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The proposition is as follows:

When I sleep, my consciousness dies. Next morning, another person's consciousness is born. He believes that he is me, but my consciousness is dead and never awake.

Are there philosophical theories that would support this view? Are there ones that don't? What arguments do they make?

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  • It is possible to deny that the sky is blue and 1+1=2. Or that "consciousness" exists at all. To be worth any consideration a hypothesis needs to have something positive going in its favor - explain something others do not, offer new predictions, etc. Does this one do that? Entertaining idle untestable hypotheses, like desks and chairs disappearing behind our backs and then reappearing, or invisible unicorns floating in the sky, is not very productive. As they say, "one fool may ask more questions than seven wise men can answer".
    – Conifold
    Apr 25, 2020 at 5:05
  • @Conifold If you do not like the word "hypothesis", you can rephrase it as "proposition" or something else. What I want to know does not change. The answer to this question affects my decision on what to do today and mental health. Don't you care how long you can live?
    – user776490
    Apr 25, 2020 at 5:36
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    In that case this is wrong place to ask. You should not base personal decisions on what anonymous people unfamiliar with your life have to say on a website. Especially, on kinds of questions answers to which depend entirely on their opinions.
    – Conifold
    Apr 25, 2020 at 6:07
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    I think closing this question is being too harsh on a new contributor. It goes right at theories of personal identity for which surely this is the right forum. I tried to edit it a little to make it less "opinion-based"; perhaps it can be improved further.
    – present
    Apr 25, 2020 at 15:07
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    There are philosophical models of consciousness that say that all you really are is an individual moment of experience (with each moment having its own internal sense of time or 'specious present' perhaps, see here), that any sense of continuity of identity between such moments is just a matter of memories/expectations and feelings of identification but has no objective reality, metaphysically there is no real "self" experiencing one observer-moment after another sequentially.
    – Hypnosifl
    Apr 25, 2020 at 15:31

3 Answers 3

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In philosophy this is usually discussed under the header of "problems of personal identity." See, for example:

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/identity-personal/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_identity

You will find a number of possible answers to your question there. But I wouldn't expect to find a definitive one; these are hard problems that concern the fundamental nature of consciousness and self. To see how hard these problems really are, I personally particularly appreciate J.J. Valberg's concept of the personal horizon, described in his book Dream, Death, and the Self.

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Neuroscientifically speaking, this theory is not upheld because consciousness only exists so long as the brain lives and continues to function normally. Since 1. the brain continuously functions during sleep and 2. the death and birth of the "same" consciousness entails some time delay (at least a Planck time) and thereby a halting of neuron firing, when brain imaging technology will be able to detect brain waves and neuron firing down to Planck time it would be guaranteed possible to deny we die every time we fall asleep. [Note: the time delay could in fact already be within the detectable confines of current technology]

For exploration purposes, theologically speaking, in certain religions such as Islam it is said that your soul (ie consciousness in this context) goes to God each time you fall asleep. Hence there is a notion that each time you sleep, you might not come back and therefore die in your sleep. What if what specifically happens each time you sleep is that instead of your soul being returned, it is in fact replaced with a new but exact copy of your soul (for whatever reasons)? That could entail you in fact do die in your every time you sleep.

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  • Whoever up-voted, thank you. I was wondering if anyone would notice that, despite the question being closed, I was able to offer a legitimate scientific answer/experiment. Apr 28, 2020 at 23:27
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If you believe in dualism, that the mind is a separate entity from the body then you cannot deny it; not that it is believable or a strong argument. You can't disprove I'm picturing a horse in my mind either, but it is still an inconsequential claim. But if you don't believe in dualism then you cannot possibly die in your sleep and form a "new conscious" because spontaneous generation was disproven long ago. Your thoughts, memories, and conscious are the product of activity by the neurons in your brain, which are living things. If they all die you are dead; new neurons don't appear out of nowhere as shown by the spontaneous generation experiment. Therefore you are still you when you wake up.

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