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I have zero background in philosophy, so forgive me for...asking this in an informal manner.

We have a hypothetical scenario. Suppose that our consciousness at some time were reducible to electrobiological material in our body, including nerves and nerve connections in our brain, other brain cells and the exact state of electrical movement. A conscious state would include memories, emotions, sensory perception, and constitutes the total conscious "experience" of the subject.

Assume that our technology is sufficiently advanced to both (a) understand the exact representation of a conscious state as electrobiological material, and (b) decompose electrobiological material, and recompose the decomposed electrobiological material into its previous configuration.

If this hypothetical scenario were possible, and a conscious subject's body (including electrobiological material) were shattered into a million pieces, the subject would clearly die. However, if we were to combine these pieces and "recreate" the original configuration, including all nerve connections, wouldn't the conscious state of this subject be revived, including all memories and emotions?

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    Useless answer: "Define Consciousness. Define Die. Define live." But real answer: IF (This is a big if) your hypothetical is right and consciousness is a purely material process which you have the technology to recreate, THEN you are actually less changed by this process than you're changed by a good nights sleep. – medivh Jun 28 '13 at 12:51
  • I refer to consciousness as the state of "experience", and the continuity of it. When we are in a coma, that state of experience breaks until the coma ends. Death as in biological death. – amy Jun 28 '13 at 12:54
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    I suggest an edit to the question. Firstly, the headline doesn't describe the question; the headline is your premise. Secondly, "Would it be identical to falling asleep or into some coma, and then waking up again?" isn't a philosophical question, but a psychological, in any case an empirical question. If I understood your question right, it sounds something like "Assumed that the human mind can be reduced to biological material, would rebuilding that biological material rebuild the person in question?" – iphigenie Jun 28 '13 at 18:11
  • @Ricardo I think you should make your disagreement with my edit more visible, with a comment below the question for example. By no means am I interested in "totally changing its meaning". The asker has an option to rollback, i.e. completely reset the question as it was before my edit. – iphigenie Jun 28 '13 at 19:02
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    The Star Trek transporter does exactly that, decomposes then recomposes a human with only a slight interruption of flow of consciousness. The transported subject is never considered to be dead as an intermediate state, but this may just be euphemistic terminology to avoid alarming people. It might be technically true that one passes through death during the transportation process, but people as a matter of course deny that fact. – obelia Jun 29 '13 at 4:32
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Pretty much every part of your body is continually changing at a molecular level. So physically after a certain number of years you are literally not the person you were before. Though manifestly you remain the same self.

Suppose that our consciousness at some time were reducible to electrobiological material in our body

Given your suppositions - then the answer to the question is yes. Indeed, it looks exactly as though you've chosen your suppositions so that this is the only correct answer to your question.

This renders your direct question, in an important sense irrelevant.

The important questions lie in your suppositions. This is the same position of Physicalism. Of course it is the overwhelming success of the physical sciences (I'm including biology in this) that makes this position possible & plausible.

Yet, we have no physical theory of how mind or consciousness is 'constructed' - even in principle. Any such claim when examined in detail simply re-enunciates this axiom without a demonstration of its truth.

  • I think by now we have quite a lot of information about how consciousness is "destructed" due to (tragic) diseases like Alzheimer. This provides lots of information about which brain parts contribute to consciousness and how do they do that. – Trylks Aug 25 '13 at 19:25
  • @Trylks: yes, this is obvious, and also important. But this doesn't show that we understand consciousness. A very rough analogy is to analayse a novel by examining its the physicality of the book, its chemistry and its atomic nature; also examining the geometry of the alphabet and so on. But after all that, I'd claim one hasn't understood the nature of the novel at all. – Mozibur Ullah Aug 25 '13 at 23:21
  • The novel is independent from the physical book, e.g. it could be on a PDF, for those questions psychology is better suited. At the same time, the only physical support for a mind known to date is a brain, the point of my comment is about the link between brain and mind and wrt physicalism. There are also parts of the brain that are clearly not involved in consciousness. Discarding the prologue, the epilogue and other parts of the book that are not part of "the novel" is of outermost importance, because the novel is written in only a few pages a huge book. – Trylks Aug 25 '13 at 23:47
  • Nevertheless, the analogy with the novel is misleading. A novel is meant to be interpreted by something else (someone who reads it), a brain interprets itself, stating otherwise would be a case of the homunculus fallacy. As far as we know, a brain is more similar to a circuit, where a lot of information about how it works in processing information (and it's logic) can be obtained by examining its physical structure. Actually, all the information can be obtained by examining physically a circuit, and there is no reason to think the brain is different wrt that. – Trylks Aug 25 '13 at 23:49
  • @Trylks: What I'm illustrating by the novel is not interpretation but Descartes division of mental & physical substance. There are many counter-arguments against homunculi which essentially reject the underlying physicalist framework. What do you mean by a 'brain interpreting itself'? 'As far as we know' - we don't know. It's an assumption thats driven by the success of computing last century. It may prove to be fruitful, and probably will be. – Mozibur Ullah Aug 26 '13 at 0:18
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Derek Parfit (of Reasons and Persons fame) lists the definition of the self that is implicit in your scenario as only one of many alternative views that are held also by experts in the field:

The main debates have all been about the question whether it will still be me who will exist for example at some point in the future […] There are many different views. Perhaps the quickest checklist would be: Some people think it will be me so long as there is there is same body, that I am really this body here. Others think […] I go where my brain goes, and so they think that if my brain was successfully put into someone else’s empty skull I would wake up in that other body […] Others think that what I essentially am and is my soul could, say, be reincarnated in a different body or my could go to haven even if my body is destroyed. And then yet others appeal to memory and other psychological characteristics. On this view if there would be somebody who remembers these experiences, then it will be me. So those are the four most obvious contenders there.

