What is the self?

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by water, Dec 2, 2005.

  1. water the sea Registered Senior Member

    Of course identifying with obstructions is inhibitive.
    But how is identification itself not obstructive?

    Do you know of any kind of identification that is not obstructive in some way or another?
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  3. Jenyar Solar flair Valued Senior Member

    Maybe you could explain what you mean with "obstructive". But I think that what might inhibit one area, could enhance another. Everything might be obstructive in some way or another, but that's the strength of identification. If you want to be your own person, you have to suppress the desire to be everyone else; if you want to be original, you have to "obstruct" unoriginality - not wasting your talents on unproductive ideas or trying to please every critic. If you want a river to flow faster and with more purpose, you have to channel it: by inhibiting its flow in other directions, you enhance its flow in one direction.

    That something might be obstructive is not necessarily negative. If you think all obstructions are negative, you must explain why - and why non-identification isn't a more inhibiting obstruction.
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  5. water the sea Registered Senior Member

    In that identifying with a particular idea (or construct etc.) creates a rut and deepens it -- and then it becomes harder and harder to get out of it, even though it may turn out that that identification brings us no good.

    Of course.

    Only if the object of your identification is wholesome. Question is, what are objects (ideals etc.) worth identifying with? And how can one know that before one has went full course with the identification?

    Another, more difficult question is the gap between what you are and that which you try to identify with, and how you overcome this gap.

    I don't think such a desire exists. The desire to "fit in" -- to not be rejected -- surely exists, and it can take on the form of "wanting to be like everyone else".

    All identifications are negative because they necessarily are reductionisms.
    If you want to identify with something, you have to choose; but in order to choose properly, you need to be informed. To be informed, you'd need to be totally consistent, or you are just approximating, based on your so-far experience.
    And as soon as you identify and act on this identification, you fall into a rut. What happens then is agenda over reality, you become unable to see things for what they are.

    I don't think all obstructions are negative. For example, to use a metaphor, "don't bring in a boa constrictor" can mean 'don't bring thoughts into your mind that may cause you great stress or harm; guard your mind'. This seems like a good obstruction. If everything is allowed into your mind, you get a mess.

    Non-identification is by far better because it allows you to focus on things you can know, presently, and then you can better act in ways that don't bring you or others harm.
    Granted, such a course leads a person into great simplicity and transparency, and it also limits the scope of the person's actions.
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  7. wesmorris Nerd Overlord - we(s):1 of N Valued Senior Member

    In the manner you're using it water, it looks as if I have no identity.
  8. ellion Magician & Exorcist (93) Registered Senior Member

    this sounds like you know what i was to bring to your attention but i dont think you do.
    maybe i will raise it another time as you have a lot to work through here already
  9. stretched a junkie's broken promise Valued Senior Member

    Quote w:
    "All identifications are negative because they necessarily are reductionisms."

    * One can, however, identify with oneself. From one`s unique life experiences. Acceptance.

    Quote w:
    "Non-identification is by far better because it allows you to focus on things you can know, presently, and then you can better act in ways that don't bring you or others harm."

    * If this is a conscious process is that not inhibiting?
  10. Jenyar Solar flair Valued Senior Member

    Good point, stretched. I think reductionism only applies when we are essentiall "reduced". Of course, this will depend on what our identity is in the first place, and seems to leave us with a Catch-22 situation. But as humans, we readily identify with our species - does that "reductionism" reduce us, limit the scope of our actions and leave us closed-minded? I don't think so. Yet it is identification.

    But we need such a "rut" if we are to exist. I've mentioned being human - that's a groove we've been cast in without any choice, and it's impossible to get out of. If it was per se negative to be born with an identity, we should all strive to be genderless, because it may turn out that being male or female has a negative side.

    But I also understand your hesitation to be cast into stone. But that's not what identification means. On the contrary, it allows us to have a "base of operations" from which we can explore different avenues, different characterisations. Without such a base, we would be even less than simple and transparent - we would not even be that.

    I'm glad you agree, but I want to elaborate: identity gives us shape, like being human gives us a human shape. We're not formless and void, and we're not meant to be. Our very being cries out against it. Part of the desire to "fit in" may be explained by this. We can't stand not being associated with our kind. You're right: the desire to identify as widely as possible can easily become a desire to be like everyone else - to be rejected by no one. But such approval-addiction is negative for the same reason reductionism is: it leaves us beside ourselves: off-centre, disillusioned, outcast. Being the friend of my friends' enemies will tend to identify me as an enemy rather than a friend; the closer I associate myself with as many people as possible, the fewer of them will wish to associate closely with me.

    That's because either extreme leaves us essentialy unknowable, almost to the point of seeming duplicitous. How can someone trust a person who is as likely to associate with extremists as with pacifist. The truth is, not even someone with the greatest approval addiction goes that far, and this reveals a flaw in the argument against identification. We still identify in practice, whether we're against it in principle or not. It would therefore be more honest to simply acknowledge our identifications. Once they have bubbled to the surface, we can stir them in or scoop them off, leaving us centred, realistic, and well-integrated. And not necessarily closed-minded.

    These virtues have already been established by thousands of years of civilization - it is everything that may be called good: "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things...". One knows them through other people, as well as through study, trial and error, and by boldness: they're best known from people who've identified with them "full course", not conditionally.

    In the movie Secondhand Lions, there's this speech by Robert Duvall, basically about values. It probably shouldn't be taken out of the context of the movie, but it expresses something relevant that could be worth discussing:
    "Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things a man needs to believe in the most. That people are basically good. That honour, courage and virtue mean everything ; that power and money ... money and power mean nothing. That good always triumphs over evil. And I want you to remember this.... that love....true love never dies! Remember that boy ... remember that. Doesn't matter if it is true or not, a man should believe in those things , because those are the things worth believing in...."
    (online source: here)​

    I don't think it's meant to be overcome. It would violate the principles of identification. Take the example of a role model: one doesn't aim to actually become the person, just to emulate him as sincerely and truthfully as you can.

    In The Incredibles, Buddy tells Mr Incredible: "You always say we should be true to ourselves, but you never say which part of ourselves to be true to!" Once again, the context within the movie makes it clear how that contrasts him with the identities of the "real" super-heroes. I would say "to be true to yourself" simply means not to put your candle under a bucket - to match your intrinsic personality with the conviction of your beliefs.

    You don't need to have finished living before you can start living, just find out what finishes a life and what empowers it. It's quite possible to do that.

    Only if you allow yourself to be blinded by them. Like I said, identification need not be reductionism as you see it. When you identify with something, you don't become that thing. Reductionism would be the idea that you're only that which you identify with, and just fallacious as thinking you can be all things that there are to identify with.

    If you're unable to see beyond an agenda or ideal, you have basically deified it. The same is be true even for someone who is perfectly at ease with who he is, but cannot see beyond himself. And only God bears deification. On the other hand, a complete lack of an identity would leave you so open-minded that your brains are likely to fall out.

    I agree completely.

    This is based on your logic of choice depending on complete information, and complete information being practically unattainable. But all choices aren't necessarily premature or ill-informed, even though we're fallible. To think we need to be infallible to venture anywhere is a gross-misidentification of being human. You obviously recognize why such an idea is untenable: it would leave us self-limited and shallow.

    Your last argument seems similar to teachings of "non-attachment". But they are another way of expressing the non-deification I mentioned, and doesn't apply to identification, because it depends on identification. This you clearly demonstrate with the accompanying goal, to "act in ways that don't bring you or others harm". A goal implies a starting point, and non-identification simply doesn't provide one. Were someone to identify rather with bringing harm, the principle of non-identification would simply mean they destroy iindiscriminately, and non-attachment would mean they have no regard for their own lives either. Like the golden rule, the results will depend on the inputs it receives. Garbage in, garbage out.

    With complete non-attachment and non-identification, there would not be such a thing as "harm", only different states of being. While it's a reasonable way to balance the equation philosophically for someone who wishes to resolve the issue of suffering, it still requires action to traverse the distance. And who has decided that non-identification is the ideal? Have you taken it full course to know?

    It seems that we don't require sufficient knowledge so much as satisfaction - we are able regard something as sufficient the moment it satisfies us. And with it to soothe one's mind, you feel free to be yourself, and "better act in ways that don't bring you or others harm" if that's what you think your purpose is. After all, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with seeming simple or limited or transparent if it allows you such freedom. (Though it can become a rut as easily as anything else, an "agenda over reality", making you unable to see things for what they are. Science is a good example: it is satisfied with the assumption that the universe follows certain knowable rules, and that allows is to continue exploring the unknown. But once that goal becomes "deified", science becomes scientism).

    And accepting only what satisfies, while not really identifying with anything else, is the essence of identification - for better or for worse. Knowing who you're not, what you despise, what is unacceptable, is all you need to start the process. Whether you react instinctively or consciously might determine how up to date you are with your position, but either way, you are shaped by what you avoid as much as by what you seek. If the real "you" depended on acquiring complete information, it would mean your side of the equation is a perpetual zero, a vacuum of ignorance, and it obviously isn't. Just by existing, you have come face to face with the side that balances the equation, and just by contributing your part you might learn to recognize what is in fact you, and what is beyond you.

    That's why growing means facing adversity; in order to develop, you have to make decisions and apply yourself. And if you don't make deliberate decisions, you will end up making them unconsciously, instinctively. A person can't help but identify himself, he is shaped by the choices he makes and the company he keeps - his spiritual environment as much as his physical one. So it is always prudent to ask: Which nature do I nurture?
    A person who does not restrain himself will not mature in that area. Our choices prove just how much we want to mature.
    -- Joseph Thiessen​
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2005
  11. water the sea Registered Senior Member


    Yes, it would appear so.

    * * *


    Excuse me? Are you suggesting that I am to identify with my unique life experience?
    Shall I say, "I am the daughter of an alcoholic who abused his wife ... I am a pawn in the power games of adults ...". Not that I am focusing only on negative experiences, there are some good ones too, but very few. Shall I try to make myself believe that those good ones somehow outweigh the bad ones? Shall I do statistics, balance things out?

    I tried to do so, for years, but found it is a fruitless endeavour. No thank you.

    Inhibiting what?

    * * *


    But if one doesn't have a set idea of what one's identity is, then the catch 22 does not exist.

