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The true mystery is Identity NOT Mechanics

  1. Jun 13, 2010 #1
    A lot has been discussed/posted about various models/theories to explain consciousness, the systems of laws, fundamental physics, emergence, upward and downward causality etc.

    However I think too much of these theories focus on GENERAL universals and ultimately on the mechanisms, but not on the question of what determines the identity of subsets of the universals.

    For example, lets say the entire universe (I mean EVERYTHING) is represented by a simple circle (bear with me a bit). A given subset of the universe let's say is represented by a point on this circle such as http://www.kjmaclean.com/WebMovie/book1circle.jpg

    This point A on the circle has no more special relevance than any other point B on the circle.

    However, the point A has a UNIQUE RELATIVE position to all the other points on the circle. For example a point C on the circle has a specified distance from A along either direction that is not the same as point B.

    Therefore this is analogous to a given subset of the universe having no special relevance than any other subset, however it is unique in that it has a non-duplicatable relationship to all other subsets of the universe, it has an IDENTITY, an ultimate fundamental ADDRESS.

    To me the big question is what systems of laws dermines (or could determine) these identities.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 14, 2010 #2

    If you believe in determinism, then your answer is cauasility.

    If you believe in randomness, then your answer is randomness.

    But if you ask..."what law determines the identy of the laws X,Y,Z that in turn determine the identity of laws A,B,C..." then you'd seem to be seeking a prime cause.
  4. Jun 14, 2010 #3
    That sounds like a system based on classical space/time co-ordinates. Personally i think thats way too relativistic for a fundamental theory explaining consciousness. It still doesnt explain what consciosuness is, which i think is vital, in order for us to fully understand the phenomenom.
  5. Jun 14, 2010 #4


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    If you are talking about modelling the notion of identity in relation to consciousness, the standard thing to say would be that consciousness is like a stream.

    Identity is what stays the same when everything else changes. And more than this in the case of a system, it is what shapes the flow of change, directing it in useful, purposeful fashion.

    So a river's banks are carved out by a history of flow, and then come to constrain that flow. Though the river banks themselves can still change slowly over time.

    And William James said the same about conscious identity. The self. We are an accumulation of memories and habits that shape the flow of impressions and experiences. There is the part that does not change (much), and the part that changes (almost) continually.

    So this is a dynamic relationship between global ideas and particular impressions (global meaning largest scale in spacetime, and local meaning the smalllest grain of event).

    Your circle analogy is in fact more mechanical sounding - a part-whole relationship. It does not model explicitly the interaction between local and global scales, it does not model the relationship as a relation indeed.

    What you need instead of a system of laws is a law of systems :smile: to model identity in a dynamic sense. One such body of thought would be semiotics, for example. Or more prosaically, the theory of generative neural networks, complex adaptive systems, etc.

    So it is not a mystery. Many people are working on this.
  6. Oct 27, 2010 #5
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