundle theory that the person is just called in that way and what we call “the person” is the consequence of the language and the grammar. So, people and subjects around are people and subjects only because some day they were called in such a way, and not because they are. The argument that opposes such claims is that there are separately existing things which are distinct from people’s bodies, and a lot of mental states and events.

Parfit supports his arguments to relating to documentary confirmations and authoritative evidence- Buddha, as the first Bundle Theorist, who taught No Self View. The idea of the teaching was that all people have “nominal existence”, meaning that each person is juts the combination of other elements. The idea of “actual existence” was also discussed in reference to everything that can exist by itself. It could refer to basic elements- water, earth, fire and air. All other things were included in the circle of “eating” each other to exist or to the circulation of the elements on the Earth. According to Buddhist monks names that were given to us, or were are called by mean nothing, and there are no us and there is nothing to call. In such way, everything that we believe about ourselves, characteristics, behaviors are not true. They can only be true according to the Ego theory, which is not right, according to Parfit.

The other example to support the Bundle theory is about teleportation. There arises the question upon whether the person after teleportation dies or not. And one more example with the re-opening of the club- whether the club will be similar or the same. Logically there are two answers for both questions- yes or no, and no other alternatives. In such a case we found ourselves in the two-dimensional world, which is not true, as it has three dimensions. Parfit states that there is no sense in those questions, they are absolutely meaningless. People should not have any questions or worries; they should simply know what the right one is. There is no sense in asking questions about the future unless there is a separately existing Ego, which is distinct from the brain and the body. And if Parfit claims that there is no Ego, then there should not have been any questions about the future at all. Parfit admits the fact that Bundle theory is very hard to accept as it influences our emotions and people’s concerns about the future. When taking the case with teleportation, Parfit says that when the Replica of the person is transported to Mars it appears to be the fully psychological continuous person, but it will never be the same with the person at the definite time period. As bundle theory views life as a series of experiences and events, then the Replica on the Mars will ever be the same, as it will already be another moment and another event. And if the person wants to be just the same, to be that future person that will never happen. Ego theory argues that the person will be the same, as it is one person who experiences all that transportation and therefore s/he is united in the continuum with the fact of the same one personality. Parfit rejects any idea that reality can be united in one stream by means of one particular personality.

Let’s return to the case with splitting brains. Different results were explained by Ego theory with the fact that there two streams of consciousness that are unifies with the fact that they are experienced with by one subject. And when the results show that there are two subjects of experiences, then there should have been two Egos. And if there are two egos, then they can be easily divided, and according to Ego theory, two new people should function well and be the same. But it is impossible! The two resulting people will never be that person. That person will just stop his/her existence.

I absolutely agree with the ideas introduced by Parfit and Bundle theory. When people are anxious about their future, asking questions and not simply know what will happen and are able to accept it, it doesn’t change the reality in any extent. Let me take the global case with the existent of humanity on it. People are born and people die and nothing changes. And here I would like to develop Parfit’s idea on how it could be practically applied in everyday life. If each person should not have any questions about the future, as they are meaningless, and should just know and make the decision each single moment in his/her life, as not the next single moment is the same, then s/he should have his own opinion regarding of what is happening around. Then it just supports the idea that each person was created unique and has some definite predestination. Then what is the earth? Why do people suffer? Why do they have different diseases? The idea is that the earth is a great stage, where along with four basic elements, co-exist things that just have names. People are viewing their lives not as a series of moments, but as the continuous process which is united by their Egos. They are copying other people’s behavior by decreasing their choice to just “yes” or “no”, and that is the greatest problem of the humanity. People forget that they do not live in the two-dimensional world, but in the three-dimensional one. And in the end I would like to say that in whatever manner things are called, doesn’t have any sense, and whatever people think they are important and their Egos are, the only thing that matters is what they do and what they think the every single new moment of their lives, shaping the surrounding reality, which is also just the way to call it.
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