    Yes, it is an identification, and it is so general that it is quite useless -- so it doesn't have much effect on us anyway.
    Except for when someone tries to prove that humans are above animals and such.

    I'm not so sure about that.

    What is the problem?
    The problem, in my opinion, only exists if we imbue this being "human" with all sorts of meaning about humans being superior to other organisms, and humans being the only ones capable of intelligent thought and speech and so on -- all unprovable assertions.

    Remember my thread "What does it mean to be human?" Nobody could give an answer.

    Is our gender definitive of our identity? I don't think so.

    I don't think that our "base of operations" is to be our identification, I don't see the connection as necessary.
    One has a base of operations -- but those are rules and values, and I find it questionable to identify with those.

    I don't know what we are meant to be, and don't presume to know.

    Our very being?

    Maybe you can't, but I can very well stand to not be associated with my "kind".

    It's not about identification, it's about what is skillful and about what truly leads to happiness. At least for me.

    Not even you are a lovely person 24/7, even though you might identify with that. So how do you account for that failing?

    Also, what is "true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy"?
    Who is to say? These qualities certianly are not objective!

    This is the recipe for insanity, if we are to take the verb "to believe" in its cognitive sense.
    If by "to believe" we mean its etymological meaning 'to hold dear; to prefer' then the speaker of that passage was just suggesting certain values that he thinks are worth holding dear.

    But why would one do that?

    For me, to do what you are suggesting on the terms you are suggesting, this means insanity. I might as well bang my head against the wall until I crack my skull open.
    Unlike you, I wasn't "born with an identity".

    Please. And that girl allowed herself to be raped by a gang of a dozen armed men?
    There is a world in that "allowing yourself to be / to not be blinded".

    Then you are not identifying. Then, you are approximating, aligning -- but not identifying.

    Not at all. It would only make one rather uncool, uninteresting, as far as popular terms are concerned.
    Surely, someone who thinks identification is a necessary, will think that way, and that person's brain will fall out if they try real hard not to identify.

    But whether a choice has been premature or ill-informed is possible to assess only afterwards, with the benefit of hindsight. Presently, we do not have the benefit of hindsight for the action we are about to take.
    Presently assuming hindsight is something I do not think a rational being should pursue.

    That depends on where you want to go. If you want to make a worldly career -- then, by all means, identify, identify, identify.

    Then you haven't studied well. I don't know why you think that non-identification is assumed to be the *starting* point.

    I'm sorry. But you either have a lot of very good arguments, or you don't really know what you are talking about.

    I think you have too little experience with what you are addressing to know first-hand what you are talking about.
    You can learn everything about Buddhism, you can be a scriptorial expert, you can posit fancy koans and be a real smarttush -- but unless this knowledge is supported by your own practice, it will be in vain, and you can continue to point out the glaring contradictions.

    Try it. As soon as you fall into a rut, you become harmful, to yourself and others.

    Jenyar, with all due respect, but I find this exchange useless.
  12. stretched a junkie's broken promise Valued Senior Member

    Quote w:
    “Excuse me? Are you suggesting that I am to identify with my unique life experience?
    Shall I say, "I am the daughter of an alcoholic who abused his wife ... I am a pawn in the power games of adults ...". Not that I am focusing only on negative experiences, there are some good ones too, but very few. Shall I try to make myself believe that those good ones somehow outweigh the bad ones? Shall I do statistics, balance things out?

    I tried to do so, for years, but found it is a fruitless endeavour. No thank you.”

    * OK.

    Quote w:
    “Inhibiting what?”

    * Of thought processes getting in the way of action.
  13. Jenyar Solar flair Valued Senior Member

    No, indeed no contradiction or paradox would be perceivable, because such a person would not have anything to compare things with - no "history of experience" or a "bad past". Because having these implies that one does have an identity.

    No 'idea of identity' is "set" - people aren't cast in stone, whether they know themselves well or not at all. Even someone with complete amnesia can have an identity. Not knowing who they are is almost irrelevant, because ignorance doesn't determine anything, only knowledge does. It's possible to find out what has an effect on you and what doesn't.

    That's only possible of one posits a hierarchy. On an evolutionary model, humans indeed are above animals. But on a scale of moral responsibility, most people fall below animals.

    Identifying oneself as human is only useless if one doesn't use the information. That it's "general" doesn't diminish it as a category for useful information. There are other "general" categories that one might not identify with reductionistically, but still do practically. I see you prefer to call it "approximations" rather than identifications. I'll adopt your approach - maybe it will make things clearer.

    You said you don't presume to know. One doesn't need to be sure of it, that's my point. To put it in practical terms: one needs to be a carbon-based lifefrom to exist on earth. Whether you don't reductionistically identity yourself as "[Name]: carbon-based lifeform", your consciousness - whatever it was, is or might be - provides that information about yourself. It's something about yourself that you may know, and though it's not all there is to know (reductionistically) it is no less valid and true.

    And what might seems useless information while we're ignorant often becomes extremely valuable as we grow in knowledge. To dismiss identification out of hand because it seems too general or too inhibiting is "presuming to know".

    (Just like it's an improvable assertion that anyone is claiming such things?)

    It's a possible problem, but only if one already has a problem with the contention of "humans being superior to other organisms". You're making a value judgement about the statement, which requires a preconceived idea of what the answer should be (i.e. that all living beings are equal, or something like that). But the alternative is not that we don't identify ourselves as human. It's not that we're human that there's a problem, but what we do and believe as humans, as beings with the capability of modifying our values and behaviour.

    Stand in front of a lion or hippo and tell it that it may not regard you as inferior, that it should respect your life as you respect its life. See whether "non-identification" means as much as you say it does then. In fact, I think it's because animals don't go through elaborate identity-crises that we are most ourselves when we are with them.

    For the same reason that nobody here can give you an answer. There are many approaches to the question, and none of them seem to satisfy you except the answer that you don't presume to know. If you don't allow for anyone else to presume to know, why ask?

    Because it would be a reductionism. Reductionisms state that property A is "definitive" of exhibit X. From "I am male" it does not follow that "I am my maleness". If you weren't so eager to criticize my argument, you might have seen that this conclusion is a necessary result of it.

    Can you prove that one's base of operations consists of rules and values, and not of some inherent identification?

    Certainly, if it is your rules and values that does not "see the connection as necessary", you have identified youself with them. They are an expression of who you think you truly are, and that's why you would interpret all arguments against them. But if your rules and values are not indicative of your identity, what caused you to not "see the connection as necessary."

    And I wasn't making any claim of who we're meant ot be. Your comment seems to have no relevance to what I said, so why say it? Is there some reductionism at work that makes any knowledge sound like a claim of all knowledge?

    Look at yourself in a full-length mirror and say with conviction: "I refuse to be identified by this human shape". Wait a few seconds for the answer, but keep looking in the mirror. That's what I mean.

    So there something you identify with being human that you don't personally identify with? How is this not an expression of identity?

    Who is this "me", if "it's not about identification"? What truly makes you happy may be different from what truly makes another person happy - there is no one thing that ensures everybody happiness - so you are distinguishing some things that are peculiar to you, and fitting for your image of yourself.

    That I often sin against myself and others.

    Why should they be? They're only meaningful because they subjective. Whatever is true, noble, etc. They have in common that they point to what is "better" from wherever you are and whoever you are. The general definitions of the words are universal, but their application depends on you. That doesn't make their definitions relative, just relevant.

    And I've told you of the "who is to say" fallacy.

    It's a recipe for insanity if you want to apply it to anything but the things he mentioned. That's what makes them "worth holding dear". It's a different way of saying what you are now: that there are things that are valuable for the mere reason that they will keep you sane and human, not because their concrete examples are abundant and readily proveable.

    Q1: "Another, more difficult question is the gap between what you are and that which you try to identify with, and how you overcome this gap."
    Q2: "But why would one do that?"

    You're questioning your own question. Like I said in my very first post: the fact that you can ask the question is more significant than any answer you might get. Without an identity, there would be no dissonance asking to be "resolved". You would be self-evident to the universe, and it would be self-evident to you; there would be no "disturbance" that could perceive "rest".

    Then you must already be insane, because that's exactly what you're doing. Just because you can't envision finding something, doesn't mean seeking it would drive you mad. What would amount to banging your head against a wall is "ever seeing but never perceiving", and that has nothing to do with whatever you're looking for. I haven't proposed any "terms" that I can see.

    How do you know you weren't born with an identity? Were you a human baby, for instance? There's a lot of identity implicit in that. Were you sexless? Did you inherit any nationality, any talents? That you think these things don't have anything to do with who you are suggests that do not recognize yourself as human, how much less a particular human with a unique identity. Obviously none of these things are all that you are, and I don't imply that. But once you have the playing field marked out, finding your place within its boundaries might stop seemingly like such a futile and self-destructive task.

    You're equating two irrelevant things because they follow the same logic, another fallacy.

    Someone who allows an agenda to determine his reality is different from a girl who is being raped. Your agendas aren't an external force, like a gang of a dozen armed men - it's something you generate yourself.

    Then you have confused what I meant by identification with reductionism. When identify with something you align with it; you don't become it.

    It seems you take identity for granted without realizing it. That you have limited the definitions of "identity" to what you think is popularly perceived as cool and interesting is to your own disadvantage. I don't need to explain it, I think you can figure it out yourself.

    Your veiled criticism doesn't strengthen your position either. Identification is not "necessary" in the sense that it's something one must do consciously, it's simply unavoidable. You're someone, whether you think you are or not; whether you're thought of as cool and interesting or not.

    But evidently you don't have the same problem with the alternatives, which are logically no more feasible. Assuming that non-indentification would solve the problem is just as presumptious as assuming it won't, if objective hindsight and complete information is your criteria of measurement.

    The problem isn't that you're biased, it's that you deny being biased in the name of and reasonability and objectivity, which is rather philosophical construct. The fact of the matter is that reasonability doesn't depend on meeting a philosophical ideal, it depends on the criteria we use as fallible human beings. It's an approximation, and we have the means to judge approximations by their own merit - the human race is functional enough for that, and so are you, by extention. It's when you try to do any more, that you'll inevitably bang your head against a wall of your own devising.

