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  #1  
Old 12-14-2002, 04:31 PM
Apos Apos is offline
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Lot's wife and the pillar of salt: a question of identity

This has always been one of the most intriguing philosophical questions to me: the question of identity and change, and the viability of the semantics used to descibe them.

The classic example comes from the Bible, but PLEASE do not take this thread, or any debate around it, to have any claim on or interest in, Biblical exegesis. The example is used here because it's colorful, not because it's attempting to say anything about the Bible, or even accurately reflect it. It's a hypothetical meant to entice thought about fundamental questions of object identity.

The story is this: Lot's wife is punished for looking back at the destruction of her hometown: she is (presumably by god, who warned them against looking back) turned "into" a pillar of salt.

But does it make sense to speak of turning a woman INTO a pillar of salt? At one moment, we have the woman, a being defined by certain characteristics. The next moment (or perhaps less quickly) we have a pillar or salt: a being with an entirely different set of characteristics (though perhaps "vaguely woman shaped" is one of them).

The problem is this: how can we meaningfully speak of one thing turning "into" another, when the each thing derives its paricular identity from its set of characteristics, and the objects on either side of the "into" have very different characteristics? If they have very different identities, then it is hard to concieve of it making sense to say that one thing "turns into" "transforms into" the other. WHAT is undergoing the "turning into" if that process involves changing the very characteristics that give her her identity in the first place? Can it intelligibly be said that "Lot's wife" is undergoing the "turning into" event, or is it actually her components (perhaps her atoms) that are being re-arranged to compose something else? Can "Lot's wife" be said to exist "as" a pillar salt? Perhaps this example is poor due to Lot's wife being a person, with whom we have non-physical associations: if so then simply consider a fire hydrant "turning into" a pillar of salt. Does THAT make sense?

What seems at least concievable is that Lot's wife could have been _replaced_, whether instantaneously or successively, with a pillar of salt. Is that all that "turning into" really implies (it certainly SEEMS to imply more than that, but what?)

Even if we go with the "components that previously made up Lot's wife are re-arranged to compose something else" answer, is there any way to distinguish this from the "replacement" theory, especially if the transformation is instantaneous?

It makes my head spin...
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  #2  
Old 12-14-2002, 04:54 PM
Liberal Liberal is offline
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This is an interesting topic, Apos!

I think that one consideration must be temporality. Let A = "Lot's wife is a pillar of salt", and let B = "Lot's wife is a woman". Speaking from a temporal reference frame, A is false when B is true, and vice-versa.

But from an eternal reference frame, both A and B are both true and false. (Which makes sense, since eternity implies an absolute tautology note that a tautology in temporal logic is a bit different from a tautology in first order logic.)

Deeper still is the question of her consciousness, and what happened to it during the event. As I see it, it is merely a kind of death, similar to a person who vaporizes in a nuclear blast. And because it is an event, it must be temporal. Thus, after the event occurs, B is true.

But deepest of all is the question of whether those atoms when they formed the woman comprised the woman. Was she nothing more than her brain, with the rest of her body being motorized appendages to it? If so, A ceased being true and B became true.

But if there is an eternity, then that eternity (because it is absolute) is the reality, and the temporal reference frame is already finished (from the eternal reference frame). And in the eternal reference frame, A is still true.

In other words, that's an informal ontological proof that Lot's wife is still a woman.
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Old 12-14-2002, 05:27 PM
erislover erislover is offline
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Libertarian, that is a fascinating perspective.

An identity thread I started: "Does consciousness/identity need to be continuous?"

The whole topic of identity boggles my mind. Lib, while I find your outline to be fascinating, it does raise some epistemological problems for me. not having access to this perspective, all claims of thisness seem dubious at best. I'm not sure I can agree to that.

Otherwise, I don't think I have anything to add that isn't nonsense, or long-winded and inconclusive.
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Old 12-14-2002, 06:33 PM
RexDart RexDart is offline
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I actually learned alot about this problem from the book Metaphysics of Star Trek, by a philosophy professor in Melbourne at the university there.

My personal opinion is that we have no essence, therefore no identity continuity at all over time. Each time-sice of "me" consists of a certain arrangement of neurons (mind, thought, consciousness, whatever), and that's a subset of the overall arrangement of cells (body.) Over a period of time, our body gets entirely new cells, so no continuity there.

