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What constitutes an individual?

  1. Jul 8, 2004 #1
    Take your pick, or feel free to embellish:

    Must an individual be unique? Must an individual be alive? Must an individual be sentient? Must an individual be an observer?

    Do you consider yourself to be an individual? How would you convince another that you are an individual? Is every individual equal, deserving respect, and endowed with individual identity and the right to exist?

    Can an individual exist without other individuals? Can a plurality of individuals become an individual, or vice versa? How has the concept of individuality evolved over time?

    Does an alter ego exist for individuals? Is individuality an illusion? Must God be an individual?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 9, 2004 #2
    Very interesting questions you ask, Loren!
    I'm sorry I have no time to address them. Perhaps later.
  4. Jul 9, 2004 #3


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    An individual human being is actually constituted of millions of living organisms, most of whom live in the digestive tract.

    Hmmm, maybe that is not quite what you are getting at. :redface:
  5. Jul 9, 2004 #4
    Loren, You have 100 threads bunched into one. So then your first question.

    Must an individual be unique? Must an individual be alive? Must an individual be sentient? Must an individual be an observer?

    A human individual meets all of those qualifications for one precise reason and that is its creation in one precise moment in space-time. That moment dependent on all other moments and spaces.
  6. Jul 9, 2004 #5
    Indeed, it would seem that an individual has choice, too!
  7. Jul 9, 2004 #6
    E-coli-xactly! ...and so ad infinitum.
  8. Jul 9, 2004 #7
    Then all individuals maintain uniqueness by occupying a particular set of events within a unique horizon in spacetime? Could it also be said that an individual is described uniquely by a particular entangled wavefunction since its genesis?
  9. Jul 9, 2004 #8
    By choice it seems from creation to destruction with those unique horizons overlapping other individual boundries.

    If you consider an individual a complex mathematical formula, it could be a ontological truth.
  10. Jul 10, 2004 #9
    I meant to say that an individual might be described by an entangled wavefunction - but how so an ontological truth in the mathematical sense as you propose?
  11. Jul 10, 2004 #10
    Unique? Yes or it would not be an individual.

    Alive? No not in the broadest sense of the word, individual; i.e. individual,unique rock.

    Sentient? No. for the above reason.

    Observer? No, again for the same reason. However, if we limit the meaning of individual to mean an individual person or human as it is commonly used then YES! to all of the above.

    Yes and Yes to all as well as the right Life, Justice, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

    No, No man is an island. We are social animals and can not thrive without human contact, interaction and love.
    Yes, a society is made up of individuals that can become an individual nation, tribe etc. They are still, however, individuals themselves.
    An individual has developed rights and recognition rather than indistinguishable members of a class, slaves, serfs, peon, peasants etc.

    No, alter ego as I understand the term, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
    No, unless life and reality is an illusion.
    Yes, There is only one God as there is only one universe; but, as God is the universe and part of all of us and we all part of him then God is and individual partly made up or containing many individuals.

    Did I pass? :confused: :tongue2:
  12. Jul 10, 2004 #11
    Individual is a concept, a word, and words only have demonstrable meaning according to their function in a given context. Hence the answer to all your questions is yes and no or "what was the question exactly?"

    To quote that immortal philosopher, Popeye, "I yam what I yam and dat's all dat I yam."

    I can no more convince another of my individuality than I can prove the moon is made of cheese. In the final analysis, we are the belief makers, we give it all meaning or no meaning at all. Do I mean we as in the plural, or we as in the royal we? Only a specific context can illuminate that question. :0)
  13. Jul 10, 2004 #12


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    Wait a second here, Wu. Function and context are words, and only have demonstrable meaning - wait. But demonstrable and meaning are words, too. Jeez, how do we communicate at all? What do I mean by communicate? What is the context? What do I mean by context?
  14. Jul 10, 2004 #13
    Ultimately, if it comes down to it, I can demonstrate the meaning of something by actually pointing to it, without using any words whatsoever. That is what I mean by demonstrable. If you ask me the meaning of "gravity" and I push you off your chair that is a demonstration. What you mean by the use of such words I can only guess according the context you use them in.

    In this case, the context is a philosophical bulletin board. As for how we manage to communicate at all, apparently we are the belief makers, we give it all meaning or no meaning at all. That is, perhaps, the ultimate context.
  15. Jul 10, 2004 #14
    Ontological philosophy has to do with what reason ought to believe about the world to be true, which is discovered by theoretical reason. Beliefs are true when they correspond to with what exists, and truths are necessay when beliefs correspond to what exists in the world. Properties relations and change are part of, what is, of those truths of the Wholeness of the World. "I am" by thinking, believed to exist. Mathematics describes relations between space and matter, of which "I am".

    Are you interested in Ontological philosophy?
  16. Jul 11, 2004 #15
    Simple beauty in motion. Enjoy your (individual) universe. You know it so long as it remains whole, and free of analysis (an analytical statement in itself). Duality to me is a practical necessity of multifold beings.


    The quest is not a test, or to best, but to fest - the rest is jest.


    I have a hard enogh time remembering the definition of the word "ontological" - it seems more a process than a state. Your descriptive contribution is helpful, considering this (individual) recipient; but will I retain it? I believe I am a physicist first because I rely upon my immediate physical environment and mental representations thereof rather than less grounded philosophical terms as a source of inspiration.
  17. Jul 11, 2004 #16
    Both are just tools, to be used and abused when we forget we can lay them down when we are done with them.
  18. Jul 11, 2004 #17
    If we observe from within the universe, it would seem that it is, but if you could observe from without, might it be a state.

    Well let me try and help. While I can only be what I know, learned and believe, it is fully understood that you must be also be. If an individual evolved and was aware of being aware, of its "I", it would then posses an absolute truth. It would eventually know it is not alone in the world and come to understand that properties relations and change, are all part of what makes it aware of being aware. Hence understanding, those beliefs, of what is, with sufficient intellegence could describe with a mathematical formula, a inidvidual atom, inidvidual human or its own universe. Write your formula. :wink:
  19. Jul 11, 2004 #18


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    So what do you point to for an explanation of "context?" What about "meaning?"
  20. Jul 12, 2004 #19
    Over time it seems to me that wuliheron has developed a most genuine philosophy - one applied to daily practice, enlightening yet grounded, progressive yet patient.

    Rader, I am a raider of equations. See how I inverted the quantum wavefunction in the first article of my website, below.
  21. Jul 15, 2004 #20
    So you are up to the endeavor. I have zapped through your site several times to get a feel of what you want to say.

    Knowing the world is cyclical in nature. Might it be possible to have a classical explanation of what now appears, to not be so classical?

    If an individual has come to know two languages as if it were one, then he would posess the experience of knowing, that one is to the other, as if it is one.
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