    Your implicit statement is that fallible humans persue careers or learn a craft, but infallible people have better things to do (or nothing to do). Once again, you seem to be associating everything you don't like about "idenity" with what you don't like about having one: earlier you referred to "being popular and cool", now it is "to make a worldly career", before that it was "demeaning animals". Is this what you think having an identity means? Being someone to the modern capitalist West, or worse: a stereotyped modern capitalist West?

    I said it couldn't povide one, not that it is always assumed to be one. But if you recognize an underlying principle to non-identification - a better starting point - why don't you use it instead? You've been urguing from the premise of non-identification, which is why I used it. My premise is that having a goal requires identity, which you haven't disproved - only questioned.

    You seem to have professed goals: the pursuit of happiness, the avoidance of harm, but you argue as if these goals appeared out of thin air - as if you did not consciously adopt them, and hence cannot be distinguished from a sea slug pursuing the same things.

    To say that I don't know what I'm talking about, you have to know better, and I don't see you making any arguments. In all other cases, you "don't presume to know". I'm simply trying to follow the argument to its logical conclusions, which is reasonable (even for someone who's not omniscient).

    If someone lets his life be run by the subconscious (everything he's "ignorant" of) of axiomatic beliefs (beliefs that seem to have formed out of thin air) he can also be convinced he has shed or is shedding all identifications and attachments, and that what he's doing has no identifiable nature. But where your spontaniously(?) adopted axioms happen to be the pursuit of happiness and the avoidance of harm, it might not be the first logical course of action to occur to someone with a more violent disposition. Non-identification and non-attachment won't change his nature (which to him is non-existant, or at least unreachable). It simply represents an equilibrium. Once you have stumbled upon a course of action, this equilibrium might seem to justify it ("I'm not presuming anything, I'm not making limiting identifications"), but does it really?

    What has Buddhism got to do with it? Did they invent the non-self, do they own copyright on it applications? If that's where you got it from, fine, but that's not what I'm talking about. You might not know it, but there is no Buddhist or Hindu guru who has managed to attain the no-self state, so where do you want me to get this experience from? That doesn't change the logical deduction that when all things are resolved and all attachments cleared, there can be no definition distinguishing one reality from another, because all is the same reality. A dualism between harm and no-harm would not exist. Can you see any way that it would?

    You evaded my question, by the way. If there's a glaring contradiction in your thinking, should you accept it?

    If it's a harmful course of action. Or is your determination not to concede my point also a rut, and also harmful? Was the pacifistic rut that Ghandi fell into harmful, for instance?

    That doesn't make it useless. Anyway, if you're determined not to consider any conflicting opinion, every exchange will be useless. None of us has any identity, by your criteria, so your question might as well have been "what is X?" and have us guess until we find out what you think X is.

    PS. I recently browsed through a book that asks the same question: What is Self? by Bernadette Roberts. Esoteric stuff.
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2005
  14. water the sea Registered Senior Member


    Yes, but on further inspection, it turns out that that is a misidentity -- misidentity in the sense that one has identified with a thing or an event, and thus a reductionism is committed.

    Just because something has an effect on us, this does not yet mean that this adequately reflects a person's true identity.
    For example, a rape victim who identifies herself as a rape victim, will likely respond with great anxiety to mentions of rape. The mention of rape will have an effect on her.
    Insofar as we consider thats he identifies herself as a rape victim, what you have stated above, applies. However, can we say that "rape victim" is one's true identity? Or is it rather a misidentity?

    If we say that at some point, a person's identity was "rape victim", and at some other state that same person's identity was "survivor", then what does this say about identity? That identity is in flux, it changes, it is not absolute and permanent. And if it is not absolute and permanent, then it cannot be identity.

    The identity of an entity is supposed to be absolute and permanent, if it is to be an *identity* -- something the entity can be know by and distinguished from other entities. Otherwise, we're not talking about *identity*, but about an *accidental characteristic*.

    For example, "rape victim" is an accidental characteristic, not an identity, in my opinion. It can, however, be *used* as an identity though.

    If you're not sure of it, then you are not talking about identity, but about something that is essentially an accidental characteristic, which may or may not be representative of true identity.

    What about people who lived before the discovery of this -- that "one needs to be a carbon-based lifeform in order to exist on Earth"? Were those people primitive and stupid and didn't know who they were, or were misidentifying, while we "know how it truly is"?

    Not at all. Unless one has all other needs met and lives a very comfortable life and is relatively happy, asking "Who am I?" and trying to answer it is bound to eventually make one miserable. This is why some questions should not be sought to be answered, and other courses of action taken that can help the person to live happier.

    Look at the "What does it mean to be human" thread. Many posters kept on basing their whole argument on the difference with animals, positing humans as superior in many ways, while not answering why they think this difference is important.

    The problem is with the contention of superiority, not with what the answer should be. For example, that human intelligence is superior to animal intelligence -- but how can this be proven? We don't even have an obligatory definition of what intelligence is, neither good tests to measure it. The methods keep being refined, completely changed, old discarded, new adopted -- and so to make any finite statements (which are needed if one is to identify humans as superior to animals!) is scientifically unacceptable.

    So the whole contention of humans are superior to animals is a mere value statement, completely unsupported by scientific measurements. I wouldn't mind that people make such value statements, but I do mind that they misuse science to "support" those statements.

    Some people actually do that.
    (I actually wanted to bring up such an example!)

    One isn't afraid of a lion because one is "human" and the other is a "lion". One is afraid of a lion because that which is called a "lion" is, when grown up, a dangerous, unpredictable being that is many times stronger than one is oneself, and being naturally fear other beings who are more dangerous, unpredictable and stronger than one is oneself.
    You'd be afraid of a lion even if you wouldn't know it's called that. The claws, the muscles, the size, the teeth, the roaring -- these would tell you that it isn't a toy you are facing. And those traits -- the claws, the muscles, the size, the teeth, the roaring -- are common to several beings.

    You could nicely play with a baby lion or a baby hippo -- and they are no less a lion or a hippo than adult lions and hippos. So it's not about who they are. It's about what they can presently do.

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    Similar goes for humans; although with humans it is a lot about "spiritual size, claws, teeth, muscles, roaring".
  15. water the sea Registered Senior Member


    I think when being with animals, it becomes obsious that what matters is what one actually does, not what or who one thinks one is. To be careful about what one presently does is not that hard, and within our competence. But to adequately (that is, without reductionisms and wild speculations) answer "Who am I?" is not within our present competence.

    No. The whole problem is that most people are too afraid to actually hold a position. Or, when they do hold a position, it is full of inconsistencies -- and I challenged those. As I said in the end of the thread, the theists have the strongest argument, the strongest definition -- but they lack the guts to stand by it. Some theists there thought they must scientifically support their stance, and presented scientifically questionable arguments, or just presented some stereotypes or assumptions as facts.

    I accept any answer which is consistent in itself and doesn't misuse science.

    You said:
    This implies that you meant that having a gender gives identity. That's at least how I understood it, and nothing in what you said lead me to think otherwise.

    In my case, my "base of operations" consists of rules and values.

    No. Values and rules are not absolute or permanent for a person, they change.

    But I don't think of myself in such terms!!
    I don't ask myself "Whom am I, truly?"

    It seems you do think of yourself in such terms, and you project it onto others, assuming that others view themselves the same way in that they, too, ask "Who am I?"

    In that I can observe that my values and rules change over time.

    It seemed so. You said:

    You presumed to know that we're not meant to be formless and void.

    Excuse me? I don't understand.
    The human shape is a convenient way to recognize a being as a member of the human species, and insofar, this is useful.
    Note that the blind use other means to identify a being as human.

    This is where I wanted to bring in the example with the dangerous animals and assault by other humans.

    I think that if someone "cannot stand to not be associated with our kind", then this person will view an assault, either by human or animal, as an assault to their identity. Many people are like that. They feel personally diminished if they are robbed, raped, bitten, called a bad name and so on.

    It is because people identify with their kind (that is, their idea of what their kind is), that assaults and offences do so much harm to their well-being.

    Ironically, the official Western psychology bases the methods it suggests for recovery from assault on non-identification. Yet, it uses this only when perceived harm is done; it didn't go full course and use it also when perceived benefit is done.

    I can speak about "myself" without actually having much idea of my identity. I can think of my identity the way I think about a place-holder. Something which is there, but the content of which I don't explicitly verbally define.

    Hardly. I don't think we are all that unique. The true nature of something is happiness if the more we get of that, the more our happiness grows. This drastically limits the things that "make" us happy. I am sure you'll agree that no worldly, perishable thing passes this criterium.

    This is completely new to me. The list of those qualities above, as I know it thus far, has always been presented as objective, absolute to me.

    No, we're operating with different understandings of what "identity" is.

    True, but this doesn't necessarily speak of *my* identity, but it very well speaks of an assumed identity. When other people, via conditioning, put problems into your mind, and make you think those problems are your problems, you start off resolving those problems as *your* problems, even though they aren't originally yours, they're borrowed.

    I mean, what on earth do I have to do with the dispute between the noetic theories of relativism, constructivism and realism, for example?! Yet I keep finding myself arguing about them. And why? Bad habit. Of course, it's a useful dispute to argue in a certain scholarly setting (and I have been exposed to it a lot), but aside from that, it's useless.

    You said:

    What finishes a life, and what empowers it?!
    To find out what finishes a life, one would have to have one's life finished to know that. Many things empower a life. Which one is the best one? Only time and practice can tell.

    Unless, of course, one is conditioned, by one's parents and family to believe certain things -- then one doesn't have to start from scratch for oneself.
    What you are suggesting is said from the perspective of someone who did not start from scratch, and you do not know what it is like to start from scratch. But if someone who is starting from scratch tries to do as if one were someone who is not starting from scratch, then this is like banging one's head against the wall.

    If I had one, then I could state it. If I can't state it, then I can't say I have one. I may have habits, but habits don't identity make.

    What identity?! If one wants to find identity in being human, then one must have a definition of "human". It has been shown how hard it is to come to such a definition.

    Excuse me?

    To think so, one must either assume one is divine, or one is simply assuming more power than I believe humans actually have.

    While in hindsight, it may show that one's agenda isn't an external force, at the time the agenda is at work, one does not see through it. At the time the agenda is at work, one is as powerless against it as one is powerless against a gang of armed men.