Moment-to-moment, the thing we really think of as ourselves, our conscious mind, takes on wholly new configurations. Those configurations of neurons, at any single time, define my attitudes, hopes, aspirations, abilities, etc., all it means to be me. So when those configurations change, the person I referred to as "me" just a moment ago now disappears and a new "me" is generated. In fact, the person who wrote "me" in those previous sentences, and conceptualized himself as that person with that identity, no longer exists by the time I write this sentence. He's gone.

I have a huge complete theory about this, working in fun elements and examples from daytime television (if Stefano DiMera gave John Black Roman Brady's memories, and a clone of his body, would he not then be Roman Brady? Would it matter if the original Roman Brady still lived as to determining who was who?) But I'll leave that for another time. Suffice to say that I think we are all in a state of continuing identity death, at every moment of our lives. Absent some sort of essence to tie the mental states together, I think this conclusion is inevitable. Too bad those religious types are wrong about the soul, that would enable continuity over time if it existed. Well, you can wish in one hand and crap in the other....
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Old 12-14-2002, 07:07 PM
Sampiro Sampiro is offline
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Just because Lot made an insensitive comment at a co-worker's 100th birthday party is no reason to turn his wife into salt. You people are taking this way too hard.
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  #6  
Old 12-14-2002, 07:44 PM
Revtim Revtim is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by RexDart

Moment-to-moment, the thing we really think of as ourselves, our conscious mind, takes on wholly new configurations. Those configurations of neurons, at any single time, define my attitudes, hopes, aspirations, abilities, etc., all it means to be me. So when those configurations change, the person I referred to as "me" just a moment ago now disappears and a new "me" is generated. In fact, the person who wrote "me" in those previous sentences, and conceptualized himself as that person with that identity, no longer exists by the time I write this sentence. He's gone.
I'm sure sure I'd go that far in slicing up "me", but I've long though that when one awakes from sleep that the "me" waking up is not the "me" that went to sleep. I imagine that one's conscious mind does not hibernate; it's erased like a program in your computer's memory when there's a power failure. And it get rebuilt perhaps like an a PC loading an OS from disk.

I generally don't like computer/brain analogies, but maybe this one makes sense.

Imagine if this idea becomes universally accepted. Suicides will stop overnight; why kill yourself when you can just take a nap?
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Old 12-14-2002, 07:50 PM
VarlosZ VarlosZ is online now
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This one's easy. All we have to do is figure out exactly what "consciousness" and "time" are, and we'll have our answer.

That's the glib response. I hope to think about this some more and return.

Oh, and I thought that was funny, Sampiro.
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  #8  
Old 12-14-2002, 08:00 PM
erislover erislover is offline
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VarlosZ, I don't think such definitions are really that necessary. We use them all the time: now, what do we mean by them in this use? An important way of looking at the problems that face us.
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Old 12-14-2002, 08:03 PM
erislover erislover is offline
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That is, we use those words all the time...
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Old 12-14-2002, 08:25 PM
Apos Apos is offline
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Let's me be clear that by "indentity" I'm not talking about someone's personality.
I'm talking about indentity in the sense that something is identified as an apple.

I also don't really understand what you're talking about Lib, and you're going to have to sell me on the concept of an "eternal reference frame."

There's also what I consider to be the problem of the pillar of salt: what reason is there to call it "Lot's wife" when it lacks everything that defines "Lot's wife." That is, A is NEVER true, not because of any particular time reference, but because Lot married a woman, not a pillar of salt.

---Too bad those religious types are wrong about the soul, that would enable continuity over time if it existed.---

Why too bad? If what you surmise is true (and I've certainly considered it as a very strong possibility) then it's exactly the situation we are in right now... and it's not so bad at all.

However, we do then get into what is simply a level of specificity problem. Sure, day to day, I am not EXACTLY the same set of constituent parts, and they are not arranged in EXACTLY the same way either. But we don't ask such exactitude of almost any real world identity. Apples rot over time, their chemical composition changing. And they shed molecules that were once part of them into the open air. But they still remain apples for quite a long time, until they finally lose enough of their distinguishing characteristics. The real question there is: is there a moment when it's both and apple and something else (rotting mush)? Two moments, one where it is an apple, and then another where it's something else? Some other way of describing it?
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Old 12-14-2002, 09:37 PM
VarlosZ VarlosZ is online now
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Apos:
Quote:
The real question there is: is there a moment when it's both and apple and something else (rotting mush)? Two moments, one where it is an apple, and then another where it's something else? Some other way of describing it?
If that's the kind of question you're raising, then I think our answer is arbitrary. Or, more accurately, I think it depends on why we want to know. For some purposes, it will make sense to describe thing x as an apple, and for others it will make sense to descrbe it as mush. We can't give a description of it that is necessary or "correct" except to point to it and say "there it is."

