In this episode, Scott examines the Russian Nobleman thought experiment and what implications this concept has on the impermanence of a person’s ideals. Is a person still themselves if they think differently as an adult than they did as a child? Your answer to this question has significant implications on the covenants we make at baptism and the temple.
This discussion builds upon the previous episode, discussing a different version of the ship of Theseus thought experiment specifically dealing with the shifts in the ideals of a person throughout their life. It is unnecessary to listen in any order.
The Russian Nobleman thought experiment from Derek Parfit, Reasons and Persons, 1984:
In several years, a young Russian will inherit vast estates. Because he has socialist ideals, he intends, now, to give the land to the peasants. But he knows that in time his ideals may fade. To guard against this possibility, he does two things. He first signs a legal document, which will automatically give away the land, and which can be revoked only with his wife’s consent. He then says to his wife, ‘Promise me that, if I ever change my mind, and ask you to revoke this document, you will not consent.’ He adds, ‘I regard my ideals as essential to me. If I lose these ideals, I want you to think that I cease to exist. I want you to regard your husband then, not as me, the man who asks for this promise, but only as his corrupted later self. Promise me that you will not do what he asks.