Arnold Zuboff

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Arnold Stuart Zuboff (born 1946) is an American philosopher who has worked on topics such as personal identity, philosophy of mind, ethics, metaphysics, epistemology and philosophy of probability. He is the original formulator of the Sleeping Beauty problem and a view analogous to open individualism, which he terms "Universalism".


  • We might express this as "all persons are I" or rather as "you and I are the same person".
  • We must see that all places, times and conscious organisms are equally "this one". For a failure to see this must distort our view by forcing us to accommodate in it what seems to be our own special objective status; and that awkward accommodation must then ruin any prospect of discovering the truly objective universal principles that govern the world.
  • [T]here is only one way we can ever identify ourselves. That is through subjective experience. And subjective experience is universal. Its relation to anything possessing it is contingent. This means two things. First, it makes no sense to think of ourselves as one producer of our experience rather than another that would do as well—actual or possible. We certainly couldn't discriminate one of these from another through our experience anyway. And second, even if this identification had significance, it would gain us nothing because the experience itself, which is all we would have available to us of ourselves, would not cohere subjectively as we have already seen. That a body or mind or self continues on into the future is cold comfort, even if we arbitrarily and ignorantly identify ourselves with some one such particular, if its continuity cannot be translated into the sort of continuity of subjective experience that we can truly possess, where one moment belongs to another. That each of two moment instances somehow belongs to some third thing like a body is not interesting.
  • In all conscious life there is only one person—I—whose existence depends merely on the presence of a quality that is inherent in all experience—its quality of being mine, the simple immediacy of it for whatever is having experience. One powerful argument for this is statistical: on the ordinary view of personhood it is an incredible coincidence for you (though not for others) that out of 200,000,000 sperm cells the very one required on each occasion for your future existence was first to the egg in each of the begettings of yourself and all your ancestors. The only view that does not make your existence incredible, and that is not therefore (from your perspective) an incredible view, is that any conscious being would necessarily have been you anyway. It is a consequence that self-interest should extend to all conscious organisms.
  • An experience must be a universal across times as well as across brains. This experience of being you, here now, would be numerically the same whenever, as well as wherever, it was realized.
  • Think about what you ordinarily would recognize to be 'these experiences', 'mine'. What makes them 'mine' for you? Is it the detail of their content? If the colours you were seeing had been different, would the experiences have failed to be these, yours? Think of all the features of this experience that could be varied while its character of being 'mine' remained untouched. If you had fallen asleep and were now in the midst of a wild dream that had little in common with any of the usual content of your experience, would that experience have therein failed to be experienced as 'mine'? If you had eaten different particular items of food over the past years (as you might so easily have done), so that all the particular atoms in the structure of the body were different in numerical identity from those in your body now, would the experience have failed to have that character of being 'mine'? Must you take care with the particularity of the food that you eat because it is determining the identity of an experiencer, of the subject of self-interest? If the experience were had in a different location, if it were at a different time, would the experience not still have had that same character within it of being this and being mine?
  • You possess all conscious life. Whenever in all time and wherever in all the universe (or beyond) any conscious being stands, sits, crawls, jumps, lies, rolls, flies or swims, its experience of doing so is yours and is yours now. You are that being. You are fish and fowl. Deer and hunter. You are saints and sinners. You are Germans, Jews and Palestinians. This is an important result. What else can come close to it in importance? And perhaps the spread of this knowledge among the intelligent beings that are you can help you to stop yourself from hurting yourself because you mistake yourself for another.
  • I am countless conscious organisms, but each of these possesses only one package of experiential content, isolated from that of every other. And within any of these packages only that much of the content of experience is displayed as having the quality of immediacy that makes experience be mine. So being mine is naturally confused in each with being the experience of only that organism. One must be jolted into realising that being mine is instead an abstract quality like being red. And, further, that this is a quality that must pervade all experience. For what could count as experience that didn't have that quality? I hope that I have succeeded now in doing that jolting.
  • What makes an experience yours is none of the specification of its content or of the particularity or other properties of its possessor. All that is required for an experience to be yours, to be 'mine', is that it be immediate in its character as its character is experienced within it, that it be first person. My pains are pains that are not remote like those that belong to another. My pains are those that are immediate. They have internality. They are experienced in a first person way. They are subjectively at the center of the world, here in me. But all real pains must be had with this quality of immediacy that makes them 'mine'. What could really be a pain without its thus hurting?
  • [M]y self-interest reaches fully into the life of every conscious organism, each of which I equally am, and that the death of any one of these does not annihilate me so long as there still is any other conscious thing anywhere in all reality—since I will be that thing. And every experience in any time is experienced by me with all the same urgency of its happening now. All of it equally is mine and now.
  • [I]nflicting pain as retribution for wrongs is a horrible mistake: The person wronged and the person punished are one and the same.
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