I suppose the same thing holds for the case in the OP. Lot's wife is. Anything beyond that is left to our discretion. "But," you might say, "the question is whether we can call that thing [that pillar of salt] 'Lot's wife' in the first place." Well, "Lot's wife" is just shorthand for "that thing." That thing is different than it was when it was not composed primarily of salt, but, as has been pointed out, Lot's wife at any given moment was different from Lot's wife at any other given moment. This is true of every atom in the universe.

We can attach names to things and ascribe to them an identity which is semi-permanent, thereby "fixing" them and facilitating thought about them. Each of those things, however, is in a constant state of flux; the fixity is a (useful) construction of our minds. As such, it is up to us when a thing ceases to carry identity x and assumes identity y.


erislover:
Quote:
VarlosZ, I don't think such definitions are really that necessary. We use [those words] all the time: now, what do we mean by them in this use? An important way of looking at the problems that face us.
I managed to say what I wanted without reference to either "consciousness" or "time." Apparently, I agree with you.
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Old 12-14-2002, 09:44 PM
Drastic Drastic is offline
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The house where I grew up had a large and beautiful apple tree right outside. I don't know the kind of apple tree it was; the apples were small, green, and rarely edible. During summers, it dropped approximately eighty billion of them on the ground each day. (I'm estimating.) A chore was to pick them up, and throw them into buckets, thenceforth to haul them off into the woods aways where the clouds of bugs they drew when they rotted wouldn't be as much of a problem.

Being, er, me, I often procrastinated on this chore. There was definitely a point where apples on the ground achieved a state that was simultaneously "apple" and "rotting mush with random bugs inside it, of the exact consistency necessary to make an instinctive shudder go through a child when his fingers unexpectedly sink into it." Another way to describe it would be "ack!"

I don't really know that anything has an essential identity; I tend to accept the narrative that says everything is made out of the set of interdependent aggregates (including that pesky "I"). Labeling aggregate-sets that usually have high contrast between each other differently is usually convenient--a piece of narrative abstraction that it'd be hard to get through workaday life without.
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Old 12-14-2002, 09:47 PM
VarlosZ VarlosZ is online now
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Exactly.
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Old 12-14-2002, 10:35 PM
Apos Apos is offline
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Well, the apple question is a more simple example that might shed light on the Lot's wife question. In the apple case we have components gradually moving around so that the whole gets less and less like an apple. With Lot's wife's case, though, we have instantaneous conversion. I think it bears some thinking as to whether the "instant" in some way negates the idea of "conversion." If would be one thing if God instigated a chemical process by which all the atoms in Lot's wife's body transmuted into salt, and that process went too fast to observe. It's quite another if whatever one form of matter instantly became another form, without progression or process. Because in what way, then, is even the identity of the matter preserved? That is, how can we, even in theory, distinguish the instant _transformation_ of something into something else from the instant _replacement_ of something with something else? What carries over if everything is different?
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Old 12-14-2002, 11:04 PM
VarlosZ VarlosZ is online now
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It's quite another if whatever one form of matter instantly became another form, without progression or process. Because in what way, then, is even the identity of the matter preserved?
Well, if what I said before is true, then "identity" is up to us. We can choose to classify the thing as "Lot's wife" or as "the pillar of salt that appeared in her place the instant Lot's wife was taken by God." If we were aware that God had simply removed "her" atoms and put salt in their place, then it might make sense to classify it as the latter.

Of course, I don't know how much relevance the example can have. All bets are off, conceptually speaking, when a Judeo-Christian god gets involved.

Quote:
That is, how can we, even in theory, distinguish the instant _transformation_ of something into something else from the instant _replacement_ of something with something else?
Perhaps we can't, but does it matter? When is anything ever "instantly replaced" in the real world?
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Old 12-14-2002, 11:52 PM
erislover erislover is offline
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But let's think about that, Varlos, as you tend to describe a situation...

