Monday, November 10, 2014

Question Is... Doctor Who?

Doctor Who is a British media franchise revolving around the tales and adventures of a humanoid alien time traveler from Gallifrey in the Constellation of Kasterborous, sailing across the Seams of Chronos and Threads of Space, armed with a sonic screwdriver, aboard the TARDIS, almost always alongside a companion for good measure.

Oftentimes, actually quite more so than often, perhaps quite very consciously, the story arcs and concepts of the show delves with the philosophy of metaphysics and ethics. For example, the idea of Regeneration attempts to answer a fundamental question in metaphysics: how do we know we are who we are throughout our lives?

The question arises because over the years we shed dead cells off our bodies to be replaced by new ones, transforming completely over decades. Therefore, after a decade or so, we are a new composition of cells completely. Is this 'me' really biologically me or someone else with my consciousness?

See how when the Doctor regenerates he has a new body and personality? And the new body has a new level of health, strength, agility and durability; new modes of thinking due to a biologically new brain pulling the strings of hormones and neurotransmitters responsible for thought and behavior. So, how do we decide that it is actually him?

Similarly, as we grow older our body sheds cells when they die and our brain patterns will change thus altering our personality. So, in a way, everyday, in fact every hour, every minute and every second, we are regenerating into a new person entirely.

Therefore, ten years down the line all our dead cells will be replaced by new ones and we will have a different personality overall with new likes and dislikes in response to our experiences and changes in the chemical composition of our brains and neurons. Hence, the question: new cells, new personality, new everything, so how am I still me? That is when we think about regeneration and the Doctor, how do we decide he is truly the Doctor?

Is it because of the same memories, the events that he has gone through? Is that the deciding factor to formulate the judgment that he is who he is? Then, the question arises: what if we displace all the memories of person A into the mind of person B. Is person A, now, person B? No? Why not? Let us take this a step further.

What if we displace all the memories of person A into the mind of person B and then replace every cell in person B's body with the cells of person A. Same biological body, same memories and same methodology of cognition due to the identical chemical compositions of the two brains as a result of the insertion of brain cells and various other gray and white matter from person A to person B. At this point, if we kill person A, would we be able to say person A is still alive since person B is now cognitively and physically person A?

Simply breaking it down: When the Doctor regenerates, his body changes. And thus changes his brain and, consequently, his personality, as governed by the gray and white matter of the brain. He becomes a completely new person. So, how do we know he is still the Doctor? Is it because he still has the same memories?

That leads to the question, if I were to transfer all my memories into you, would that make you into me? It is a difficult question to answer and some may say that it still will not make you into me because you still have your body. However, none of us ever truly retain our own body throughout our lives, we shed the cells that die as time goes on and our brain changes pattern chemically and neurologically, our personalities change, the way we think, what we like, what we don't like, everything will change. So does it mean ten years down the line when our body has shed all of its cells and we have new personalities, we are a different person? Ponder that for a moment. Thank you.

— Fahim Ferdous Promi


  1. Wow, this is really thought provoking and so cool. I am a total Whovian. Never thought about it quite this way.

    1. Yayy! A Whovian! I'm glad you enjoyed the article ^.^ Thank you! c: