Given that everything exists, we know all the individual somethings that make up everything also exist. The law of identity, from our "first philosopher to think about thinking," Aristotle, states that a thing is itself, or in terms of algebra:
A = A
The statement, an apparent tautology, nevertheless implies that many such A’s exist.
By stating that each individual thing is what it is we are saying something about reality that we didn’t say under existence, namely that reality isn’t a monolithic slab of celestial goo. Rather it is a collection of unique entities (things) we can define and know, that exhibit distinct characteristics. Which our sense experience bears out.
Two well-known corollaries(8) (a corollary is an accompanying rule or principle) of the law of identity are:
- noncontradiction—a thing cannot be itself and not-itself at the same time or in the same respect
- either/or—a thing is either itself or not-itself; this corollary is also referred to as the law of the excluded middle
Probably several readers are wishing by now that I practiced the law of the excluded muddle.
True, I feel I’m glancing a rock off the pond of academic philosophy, now. Unfortunately, most academics today are not bright-eyed, young-minded cheerleaders for logic and identity, which is why my language may appear quaint, even stuffy. But the classics rock. Aristotle, like Shakespeare, is timelessly relevant.
Back to planet Earth, pursuing a life of reason, we simply need to grasp that what exists isn’t a matter of arbitrary whim or subjective feeling. As the old saying goes, "If wishes were horses, beggars would ride." Wishing doesn’t make it so. The nature of the act of robbery does not change simply because the government calls it taxation.
Note - "A is A" doesn’t mean A can’t become B ("B is B") if we have the imagination, the will, the energy, and follow the rules. So dream on, things can change, only remember, "nature to be commanded must be obeyed."
And how shall we know them, these people who live by the ultimate rules of the universe? Probably the best connection between the law of identity and someone who consciously abides by it is the scrupulous honesty of that individual. Both intellectually and behaviorally, such a person is loyal to objective truth. Sometimes at high cost.
A child calling the emperor, or the national security state, naked is a poignant example.
ReasonToFreedom.com, Reason 101
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