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Suppose Davidson goes hiking in the swamp and is struck and killed by a lightning bolt. At the same time, nearby in the swamp another lightning bolt spontaneously rearranges a bunch of molecules such that, entirely by coincidence, they take on exactly the same form that Davidson's body had at the moment of his untimely death.
This being, whom Davidson terms 'Swampman', has, of course, a brain which is structurally identical to that which Davidson had, and will thus, presumably, behave exactly as Davidson would have. He will walk out of the swamp, return to Davidson's office at Berkeley, and write the same essays he would have written; he will interact like an amicable person with all of Davidson's friends and family, and so forth. - Is Davidson the same after as before?
Why do we ask these questions? Who cares if Davidson is the same or different on some metaphysical level? I don't care if a tree falls or a cat dies in a box. The point is always the same, there is no answer. These thought experiments aren't experiments at all. So why do they continually pop up? Does the floating man in the air without any sensory information have an identity? I'll think about your experiment when you successfully suspend me in the air. Actually, I might fly off without answering. I don't care much for riddles.
There are two answers to the question above, yes or no. They are both right and they are both wrong and they are both obsolete. It's an impossible and as such should we even think about it? Well, maybe still. Thought experiments are mostly just demonstrations of our faulty networking. They provide us with hints and scenarios so we can reassess what we think we already know. Hypothetical situations are great teaching tools.
So can we then set our brains to thinking about the one above (titled Swampman) It's a question of identity. But is it a question of the brain or the body? I think it should be more than just the rearranging of atoms that makes Davidson different. After all we tirelessly exchange old atoms for new ones our entire lives and even in just a few days the atomic make-up of your heart will be different than it is now. The creator of this thought experiment concludes that Davidson is different even though there is no discernible evidence of that difference. What this ignores though is that from one word to the next in writing this I am different too. We are constantly shifting both our mental and physical chemistry so much that I think the question is rendered mute.
Does anyone else have any good thought experiments or want to respond to this one? Or else have any reasons that we should obviate all of them from our consciousness?