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Wittgenstein on Identity

 
 
Reply Sat 26 Jun, 2010 08:10 am
5.5303 Roughly speaking: to say of two things that they are identical is nonsense, and to say of one thing that it is identical with itself is to say nothing.

Wittgenstein, TLT

Wittgenstein here is posing a dilemma concerning the notion of identity. To what extent is W. right? For if he is, then to use the term "identity" is either to talk nonsense, or to say nothing.
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djjd62
 
  1  
Reply Sat 26 Jun, 2010 08:18 am
@kennethamy,
i believe Popeye said it best

I am, what I am, and I can't be no more

kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sat 26 Jun, 2010 08:30 am
@djjd62,
djjd62 wrote:

i believe Popeye said it best

I am, what I am, and I can't be no more




Well, I think we can probably improve on what Popeye said.
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salima
 
  1  
Reply Sat 26 Jun, 2010 08:37 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy wrote:

5.5303 Roughly speaking: to say of two things that they are identical is nonsense, and to say of one thing that it is identical with itself is to say nothing.

Wittgenstein, TLT

Wittgenstein here is posing a dilemma concerning the notion of identity. To what extent is W. right? For if he is, then to use the term "identity" is either to talk nonsense, or to say nothing.


so in other words, i gather that if two things were identical they would be the same thing. even if we cant discover what it is that is not the same about them, there has to be something, otherwise there would not be two of them.

nothing can have more than one identity, and no two things can have the same identity...is that it? i was watching the other thread for awhile, and i cant find it meaningful to say that because they cant occupy the same space they cant be identical...i could be wrong on that, but then again arent we only debating on the proper use of words? isnt it possible that two things can be the same but not be identical? for instance, two pieces of plastic molded in a factory to be blender covers would be the same, but not actually identical.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sat 26 Jun, 2010 08:50 am
@salima,
salima wrote:

kennethamy wrote:

5.5303 Roughly speaking: to say of two things that they are identical is nonsense, and to say of one thing that it is identical with itself is to say nothing.

Wittgenstein, TLT

Wittgenstein here is posing a dilemma concerning the notion of identity. To what extent is W. right? For if he is, then to use the term "identity" is either to talk nonsense, or to say nothing.


so in other words, i gather that if two things were identical they would be the same thing. even if we cant discover what it is that is not the same about them, there has to be something, otherwise there would not be two of them.

nothing can have more than one identity, and no two things can have the same identity...is that it? i was watching the other thread for awhile, and i cant find it meaningful to say that because they cant occupy the same space they cant be identical...i could be wrong on that, but then again arent we only debating on the proper use of words? isnt it possible that two things can be the same but not be identical? for instance, two pieces of plastic molded in a factory to be blender covers would be the same, but not actually identical.


As I have been pointing out for some time, there are two different senses of the word, "identical". 1. Numerically identical, or one and the same. 2. Qualitatively identical. There are numerically two different things, but they have all the same properties. Leibniz gave the example of two different leaves which have exactly the same properties. There is a question whether it is possible for such a thing (qualitative sameness, but no numerical identity) to exist. (Some seem to think that the distinction I just made is "only" about the correct usage of the term "identity". As if what the word "identity" meant was an unimportant issue compared with some more profound issue, which is never explained. Some people seem to have the impression that any talk about words and definitions is somehow trivial and not profound enough for them.

In any case, to get back to what counts, is it true, as Wittgenstein says it is, that to say of two things that they are identical is nonsense? Or to say of one thing that is is identical with itself is to say nothing? I don't think either one is true.

I have always thought that a little clarity goes a long way, even it it isn't as profound as people think philosophy should be (or, at least, sound like).
salima
 
  1  
Reply Sat 26 Jun, 2010 09:36 am
@kennethamy,
clarity is actually necessary, and that is the hardest part. we have had a lot of discussions where we were never able to get everyone on the same page so we could get started. wouldnt it be easier to say that if something is identical it is numerically identical and if something is the same it is qualitatively identical? but once that is decided upon, there is no further debate necessary, is there?

i noticed that with a lot of subjects, if 'free will' were properly defined there would be no argument about whether or not it existed, if mind, soul, and whatever the question was about were properly defined and agreed upon, that would settle most of the questions right there...do you think so?
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Owen phil
 
  1  
Reply Sat 26 Jun, 2010 12:33 pm
@kennethamy,
I think W is claiming that 'tautology' is as trivial as saying nothing, and 'contradiction' is nonsense.

I think the tautologies of logic/mathematics are not trivial propositions that say nothing. Obviously, they do have use and application.

I would say .. to say of two things that they are identical is contradictory, and to say of one thing that it is identical to itself is tautologous.

W claims that 'identity' can be eliminated from formal languages.

5.533 The identity sign, therefore, is not an essential constituent of conceptual botation.

I don't think we can eliminate '=' when talking about, eg. Russell's descriptions, do you?



kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sat 26 Jun, 2010 01:24 pm
@Owen phil,
Owen phil wrote:

I think W is claiming that 'tautology' is as trivial as saying nothing, and 'contradiction' is nonsense.

I think the tautologies of logic/mathematics are not trivial propositions that say nothing. Obviously, they do have use and application.

I would say .. to say of two things that they are identical is contradictory, and to say of one thing that it is identical to itself is tautologous.

W claims that 'identity' can be eliminated from formal languages.

5.533 The identity sign, therefore, is not an essential constituent of conceptual botation.

I don't think we can eliminate '=' when talking about, eg. Russell's descriptions, do you?






Yes, I think that what you say is right. Of course, since contradictions are the negations of tautologies, one would think that if contradictions were nonsense, then so would be tautologies. After all, how could the application of the the negative operator convert nonsense into a truth? And, of course, tautologies are truths. For that matter, what would it even come to to negate a nonsensical sentence? In the Tractatus, Wittgenstein uses two German terms, "sinnloss" and "unsinn". "Sinnloss" is best translated into English as "senseless", but "unsinn" as "nonsense". So I think that there may be some mixup in translation here which causes the English text to allow a truth value to tautologies, but none to contradictions.
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