April 13, 2009

It is what it is. A swiss lady suffered a stroke with an unusual effect. She can see a translucent third arm, control it and experience its efficacy. Brain scans back up her experience. So does the lady's arm exist, or doesn't it?

I'm thinking that it DOES exist. Existence is what people make of it. It's not just a public quality. Bertrand Russell put the idea (which was Kant's) this way: there's no difference between IMAGINING money in one's wallet and imagining the money EXISTING there. Existence is not a predicate. Or as we say in New Jersey, "it is what it is."

  • If it moves like an arm and looks like an arm and scratches an itch like an arm, it's at least not a duck. Probably.
  • That's cool. It works. I created a phantom itch to scratch, then created a phantom arm to scratch it. It worked, no more itch.
  • Samuel Johnson would say that she can slap someone with the arm, then it's real.
  • I have the power of invisibility. But I can only use it if no one is watching me.
  • Very interesting - personally I think the neurological implications are more novel than the philosophical ones, and I hope they can do some good detailed research.
  • So she's armed, but probably not dangerous?
  • Forget detailed research, send in Oliver Sacks!