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The Ghost of Theseus Problem

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  • The Ghost of Theseus Problem

    Do you feel that the fact that ghosts are nothing more than copies in 2e rather than being the same person reduces one's sympathy for them?

    Also, does the fact that ghosts are only cast off psychic residue mean that sin eaters themselves are just copies of the original person inhabiting their body? Why can sin eaters continue to grow, age and change but ghosts can't, I wonder? Does the body make all the difference?

  • #2
    Ghosts aren’t the people they remember themselves as, but they’re still people. I think that was what the writers (and posters here, including me) said some time ago.

    EDIT: For the Bound, my guess is that it has something to do with the Bargain, not necessarily having a body.


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    • #3
      I have as much sympathy for them as I have any other person. You have just as much right to claim a person today isn't the same person they were when they went to sleep yesterday.


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      • #4
        Originally posted by milo v3 View Post
        I have as much sympathy for them as I have any other person. You have just as much right to claim a person today isn't the same person they were when they went to sleep yesterday.
        To expound upon this point with a quote I can't quite remember the source of: "I am not a noun, I am a verb. I am what things do when they're arranged in a me-like shape." After all, we're people of Theseus. Why should ghosts not be people or not be empathetic just because they're copies rather than originals? If someone remembers dying horribly, is the pain they remember any less powerful for it being a copy of a memory? Is a copy of It or At the Mountains of Madness any less disturbing than the original manuscript? To paraphrase Shirou Emiya, there's nothing that says a copy can't rival the real thing.
        Last edited by ajf115; 07-03-2018, 05:47 AM.


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        • #5
          Originally posted by Deinos View Post
          Do you feel that the fact that ghosts are nothing more than copies in 2e rather than being the same person reduces one's sympathy for them?
          It depends what your answer to the actual philosophical question is.


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          • #6
            You know, I've asked myself this question a lot, albeit in a different format. It is all based on the original philosophical question of course. But still.

            What if you were to step into a machine that would create another you. a la The Prestige (movie not the book). No matter which one you are, both are not in the original physical location as you were before turning on the machine so it's ambiguous who the "original" person is.

            The question is: What would you do. Would you demand they die? That they go away and take other names and lives? Who has more right to the life you now live? Would you demand they do things for you so that you don't have to? The question is interesting because no matter what answer you give, the other one is likely to feel the same. Me personally, I've decided the answer is both are as "original" as the other, if that word even has meaning anymore in that context.


            I feel like the "ghost of Theseus" question is basically the exact same. There's a Soul, a Body, a Mind, a Ghost, (if it gets made). If one becomes sentient independent from the others or is made, is it any less a person than the others? For me the answer is no. They're still a person.



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            • #7
              Even if a ghost ends up considered completely separate to you and that they are separate entities that are just partially based on you..... The same argument could be applied to whether or not children have personhood despite the fact they're not perfect clones of you. :P


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              • #8
                A person is a person, regardless of their origin.


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                • #9
                  Basically everyone in this thread is going to have no problem playing GtS2e me thinks.



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                  • #10
                    The Star Trek Transporter paradox problem described here will be played out with necromancers and other antagonists who treat ghosts as things. However, that does not appear to be the default perspective of PC's.

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                    • #11
                      Does anyone other than mages (with their Arcana and millennia of continuous societies to amass supernatural informatino) actually know that ghosts are reflections rather than direct continuations?


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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by milo v3 View Post
                        I have as much sympathy for them as I have any other person. You have just as much right to claim a person today isn't the same person they were when they went to sleep yesterday.
                        You don't. The idea that your consciousness somehow turns off or disappears and comes back when you're asleep is a myth - you go into different states of consciousness, and your thoughts only rarely end up in your long term memory, but the processes of you mind and brain never stop, Plus, can't you get a ghost from a near-death experience, in the setting - that would blatantly not be the same person as the original, because the original is right there.

                        None of which means ghosts are not people.

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                        • #13
                          Whether ghosts (and sin-eaters) are exactly the same individual who died or something else is an entirety different issue than whether ghosts are (and should be treated) as sapient "people."

                          Rather than thinking of a ghost as a residue or thing cast off from a person upon death, think of them more like a clone. A clone is different but still definitely a "person".

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by branford View Post
                            Whether ghosts (and sin-eaters) are exactly the same individual who died or something else is an entirety different issue than whether ghosts are (and should be treated) as sapient "people."

                            Rather than thinking of a ghost as a residue or thing cast off from a person upon death, think of them more like a clone. A clone is different but still definitely a "person".
                            Well, clones are definitely not the same people. If that was true, then every pair of identical twins in the world would be interchangeable with each other and have no differences between them.

                            This aspect of 2e seems a bit...nonsensical to me? Or rather, it would depend entirely on how a given ST plays ghosts. If you're going to play a ghost as though nothing has changed about its mind/personality/abilities from when it was alive, then no matter what you want to call it, it's functionally a continuation of the same person, a true manifestation of their spirit/soul/whatever without any good reason to claim otherwise besides "it's in the rulebook." If you're going to play it like some Uncanny Valley marionette running through limited motions, then you have a choice of saying it's a copy of the original or that the person's spirit/soul/whatever is being tortured in this half-existence, or whatever justification the ST and players want to come up with. You might even play it both ways and leave the answer vague.

                            I guess what I'm saying is that this sounds like an aspect of the revised game that doesn't have much of a logical basis unless your group sets out specifically to make an ephemeral entity's personhood a plot point, and it can be easily ignored by people like me who don't plan on putting ghosts through existential crises without a pragmatic reason.

                            P.S. Same with Sin-Eaters: If you're going to play your Sin-Eater as though they feel and express no differences whatsoever from before they died (sans the urges now coming from their Geist and whatever ways the trauma/experience of death changed them) then the question of whether they're really a living person with a spirit/soul or not is moot. In my opinion, at least.

                            P.P.S. It feels like asking, "Are you sure you're the real you? The one that belongs in this world? Or did you swap places with a you from an alternate dimension without knowing it, and you actually don't belong here?" It's like...so what? If I didn't notice, then it doesn't seem like much of a difference.
                            Last edited by Chesh; 07-03-2018, 05:21 PM.


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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by SunlessNick View Post
                              you go into different states of consciousness, and your thoughts only rarely end up in your long term memory, but the processes of you mind and brain never stop,
                              That's the essential mistake the Ship of Theseus critiques. You're just stating that certain elements of identity are essential without actually justifying it. Like, how impaired or altered does your brain have to be before it's no longer you?

                              Plus, can't you get a ghost from a near-death experience, in the setting - that would blatantly not be the same person as the original, because the original is right there.
                              Or, they both have a legitimate claim on that originality. Frankly, the idea of originality only really makes sense in our context where we don't have to deal with these things.


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