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What is A?

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heretic
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Is it not redundancy when we say that "A is A" since it is obvious that "A is A"?  Is not the more reasonable statement one that leads to a definition of what makes A, A?  

 

A is A is not a redundancy, it is a tautology. In this sense, you are correct in claiming that this phrase is jejune. However, I take this phrase to mean, "An object is the sum of its observable properties and behaves, as per the Law of Causality, according to its nature. In other words, things are what they are observed to be, no more and no less. What is more, if you have a concept that cannot be reduced to anything perceivable, then your A may be any non-A you wish. Such concepts must be considered invalid.

 

I disagree that the definition makes A, A. Rather, the definition is used in concept formation but when our system of concepts conflicts with perception, it is perception that must rule the day. Things are not what we define them to be, they are what they are. Our definitions are mere classification schemes for percepts constructed for our own purposes.

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"A is A" arguably would be unnecessary if men needed no guidance on how to think properly.

 

As is evidenced by history and in particular purportedly highly intelligent philosophers, the knowledge of "A is A" is not always so difficult to evade. 

 

Philosophers have claimed A contains its opposite, and others have even claimed, in some form or another, A is A and A is not A, while admitting that this is somehow true... and at the same time false.

 

 

Unfortunately, there is a real need for the phrase "A is A".

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Is it not redundancy when we say that "A is A" since it is obvious that "A is A"?  Is not the more reasonable statement one that leads to a definition of what makes A, A?  

 

".... a definition of what makes A, A" is an incorrect statement.

 

No one statement (or characteristic) has any more metaphysical weight than any other.  Meaning there is no "one" definition of what A is.  Definitions are contextual.   Essence is epistemological.  You first have to grasp that - A is A - before you can move on to understanding what it means to say what something "is".

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There is no one definition of many things and all definitions can be equally true of that thing.  A is A and that is obvious and you indeed have to grasp it with your sense perception.  But then the rational mind ought to move into the realm of determining what makes it to be what it is.  This is the process of moving from sense perception of the thing to intellectual abstraction of the nature of the thing.     

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The purpose of the tautology is a positive conceptualization of the negative "law of non-contradiction".  It is not incomplete (although I held the same opinion, at one point); rather it's deliberately unspecified.

 

"Non-contradiction" isn't so much a statement of fact as it is a statement of method; it's something crucial to remember in order to learn what makes A, A.

All of the best instruments and observations in the world wouldn't qualify as "science" if theories were allowed to be simultaneously true and false; data both supporting and attacking.  What could be accomplished that way?

 

So while 'A is A' isn't actual knowledge in and of itself, no true knowledge is possible without conforming to it.

 

It's deliberately unspecified because it applies to every thing which has ever or can ever be known.  "A" is like an algebraic variable, which stands for any concept at all; anything and everything you can consider.

 

"A is A" is sort of like a formula, in that sense, which must be checked against any new thing you learn- in order to learn what makes it A.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
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As a concrete example:

 

Whenever you hear that past experience does not necessarily predict the future, that there is no empirical basis for the claim that your house still exists when you are not in it and that you cannot be certain that the sun will rise tomorrow, know that whoever asserts it is attempting to invalidate your implicit awareness that A is A; they are attempting to prove that A could be B.

Understand that without that formula there is no logical basis for any knowledge of any sort (and that whoever attempts to undermine it is motivated by fear of the truth).

 

If you see that then you know the meaning of the statement "A is A" as well as the consequences of relinquishing it for any span of time, in any issue whatsoever.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
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Great example. I live in SE Asia and I see this argument all the time. It goes like this:

 

  • Well, you can't know that your house doesn't vanish out of existence everytime you step out of it, can you?
  • If what you are saying is true, you can't know anything, you can't have any knowledge.
  • That's right. (with a triumphant smile)
  • What's the point of arguing then?
  • Exactly.
  • What's the point of talking at all?
  • (this is not said but implied) We can talk about shallow things that have no real significance in our lives.

 

Is there a better response than walking away?

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No, Muhuk, there isn't.

 

Asking what the purpose of talking is, in the absence of the possibility of knowledge, whether you know it or not reveals something fundamental about you; it shows that your purpose in discussing things is to learn.

And the way anyone uses words is a reflection of the way they use ideas; the way they think.  On a deeper level it signifies that you are interested in the truth.

 

Now that cuts both ways.  By attempting to show that 'we know we can know nothing' the other person has revealed that they have no interest whatsoever in the truth (in some cases even hostility towards it).

 

So when someone confesses that, the only productive thing you can do is to realize that you don't speak their language.

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Incidentally, the problem with any reasoning which invalidates reason (we know we can know nothing) is that it also invalidates itself. If for some reason truth were impossible for human beings to know, then how could we know so? It contradicts itself.

But again, truth is never the motive behind such assertions.

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