Sleepwalking is a valid legal defense?

Does he who loves someone on account of beauty really love that person? No, for smallpox, which will kill beauty without killing the person, will cause him to love the person no more. And if one loves me for my judgment, for my memory, he does not love me, for I can lose these qualities without losing myself. Where, then, is this myself, if it be neither in the body nor in the soul? ~Blaise Pascal

I just finished reading Star Trek and Philosphy: The Wrath of Kant. I mainly grabbed the book because I like Star Trek, but it was surprisingly thought-provoking in spots. Apparently Star Trek brings up a lot of philosophical questions – it may not resolve them to a philosopher’s satisfaction in 45 minutes, but it at least brings them up! And one of these questions is – what is the critical thing that makes you you, where is personal identity found?

Because all kinds of freaky stuff happens in Star Trek. You might find your mind downloaded into a computer – is that computer then you? What if all your memories were placed in an android instead? You could be duplicated in a freak transporter accident. You could be cloned. How many of your organs can be replaced by mechanical parts before you become a new person? Does only the brain matter? If part or all of your memory is erased, are you the same person? And on and on.

One real-life individual who thought about the possibility of minds switching bodies, or multiple minds resting in one body was… John Locke? Thinker behind a lot of the American Revolution John Locke?

This [body switches and double occupancy] show us wherein personal identity consists: not in the identity of substance, but, as I have said, in the identity of consciousness, wherein if Socrates and the present mayor of Quinborough agree, they are the same person: if the same Socrates waking and sleeping do not partake of the same consciousness, Socrates waking and sleeping is not the same person. And to punish Socrates waking for what sleeping Socrates thought, and waking Socrates was never conscious of, would be no more of right, than to punish one twin for what his brother-twin did, whereof he knew nothing, because their outsides were so like, that they could not be distinguished, for such twins have been seen.

Most surprising to me, the author of the essay that quoted Locke, Theodore Schick, says that “I was sleepwalking” is actually a legitimate defense in a court of law. The problem for the defendant is that it can be quite hard to convince a jury that you really were asleep – but if you succeed, then you have shown that some other person committed whatever crime you are being accused of.

And they say you don’t learn anything from TV.

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