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What does "existence is identity" mean?

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I began reading OPAR and I've just read the argument Peikoff simulates between person A and person B in which he shows that in order that someone who claims to disagree with the axioms actually has to agree with them in the first place, implicitly. When he comes to establishing that one has to accept law of identity as well in order to be able to claim with the axioms, person A asks: "Perhaps all of the people who disagree about the very same point are equally, objectively right." Person B answers: "That's impossible. If two ideas contradict each other, they can't both be right. Contradictions can't exist in reality. After all, things are what they are. A is A." (OPAR, p. 10)

People who tend to "disagree" with the law of identity, whom I personally know, wouldn't answer anything like that. In fact, I've heard it said in many places that both (opposing sides) are right in their own way; the clearest example of uttering that A is non A. What then? How to show that this person indeed accepts implicitly that A is A?

One of the ways I see this could be dealt with is by using Ayn Rand's formulation of the law of identity, which says that "existence is identity." Therefore, by accepting existence, person who "disagrees" with the axioms has also accepted identity, which is A is A. On the other hand, telling this to a person who "rejects" the law of identity is absurd because "existence is identity" is an identity itself. Getting the person B to actually utter the law of identity is another matter.

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Guest jrshep

Slap them upside the head really hard.

When they complain and demand to know why you slapped them, say, "But I didn't slap you." Then slap them once again. (Be sure to duck as needed.)

Repeat as necessary.

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People who tend to "disagree" with the law of identity, whom I personally know, wouldn't answer anything like that. In fact, I've heard it said in many places that both (opposing sides) are right in their own way; the clearest example of uttering that A is non A. What then? How to show that this person indeed accepts implicitly that A is A?

Just a thought ...

For him, different things are true for different people. Ask him, is that true for everybody, or only for him?

If he responds that it's true for everybody, then smack him upside the head, and knock a few screws back in place.

If he responds that it's only true for him, then it is true for some people that whatever is true, is true for everybody, including him. How does he reconcile that something can be both true and not true for him at the same time?

And also, per Avicenna's advice, "Those who deny [Aristotle’s] first principle should be flogged or burned until they admit that it is not the same thing to be burned and not burned, or whipped and not whipped."

Per jrshep's translation, slap him upside the head until he admits that, in fact, you are slapping him upside the head.

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Basically every denial of the axioms (or of anything for that matter) is of the form: "It's not true," or the skeptic's version, "You can't prove it." In either case, they are identifying something which is not true or which can't be proven. To identify something, it must possess identity. One down, two to go. The concepts of "truth" and "proof" each imply an objective reality to which a true or a proven statement must conform. Two down. Finally, either statement can be prefaced with the qualifier "I know..." without changing its meaning. In each case, the denier is claiming knowledge. Knowledge pertains only to consciousness. Three up, three down, end of inning.

Every coherent thought or statement one can make implies all three axioms: existence, identity and consciousness. It worth noting that each axiom may be implied in mulitple forms in the same statement. ("Proof" for example also implies a consciousness capable of distinguishing the proven from the unproven.) Dr. Peikoff's explanation goes into greater detail, but the above is the basic idea.

I do like the slap-them-upside-the-head-until-they-admit-that-you-are-in-fact-slapping-them-upside-the-head idea. Though it might not work so well if your opponent is bigger than you. :lol:

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I do like the slap-them-upside-the-head-until-they-admit-that-you-are-in-fact-slapping-them-upside-the-head idea. Though it might not work so well if your opponent is bigger than you.  :P

If I go about and slap everyone who says that, I'd need a fridge full of ice to cool my hand at the end of the day. :D That is if nobody breaks any of my bones by then. :lol: I actually tried it once. It worked, but the person who disagreed with the axioms (although even I didn't know them consciously yet) seemed to agree that slapping him wasn't the same as not slapping him.

Thanks for your replies.

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Basically every denial of the axioms (or of anything for that matter) is of the form: "It's not true," or the skeptic's version, "You can't prove it." In either case, they are identifying something which is not true or which can't be proven. To identify something, it must possess identity. One down, two to go.