    Later on, when calm, one may sit down a rethink one's thoughts, check them for consistency and so on. But without prior specific training, it is impossible to know one's thinking while one is in a crisis.

    Maybe you haven't experienced enough crises to truly know the power of agenda.

    Also, one doesn't generate agendas by oneself, one doesn't author them. We are mostly conditioned into thinking in agendas, we pick them up as we go. Some are beneficient, some aren't.

    And we pick them up not because they would correspond to our true identity. We pick them up due to familiarity. The power of familiarity is a principle our minds work by, we internalize that which we are most intensely exposed to. Unless specifically trained, our minds tend to hum along everything they hear, and in this humming along, habits are formed, good or bad.
  16. water the sea Registered Senior Member


    To me, to identify means to become.

    No, this seems so because I operate with a place-holder understanding of identity (as sketched out above).

    It certainly is to my disadvantage among those greedy for identity, yes.

    Our minds have the instinct to identify, this is unavoidable. But, we can understand this, and then this instinct isn't problematic anymore.

    Says who? It's your projection. Granted, it's useful, but it is still a projection.

    I think you totally do not understand me.

    Please listen to Accepting yourself by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. That is the view I agree with.

    No, I'm not implying that.

    I wish you wouldn't be so apologetic and berating.

    See, if I ask "Who am I?" -- what can I answer that will be truthful, won't demand speculation, and won't cause me suffering?
    Or, if I ask, "Who are you?" -- what can I or you answer that will be truthful, won't demand speculation, and won't cause me or you suffering?

    I don't know of any answer that would satisfy this criteria. And so I think it is better to not try to answer such a question, but rather attend to answers that we can give, that are truthful, don't demand speculation, and don't cause suffering.

    I didn't consciously adopt them, they seem to be inherent.

    Having a goal may require having an identity -- but again, to positivley state that one has an identity means to answer the "Who am I?" question, which I have sketched out above.

    Actually, I have this bad habit of presuming that the other person has the same knowledge as me, and that when they don't show it, it is because they want to trick me. I'm sorry.

    Maybe. But already saying *lets his life be run* implies that he knows what he is doing, is in full control of it and also has the power to do otherwise, but chooses not to use this power. I don't think this is realistic though. When people run on autopilot, they don't actually know that they run on autopilot. So currently, it can't be said that they let themselves run on autopilot. Of course, with the benefit of hindsight, a different assessment can be made. I can't meaningfully say "I am letting myself run on autopilot" -- because "I am letting" implies conscious control, and this is mutually exlcusive to running on autopilot. I can say though "I used to let myself run on autopilot" -- where the "let" is spoken with the benefit of hindsight, implying that presently, I do have control and am not running on autopilot.

    A tree with strong roots may withstand a hrash storm, but a tree cannot hope to grow strong roots once the storm is already on the horizon."

    Development is not logically predictable in the sense that a person who is in state X could predict what, some time later, it will be like to be in state Y and how to get there.
    Granted, we humans tend to do just that, and have fixed ideas of what happiness, development etc. is.

    Take an extreme example of a person who likes to kill animals. At some point, he sees that there's something wrong with that. So he stops killing deers, but still goes around killing all others. After a while, when there was a time when he was killing all others but wasn't killing deers anymore, it can happen that this creates causes and conditions that will create a new state, where it will seem to this person that killing squirrels isn't good either. So he will be killing all other animals, except for deers and squirrels. Killing all others except deers and squirrels may produce causes and conditions for creating a new state, where it will appear to this person that killing birds isn't good. And so on, until he stops liking to kill animals, you can imagine the rest.
    Development is gradual, the previous state creating causes and conditions for the next state.

    Non-identification and non-attachment isn't something one could sit down and realize -- that is, make reality, just like that. One can, of course, intellectually understand them within a very short time, but that does little for what we do in our everyday lives. If we don't put our understanding into practice, it's useless. And, practice goes little by little.

    There's plenty of it. You used to bring up non-self-centred love, for example. Everytime you resist identifying yourself with a particular state or event, you are experiencing non-self, so to speak.

    And you mean the non-self state, not the no-self, right? The non-self teaching, as they have it in some Buddhist schools, is essentially about understanding and practicing things like "I am not my anger, I am not my depression, I am not my body, I am not my pain, I am not my past, I am not my future, I am not my happiness, I am not my success, I am not my failure" etc., they teach that in Western psychology as well.

    We aren't born perfect, but maybe we can become so. I hope this covers it.

    I remember you once mentioned the glaring contradiction of how Buddhists try to extinguish desire -- and isn't this a desire as well, to extinguish desire.
    Here's a talk on this very issue by Ajahn Sister Vayama, Abandoning desire by using desire.
    The principles described there should also clear up the other glaring contradictions.

    I'm not very good at explaining things. But, to again use the example of the person liking to kill animals: When the person is still killing all animals except for deers, he cannot know what it will be like to not kill squirrels, and probably doesn't think he'll ever stop killing squirrels and other animals, either. But, after he hasn't killed deers for a while, things can change in ways he cannot predict.

    Similar happens in our spiritual growth. We cannot predict it -- even though we try to predict it (which usually only blocks us).
    However, we tend to have more insight, more intellectual understanding than is supported by the way we lead our everyday life. This is esp. true for Westerners, I think. We tend to think way too far ahead, and maybe this is why we make progress so slowly, our life usually doesn't manage to catch up with our mind, and this is very confusing and source of much suffering.

    Gandhi didn't fall into a rut.

    Here's a true story: A grandmother brought her grandson to Mahatma Gandhi. Her grandson was eating more than his fair share of sugar, and she wanted that Mahatma Gandhi would give the boy some advice, some guidance on how to live more healthily. That day, Mahatma Gandhi didn't speak to the boy at all, but asked the grandmother and the boy to come back next week. Then, Mahatma Gandhi gave the boy some advice. After another week, the grandmother went back to Mahatma Gandhi, thanking him for the good advice, as the boy had changed and didn't eat too much sugar anymore. She wondered though, how come that he didn't speak to the boy already the first time they came to visit. And Mahatma Gandhi said that he himself was eating more than his fair share of sugar, and that before giving anyone advice on how to keep measure, he wanted to first try it out himself, to see if he could do that.

    To fall in a rut implies that one does things automatically, not paying much attention, not being careful. Not paying attention, not being careful sooner or later leads to harm.
    I don't concede your point because I don't think you have one.

    What I do find that makes an exchange useless is the berating, apologetic tone.
    But since I started this thread and started this exchange, it is mine to go through with it as good as I can.

    I never claimed that none of us has any identity. I only think that none of us has an explicitly verbally statable identity that would be absolute and impermanent.

    I don't read "esoteric stuff".

    I apologize for the very long post, but I wanted to address the issues brought up, and I hope I have done so to your satisfaction.
  17. Jenyar Solar flair Valued Senior Member

    So you think reductionism is inevitable? Why should that be, for a conscious, reasonable, thinking person capable of further inspection? I maintain that your alternative - non-identification - is prone to the same criticism.

    It's a reductionism, but as far as she is a rape victim - unless she is in denial - she will be able to identify with other rape victims. Without inevitably having to commit any reductionisms.

    It's not in flux. A paradox doesn't imply flux, only that both things may be true at the same time. Identities are often paradoxical: a man can be a father and a son simultaneously. That doesn't mean he can (or should rather) have no identity, or choose between being a son or a father (which is reductionism).

    I see your point, but I think you're jumping to conclusions and committing a reductionism. An identity is indeed a fixed reference point, but that doesn't mean it must also be fixed in time and space, or that a certain event should become that reference point.

    Humans have what we call a past. Someone who has been a drug addict or a rape victim will always have that as part of their identity, but their focus can have changed. What you do with your identity isn't determined by your past. There is no way that "being a rape victim" can ever be called an identity except irrationally. Identities do include many accidental characteristics, but also many deliberate ones.

    This is still reductionism. Identity is open-ended and there are unknown aspects to it - that doesn't mean it's unknowable, or diminish what is known. There is no "true" identity except what is representative, and we may cultivate what we would like present (what would be "representative"). Uncertainy about what you don't know doesn't prevent you from knowing what is knowable.

    Does non-identification give such certainty?

    You make my point wonderfully. No they weren't, because they didn't have to know it to have an identity. What they didn't know couldn't diminish who they were. Today, the definition helps us to identify ourselves in a scientific age. Their consciousness would have incorporated the same knowledge implicitly, and if they expressed it at all, they would have used different context-appropriate expressions.

    It would make one miserable, because it's trying to know the future. That can just as easily happen to someone who is otherwise content. But to identify one doesn't need to know the future. Dismissing identification would in that sense not be a reaction against the process of identification, but against trying to know the future and the frustration that would bring.

    Why do you think they needed to? One part of who we are - as humans - is being able to distinguish ourselves from all other species on the planet. How people do that is up to them. But you seem to suggest it shouldn't be done at all (because their answers didn't satisfy you?)

    My assertion is that the difference doesn't disappear because you choose not to identify yourself consciously (although some anxiety from trying to formulate an exhaustive answer might). Someone who "non-identifies" just chooses not to express the distinction, whatever it might be. But that choice and its perceived benefits doesn't support a case for the truth of non-identification (that we really have no distinguishable identity).

    The difference is in how we define intelligence, and how we perceive it. The definition - what allows us to dinstinguish its meaning from the meaning of other words - is what allows us to apply it to animals. In some cases, it would be like asking whether green is better than blue, but in other cases we may ask what wavelengths differentiate the two. In the case of humans and animals, we plainly see that animals don't employ an elaborate moral responsibility - they fall back on instinct even when they've been meticulously trained and conditioned. And although our observations may be refined and modified as new information comes to light, we don't start from scratch every time!

    How many animal kingdoms rule over humans? How many animals have human zoos? Clearly we're not equal in some sense. To argue otherwise would be purely emotional and irrational, even if your ultimate goal is to promote humane thinking. Actually, the very act of having a humane agenda contends some superiority on your part - you're clearly not letting the animals take the lead, and you're not willing to depend on humans' animal nature either.

    And your contention to the contrary claims no support, and is therefore superior? Do you simpy not compare the different species by capability, and so feel justified not to make a distincition?

    And why doesn't it work, if their intelligence matches or exceeds our own?