Imagine, my wife standing nesxt to me, then disappears. In 100 years, a salt pillar is in that place. Now imagine it in 99 years... 98 years... 97... at what point can we say she has "turned into" a pillar of salt?
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Old 12-14-2002, 11:53 PM
JonScribe JonScribe is offline
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So, Lot's thought process probably went something like this:

Lot: "Where'd my wife go? She was right here. And where'd this wife-shaped pillar of salt come from? My God, my wife has been replaced by or transformed into a pillar of salt. But really, it doesn't matter how it happened, the end result is that my wife no longer exists and in her place stands this giant salt lick!"

Logic often is cold comfort.
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Old 12-14-2002, 11:53 PM
Drastic Drastic is offline
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In terms of instants in Lot's Alt Pillar Situations, I don't think "replacement" and/or "transformation" are applicable terms. Sort of like "where" is a useful thing to know in terms of, say, the location of my keys in relationship to where I usually try to stow them, but bordering on meaningless in terms of the state of an electron in relationship to the nucleus it's orbiting.
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Old 12-15-2002, 12:06 AM
Apos Apos is offline
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Again, I didn't mean for the question to get hung up on the Biblical, or indeed even the personal (though the discussion can go anywhere it wants, of course). It's a question of what sort of logic and language we can meaningfully use in a strange situation. Eris' most recent question is more along the lines I was thinking.
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Old 12-15-2002, 12:46 AM
VarlosZ VarlosZ is online now
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eris:
Quote:
Imagine, my wife standing next to me, then disappears. In 100 years, a salt pillar is in that place. Now imagine it in 99 years... 98 years... 97... at what point can we say she has "turned into" a pillar of salt?
At whichever point we want -- that is, whenever and under whatever circumstances it is more useful for us to do so (not that usefulness is necessarily the proper criterion).

The question then becomes, "at what point should we say she has 'turned into' a pillar of salt." This is a matter of opinion, however. I would prefer to say that, unless the atoms of Lot's wife were somehow used to make the salt, she has been "replaced" and not "transformed." This is just because "replaced" seems to me more indicative of that process than "transformed" (as I understand the words).

Apos:
Quote:
It's a question of what sort of logic and language we can meaningfully use in a strange situation.
Meaningfully?

Drastic:
Quote:
In terms of instants in Lot's Alt Pillar Situations, I don't think "replacement" and/or "transformation" are applicable terms.
Out of curiousity, what terms would you use?
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Old 12-15-2002, 01:01 AM
Apos Apos is offline
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---Meaningfully?---

Yes: what terms actually make sense to use, and which don't. More basically, what terms or ideas actually make sense, period? Are there situations where "turning into" makes sense to use? Which?
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Old 12-15-2002, 01:20 AM
VarlosZ VarlosZ is online now
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what terms actually make sense to use, and which don't[?]
Whichever terms help us to understand and think about the situation more clearly. Or are you asking which terms would be correct to use? As I've explained, I don't think any term could be correct. The words are conceptual stand-ins for the process, not the process itself.

Quote:
Are there situations where "turning into" makes sense to use? Which?
I think so. I would say that a caterpillar "turns into" a butterfly. To me, it makes sense to distinguish between that kind of process and the kind of process whereby God removes one set of atoms and puts another set in their place. It also makes sense to me to use the terms "turns into" and "is replaced by" to signify this distinction.
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Old 12-15-2002, 01:33 AM
erislover erislover is offline
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Oh Varlos, I like that. That is indeed one use of the grammar of "turns into" that could help us here. But what about others? For example, a frog turning into a princess...
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Old 12-15-2002, 01:54 AM
VarlosZ VarlosZ is online now
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I guess it depends. This isn't a necessary or complete description of what I have in mind, but I would tend to say that it makes more sense (for me) to use "turns into" if something significant carries over from the first stage of the process through the last.

If, to use your example, only the frog/princess' consciousness carried over, is that "significant" enough to say that the frog was "transformed," not "replaced"? I think so.

If the only thing that was carried over from Lot's wife to the pillar of salt was their approximate location, is that "significant" enough? I think not.

Again, though, that's just how I prefer to use the words.
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Old 12-15-2002, 02:53 AM
Drastic Drastic is offline
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Quote:
Quoth VarlosZ:
Out of curiousity, what terms would you use?
In the Lot's Wife case, I think "turned into" works well enough, given what little observable detail there presumably was. Six of one, half-dozen of the other though--I can't disagree if someone wants to hold that she was replaced with the salt. (Old saw: is light a wave or a particle?) Transforming a body into salt just seems more miraculous to me than sleight-of-handing someone faster than the eye can track, so that fits that special case more strongly for me.

