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Brain Swapping: Identity, Transformation and what matters in Survival

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  1. Introduction
  2. 'Under what conditions is what matters primarily to you in survival preserved (Martin 290)?'
  3. Life is possible without identity?
  4. You can become the person you have always dreamed.....
  5. Conclusion

So here is your story: you are fairly unhappy with your life and who you are at present. You have always thought yourself to be a bit too tall and lanky, a little lacking on physical endurance, and much too emotionally sensitive. You feel that you have a few intellectual shortcomings as well, and would love to have a mastery of quantum mechanics, or even elementary physics. Fortunately for you, there is a procedure available which can painlessly turn you into the person who you have always wanted to be. You intensely crave to become this better self, and the only (and quite minimal) problem is that by transforming into this new and improved version of you, you will, in fact, lose your identity. Without fleshing out this example much further or clarifying what precisely is encompassed within the term ?identity,? how willing are you to get this operation?

This example (which Martin presents) is meant to epitomize the fundamental question that Raymond Martin discusses within his paper ?Identity, Transformation and What Matters in Survival,? namely, what really matters in survival, or ?under what conditions is what matters primarily to you in survival preserved (Martin 290)?? Martin makes the claim that many of us would rather cease to exist than to continue living as we are, provided that in ceasing to exist we could become the people we have always wanted to be. In Martin's own words, we ?crave to fulfill our deepest selfish values more than we crave to be (Martin 301).?

[...] While Martin argues that in the second scenario Eve still retains all of her brain psychology (being that the two halves will be transplanted, and two resulting people will think they are her) and both halves of her brain, choosing the second option would be giving up all hope of life after surgery and yielding to the fact that the survival statistics for the first procedure are simply too low, and I find it obvious that Eve should choose the first procedure if she wishes to have any chance for survival. [...]


[...] This is my solution to the dilemma, and I find it sufficient to carrying my intuitions along with my argument that identity is what matters in survival. Throughout this paper I have argued that in giving up our identity, we lose all that is important to us in survival. Even if given the opportunity to fulfill our most selfish desire to become a person we have always wanted to be, we would refrain from doing so if we were made aware our identity would be lost. [...]


[...] You could decide to make radical changes to your personality and identity, resulting in a person drastically different from who you are now, or you could avoid extreme transformation by choosing compatible changes which will not so greatly affect your current identity. Which operation would you choose? Martin seems to think that most people would go for the big change, and he says he would as well. Martin then asks the question of how important it would be to you if the operation cost you your identity. [...]

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