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Thread: The Law of Identity: What does it mean?

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    Contributor Speakpigeon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Speakpigeon View Post
    This thread is about the Law of Identity: for all things, a thing is itself.

    This isn't a thread about logic or about the logic of the Law of Identity. So, please remember that in your replies.

    Some context now...

    The Law of Identity has been assumed as an axiom of logic since Aristotle some 2,400 years ago, but a few people here and there deny any validity to it. This is their constitutional right, of course, but some of them, possibly all of them even, may not in fact understand what the Law of Identity means to begin with.

    So, here is your chance to articulate eloquently what you think the Law of Identity really means to all of us.

    I'm not interested in quirky theories that will inevitably be about something not the Law of Identity. I'm only interested in what you think the Law of Identity means, and means to most people, even those people who have never thought about it, and including what it meant to people like Aristotle who of course are long dead now.

    Please also note that as far as I am concerned, whatever explanation as can be found in encyclopedias and such about the subject remains open to debate. We may perhaps improve our understanding of the subject by sharing our most intimate intuitions about it.

    Also, please, don't ramble. Keep to the point and leave the question of the logic of it at the door.

    However, please abstain if you can't articulate your point or argue your position in a rational way, i.e. from logic and facts.

    Thanks.
    EB
    I accept of course that the rational consideration of empirical evidence to draw reliable conclusions requires that we not change the designations of things without somehow specifying that we do. For example, I can talk meaningfully of digging some amount of ore to extract the iron from it to use it to make rods to be used as construction material for buildings. Here, I just moved from one designation, "ore", to another, completely different one, "buildings". Yet, we can all understand that only a part of the ore has been used to make up only a part of possibly different buildings. So, where would be the "identity" of the original ore when I am now talking only of buildings?!

    So, I don't buy the interpretation of the Law of Identity as being a rule to constrain our descriptions so that we could have rational conversations. We certainly have rules, syntactic, grammatical, lexical rules to do that job and so we don't need any additional "Law".

    Please also note that the term itself, "law", doesn't suggest at all anything like a linguistic constraint. The proper term in this case would be "rule", not "law".

    And the Law of Identity is a fundamental axiom of standard logic, not a linguistic rule.

    Also note that, in any logical formal language, say, anything mathematical, including computer languages, where the coherence of the designations we use is critical, we may start with two distinct designations of values, e.g. A and B, and end up deducing A = B, meaning A and B are identical values. If the Law of Identity applied here, A would A and B would be B and the twain shall never meet. Yet, they do: A = B.

    We can also choose to assume for example that A = B in order to prove that, in fact, A is not at all equal to B. If the Law of Identity referred to identities as designations, such as "A" and "B", then assuming A = B would preclude ever deducing A not equal to B, since the Law of Identify is indeed fundamental in logic.

    Think also of the designations of variables: x, y, z etc. What would be their identity? They have a designation: x is x. So, per the Law of Identity, if it applied, x couldn't possibly ever get to be equal to 2! Yet, if we now posit or even deduce that x = 2, we're saying exactly that.
    EB

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    its not true that for all things, a thing is itself.

    most notably since "itself" and "thing" are words with totally different meaning

  3. Top | #23
    Contributor Speakpigeon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Juma View Post
    its not true that for all things, a thing is itself.

    most notably since "itself" and "thing" are words with totally different meaning
    I see.

    Sorry to hear that.
    EB

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    It is what it is bro.

  5. Top | #25
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    I've always understood it as a definitional truism that is inherently tied to if not just a another way of saying the law of noncontradition.

    They set minimum conditions neccessary for any thing, idea, or linguistic reference to a thing or idea to have an meaning at all.

    A thing is itself (identity), and it is not what it is not (non-contradiction). The idea of a thing existing and concepts themselves are a byproduct of definitional boundaries. Things (and ideas of things) are only what they are and only have any meaning because they have boundaries that determine where they stop or what other things are excluded from them. If a thing was not always itself, then it could be what it isn't, which would mean it has no boundaries that define what it is and thus is meaningless and cannot be conceived. Everything would include everything and thus there would be no things.

    Nothing else in logic has any validity without these, b/c no concepts of anything or any meaningful referent to concepts (like language) is possible without them. Everything everyone is this thread has said would refer to everything and its opposite and thus to nothing.

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