In general, I just don't think it's possible to speak more meaningfully about a process that hasn't/cannot be observed. That whole blind-men-and-elephant deal, only without the benefit of groping the actual pachyderm.
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Old 12-15-2002, 07:19 AM
Liberal Liberal is offline
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Apos wrote:

Quote:
I also don't really understand what you're talking about Lib, and you're going to have to sell me on the concept of an "eternal reference frame."
Well, okay. Let's just start with the temporal reference frame.

If you look at a snapshot of Lot's wife just as they are coming out of the city, you will see a woman. That snapshot represents a moment in time. But if you look at a snapshot of her just after Lot turns around, you will see a pillar of salt. Another moment in time.

They are images of the same entity.

You've protested that Lot married a woman, and not a pillar of salt. But all you've done is identify Lot's wife with the arbitrary term "woman". You could as well have selected "Hebrew". Or "nomad". Or any number of other expressions, like "young hebrew woman dressed in a white robe".

The thing is that the more specific you go, the less the amount of time that your identifier will apply. The more general you go, the greater the amount of time that your identifier will apply. Thus, you can simply declare that Lot married an electromagnetic field. Lot is an electromagnetic field, too as is the earth, and the whole of the universe.

Let's say you select to identify Lot's wife in a temporal span from the time she marries until the time she dies, and call that "A". A is true only while she is "A". She is Not A when she is a baby. She is also Not A when she is a pillar of salt. "A" represents an identity with arbitrary scope, and if it exists within the scope, then it doesn't exist outside the scope.

If you broaden your scope to identify her as representing "A" from the time she is born until the time she dies, it illustrates that the label and the identity are not the same. "Lot's wife" is Not Lot's wife when she is an infant, but she still is the entity identified as A. That's analogous to the ordinary notion in formal logic that "A" is a statement, but A is a truth.

Your conundrum manifests when you conflate the statement with the truth, or the label with the identity.

If you insist upon identifying an entity temporally, then you must define an arbitrary scope, because in fact Lot's wife is always changing. Neither her molecular compostion, nor the thoughts in her head, nor anything about her specifically is ever the same from one moment to the next.

If you examine one snapshot, you may identify her at a single moment. But that identity never existed before the snapshot and will never exist again. If you examine a series of snapshots, you must broaden your identity commensurately.

If you were capable, you could identify her from the time she emerges from the Big Bang until the time her particles come to rest (assuming one model of the universe). By that identity, she is always "A", and A is always true. That is the broadest possible temporal reference frame and assumes that your sentience spans the whole of it.

To make that into an eternal reference frame, merely introduce the notion that you may view all of the snapshots in the broadest possible temporal reference frame at once simultaneously. You may observe temporal states that do not yet exist, that are presently existing, and that have ceased to exist without regard to temporal bounds upon your observation.

It is analogous to the notion that you may make a two-dimensional reference frame into a three dimensional reference frame by introducing the notion that you can see both the inside and the outside of a circle at the same time. An entity in a two dimensional reference frame would see only the inside of the circle or the outside of it, depending upon its position with respect to the circle. But never both at the same time. It could never see "over" the circle's wall (there is no "over").

From the eternal reference frame, both A and Not A are true.
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Old 12-15-2002, 07:44 AM
sailor sailor is offline
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Yes your honor. As you can clearly see in those pictures of my wedding, I married a slim, beautiful, 25 year old woman with firm breasts and now, here, this fat 50 year old woman with sagging breasts claims *she* is my wife. I want my wife back!
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Old 12-15-2002, 11:42 AM
VarlosZ VarlosZ is online now
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Yep. I agree with Lib and Drastic (unless they disagree with me, I suppose).
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  #29  
Old 12-15-2002, 12:07 PM
erislover erislover is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Drastic
That whole blind-men-and-elephant deal, only without the benefit of groping the actual pachyderm.
But that's the best part!

Oh, um....
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  #30  
Old 12-15-2002, 12:27 PM
chappachula chappachula is offline
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a realistic side to the question

here's an interesting slant on the subject.
Lets try using a realistic situation, not hypothetical pillars of salt:

What happens to a person in a coma? or after a blow to the head causes amnesia? When she awakes, is she the same person she was a few days earlier? And how does she know? How do her loved ones know?