That's not really correct - the denial of "everthing that exists has identity" isnt "everything that exists doesnt havent identity", it is "at least one thing exists without identity". You can deny the law of identity without presupposing it and theres not really any way to demonstrate or prove it to a person who doubts it's truth. If someone refuses to accept it then you've reached a point where you can go no further, and it's probably best not to continue the argument because you can't really reduce things to anything more fundamental.

People who tend to "disagree" with the law of identity, whom I personally know, wouldn't answer anything like that. In fact, I've heard it said in many places that both (opposing sides) are right in their own way; the clearest example of uttering that A is non A. What then? How to show that this person indeed accepts implicitly that A is A?

This isnt really a denial of identity. It's possible for 2 sides to be partially right and partially wrong, or to both be correct by different standards. For instance, both 'liberals' and 'conservatives' are partially correct ('conservatives' when they champion the freemarket, 'liberals' when they oppose state religion). It would only be a denial of identity if both sides were in direct contradiction and using the same standard of validation.

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Guest jrshep
You can deny the law of identity without presupposing it and theres not really any way to demonstrate or prove it to a person who doubts it's truth.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

It is impossible to deny the law of identity without presupposing it. Can't be done. One literally cannot say anything at all without accepting the law of identity, at least implicitly.

Also, you cannot prove the validity of the law identity to even someone who does not doubt or deny it's truth. The law of identity, is a precondition of proof and truth, and even demonstration.

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It is impossible to deny the law of identity without presupposing it. Can't be done. One literally cannot say anything at all without accepting the law of identity, at least implicitly.

How so? If I were to say "Existence isnt identity and not everything that exists has identity", in what way would I be presupposing it?

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People who tend to "disagree" with the law of identity, whom I personally know, wouldn't answer anything like that. In fact, I've heard it said in many places that both (opposing sides) are right in their own way; the clearest example of uttering that A is non A. What then? How to show that this person indeed accepts implicitly that A is A?

Simple. Ask them how each person is right in their own way. Tell them to clearly define how this is so and then correct the error in their thought process. It's usually something semantic or a few muddled definitions.

Ask them questions such as "So it's possible for it to be right for you to murder someone and but not for me to?". In order to begin to argue either way here you have to accept that A is A; that each person is a person, etc. etc. and the answer is usually along the lines of "Yes. Say someone tries to kill me and I kill them, there's nothing wrong with that. but on the other hand, if you walk down a street and decide to kill a man who is minding his own business that's not right". There are two major problems with this type of argument. 1) the first scenario is NOT murder. It may be killing a man in self defense but that's a huge difference from murder. 2) in order for the original claim to be philosophically valid, both people have to be placed in the SAME scenario. The arguments used to "support" claims like this usually have problems of this sort. People aren't clear enough, they don't define their terms and they don't take it LITERALLY (which is key when arguing). That is a common way for them to deny the law of identity- using metaphors or double meanings and the only way to come face to face with the law of identity here is to take each word for exactly what it is without any implications.

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How so? If I were to say "Existence isnt identity and not everything that exists has identity", in what way would I be presupposing it?

Any true proposition identifies something about reality.

Any false proposition attempts to identify the contrary to fact.

In either case, the nature of something is presupposed.

(Observe that these propositions are interconvertible with the conception of truth as recognition of reality)

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Guest jrshep
How so? If I were to say "Existence isnt [sic] identity and not everything that exists has identity", in what way would I be presupposing it?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

All those "words," and nothing to say or ask?

Okay, I'll be generous.

You stated what exactly? That what isn't what, and not that what that is what is what? And you asked what?

Sure, you can easily say, or mouth (or type), "Existence isn't identity, and not everything that exists has identity." Either you're attempting to make an intelligible claim or assertion about something, to state a truth, or you are just making sounds, in which latter case you can surely understand why I would just dismiss your "expression" as merely meaningless.

