Posted by: Alexandre Borovik | July 17, 2009

A childhood story, from Mathieu Marion

I do not know if this is of interest to you or not but here is a thought-experiment of mine, probably around the age of 7-8, for sure after 6 and before 10.

I started thinking about death and wanted to convince myself I would never die, instead of thinking about life after death… So I started thinking about an infinity in this way: first, I assumed that my entire life was only one dream in one night in another life where I am still the same person but could not fully realize that a full life goes on in each dream (an interesting point about personal identity, I guess). Now, that other life would be finite and have only a finite number of nights. So, I thought further that in each night there must be a finite number of dreams, encapsulating a finite number of lives. This was still short of infinity, so I started thinking that in each of these finitely many dreams of the finitely many nights, I would live a life that would in turn contain finitely many nights, which would contain finitely many dreams, and so on. I was not so sure that I was safe that way (i.e. that I would go on living forever), but I convinced myself that these were enough lives to live, so that even if the process would end, I would still have lived enough, and stopped thinking about it.

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