What about an old person with Alzheimers?After 80 years of being a specific person who everyone knows, he is not the same person. Or is he?
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Old 12-15-2002, 02:07 PM
eponymous eponymous is offline
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Re: a realistic side to the question

Originally posted by chappachula

Quote:
here's an interesting slant on the subject.
Lets try using a realistic situation, not hypothetical pillars of salt:

What happens to a person in a coma? or after a blow to the head causes amnesia? When she awakes, is she the same person she was a few days earlier? And how does she know? How do her loved ones know?

What about an old person with Alzheimers?After 80 years of being a specific person who everyone knows, he is not the same person. Or is he?
I've had similar thoughts as well. At what point do we decide if someone is dead or alive? Is death a gradual process, or is it abrupt? I'm alive and conscious and the next instant I'm dead. The physical aspect of myself (my body) still exists from the one instant to the other, yet I no longer "exist". What changed?

I don't know if this will help, Apos, but might it be more useful if one were to base one's ontology on process rather than substance? Or at the very least, give priority to process over substance in one's ontology?

If viewed from an ontology of process, what has changed in the instant that Lot's wife is transformed in to a pillar of salt is the aggregation of processes that formed/constituted the entitity known/referred to as "Lot's wife" into the the aggregation of processes that form/constitute an entity known/referred to as a pillar of salt.


For those interested, here's a link that might be of some help.
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Old 12-15-2002, 02:54 PM
Apos Apos is offline
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---They are images of the same entity.---

But we haven't agreed that they are, since that's the very question at hand: how can they be the same entity when they share none of the same characteristics? Identity need not be absolute down to te farthest specification, brooking no change in any atoms, but doesn't "turning into" in this extreme way pretty much strain any sense of transitory identity for anything? Lot's wife could have been turned into ANYTHING. If we come across any object, should we be able to suggest that it's potentially Lot's wife? Or potentially anything else?

I'm suggesting that Lot's wife is never, at any point in time, a pillar of salt: Lot's wife exists or she doesn't, but she never exists "as" a pillar of salt, because pillars of salt are not what anyone means by "Lot's wife." An apple never exists as a skyscraper.
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Old 12-15-2002, 04:07 PM
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Was she "Lot's wife" before she was Lot's wife? (Before they married or committed?)
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  #34  
Old 12-15-2002, 04:26 PM
erislover erislover is offline
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Quote:
An apple never exists as a skyscraper.
Suppose I see a chair in the corner of the room. As I get up to go touch it, it disappears. "Ah, it wasn't really a chair at all, just a figment of my imagination." But then a few moments later it is there again, and I can touch it. "Hmm," I say, "it really was a chair, and it must have been my imagination that it disappeared." And now I go to touch it, and it disappears again.

What do we say here? Was it ever a chair? If it kept behaving like that, would we still call it a chair? Offhand, one might say, we don't have rules to govern this kind of use. It seems we could say a lot of things, and they'd all be equally correct (there's no standard to judge here).

And this is what you're asking, isn't it? At it's core, the question isn't: "How could it be that..." but "What do we mean by..."? And if that is true, then the above story is my answer. We don't have a rule to tell us what to do here, but a picture presents itself (you may think of this as a verbal description, a mental image, whatever suits you). And it presents itself quite naturally.
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  #35  
Old 12-15-2002, 04:31 PM
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That chair is another example of an identifier with arbitrary temporal scope.

I recently reported an error on this website (which someone else corroborated). After two days, the error was corrected. When I noted the correction, someone responded that maybe the error had been a figment of my imagination.

A = "the error exists". At that time, A was true. Now, A is false.
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  #36  
Old 12-15-2002, 04:40 PM
erislover erislover is offline
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Well, that presumes there was, in fact, a chair. That is, by calling it a "chair" the designation was correct. But, given that behavior, we really can't say whether it was correct or not.
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  #37  
Old 12-15-2002, 04:43 PM
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The designation is neither correct nor incorrect; it is arbitrary. The label and the identity (or the statement and the truth) are not the same.
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  #38  
Old 12-15-2002, 04:47 PM
erislover erislover is offline
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Oh, but that's the problem I face here with you. Your conception of identity relies on a perspective I don't have access to: an eternal and absolute frame.
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  #39  
Old 12-15-2002, 04:49 PM
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Gah. Where did you get that from? I spent two hours composing a post that exposits identity in a temporal reference frame.
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  #40  
Old 12-15-2002, 05:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Libertarian
You've protested that Lot married a woman, and not a pillar of salt. But all you've done is identify Lot's wife with the arbitrary term "woman". You could as well have selected "Hebrew". Or "nomad". Or any number of other expressions, like "young hebrew woman dressed in a white robe".
What this means to me is: Lot could turn to God and say, "What have you done to my wife!?" But we knew that.