If you're attempting to make a particular claim, using words that have particular meaning (without which you couldn't even begin to formulate your claim, and what, after all is a "claim" if not a specific, particular assertion about something, etc.), then you are depending on the idea and fact that each and everyone of the words you're using have a particular meaning, and that you are claiming something specific, not something contrary to what you intend to claim, that you are claiming "A" and not "non-A."

A more simple reply would have been, "Did you just say something?"

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All those "words," and nothing to say or ask?

Okay, I'll be generous.

You stated what exactly? That what isn't what, and not that what that is what is what? And you asked what?

Sure, you can easily say, or mouth (or type), "Existence isn't identity, and not everything that exists has identity." Either you're attempting to make an intelligible claim or assertion about something, to state a truth, or you are just making sounds, in which latter case you can surely understand why I would just dismiss your "expression" as merely meaningless.

Again, the negation of 'everything has identity' is not 'nothing has identity'. To take a concrete example, if someone were to say that (for instance) subatomic particles have no definite identity, they would not be presupposing the law of identity in doing so.

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1. Buy a gun.

2. Ask them if it is a gun. (Identity)

3. IF they say no, point the gun at them.

4. Ask them if the object exists. (Existence)

5. Give them the gun.

6. Ask them if they posses consciousness. (Consciousness)

7. If they say no, tell them how to prove it.

8. See if they carry out their denials.

A scary situations yes, but if I was someone like say..Descartes... it won't be to scary.

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Guest jrshep
Again, the negation of 'everything has identity' is not 'nothing has identity'. To take a concrete example, if someone were to say that (for instance) subatomic particles have no definite identity, they would not be presupposing the law of identity in doing so.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Let's see. So they would be saying that "subatomic particles" are definitely not subatomic particles?

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Let's see. So they would be saying that "subatomic particles" are definitely not subatomic particles?

Huh? You seem to be confusing use and mention; they would be using the phrase "subatomic particles" to refer to something which they beleive has no definite identity (technically they wouldnt be referring to an actual encountered object, but to a hypothesised/constructed one).

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Guest jrshep
Huh? You seem to be confusing use and mention; they would be using the phrase "subatomic particles" to refer to something which they beleive has no definite identity (technically they wouldnt be referring to an actual encountered object, but to a hypothesised/constructed one).

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

No definite identity, but definitely subatomic particles, definitely something, just nothing in particular?

Do you even think about what you're claiming?

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No definite identity, but definitely subatomic particles, definitely something, just nothing in particular?
Again, use isnt mention. However rather than develop this I'll use a different example since its in danger of drifting offtopic; if someone claims that an object exists which exhibits genuinelly random behavior, would this presuppose the law of identity?
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You can not even say "things without identity" because that is giving it an identity. You are identifying the fact that these things (that don't exist, I might add) don't have identities, yet by mentioning them at all you give them identity.

I really hope by this point you can see the contradiction.

Again, use isnt mention. However rather than develop this I'll use a different example since its in danger of drifting offtopic; if someone claims that an object exists which exhibits genuinelly random behavior, would this presuppose the law of identity?

Yes. You are indentifying that object as an object. That object may exhibit genuinely random behavior, but that is irrelevant to the fact that that object is what it is.

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You can not even say "things without identity" because that is giving it an identity.

Not really, its giving it a description. A linguistic description isnt a metaphysical 'identity' however, since I can desribe objects that have no identity (eg in my last post "something which exhibits random behavior")

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Guest jrshep
Again, use isnt mention. However rather than develop this I'll use a different example since its in danger of drifting offtopic; if someone claims that an object exists which exhibits genuinelly random behavior, would this presuppose the law of identity?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I'm curious about your distinction between "use" and "mention." But, as you say, perhaps developing (?) what you mean would risk drifting off topic. Still, what's the difference in essence?

If someone makes a claim, even if their claim is an explicit denial of identity, they are depending on, assuming the validity of, identity in the mere fact of making their claim. That doesn't mean that if their claim is a denial of identity, then they've proven or demonstrated that identity is invalid. It just means that they're making a fundamentally contradictory statement. Like saying, "I don't exist." or "I can't be certain of anything." or "I have no identity."

