Identity and Epistemology

  • #71
Rade said:
I guess I need to ask, do you hold that A = non-A is an axiom of your philosophic thinking ?

Actually, I do think a thing can often be the same as its opposite. I believe the universe is fundamentally ambiguous, so the best way to think about it is to allow for some ambiguity. I would perhaps agree that the less ambiguity, the better, but I wouldn't refrain from exploring an idea simply because I can't express it in formal logic.

I suppose that attitude is called "mysticism", but I'm not sure.
 
  • #72
Johann said:
Actually, I do think a thing can often be the same as its opposite.
I need some help here. For example, consider the electron (e-) and its antimatter opposite the positron (e+). While I can see how you would hold that many quantum aspects of (e-) and (e+) can be "the same" (such as mass, gravitational effect, etc.), they cannot be the same in "all" quantum ways, that is, they must differ by the quantum number called "charge". So, can you provide an example where a thing can be the same as its opposite in "all" ways ?
 
  • #73
Canute
1,559
0
I think maybe Johann is suggesting that the opposites that are built into our language and into our minds are not necessarily opposites in fact. Thus, for instance, we normally consider waves and particles to be opposites, but in QM they are two aspects of one thing. In mysticism, to which Johann refers, this is a fundamental principle. The law of identity holds, but as everything is ultimately identical to everything else there is a sense in which A=A=B=C=D.... This gives rise to ambiguities in discussions of ontology, since there are two ways of talking about reality, one in which reality consists of an infinity of different things, and one in which all things share the same identity. When it comes to the law of identity this can cause a little confusion. Perhaps one could say that in mysticism (Buddhism, Taoism etc) identity distinctions are epistemilogical rather than ontological. Thus, to take an extreme case, 'something' is identical with 'nothing'. So if something is A and nothing is B then yes, A=A, but also A=B. This gives rise to some confusion when it comes to discussing formal logic, since the law of the excluded middle cannot be applied in the usual way. A=A and A=~A can hold simultaneously in some cases, as two ways of looking at or expressing a situation, with the actual truth being more subtle. Again, we see this in QM, perhaps by coincidence, for we have found that we need to suspend the 'tertium non datur' rule when it comes to fundamental entities. Similarly, there is talk of suspending it in cosmology, where we are faced with similar problems over background dependence. (You'll find that all metaphysical questions can be solved by suspending the law of the excluded middle). All this has implications for the law of identity.
 

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