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At what point of change would my consciousness cease to have existed?


Matt1194
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Hey, I’m new here and have never posted on anything like this. I totally understand if I’m being an idiot, so feel free to highlight this. I just wanted other peoples thoughts on this as I’m struggling to find any other posts on it, I’m probably just searching the wrong terms.

This is a bit of a messy brain dump but it’s a thought that’s been racking around in my brain for a while. It started with the theory that we are the universe experiencing itself and it’s slowly grown from there. 

So as a quick summary it’s the idea that if someone was to somehow change one small atom, structure or design in my brain before it had even grew in the womb, would I have ceased to ever exist, or would I just be a slightly different version of myself? More specifically would my consciousness ceased to ever exist. I realise it’s impossible to change something before it’s been created so it’s sort of a stupid question.

The logical answer to me is yes I’d still be the same person, but ever so slightly different. But at what point of changing my brain before it was made would a different consciousness have been born. Or was my consciousness always going to exist no matter what brain was made in the womb?

Personally I believe consciousness does come from our brain and it dies with our brain. But I also believe I’d still be here if the design of my brain was slightly altered before it was created. I just think I’d be slightly different. 

Or would this version of me never existed, but another one would have. Which I’d still be experiencing?

But in that case, is there a point in which it’s not a version of me, but an entirely different person? And if so, would I still experience that life? I keep saying ‘I’ but I suppose it wouldn’t be me is the point. But they’d still be using the same energy and body that I would have used.
 

If it’s the same energy, isn’t it the same energy experiencing life, even if they do think differently to how I would have? So I guess the question would be does energy experience life? Is that what our consciousness comes from? Everything is made up of energy, so I suppose you could easily claim this? Whilst there’s energy and life, do we always experience it? “We” as energy. Maybe that’s a different debate.

Obviously there’s not a definitive answer for this but I’m going round in circles. I don’t believe our consciousness is separate from our body/brain but in that case surely any slight change in the design of my brain before it was made would mean someone else would experience its life? And if not, then our consciousness or whatever makes us awake and aware would exist no matter what brain/person was made? 

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24 minutes ago, Matt1194 said:

The logical answer to me is yes I’d still be the same person, but ever so slightly different. But at what point of changing my brain before it was made would a different consciousness have been born. Or was my consciousness always going to exist no matter what brain was made in the womb?

I don't know what you mean by the same person.  I think the same person just means a continuum of memories.  You are clearly different than you were when you were 7 years old, essentially a different person, it just seems like you weren't that different because of your continuum of memories.

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I guess that’s why I was trying to explain it as if the change was done before the brain was even created, if you were able to design a brain before it was made, so that it’s not a continuum. I guess I’m questioning if you’d still experience life if your brain was changed slightly before it was even made? As it’d no longer be you, it’d be someone else. It’s an illogical thought and probably can’t be answered.

I guess ultimately I’m questioning where consciousness comes from.

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1 hour ago, Matt1194 said:

Personally I believe consciousness does come from our brain and it dies with our brain. But I also believe I’d still be here if the design of my brain was slightly altered before it was created. I just think I’d be slightly different. 

Or would this version of me never existed, but another one would have. Which I’d still be experiencing?

If there is enough of an alteration, no version of you would exist. For instance, if you have a sibling, they are an "altered" version of you; they came from a similar but different sperm and egg as what spawned you. Since you are clearly not "experiencing" your sibling's consciousness, "you" would not be here if there is enough alteration.

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4 hours ago, Matt1194 said:

 if someone was to somehow change one small atom, structure or design in my brain before it had even grew in the womb, would I have ceased to ever exist, or would I just be a slightly different version of myself?

This is very much a philosophical topic which needs proper definitions to communicate clearly. If a brain is changed while being formed, it's still the same brain, just altered from some prior state. Putting a scratch in my car doesn't make it not-my-car.

You change ever second of every day, and yet you're still you. A static unchanging thing cannot be alive.

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More specifically would my consciousness ceased to ever exist.

By definition, nothing can cease to ever exist. If it ever existed, then that’s that. It’s not something that can be ‘changed’. I can bring about a premature cessation to the duration of its existence, but that doesn’t make it having never existed.