    Wonderful! This is what I hoped you would say. So when not having to worry about identities becomes a luxury, seeking and assigning identity suddenly becomes the overriding priority. It determines our fears, our options, and even our appropriate response. Now it isn't politically incorrect or inhumane to claim that one species is indeed stronger than the other, or exhibits certain identifiable charateristics that can be known - regardless of what isn't known. The teeth, claws, unpredictability and fearsome sounds may be found in your pet house cat as well, but it isn't a lion, is it?

    Exactly. Our identities exhibit different things and cause different interactions. But when the same principle is extended among humans, you opt for non-identification? Shouldn't you be more afraid of Jeffrey Dahmer than of Mahatma Ghandi? If both preferred non-identification as a philosophy of life, would it change who they are?

    Regardless of the leaves, even if there are no leaves or the tree doesn't wish to distinguish between its different leaves, you can still know a tree by its fruit, and it still has different roots and will grow in different directions.
  18. devils_reject Registered Senior Member

    Self: A unit of memory encompassing all previous experiences, and in turn all forthcoming experiences and possibilities- Dr Bruce Lipton
  19. water the sea Registered Senior Member


    I think I see the problem now. We're working with compeltely different definitions of identity.

    By identifying herself as a rape victim, I mean that anytime she is asked who she is, she answers "I am a rape victim". This is the kind of identification I am talking about.

    It is nonsensical to claim "I am a rape victim" and "I am not a rape victim" and "I am a survivor" at the same time. These three identifications don't exist at the same time, they are mutually exclusive.

    Then this is nonsense, or you are simply speaking about personality, as psychology has it, not about identity.

    An identity cannot be paradoxical; if there are paradoxes in a definition, then that isn't a definition of identity.

    You are talking about personality, not about identity. This thread is posted in the philosophy section, not in the human science section. I am interested in the philosophical definition of identity and the self.

    Identity cannot be open-ended. An identity must be finite and defined, if it is to be an identity.

    Imagine a circle that is slowly reshaping itself into a triangle. According to your understanding of identity, that triangle is in fact a "triangular circle". See the nonsense now? A thing is either a circle, or a triangle, or neither. And if it is called something, than that is its identity as long as the thing exists. A "triangular circle" is a nonsensical definition of identity.

    ? So you have just toppled everything you said about the self so far?
    If you say there is no true identity, then you must all the while mean personality, or character maybe, but not identity.

    To identify, to me, implies that one assumes to know what one's future will or should be.
    That that circle will always be a circle, and never turn into a triangle.

    Because if you are employing a criterium for differentiation, you have to justify why this criterium is appropriate.
    You can't just go around, finding some difference, and then say this is enough and a valid criterium for differentiation.
    There is a reason why age is a criterium of differentiation for admitting children to school, or why having children is the criterium to get benefits from the state, or why education is an application criterium for some jobs, or why the presence of ground water is a criterium for building upon that land. And so on.

    So, those who claim certain differences between humans and animals have to justify why the differences they have pointed out are a valid criterium for distinguishing (and thus acting in particular ways) between humans and animals.

    I'm not suggesting that. Identification, differentiation is always done for a reason. If animals are "identified" as inferior to humans, then it is not morally wrong to do with them as "we see fit", for example.

    In some countries, some animals are "identified" as sacred, and this motivates people to worship them and not kill them.
    On the other hand, some animals are "identified" as harmful, pests and so on, and people are motivated to kill them those massively.

    It's what you do with that difference that matters. The distinction exists and there isn't much we could do about it. But what value, what importance we ascribe to this distinction -- this is another matter.

    Racists, for example, say that the colour of the skin is a distinction that warrants that blacks are inferior, and thus deserve to be treated accordingly.
    Fashion designers define what is "beautiful", and then women are treated according to how they fit that definition. If they aren't beautiful, then those fasion designers treat them as second-class people.
    And so on.

    Someone who non-identifies refuses to personalize the action or the event.

    One can say "This person is a liar. I will not talk to her ever again." This person may have lied, and the act of identification is to call her a "liar", to make being a liar her identity (at least for you). If you do that, then no matter what this person does, you will consider her a liar. This is identification.

    And man is the measure of all things? The authority on everything?

    How on earth can you prove that animals "don't employ an elaborate moral responsibility"? And how do you know that they "act on instinct"?

    How do you know when you are not "acting on instinct"? Really, when you have sex, then this is not instict, but when animals do it, then it is instinct, right? Or when you eat -- is that not instinct? Or do you think that because you eat from a plate and with a fork, this means your eating is not instinctual?

    We should, otherwise we are just indulging our preconceived notions. Insisting that animals are what *we* say they are.

    So? Have the Nazis been morally superior because they ruled and had so many people in concentration camps?

    Besides, a tiny virus can easily rule you.

    I have no "humane agenda".

    "Human's animal nature"? What idealistic romantic nonsense is this?!

    Surely different species can be compared by capability -- but why make that comparison? Why use it for? To amuse ourselves, to indulge our curiosity? Or to elevate ourselves in our own eyes?

    I don't think that human and animal intelligence are comparable at all, it's like comparing apples and oranges, and then claiming that apples are better than oranges.

    As for "Stand in front of a lion or hippo and tell it that it may not regard you as inferior, that it should respect your life as you respect its life." -- verbal language is hardly a measure of respect. It can be observed that all beings are territorial, and they don't like impostors, so they try to get rid of them, in one way or another. Of course, it depends on the power comparison. A cat won't try to get an elephant to leave her territory, while an elephant may want to chase the cat away.
    You don't tolerate impostors in your home, but you are surprised that animals don't tolerate impostors in their homes?

    What is your point? I don't understand.

    Identifying a being as "lion" or as "domestic cat" or as "horse" or "dog" isn't problematic. But humans rarely stop at this. Identification becomes problematic when we begin to say "Cats are evil," "Dogs are friendly," "A cat stays with you because you feed it, while a dog stays with you because it loves you" and such. This is identification.

    If people wouldn't think that cats are evil (that is, identified them as "an evil being"), they wouldn't come up with that denigrating reasoning that a cat stays with you because you feed it -- Mean, evil cat. She's only here because I feed her, she doesn't love me at all! The beast.
    But dogs are sweet and friendly (that is, they are identified as "man's best friend"), so they stay with you because they love you. They are much too social and much too friendly to stay with you just because of the food! It would be outrageous to think of the man's best friend in such demeaning ways!
    -- That's what identification does.

    You mean our personalities exhibit different things and cause different interactions?

    If I identify Jeffrey Dahmer as "killer", then whenever Jeffrey Dahmer would do something, I would think "A killer is doing that". I would think that it is not Jeffrey Dahmer who is brushing his teeth, but a killer who is brushing his teeth (whew, and he is probably thinking of killing someone while he is brushing his teeth!). That it is not Jeffrey Dahmer having lunch, but a killer having lunch. And so on. But eventually, I'd have some trouble understanding why this killer doesn't kill all the time, if he is a killer!

    If I identify Mahatma Gandhi as a "pacifist", then I am bound to think of everything Mahatma Gandhi did, it was a pacifist doing that. A pacifist eating too much sugar, a pacifist arguing with his wife, a pacifist having a nice poo -- well, do pacifists do that? No. People do that. But pacifists only pacifize. So Mahatma Gandhi couldn't possibly ever argue with his wife, if he was any kind of a pacifist!

    -- That is identification. It goes in the positive direction as well. "Everything my boyfriend does is so wonderful, because he is wonderful! My boyfriend -- who is wonderful -- could never possibly make a mistake or lie to me, he is wonderful, and wonderful people don't make mistakes or lie."

    Uh. But this implies an absolute and permanent self!
  20. Jenyar Solar flair Valued Senior Member

    I was beginning to suspect the same thing. I know that what the West calls "being" corresponds to what the East prefers to call "non-being". The West is inclined to think of Eastern non-being as nihilism, which it isn't to the Eastern mind.

    And that's what I would call a reductionism.

    One can certainly be a rape victim and a survivor at the same time, unless you wish to reduce "identity" further into a limited time-period ("I am only and always who I am now, while I'm being raped").

    The nonsensical nature of claiming to be both A and not-A is simple logic, and could be explained by denial, amnesia, scizophrenia or other mental pathologies. But that doesn't make everything else she is, nonsensical. The truth can be discovered, cognitive dissonances can be ironed out, psychological conditions can be treated, and the "self" can be salvaged. The person can come to terms with having been a rape victim, and emerge as a survivor.

    It's only nonsense if you insist on a reductionist definition of identity, which is not what I'm talking about. Personality and psychology is part of a person's identity, and they are part of the reason it might seem to be in flux by incidental observers.

    Let me explain it this way: I can't tell you everything there is to know about being human, but I can tell you what it means for me to be human (like everybody in your other thread did). I can't tell you everything about psychology, but I can tell you a lot about my psychology. And I can't tell you everything there is to know about personalities, but I can show you my personality. That is what I mean with having an identity.

    The moment you wish to talk about any particular facet of a person's identity, like personality and psychology, the more you will find yourself talking about a generalized identity and the less you will find yourself talking about a truly representative identity - like that of a real individual person. There is no definition of identity that will allow you to discard its particular manifestations - including inconsistencies, paradoxes and unexplainable qualities - that are found in a single practical example of the topic: a living, breathing, human being. And any attempt to make a living, breathing human being conform to such a generalization, is to commit reductionism (or a fallacy of composition) - and end up with a stereotype and a fantasy. A reduced identity is a straw-man posing as a consistent model.

    Then you've decided beforehand what identity may or may not be, and you're going to make the evidence fit your definition and discard it if it doesn't. That's not how enquiry is supposed to work. You seem resigned to thinking identity must conform to logical rules at all stages and all angles. In the first place, that would suppose you are consistent yourself, and that such consistency is not only natural but to be universally found.

    But I've committed a reductionism when I said identities are often paradoxical. A person can have a strong sense of identity while holding many paradoxical notions. That doesn't make his identity paradoxical, except in a reductionistic sense.

    You haven't said anything about a person being both a son and a father. It's a paradox, but not a contradiction. Maybe you're confusing the two?

    And you're begging the question by saying a philosophical definition of identity will not involve personality. If you spoil the sample, you spoil the experiment.

