Let me preface my argument by saying that I am no English Major, I don’t have a way with words, and I can say with absolute certainty that my thoughts will not contain any form of competent prose. I’m an engineering major I can think critically and problem-solve; that is how I have been taught to attack problems in life. This analytical methodology is what I have used to think about every question asked in class. I attempt to rationalize my answer in my head first to come up with a simple response that I can not only defend but also understand. Though as you pointed out to me in class if I really believed the easily defended arguments to be true, I would be in a hospital hooked up on a heroin drip not taking an Intro to Philosophy class to better myself (Read: graduate). So, I digress, what do I believe when it comes to personal identity? In class, I said that we are never the same person from one moment to the next and, as funny as that sounds, it is what I believe.
We are beings made up of our inputs. These inputs consist of our basic senses of the mind and no one can have the exact same input as another. We all may think heroi…Hershey Bars are great but we can’t have the same stimulation because we cannot take the exact same bite or swallow the exact same amount. We may each have a positive experience but it is inherently different. At any conscious (mind) time we are receiving inputs be it dreams or Hershey Bars. As I type this, switching between beer and coffee, I’m changing as a person. Are these events life changing? No. Will I remember them forever? Not unless I mix my beer and coffee together and drink the resulting swill. Nevertheless, we are evolving as people over the course of time. I remember you saying that you had heard this belief from students before and if we can come to this conclusion at UMBC, it must be a coined term somewhere. I looked it up on Wikipedia and they defined it as diachronic, meaning something happening over the course of time. This diachronic change ranges on a continuum from the minute to large-scale factors. Over the course of an individual’s life, it is difficult to determine where an incident or experience lies on the continuum.
As a means to answering the question, it does not matter how large or small the change is in me from one moment to the next; what does factor into the scenario is that any experience or input that I have is not and cannot be the same as my clone’s. Thus, not only are we different but we each inherently conceptualize our identities in a different way. So, is the clone really me? Is he right? Based on my previously explained logic, he is not the same but, if we defy the laws of physics for a minute, he has come as close to being me as possible at the time of his creation. Because we cannot physically inhabit the same space simultaneously, as soon as he is created we are different people but still as close to the same as possible. As even the slightest of time passes, we have unique experiences. However minuscule the difference in our inputs, we start to differ. By definition, the same must be exactly the same in this context; any variation is considered to be different and therefore to mean not exactly the same. This is not to say that I’m crazy and think I’m constantly changing into a different person.
I’m always Patrick Minnick. I’m merely not static; I’m dynamic, like all living beings. I differ from past versions of myself therefore I can claim to be different. I do not find this difficult to understand. I do not give up on my current self because my future self will be someone different. I consider my future self to be an evolved form of me. I can learn from each input and experience I have in order to better myself. So, we arrive at the same question: What determines personal identity? Based on my earlier statements, I would argue that the clone is closest to actually being me at the moment of its creation (he never will actually be me because we can never occupy the same space), and will continue to be similar to a version of me, however I do not expect the future clone to be as near to my identity of the future me as he is at his creation.
He will not the same as me because his evolution will have already begun down a separate path, a path that could be better or worse based than mine on the principle that we do not occupy the same space, do not have the same predetermining inputs, and will therefore have differing predetermined outcomes. That is the answer. We are our experiences, and thus, we are our inputs. Our personal identity is made up of our inputs. We become these things based on what is remembered by us—what is important in our mind. I cannot even begin to explain how memories become profound and important to us because I cannot answer that about myself. I can remember being 10 and eating a banana split with my grandma. Nothing profound there, it was not my first, my last, and my grandma did not die right after. It was an uneventful banana split.
Yet, my first two and a half weeks of my INDOC into the Navy are a blur. People who saw me directly before and after noticed how much I had changed but I remember very little of the events and did not feel like I was a different person. Does that mean they did not affect me? No. Just because the events are not prevalent in my mind does not mean they haven’t shaped me as a person. I cannot speak more about this because I am in over my head when it comes to neuroscience (no pun intended), and cannot think critically about my brain being shaped by my inputs without melting it and going full blown Hylas and Philonous.
In conclusion, to use a terribly analogy, the clone and myself are starting from the same starting line but running different courses with different finish lines. We are the same person at the point of creation, but once we have individual experiences and unique inputs, we begin to separate and become different people. For all I know, the clone is the one who is going to end up on the predetermined heroin drip.