 

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But at what point of changing my brain before it was made would a different consciousness have been born.

You’re asking what changes the identity of the consciousness? That, being essentially a process, doesn’t necessarily have an identity. You having consciousness is like a candle having a flame. Combustion doesn’t really have identity. I can use a candle to light another one. Is it the same combustion, or a different one? What if I blow out the original candle and relight it from the 2nd one. Now is it the same combustion or a new one?

The Olympic torch is about the only example I can think of where humans worry about the identity of the combustion.

In other words, you need to backtrack and spell out what you think defines your identity. If it’s stream of consciousness (one that is interrupted every night?), then the ‘memory’ answer (see Bufofrog’s reply) works for a while, but then what if that memory can be duplicated or replaced? It’s only the lack of our witnessing that sort of thing going on that allows us to function with such a definition.

 

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Or was my consciousness always going to exist no matter what brain was made in the womb?

Again, if it was made, in the womb or otherwise, then it exists and cannot be in a state of not-ever-going-to-exist.

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Personally I believe consciousness does come from our brain and it dies with our brain.

The process mostly goes on there, but a brain without the rest of the body is about as unconscious as can be, so I’d be reluctant to box it in that tightly. I’d say that my consciousness extends well beyond my body into the world that is part of my experience.

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But I also believe I’d still be here if the design of my brain was slightly altered before it was created.

Now this isn’t a case of altering an existing thing. It’s like saying that if my Honda was instead a Lexus, it would still be the same car (because it’s mine?). Small change, same ‘parents’, but different factory. Hard to argue that it’s the same car, as opposed to the same car being painted blue or green near the end of the assembly line.

 

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Or would this version of me never existed, but another one would have. Which I’d still be experiencing?

It seems completely implausible that a non-existent entity can experience somebody else. There’d be no you to experience this other person. They’d experience themselves by definition.

I think you envision an immaterial entity that experiences your body. That’s pretty much a religious stance, sorely in need of clarification, such as what role is played by the various parts. What holds memory, the experiencer or the brain? What makes the decisions? Who’s in control?

Without such elementary designations, there are too many permutations to comment on them all.

Edited by Halc
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16 minutes ago, Halc said:

By definition, nothing can cease to ever exist.

Can you please present that definition here? 

Much of my memory no longer exists.

Much of the early history of the earth no longer exists.

My father no longer exists.

20 minutes ago, Halc said:

I’d say that my consciousness extends well beyond my body into the world that is part of my experience.

Can you pinpoint a spot outside your body that your consciousness exists? Can we test that location to verify your claim?

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17 minutes ago, zapatos said:

Can you please present that definition here? 

Much of my memory no longer exists.

Much of the early history of the earth no longer exists.

My father no longer exists.

I didn't read @Halcas you have. I take this to mean that if something existed at one time, for example Pangea, then that existence remains something that occurred. IT may no longer it exist, but its former existence can't somehow cease to be. It seemed to me more a matter of the meaning of English, rather than a deep philosophical point. Hopefully Halc will clarify.

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15 minutes ago, zapatos said:

Can you please present that definition here? 

Much of my memory no longer exists.

Much of the early history of the earth no longer exists.

My father no longer exists.

I can actually think of epistemological cases.  The Egyptians of old were known for stamping out all mention of certain prior Pharaohs from the records. These were rarely entirely successful, but when they were, they did very much make them 'cease to having ever existed', at least from an epistemological standpoint. They very much have an ontological existence in history, but nobody can remember them anymore.

Your memory (of this and that) very much once existed, and cannot cease to have ever existed. It just doesn't exist now. Same with history or Earth and our respective fathers, which have been erased from existence, but with no implication of having never existed.

Nowhere did I say that any of these things might no longer exist. More explicitly, I meant that nothing that once existed can subsequently cease to have ever existed.

Area54 seems to get my gist. Yes, it's a verb tense thing, not a deep point.

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2 hours ago, Area54 said:

It seemed to me more a matter of the meaning of English, rather than a deep philosophical point.

 

2 hours ago, Halc said:

Yes, it's a verb tense thing, not a deep point.

Thanks. I just misunderstood.

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