    You're getting warmer. Maybe this is the reason you prefer non-identification, because it allows an open-endedness you cannot imagine having otherwise? I'm simply saying that no matter how open-ended you wish to be by not consciously identifying yourself, you will inevitably become identified even by that wish.

    Identities are finite, since we limit the definition to the framework of naturalism. We're talking about living people, and therefore what is known between birth and death. So I would say an idenity is defined at death, when all is said and done. Even Buddha can only be known as "Buddha" because he hasn't been someone else. He wasn't Jack the Ripper, for instance.

    You're only exposing the limits of reductionism. What you described could be called a "shape" under all circumstances. It migth further be identified as a living shape, which would explain why it can re-shape. If it could reshape its thoughts while its form is morphing, it could be identified as an intelligent living shape. If it could reflect upon its morphing and the meaning and value of different shapes, we might even call it a spiritually aware, intelligent living shape. And at no stage have we limited the shape you created, or would it have limited itself by perceiving all these things about itself.

    It's you who insist it must either be a triangle or a circle, and it's therefore you who are inadequately identifying a shape that can morph between a triangle and a circle. That its identity can include both a triangle and a circle is a paradox that only becomes a contradiction if you don't believe in time. Thus, a person who says "I don't believe in 'time', and one cannot will to believe 'time'" would be forced to conclude such a shape cannot exist and is "nonsense". The extra dimension is crucial, even though it is only indirectly implied by your description of change.

    To take it a step further: someone who cannot imagine and have not defined a dimension of "time", might nevertheless be convinced by other evidence that a circle-that-can-become-a-triangle exists, and might actually express it - under ridicule of non-believers - as a "triangular circle". His linguistic tools are limited and his expression inadequate, but the reality he refers to doesn't depend on him knowing about time. But it might prompt him to start looking for the dimension that would make more sense of it, to start a whole science researching the possibilities that would continue long after he died. Or he might deny that even triangles and circles are to be idenitified, to level the playing field.

    What I mean is that there is no identity that exists apart from what may have identity. There is nothing that may be used as a "consistent model" that exists in thin air, which is what your "philosophical definition" seems to require - an identity without identity, a non-self. But if by non-identity you mean something that can actually be found (if not explained or defined), there's no reason for calling it "non-identity".

    I can see that, and if calling your goal "non-identity" allows you to get rid of such a reductionism, by all means, do what you must. The alternative is to start 'believing in time', so to speak, because reality necessitates it. A small amount of butter can be spread over a whole slice of bread and still be called "butter", you know. There is nothing I can see that has ever prevented any identity to be spread over time.

    But age wasn't invented to discriminate between who goes to school and who doesn't, and the differences we observe between animals and humans aren't some conspiracy to justify animal cruelty. That there are people with black skin and people with white skin isn't a differentiation to justify racism, it's a reality that gave rise to racism, just like the difference between humans and animals can give rise to abuse. And the difference between a lion and a human can give rise to the human becoming lunch and the lion being the cruel one. But there is something in humans that allows them to resist acting on impulse and instinct alone, and we call it self-control. Remove the "self", and you must find another concept that allows "control".

    You can't just go around, denying some difference, and then say it is enough and a valid criterium for non-differentiation.

    Of course its possible to abuse the difference, but abuse doesn't mean the difference doesn't exist and shouldn't be mentioned. A slippery slope fallacy can't justify anything. Animals can be identified as inferior to humans, and that may just as easily become the very reason we should take responsiblity for their humane treatment. And that depends on who we identify ourselves as: particularly cruel animals or responsible stewards. Your problem is with the negative connotation of "inferiority" - which in people sometimes becomes an inferiority complex.

    Sometimes the reason for differentiation is simply that a difference exists, have you thought of that? Why do we differentiate between male and female? Because of chauvinism? When we're faced with a lion, it's important that we identify it as a lion, and not just a cat, for instance. Then the reason isn't that we want to feel superior, but that we should flee.

    An non-identification solves this problem, how? Have you stopped to wonder why so much effort is expended trying to identify the virus that causes a particular disease? Or trying to identify the criminal elements in society? Imagine someone saying, "We have identified that hatred and cruelty causes harm to animals and people, but to prevent abuse we prefer not to identify people with those qualities."

    And all authority belongs to racists and fashion designers, right?

    I agree: it's what you do with the differences that matters. Identification per se means nothing, it's what you identify with. Identifying yourself with non-identification might spin a comfortable coccoon, but it doesn't take sides. What you are doing here is taking sides. I happen to know a fashion designer who spent years taking care of elderly and invalids, and designs beautiful clothes for people who, like her, aren't supermodels. That supermodels wear them hardly makes her evil, and that girls want to look like supermodels has nothing to do with her designs.

    Tell me, on what basis do you differentiate between fashion designers and racists?

    This is your reductionism. Why do you insist on ignoring my definition and substituting yours?

    That someone is a liar can be proven in court and by witnesses if necessary. But how you treat someone who has lied to you depends on you, not on them.

    Not unless you deify him. Have you even understood my previous post?

    But you might suggest how man is to measure anything by any other standard? If we measure things by a lion's standards, expect human steaks at your local restaurant. If you wish say "don't measure", then try to support it without measuring anything.

    Humans acting with animalistic instinct? What idealistic romantic nonsense is this?! :bugeye:

    Really, where have I said humans don't have instincts? You're creating a false dilemma. We can have instincts and we can control them fully, which is why we have elaborate systems regulating its control - laws and moral codes. Animals discriminate between kinds, but you suggest humans shouldn't. You suggest humans suppress their desires, but make no such suggestion for animals. That's the kind of difference I'm talking about, and which you seem to be denying in principle but are putting very much into practice.

    And you're not doing that? Are you not insisting that animals and humans are what *you* say they are? The moment you form a belief it becomes a preconceived notion. Does that alone mean the belief should be discarded? The result would be staying at "scratch", and coming to no conclusions whatsoever. It's you who insisted that the future must be known for any conclusion to be justifiable. What justifies you present position about human-animal interaction? Have you actually stood before a hippo to know it's dangerous, or did you overlook that preconceived notion when you revised your ideas?

    Are you seriously suggesting every single person must reinvent the wheel before presuming to call it round?

    Apparently not. A virus might kill me, but it doesn't determine my morality. And neither do the Nazis. Superior morality isn't the one that is in power, it's one that rules power.

    People and animals rule in different ways and over different territories, but no animal - or virus - ever established a moral rule over another species. Ever overruled power.

    So it doesn't really matter to you what is right, as long as you may disagree?

    See, when I talk about humans having instinct, it's "idealistic romantic nonsense", but when you do, everybody should stand up and agree. Let me go back and edit something above...

    Or for something else. Just because you can't see a better use for the distinction doesn't mean a better use dosn't exist. Your trying to support an argument with personal bias.

    Like saying blue is better than green.

    I can differentiate between a stranger and an impostor. Animals don't give invitations, as far as I know. The whole world was once animal, so humans were "impostors" wherever they settled. There is no specifically "human habitat" where we belong. Why don't you argue that lions could observe we are not territorial, and respect that? Surely it can be done without verbal language.

    If we were to define intelligence as the ability to understand even non-verbal language, and then use this definition to decide whether to move into a lion's den or not, that's what would allow us to know the lion wouldn't understand we just need a place to live, and accomodate it. Our intelligence gives us "power" that doesn't depend on physical strength or instinct.

    "Humans rarely stop at this" is a generalization, just like "cats are evil" and "dogs are friendly". You're human, and you stopped there (or have you?) Why are you suggesting everybody else stop at a point somewhere before identifying "lion", "domestic cat" or "horse" and "dog". The identification is what allows people to becom game rangers, horse riders or veterinarians.

    Your argument is more against people comitting logical fallacies regarding animals than in identifying animals by certain features and qualities. How do you know there is no "dog" identity that satisfies the description "dogs are friendly"? Because it's not always true. But you might say my cat stays with me because I feed it, and it seems to love me and not everyone else. That is identification. So is the name you gave it. That would explain why other cats don't respond to its name, why it leaves you to look for food when you don't feed it, and why it might come back to you afterwards, rather than someone else.

    That's what generalizations and straw-man arguments do. There is no "universal-standard-cat" that exhibits a moral nature that could be called "evil", but there might be a cat somewhere that has rabies and whose behaviour might correspond to what we call "evil": attacking without provocation, making unnatural noises, behaving violently and destructively. Simarly, "dogs" don't exist as an identity, but some identities exhibit dog-like behaviour. Mostly dogs, but sometime people, too. That's why certain behaviour can cause people to call someone a "pig", or a "fox", or a "snake".

    A "personality" can't exhibit or interact, since it doesn't exist autonomously. That's what one would call an anthropomorphization. Giving a non-human thing human qualities. It's the person himself who interacts and exhibits different behaviours, and when that interaction becomes identified with him, it is called his "personality" (as opposed to the "personality" of someone else).

    And for the last time: associating a whole person with a quality or act is a reductionism, not identification. He might be identified by some quality or feature, but that quality or feature isn't him. The feature doesn't do things, the person does. But it is still significant that this person who is brushing just teeth has killed a person, and has been identified (by the law, or a witness, or a survivor) as a killer. That is not to say he may not change his ways and be redeemed or forgiven, but neither that he will. The identification is useful for the present interaction between you and him, and you will want to know whether he - the momentary killer - has reformed or not, and whether what made him kill is still part of him.

    And what makes your boyfriend wonderful might be persistant, and will allow you to always think he is wonderful even when he makes mistakes. Only if you deny that he is also human would you think he is a Wonderful, and not a wonderful Person.

    Not unless you are imagining a tree that doesn't grow and change shape. Identity is what allows it to be called a tree, and what makes it the same tree throughout its varied life.
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2005
  21. Jenyar Solar flair Valued Senior Member

    I fully agree, but that you aren't able to fully answer the question of who you are at any particular junction is not a case for not finding out what may be known at the time. Such as examining your actions - "what you actually do". These actions don't come out of thin air, and if you didn't think they can be modified and controlled, you would not have valued them so much. They would only have represented an imposed identity, not something precious, something only *you* could control or "be".

    Then you had better investigate your own "science" a little closer.

    "People" are too afraid to hold a position, but you're not one of those people? "The theists" - are you not a theist - "have the strongest argument", but you provided none? I've stood by my position, which is mostly philosophical and religious, not "scientific", yet you criticize it for inconsistencies you've been unable to point out, except by saying "says who?"

