Author Topic: PC475: The Dauphin’s Metaphysics  (Read 2950 times)


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on: June 21, 2017, 08:19:16 AM
PodCastle 475: The Dauphin’s Metaphysics

by Eric Schwitzgebel
read by Tatiana Grey

First published in Unlikely Story

Rated PG-13.

“— which suggests possible applications, if the cobbler is much younger. Don’t you think, Miss Professor?”

The Dauphin sat twelve rows back — teenage heir apparent to the throne, playing at Academy student — smug smile, a ring of vacant seats around him, his speech casually slurred, ostentatiously humble with plain quill and standard-issue student gown (expensively pressed).

I intended my gaze to crucify him. Softness to students is a graybeard luxury; a young woman can only be hard. All the more so, I was sure, in this particular case. I nursed silence to the edge of discomfort, coiling the spring. “It is a thought experiment that depends on immaterial souls transferred by miracle,” I said. “There can be no practical applications.”

I paused again, as if gathering my thoughts. “Or do you perhaps mistake yourself for God?”

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Eric Schwitzgebel is a professor of philosophy at the University of California, Riverside, and a cooperating faculty member in UCR’s program for Speculative Fiction and Cultures of Science. (Yes, you can get a PhD in Speculative Fiction at UC Riverside.) His short fiction has appeared in F&SF, Clarkesworld, Nature, The Dark, and elsewhere. He has published bunches of academic articles and op-eds on what it means to believe something; on people’s failure to understand their own character and experiences; on robot rights, group minds, and A.I. consciousness; on ancient Chinese philosophy; on whether we might all be living in a giant computer simulation; and on the mediocre moral behavior of professional ethicists. He blogs about all this stuff and more at The Splintered Mind.

Tatiana Grey is a critically acclaimed actress of stage, screen, and the audio booth. She has been nominated for dozens of fancy awards but hasn’t won a single damned thing. She does, however have a feature film hitting the festival circuit called Serious Laundry. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. See more about Tatiana at

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Reply #1 on: June 24, 2017, 02:16:41 PM
Beautiful story!

What would have been written. 

Spoiler (click to show/hide)


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Reply #2 on: July 21, 2017, 08:50:51 PM
I liked this story, it is very thought provoking. However, I do not agree with the conclusions of the characters. It left sort of an icky aftertaste in my mind. I can understand the desire to pass on one's thoughts and memories, but I do not believe this system of reincarnation (assuming it works as well as in the story) would be beneficial, beyond the normal passing of information and culture to the next generation. It would make more sense to me without the denial of a soul. Sexual reproduction gives populations a greater ability to adapt to changing environments than asexual reproduction. In a similar sense as gametes, cultures are recombined, they change and adapt as they are transmitted to the next generation which allows them to survive in new forms when they otherwise may have gone extinct. I know I have faults, both physical and intellectual, and would not wish them on my (future) children. Part of being a parent is the hope that your children will surpass you, not make the same mistakes you did. I think this may be what allows parenthood the potential to be a selfless, rather than selfish, act.

I think that the Professor may have shared some of my views and chose to participate in the project as she saw no other way to influence the future towards the directions she wished. In the end, she felt this guaranteed that a woman with her values would be in a position of great power after her death, even if she did not necessarily believe in the truth of the reincarnation or agree with the morality of the practice.

The story also ignores the genetic components of personality and intellect, but I suppose cloning is a possibility with modern science.


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Reply #3 on: September 30, 2017, 01:02:12 AM
Didn't expect a post-humanism fantasy alt-history story. This paired nicely in my queue with a science fiction faery tale.

All cat stories start with this statement: “My mother, who was the first cat, told me this...”