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Thought Experiment On Individuality
by Tom Spitzer



There is a huge fallacy in the “brain producing consciousness” hypothesis that I’ve never seen addressed.

I would contend that if brains were producing consciousness then we would not seem to be individuals!

This is one argument that seems to be overlooked in the brain/mind debate.  One thing the skeptics say is that NDEs are the same because brains are the same.  But if brains are the same and generating consciousness then why do we seem to be individuals?  If my brain is producing my consciousness staring out of the eyeballs of body TJS then the "same" brain in another body XXX should be producing my consciousness there so I'm staring out of two sets of eyeballs and living two superimposed lives simultaneously.  Taken to it's logical conclusion there would be one consciousness staring out of 7 billion human sets of eyeballs which would mean that consciousness could only experience white noise!  This doesn't even take into account the billions of other non-human brains on the planet.

The only thing the skeptics could say would be that brains are the same but different!  The whole thing would be just more gibberish and silliness on their part.

Consider the following thought experiment.

Let's say you find yourself existing, alive and conscious, in position 1.

If you move to position 2 then obviously you would find yourself existing, alive and conscious, there.

Now instead of moving to position 2 an exact duplicate of you is created at position 2.

Where do you now find yourself to exist?

Well what are the possibilities?

a.    Cease to exist anywhere

b.    Exist at 1 only

c.    Exist at 2 only

d.    Exist at 1 and 2

e.    Oscillate between 1 and 2

Which options seem more reasonable?

a.    There’s no logical reason to believe that a duplication of your structure at 2 should cause you to stop existing at 1 so maybe we can eliminate this one.

b.    Should be reasonable, you’re still at 1

c.    Since we’ve done nothing to the structure at 1 there’s no reason to believe you would find yourself only at 2.

d.    Reasonable assuming the brain equals consciousness!

e.    Since both the structures at 1 and 2 are continuous then there’s no reason to believe you should be oscillating between those two positions.

So it seems that only options b. and d. bear further discussion.

Whatever the philosophy, religion, or science there should be some answer to this thought experiment.

Lets look at it from the three different theories that I believe encompass the spectrum of possibilities.

Dualism – consciousness and matter are separate and distinct

Monistic Idealism – All consciousness is a single consciousness and individuality is an illusion

Materialism – matter creates consciousness

Without attempting to explain where “spirits” come from, Dualism has no real problem with the thought experiment.  You could have exact physical copies of a body and still have two distinct individuals since each consciousness (spirit) is still separate and unique.  It’s true that a third party would have no basis on which to tell the copies apart but each copy would still consider itself an individual existing in a specific location.

Idealism also has no problem with the thought experiment.  Since individuality is an illusion the illusion of individuality would also be complete between exact copies of any physical structure. All consciousness is a single consciousness and expresses as all forms.  You could replicate a form exactly billions of times and each form would still consider itself to be an individual!

How about materialism?

At first glance the obvious answer would be b.  You still exist at position 1 and someone else that looks and acts like you exists at position 2.

For materialism however this presents a quandary.  Since both physical structures are identical and structure is generating your consciousness as an epiphenomenon, then shouldn’t you find yourself in the confusing position of being in two places at once?

It would be the situation of living two superimposed realities simultaneously.

If Material 1 =Consciousness 1, and Material 2 = Consciousness 2, and Material 1 = Material 2, then Consciousness 1 = Consciousness 2.

Summarizing. If “you” exist at 1 because of brain 1 then ”you” must also exist at 2 if an exact copy of brain 1 exists there. 

Further let’s say position 2 is 1 light year distant!

Somehow "you" would be controlling 2 bodies instantaneously across that distance. That would be macro scale "action at a distance".

One could claim that for an instant there would be only one consciousness associated with 2 bodies but as soon as the experiences start to differ the consciousness would differentiate or split but this is obviously false.  No matter what experiences we have or decisions we make consciousness seems to be continuous.  This would also make consciousness dependent on experience and not the brain.

So for a materialist it seems that only d. could hold!  If not then there is something non-material involved with the generation of consciousness and materialism is refuting itself.

Now the materialist would just have to explain what to change in brain 2 to create a different consciousness and thereby create two different people looking out of two identical bodies!

They would somehow have to identify an "Individuality Module" in each brain and relate that to an individualized consciousness. How could consciousness or pure awareness be individualized? What would be the measurable parameters?

This “Individuality Module” would have to explain the structural differences in 7 billion human brains on the planet that creates an individualized consciousness each time and the materialist must be able to measure that consciousness directly and verify it’s individuality.

The whole thing for the materialist quickly becomes impossible.  They can not now and never will be able to address the points above.

I would contend that the theory that most easily satisfies the implications of this thought experiment with a minimum of paradox must be the closest to the truth. 

Monistic Idealism explains everything without contradiction or paradox.

We are all One Consciousness existing outside of time and space looking into this universe through the vehicle of every life form.  In the process, as a function of focus, the illusion of individuality occurs.  A form could be replicated exactly billions of times and each form would still consider itself to be an individual!

This description of reality is reported over and over again by the NDErs and constitutes experimental verification of the theory.

Ironically by examining our existence as seeming individual physical entities in the universe we find that that is exactly what we are not.