    Having a gender does give ("add to") identity - it makes you "male" or "female". What it doesn't do, is become all you are. At least my explanation of what a reductionism is should have allowed you to know that I did not intend it to be a reductionism.

    I asked whether you could prove it. An answer that states itself is not necessarily consistent. What you've just done is identify yourself by certain rules and values, I hope you realize that. They're not all you are, but you consider them representative of what is uniquely and truly you; what you won't compromise on.

    But how often and how readily? A rule by definition is something that holds, the last thing to give way under pressure. A value expresses something similar. What you value most, is what you will give up last. If you said "my 'base of operations' consists of rules and values" and your actions showed that your "values" change at whim, and your "rules" are often broken, you would be identified not by "rules and values" (as a resilient, dependable person), but by hypocrisy and fickleness. So if they change, it had better be for the better - and being able to change them for the better suggests that your "base of operations" is actually further down.

    You're not required to think it to express it. You've certainly managed to express it above: "In my case, my..." So when referring to you, someone would say, "in her[/b case, her..." and it would be clear who is being referred to. Not as someone who asked "Who am I, truly?" but simply someone who expressed who she thinks she truly is, although it's certainly not all she is.

    And that would allow that you might later "see the connection as necessary", as you become aware of the connection between who you are and why your values changed. A person whose values change from racist to tolerant learns more about himself than someone who insists on remaining true to his values, because they're his most basic expression of self, and remains a racist.

    The most basic understanding of oneself is how one acts from moment to moment, and this "how" is called one's "rules and values". They bind long series of actions together over time and even circumstances. If they change, your actions must conform - if you don't want to be known as a fickle hypocrite. And when you are so consistent that other people are able to predict your actions through values, you have said more about who you are than any amount of inspection could achieve.

    And you should have known that there's a difference between knowing what isn't true and what is true. At the most basic level, we're not formless and void when we look in the mirror, and any desire to become so must contradict that observation. There are other "mirrors" as well, that don't just show our physical form.

    But I didn't say I know what the mirror doesn't show, what we might look and think like in some future time. I don't know who you're meant to be, but I do not it's not "being formless and void", since it would be the antithesis of everything that allows you to grow and change in the first place.

    And the blind can get to know what it means to be human just as surely as someone who can see, because knowing what you look like is not all there is to being you. But it would be ridiculous for a blind person to come to the conclusion that human beings don't look like anything. He might never know exactly what he looks like, but that doesn't mean he doesn't look like anyone (or exactly like everyone else). For one thing, he will look like "someone who is blind", while people who aren't blind doesn't. He would gain nothing by not identifying himself as a blind person - in fact, it could lead to potentially dangerous sitations.

    It sounds like you're saying Western psychology encourages denial, which isn't true, so you'll have to give an example. Recovery usually follows this pattern:
    SHOCK - "I'm numb."
    DENIAL - "This can't have happened."
    ANGER - "What did I do? Why me?"
    BARGAINING -"Let's pretend it didn't happen."
    DEPRESSION -"I feel so dirty--so worthless."
    ACCEPTANCE -- "Life can go on."
    ASSIMILATION - "It's a fact of my life."
    - Recovery from rape
    Someone who feels personally diminished usually suffer from low self-esteem have an inadequate frame of reference to take such a "knock". You seem to be describing something akin to the bargaining phase. And that itself is part of a process of identification - bargaining with all possibilities until one satisfies enough to go on. But at some stage the reality (that you are "of your kind", or that you have indeed been assaulted) has to be assimilated. If not, the person continues on a plane of existence that is out of synch with reality, and may run into difficulties that reality (and therefore other people) cannot access.

    This comes by far the closest to what I have in mind.

    [quoteHardly. I don't think we are all that unique. The true nature of something is happiness if the more we get of that, the more our happiness grows. This drastically limits the things that "make" us happy. I am sure you'll agree that no worldly, perishable thing passes this criterium.
    True, we aren't all just unique - we share certain traits associated with being human. Happiness is a general experience, and it is found in various moments that people try to replicate (or ensure). Such replicated or ensured happiness is an illusion, and is like reasoning if one cat makes me happy, all cats will make me happy, and more cats will make me even happier. But it's not the outward material form that provided the emotion. Happiness doesn't depend on material things, but since the material is what people have most ready access to, that's where it's sought. The fact that material things are always present at times of happiness reinforces this association.

    The reason that one person's happiness is unique is not because he is so different, but because his presence is a unique ingredient. Another person's cat doesn't make you happy, your cat does. All cats are just cats, but each cat has a unique personality, and in relation to you, a unique identity. And if you don't like cats, cats won't make you happy. I say "make happy" because it's the conventional usage, but I would say happiness rather emerges under certain conditions, like a winning recipe, the person himself being a unique ingredient.

    And in a sense they still are. They must be fixed stars if they are to be a valuable frame of reference, visible from anywhere, but they will seem in different positions depending on where you are. The path they indicate will depend on your unique circumstances and requirements, but what they stand for doesn't.

    Your definition seems to shift. I never proposed that the gap must be closed, or indeed can be. Sometimes you say that all gaps have to be closed and the future has to be known for identity to be justifiable - the "expansionist" version - and other times you say that time and everything collapses upon any identity, and that nothing needs be known apart from what one is currently in contact with - the reductionist version.

    The answer is that in some personal ways or applications, those issues, questions and theories ("problems" as you call them) are relevant for you. Only if you think your identity depends on all *their* problems being resolves will those problems also become yours. But you don't have to know all the problems and theories about gravity to know how gravity affects you, and the same for those things. On the other hand, if you deny they have any relevance, discussing them will seem "useless". But ignoring their problems doesn't mean you have none.

    Personally, I find their "words" useful, they way they approach their issues are useful in approaching my own issues. And often I find the solutions they do provide equally appropriate. I welcome their conditioning, because it tempers my own efforts. It's not as if I have nothing that "pushes back", as if I'm a tabula rasa receptive to every whim imposed on me.

    You seem particularly concerned about this, as if what matters most to a person must somehow have been planted there by a hostile force (and must one regard all forces as hostile?) The problem is that you can keep questioning yourself, always trying to get "to the bottom of it" - and even this problem may be due to conditioning. It leads to "backing away in circles", in essence from yourself. I think you're suggesting that one turns around, so to speak, and walk forward away from yourself. A 'stop fleeing and retreat' strategy. I'm certain you would word it differently, though.

    And when time and practice have told, do you consider it conditioning and indoctrination? Many people have finished their lives since the beginning of time. Isn't it wise to learn from them? There is no reason for that you should have to pick "the best one" - it's like asking which colour that finishes the painting is the best one.

    Not all beliefs come through conditioning. If they did, then your own belief about starting from scratch must be one of them. If they don't, then your belief that one must starting from scratch is only one possibile path that may be taken, and like you said, "who is to say it's the best one?" If you're right, then there can be no starting from scratch, with Adam, so to speak.

    We're not looking for some "objectively" best path, we're looking for the right one, the appropriate one. And if can be found, if it is so appropriate, then it must have been found before, and proven to be appropriate before (perhaps by someone who's taken it full course) - and it would have been passed on. If it had been passed on - taught - there will be people who have learned it somewhere in life, and discarding it would leave them only with all the inappropriate options. In that case discarding something simply in the name of "starting from scratch" would be a long step back, perhaps thousands of generations.

    How do you know you would be able to state it? Nobody else have been able to state it, and yet you interact with them as if they exist, and address them as if they could be distinguished from each other. In fact, you agree and disagree with different people as if their different opinions could be "more" or "less" valid. And we do with you. Beneath every personality, there is an identity - something that "pushes back". Whether you like or dislike it, whether you're comfortable with what you know and the path you're on, or wish to know more and fill in some blanks, is another story.

    The fact that you couldn't finish the work of artists, psychologist, biologists, and philosophers everywhere, doesn't mean we know nothing about being human. And though only you can tell someone what it means for you to be human, some common reference points have certainly been established.

    The only reason you could want a complete definition is if you expected such a definition to include what is unique to *you* - to make what it means to "be human" somehow explain what it means to "be me" - and obviously nothing that the world can say could supply that piece of the puzzle, since that's wherein your identity lies.

    Finding your place within the boundaries. In other words, you may safely say you don't expect to find out you have four arms and no legs, that's not human biology. And looking for two more arms to make sure you haven't been just indoctrinated into thinking you have two arms and two legs, will be banging your head against a wall. It could be a wall of stubborn skepticism or something else, but it would be the real problem, not what you're looking for.

    You make quite a few baseless assertions here. Like "one doesn't generate agendas by oneself, one doesn't author them". Again: if that is true, then the point is redundant, because it isn't any more yours than any other point. And if it isn't true, then your argument only applies to cases where indoctrination is the case, and you would have to find ways of distinguishing between different cases.

    While it may be said - and have been said - that "there is nothing new under the sun", how that applies to us depends on actuality - what we observe in everyday, day-to-day life - not on speculation and grand philosophies that try to cover every conceivable base in a single definition (thereby saying absolutely nothing). True, agendas are immensely powerful, so much so that countless conspiracy theories have sprung up asserting just how powerless individuals are in the face of the global scheming that's supposed to be going on behind the scenes. But though it might allow you to escape being accused of a having a god-complex, it is assigning to other people god-like abilities.

    Somewhere, agendas have to originate. And if it can originate by one human, it can originate with another. (By the way, an agenda established by a group of people is not more powerful than one by a single person, since agendas themselves have no force - they depend on individuals). So either you are born with an agenda, or you acquire it. And if you can acquire one, you can acquire another (which would replace the earlier one in all areas that are mutually exclusive).

    Also, the kind of crisis that prevents reflection must occur within the delay between action and instinctive reaction. If it takes longer, instincts can be overridden by habits (or training), and habits by rational thought. It's only after rational thought that doubt can emerge, before that it's either action (fight or flight) or inaction (hesitation). Obviously we're not speaking of a matter of days here, unless you're under constant external pressure (in the way of brainwashing or torture). But having ended up with a belief or agenda does not presuppose conditioning - at some point you can start contributing or resisting. So if you find you have time to doubt, you can no longer blame external conditioning or even mindless familiarity. You have begun to be exposed to your independent mind, your self. Without that, you would have been unable to tell us all of this as if telling it was not something that you've been conditioned/indoctrinated/familiarized with. You can familiarize yourself with things, too.

