Five and a half years ago (yikes, I must be a slow thinker) I mentioned this idea how felt forced to claim satisfaction with every bit of history that happened up 'til the moment I was conceived, the thought being that if any "flap of the butterfly's wing" had been different, I might not have been. But there's an interesting assumption, at least for someone who isn't sure about a separable soul: how different could I be from what I am now, and still be "me"?
Is there some golden thread that connects me to a certain subset of "alternate universe Kirks", but not others? It would seem so... I wouldn't expect an identity crisis if, say, yesterday I had a extra large iced coffee rather than a large. I would find a lot in common with that alternate Kirk... maybe he had slept a tad more poorly but everything else was the same, and so there's no question that he's still me.
But if, say, a different spermatozoa had won that race back in 1973, and carried a different genetic payload? Maybe even an X chromosome? (call her Kirkella... actually my folks didn't have a great girl's name in store, so...) That "alternate Kirk" would have a different enough experience that I don't think they'd be, they would likely have been molded into an entirely different person.
So, barring the idea of a soul in common, there's somewhere between "Kirk of the XL coffee" and "Kirkella" where there's a transition. Or, maybe it's shades of grey, and "me-ness" is only a spectrum. I guess that is the answer to this, actually: according to guys like Daniel Dennett, the notion that there's a distinct Me might actually be a sneaky bit of Cartesian dualism, that there's some bit or pattern of brain stuff that's "the real me" and the rest of my head is just there for support.
Oh well. I'm here, and the time is now, and that's important.
Link of the Moment
As Hillary Rodham Clinton starts preparing to run for the Democratic presidential nomination, Republicans start pointing out that the full name of her top competitor is Barack Hussein Obama. The Zeitgeist has a feeling that even if his name were Barack Hussein Hitler Stalin Milosevic Satan Osama Obama, Republicans would still prefer to face Hillary in the general election.
--Slate's Washington Zeitgeist, which generally has a chuckle here or there as it covers what Washington is thinking about.
Photo of the Moment