Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Personal identity and dissociative fugue

 If true, this case of “dissociative fugue” is no doubt terribly unsettling for the poor man.

It's also a personal identity case tailor made for a philosophy class; a real-life and intense analog of key aspects of the premise behind films like Source Code and Total Recall. The thoroughgoing extent of the split here is amazing. A person, taking himself to be Johan, a Swede, awakens in a hospital. People around him insist he is an American named Michael. This goes on for 6 months. Over that time, the Swede acquires quite a bit of third person information about the American, yet those around him insist that J = M at least in the sense that they are in fact the same human being.

Put yourself in this man’s shoes:

  Imagine you wake up in a hospital room, and find that you are being addressed by someone else’s name.  You look at your wallet, or rather a wallet, see an ID that has that other name, and a picture you do not recognize. People insist that the person is you. You insist he is not. 

There are other pictures, allegedly of you with friends and family, but you recognize no one, including that person doctors assure you is yourself. You speak Swedish, no English. Over time, you learn a great deal about “your” life before waking in the hospital.  You are supposedly American and you had worked in Japan and China for over a decade. You served in the U.S. Navy. You have no memory of any of this. You actually do not have much memory of your Swedish life either, but are convinced you are Johan, not Michael. You find out the American was married, then divorced. He (you) had children you do not recall. No next of kin info is available from your two employers in the Orient.  You find out you had written about your teaching experiences while still there, but have no recollection of this.  “Your” cell phone has many numbers in its memory. These are called, but no one answers, or they go to voice mail.  Eventually an investigator finds someone who claims to be your sister. She is an American. She says you had disappeared years ago.

You don’t know what to believe. Your natural trust of others who do seem to have your welfare in mind leads you to believe you are Michael, but your gut tells you otherwise, even if your first person Swedish memories are spotty at best.

More at the link.

Wow. Hollywood better get busy, and more importantly,  I hope this guy comes out of it.


"For All Mankind" 1989 - Al Reinert

Dragnet: The Big Prophet. AKA Jack Webb goes nuclear on Timothy Leary