    So I repeat: If you're right, then you are always up against a gang of armed men, and even thinking that you have overpowered them is itself "a gang of armed men". Agendas don't stop working by themselves, so unless you've really been able to overpower them, there can be no time for "hindsight". And since they aren't created by you, you must always be at the complete mercy of the people before you, never to develop an identity of your own. Besides the problem of infinite regression, you sit with the problem of how you've actually come to a different realization than the one you say you (and everybody else, "we") have been living with before now.
  22. Jenyar Solar flair Valued Senior Member

    And no to identify is to be? If you shed desires, attachments, etc., how is that no "to become" as well? You're still identifying, just with a concept that has no basis in reality. It's a philosophical ideal, and nobody has ever achieved it. Where it is a valuable direction is when it serves to centre yourself again, to get rid of wild speculations and meaningless arguments. But as an end, it's not different than identification.

    And that's the definition I said comes closest to what I have in mind. Hopefully we can understand each other on this point. Everything current must necessarily be temporary, a placeholder - but that does not divorce it from what is to come, as if that will be a different identity. To separate what one is at the moment, from what one wishes to become (or achieve) is to deny that one's self (in its current ignorant, limited and misguided state) can achieve it.

    The only way to move from self to non-self (or no-self), is to believe that they are causally connected, that the one identity is the other.

    You confuse identity with being cool and interesting. It will be a disadvantage for you among those greedy for someone cool and interesting (as they define it). You might find that people who prefer other identities associate better with you. The disadvantage I mention is that you might not know this, since you will not be able to identify them. All people must seem to be either already enlightened (in which case you also cannot identify with them) or "cool and interesting", since your definition doesn't allow for other alternatives.

    It's not "your mind" that identifies, as if it lived apart from you. If not "your mind", what is it exactly that "understands" this instinct? Something outside you?

    Your identity is everything that constitutes "you", including your mind, which interacts with your body and the world outside it. This consciousness is your self (I use "self" and "identity" interchangeably). It is "that which understands".

    How do you know it's a projection? If what you say about non-identity is true, then I must knowingly or unknowingly be bound to it. And if what I say about identity is true, then you must knowingly or unknowingly be bound to it. If what I say is at all useful, it means you recognize a bond exists. We must be part of the same universe and the same human condition, otherwise this aspect of "usefulness" wouldn't ever coincide.

    In the same way that our language coincides and enables understanding, the concept of "being someone" also coincides, and isn't just "my projection". If it was only my projection, so would you be - because I'm certainly speakng to "someone".

    Will do.

    Who makes wordly careers? [Fallible] people who "identify, identify, identify," you said. Who are left? People who don't make careers (and presumably have no use for them), and infallible people.

    You assume there aren't any answers that would satisfy those criteria, simply because you don't know any. There is always room for speculation, even if nothing is asserted, and suffering needs no excuses. The questions "Who are you?" and "Who am I?" can be asked in many circumstances that may elicit truthful and satisfactory answers without causing any suffering or requiring further speculation. It has been asked and answered innumerable times throughout history without the side-effects you mention. In fact, I propose you would not have known the pitfalls of such a question if you hadn't asked it first. If you fear suffering, you'll instead be suffering from your fear.

    The problem is that you aren't satisfied with any answer, and in that case I would say it's better not to ask such a vague question to an indiscriminate audience in the first place, rather than deride people (and yourself) for trying.

    Inherent? Other people have come to the same conclusion. It's such a common observation that whole constitutions have been based on them, and human rights rely on them being true. But in your previous post, you suggested such agendas be purged, since they have probably been conditioned or taught. So there are exceptions - not all good things have to be conscious and deliberate, simply accepted?

    To positively state one has identity it is only necessary to discover that it seems to be inherent, like you have. Like the pursuit of happiness and the avoidance of harm, identity can be expounded and explained and codified and defined ad infinitum. (And having found happiness, or identity, one is often eager to explore its lengths and depths, even at the risk of finding out they're not always accessible, and that there may be parts of it you will never know in your lifetime.)

    Can you answer "what is happiness" in a manner that will be truthful, won't demand speculation, and won't cause me or you suffering? Is it necessary to have that answer, to have happiness? I hold that the same applies for identity. Whether you ask or don't ask is irrelevant, it's whether you abuse what you know or not.

    It does need to imply control, it can also imply lack of control, as in "I can't manage self-control, so I do whatever comes first" or "I can't answer this question to my satisfaction, so I leave things as they are". And leaving things as they are amounts to running on autopilot, letting what is instinctive and subconscious and unidentified decide your course of action. He may truthfully say he holds no attachments and identifies with nothing, but it is a silent affirmation of fundamental trust.

    You also said earlier that "presently assuming hindsight is something I do not think a rational being should pursue". That would preclude anyone from ever "knowing" whether he has been running on autopilot, since he might be running on autopilot even when he thinks he has become aware of it. You never "catch up" to a place of hindsight. Believing this, one has no choice but to accept everything as autopilot, whether it is in fact autopilot or not. What is left is to "let his life be run", because he can't imagine any way to run it himself - or to be irrational (which may not be such a bad thing in such circumstances).

    But all development is not equally gradual, since a newly introduced cause can also have an immediate effect. I agree that most effect can't be rpedicted, but it's not necessary to make predictions on the long run. Usually when we introduce a change, it's simply because it's necessary. That alone can be enough to ensure a path were necessary changes are more readily recognized and made. That is what I would call a change of heart.

    I agree completely. A wall would in that case arise when one tries to rush it, expecting immediate results, or on being disappointed when things don't happen quickly enough. The instinctive reaction to such a wall would be to turn around and look for an easier way. Continued impatience would eventually lead to the path of least resistance - and this might mean complete avoidance of any conflict or "suffering", even internal conflict. I don't say it's the way it's usually reached, but it seems to me that non-identification would be the inevitable conclusion: "stop fleeing and retreat". That would allow someone to face all obstacles in a positive light, as things ready to fall away, and just "mind the present". It's a long way to arrive at patience, but I can imagine it would work. The question is whether one will end up following the right way at the end of such a journey, or just the most agreeable way. That will depend on what is found to be "inherent", wouldn't it?

    So it's not an ideal, but a way of proceeding? This practical exercise is the state of enlightenment that Buddhists and Hindus seek?

    Non-self-centred love doesn't require the avoidance of identification, it embraces it. To "take up one's cross" means to carry with you the knowledge of suffering and death, even the personal familiarity with it, and knowing the victory that lies behind it. When walls come up, you go through them, and that way you lose what isn't attached. That way you encounter people who stand behind walls behind walls behind walls, people who never thought they would see love practiced. You don't find them along the path of least resistance, or find yourself loving them the easy way.

    I'll have to look this up again. I wasn't thinking of just practical good advice. Apparently there is also a distinction between no-ego and no-self, which not even many Buddhists are aware of (since the teachings have become so popularized and Westernized).

    But what causes you to think that the inability (unnecessary-ness) to distinguish harm from non-harm is perfection? Achieving such a state certainly doesn't explain away harm and suffering, just makes it irrelevant for the "perfected" person.

    Or are you saying that we aren't born in a perfect world, but maybe we can escape its imperfections? What about those who are traumatized, ill, oppressed, imprisoned or don't have the time and luxury to meditate on perfection?

    Should be interesting.

    It's just the principle of causality. Everything we do has effects on our later life, even though we might not know what they will be. The idea is that we shouldn't wait until we know what all the effects will be before we take action. We will never know enough to justify action if that is our criteria. This has been my position all along, but until now you have been disagreeing with me. Does this mean you've changed your beliefs about justifiable action?

    Western thinking has much to contribute to the Eastern way, and vice versa. There's no point in picking on Westerners because you happen to be one. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

    (I must say I think you use the word suffering to loosely. In the West, we call mental suffering "agitation". Suffering refers to physical or mental torment, not mere inconveniences or confusion. It gives the impression of being oversensitive.)

    Then by your definition, identifying doesn't mean falling into a rut either, and you'll have to revise your earlier conclusion. If Ghandi's self-identification (not reductionism, mind you) didn't lead him into a rut, why should any other identity one assumes? The truth is you have frequently spoken out against the kind of pacifism Ghandi promoted - even Hindus disagreed with it. His death was actually celebrated by ceremonies of thanksgiving in many Hindu cities.

    And can not thinking that I have a point not be the a result of not paying attention? Especially since you've repeatedly contradicted my non-reductionistic view of identity with your own. It seems like a rut, as you've described it, and therefore potentially harmful.

    There are a lot of things that can't be explicitly verbally stated and would be absolute, but nevertheless are interacted with and talked about as everyday realities. I'm left with the question of whether you think identity and non-identity can exist together as realities, since you hold to both.

    That our lives on earth are impermanent is enough reason to regard all dependent qualities as impermanent by extention. The alternative is to regard them as transcendent, and you will certainly have much greater difficulty making any explicitly verabally statable claim about that. If that's your criteria, you'll be left with nothing to discuss and nothing to say. I hope that's not what you're trying to achieve, because it would be very unlike you.

    I should probably have added that I consider our discussion to be equally esoteric (knowledge usually confined to an "enlightened" inner circle). The book is authoritive on the subject (in the same way a guru is considered authoritive on his teachings) - certainly much more than we can manage.
  23. water the sea Registered Senior Member


    Because I think your definition of identity is completely useless, as far as exactness goes.

    Your definition may be useful in a quasi-psychological discourse, neatly chit-chatting on a Sunday afternoon, but otherwise it is a convulsion.

    ... Eurus ...
    ... Afer Ventus ...

    ... so the world goes round and round
    with all you ever knew -
    They say the sky high above
    is Caribbean blue ...

    ... if every man says all he can,
    if every man is true,
    do I believe the sky above
    is Caribbean blue ...

    ... Boreas ...
    ... Zephryus ...

    ... if all you told was turned to gold,
    if all you dreamed were new,
    imagine sky high above
    in Caribbean blue ...

    ... Eurus ...
    Afer Ventus ...
    ... Boreas
    Zephryus ...
    ... Africus ...

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