Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Fission and making the world have been a happier place

One theory about what happens in cases of personal fission is this. If a person is split, then there were two colocated people there all along. This fits best with four-dimensionalism. There are, in cases of fission, two people who overlap for a part of their four-dimensional career.

Here is a curious consequence. Suppose that Jim has led a very happy life. Then if I were to split him, I would bring it about that there have always been two happy colocated people there. But increasing the number of happy people makes the world a happier place. So, were I to split Jim, I would make the world have been a happier place. Surely, though, we don't have the power to make the world have been a happier place. So we should reject this four-dimensionalist solution to the problem of fission.


Michael Gonzalez said...

I think this may be a non-sequitur. Splitting, so far as I can tell, does not make it the case that there are two people all along. Rather, as you said at the outset, splitting merely reveals that it was always true that there were two colocated people all along. If that's the case, then the world was always as much a "happy place" as it would properly be with TWO happy Jims in the world, since there have indeed always been both happy Jims.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Well, suppose that there is only one Jim. Surely that happens sometimes. But then *were* Jim to be split, there would have been two.

One way out along your lines of thought might be to think that *whenever* a person is such that it is *possible* to split them, there are already many copies of them. This means that once medical technology progresses to the point of being capable of splitting people in half, suddenly everybody will be born a twin. It seems very strange that the mere existence of the technology would result in that.

Michael Gonzalez said...

I'm inclined to view this sort of thing as a good argument against the co-location view. However, just to play Devil's Advocate: What we could be saying is that "fissioning" is only possible in cases where the person is already lots of co-located people. So, if (perhaps per impossibile) there existed both fissionable and non-fissionable people, the distinction between them may just be that some of them are lots of co-located people and others are not.