If someone claims that there's an object that exists, then if that object in fact exists, then that object is what it is, and to make the claim of it's existence, they have to be aware of some aspect of it's nature, it's identity, in order to justify their claim that it is, that it exists. To claim the existence of something is to claim the existence of some thing. A "this" as opposed to "that." It's not possible to make such a claim without referring to Identity, to what the thing is, even if only by inference, by identifying some effects of that thing, like the wind filling the sail of a sailboat.

To be is to be something. That's Identity. Identity is not an attribute of existence; it's another perspective on existence. Instead of focusing on the fact that something IS, Identity focuses on WHAT it is. Both concepts refer to the fact of existence. If it IS, it is SOMETHING, it is Identity. (Saying "has identity" is understandable, but inaccurate, as, again, identity is not an attribute that can literally be separated from a thing. You can't separate out a ball's existence and place it over here, then put the rest of the ball over there. You can't separate it's identity, put it over there, and hold onto the rest of it.)

As to an object which exhibits genuinely random behavior, there's no such thing. Not metaphysically. Not if you mean causeless behavior that is in principle, therefore, impossible to predict.

However, as an epistemological concept, "random" is valid, but it only refers to the fact that one, the observer, cannot yet understand what is causing the behavior. Given one's context of knowledge, the behavior appears random. One can't predict it's behavior. But it's behavior is not unknowable, unpredictable, in principle (there's no such thing), only unknowable at the time, in the context of current knowledge. It may as yet be epistemologically impossible to predict it's behavior, but not in principle, not because there's an entity which acts causelessly, metaphysically randomly. [The cause of an entity's actions is the nature of the entity.]

Edited by jrshep
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Not really, its giving it a description. A linguistic description isnt a metaphysical 'identity' however, since I can desribe objects that have no identity (eg in my last post "something which exhibits random behavior")

I agree with BreathofLife. To say "things without identity" is presupposing that there are such things, therefore that they are part of existence. If that is so, then they necessarily have identity whether we know it or not.

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I agree with BreathofLife. To say "things without identity" is presupposing that there are such things, therefore that they are part of existence. If that is so, then they necessarily have identity whether we know it or not.

This isnt true - describing something does not give it identity or existence. I can talk intelligibly about the pink unicorn in my uncle's garden without presupposing that there is actually such a thing existing. Since identity necessarily entails existence ("to be a thing is to be"), it would follow from your argument that anything we can describe actually exists.

jrshep - I'm going to bed, I'll reply to your post tomorrow.

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Guest jrshep
I can talk intelligibly about the pink unicorn in my uncle's garden without presupposing that there is actually such a thing existing.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

You should take the time to identify just what you mean by "talk intelligibly about the pink unicorn in my uncle's garden without presupposing that there is actually such a thing existing."

I for one do not think you can do such a thing, but I will wait for the keen insights you'll be posting after your night's sleep, and assuming that the law of identity still applys tomorrow.

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This isnt true - describing something does not give it identity or existence. I can talk intelligibly about the pink unicorn in my uncle's garden without presupposing that there is actually such a thing existing. Since identity necessarily entails existence ("to be a thing is to be"), it would follow from your argument that anything we can describe actually exists.

You can't describe a thing that doesn't exist. The pink unicorn DOES exist, but only as your idea and it is the idea you describe - not an actual pink unicorn in your uncle's garden.

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You are indentifying that object as an object. That object may exhibit genuinely random behavior, but that is irrelevant to the fact that that object is what it is.

Actually, it is quite relevant. The claim that an entity exhibits "genuinely random behavior" implies that such an entity is not governed by the law of causality, which itself implies a contradiction to the law of identity. If an entity is what is, then under the same given set of circumstances there is only one possible action that entity may perform; it cannot exhibit "genuinely random behavior" since that means that the entity will act differently under the same set of circumstances.

As far as Spearmint's claims are concerned: His very mention that an "object exists" is dependent on the law of identity, for identity is what we mean by existence. They are not two separable things.

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