So here you have an answer on some authority: philosophers do not agree on whether rebuilding a human body would rebuild the person. Some say yes, others say no. FWIK Parfit himself might answer no, because he favors the memory-related view.

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Observation: The question was totally changed in its meaning by someone other than the original author. I did not know that it was possible at this site. This turned useless my answer. This ability to change the meaning of questions from other people is bizarre.

Assume that our technology is sufficiently advanced to understand the exact representation of a conscious state as electrobiological material. If we were to combine this pieces and "recreate" the original configuration, including all nerve connections, wouldn't the conscious state of this subject be revived, including all memories and emotions. Consciousness reducible to electrobiological material?

Philosophical-zombie, the p-zombie, is a hypothetical being that is indistinguishable from a normal human being except in that it lacks conscious experience. When a p-zombie is poked with a sharp object, for example, it does not feel any pain though it behaves exactly as if it does feel pain.

The possibility of something physically identical to a human but without subjective experience assumes the possibility that the physical characteristics of humans cannot be what produces those experiences. When concept of self is deemed to correspond to physical reality alone, philosophical zombies are denied by definition.

P-zombies in an physical world would be indistinguishable from the observer, even hypothetically. The idea of the p-zombie in a physical world is meaningless: The zombie concept is self-contradictory in that, since zombies ex hypothesi behave just like regular humans, they will claim to be conscious. A zombie producing the same reaction as a person would be perceived as a person having complex thoughts and ideas in their head indicated by the ability to vocalize it. If zombies were without awareness of their perceptions the idea of uttering words could not occur to them. Therefore, if a zombie has the ability to speak, it is not a zombie.

One is inclined to believe either that anyone including oneself might be a zombie, or that no one can be a zombie – following one's own conviction that being, or not being a zombie is just a product of the physical world or not.

From Wikipedia

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    I fail to see how this is an answer to the question above. – iphigenie Jun 28 '13 at 16:52
  • @iphigenie Question: “If we were to combine this pieces and "recreate" the original configuration […] Consciousness reducible to electrobiological material?” My answer: Something physically identical to a human but without subjective experience assumes the possibility that the physical characteristics of humans cannot be what produces subjective experiences. When concept of self is deemed to correspond to physical reality alone, "recreations without consciousness" are denied by definition. – Annotations Jun 28 '13 at 17:14
  • But he didn't say "something physically identical to a human but without subjective experience". The approach is: "If everything that the person is can be reduced and recreated, would recreating the biological material exactly as it was before recreate the person with its identity?" At least, that's how I read the question. And that's not a zombie then. It's a person just as it was before. – iphigenie Jun 28 '13 at 18:07
  • @iphigenie The question isn't about the metaphysics of identity, but if consciousness is reducible to electrobiological material, “If we were to combine this pieces and "recreate" the original configuration” and his tag was “consciousness”. Another original question is “would it be identical to falling asleep or into some coma, and then waking up again?” It is about consciousness, not about if “it's a person just as it was before” It is about recreation of consciousness, isn't about the metaphysics of identity. – Annotations Jun 28 '13 at 18:31
  • @Ricardo I've noticed the same bizarre behavior. Questions can also disappear. Certainly, this site's operation has issues. That is probably why it is still in beta. – Ron Royston May 30 '15 at 17:39
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This is much like the Ship of Theseus paradox

The ship of Theseus, also known as Theseus's paradox, is a paradox that raises the question of whether an object which has had all its components replaced remains fundamentally the same object. The paradox is most notably recorded by Plutarch in Life of Theseus from the late 1st century. Plutarch asked whether a ship which was restored by replacing all and every of its wooden parts, remained the same ship.

Kind regards.

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This is not a philosophical question, this is a cognitive science question.

Cognitive science says: "yes, of course".

This may be interesting for you:

http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/deep-nonsense-from-deepak/ http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/the-mind-brain-problem-a-creationist-rebuttal/ http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/what-is-consciousness-another-reply-to-kastrup/ http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/mind-and-brain-on-npr/

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    This kind of rigid disciplinary segregation is excessive and counterproductive. This is both a philosophical and a cognitive-scientific question. Philosophers should take the science into consideration, but neuroscientists should take the philosophy into consideration. The posts you cite don't seem to -- they misunderstand key philosophical concepts (qualia in particular) and invoke discredited philosophical notions (falsification). – senderle May 21 '14 at 14:15
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    IMO the question is about personal identity and fits easily within the subject area of philosophy. – Drux May 30 '15 at 14:18
  • No, the matter of identity does not come into play until you tell that person what you just did. That's a completely different question. – Trylks Jun 2 '15 at 21:53

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