7 February 2011


Being and Nothingness is still on the topic of the past, and how the past is connected to the present. There is an old philosophical question about continuity and a lingering doubt about whether it has been solved. Imagine for example I have a quilt and it has a hole in it. I execute a series of repairs replacing worn bits with new fabric. Eventually overtime as the quilt wears out and I make more repairs none of the original fabric remains. The question is whether it is the same quilt, and if not at which point does it stop being the same quilt. The question I suppose is more easily answered for objects than it is for people. For an object its continuity over time can be in the mind of the observer (though that raises questions of what happens if the only observer dies, does the quilt stop being the same quilt or can the continuity be passed on, or started again in a new observer). For people it is not so easy, it would mean we would have to be our own observer, we would have to constitute ourselves over time. Either that or someone else has to be our observer.  It is a tricky question and one I am not sure I have my thinking clear on yet, nor am I quite sure what conclusion Sartre is going to come to.

I did manage one block this evening, just. It required much unpicking, and this was after I abandoned the first block I started on because it just wasn’t going anywhere. I guess I just wasn’t thinking in a quilting frame of mind this evening.

171 Chinese Puzzle


2 responses »

  1. And yet people are replaced, piece by piece over the course of our lives, the same way as the quilt. Almost no part of you is the same cells that comprised you when you were gone. Consider meeting someone you knew as a child again as an adult without any intervening contact. Are they the same person? Maybe not. Some people get divorced claiming they have becme different people.

    • I guess thats where people get complicated. You have not just physical continuity but continuity of consciousness. The adult knows that they were the child. Even if they claim that they are not the same person they once were they still have that persons memories etc. It doesn’t really matter which person they are today the person who they were is fixed.

      Thanks, thinking about it a bit more has actually made me understand a little better what Sartre was on about when he talked about being your past in a different way than you are your present

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