I don't think I agree that identity is a series of satisfied propositions, as you seem to be leading up to here:
Quote:
Let's say you select to identify Lot's wife in a temporal span from the time she marries until the time she dies, and call that "A". A is true only while she is "A". She is Not A when she is a baby. She is also Not A when she is a pillar of salt. "A" represents an identity with arbitrary scope, and if it exists within the scope, then it doesn't exist outside the scope.
She is still Lot's wife; this is why the expression used was, "turned into a pillar of salt", that is, the pillar of salt that is my wife. There is no union of qualities here between "pillar of salt" and "lot's wife" that matches "this entity".
Quote:
If you broaden your scope to identify her as representing "A" from the time she is born until the time she dies, it illustrates that the label and the identity are not the same....
It seems to me that in order to broaden the scope to keep the identity, we'd have to broaden it to the point of ridiculousness, unless we cease to look for a quality or set of qualities satisfied.
Quote:
Your conundrum manifests when you conflate the statement with the truth, or the label with the identity.
Well, those words have a meaning with a use quite outside the use we are concerned with here. I think it is important to keep those seperate. In some instances, "Lot's wife" is exactly that (to a priest having just performed a wedding). In other instances it is incidental.
Quote:
If you insist upon identifying an entity temporally, then you must define an arbitrary scope, because in fact Lot's wife is always changing. Neither her molecular compostion, nor the thoughts in her head, nor anything about her specifically is ever the same from one moment to the next.
Then perhaps we should say: we cannot use these specifically as snapshots of identity at all.
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  #41  
Old 12-15-2002, 07:03 PM
VarlosZ VarlosZ is online now
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eris:
Quote:
There is no union of qualities here between "pillar of salt" and "lot's wife" that matches "this entity".
Sure there is. The woman and salt share the same approximate shape, volume, and location. They also exist, from our point of view, continuously (that is, there is no discernable lapse of time between there being a woman in spot x and there being a pillar of salt there).

These are the kinds of qualities of this process that "turns into" relates better than "is replaced by." If, for whatever reason, it makes more sense to you to emphasize these qualities of the process over certain others, then it makes perfect sense to say that the pillar of salt is Lot's wife (as, for example, Drastic seems to say). In any event, its use here doesn't strike me as ridiculous in the least (though it is not my preferred way of describing the situation).

Quote:
I don't think I agree that identity is a series of satisfied propositions, as you seem to be leading up to here. . .
Lib may have to correct me, of course, but I don't think that's exactly was he's saying. Or, perhaps he is saying that, but the point he's trying to make is that those propositions which are either satisfied or not are arbitrary.

Quote:
Quote:
Lib said: If you insist upon identifying an entity temporally, then you must define an arbitrary scope, because in fact Lot's wife is always changing. Neither her molecular compostion, nor the thoughts in her head, nor anything about her specifically is ever the same from one moment to the next.
eris said: Then perhaps we should say: we cannot use these specifically as snapshots of identity at all.
But why should we say that? We've already conceded that the descriptions or identities we use are not actually the things they represent, and that they cannot be "correct" or "incorrect." What's left is a set of arbitrary identities which we can use, not use, or alter as it suits us. We can use whatever we like as "snapshots" of identity (what we decide to use might not be very helpful [describing an apple as a kind of spaceship, e.g.], but it's still not "wrong" to use it).
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  #42  
Old 12-15-2002, 07:16 PM
erislover erislover is offline
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Quote:
The woman and salt share the same approximate shape, volume, and location. They also exist, from our point of view, continuously (that is, there is no discernable lapse of time between there being a woman in spot x and there being a pillar of salt there).
The first seems irrelevent to me; the second seems to make the point most clearly. For is the question really how we know Lot's Wife is Lot's Wife, or is it, how can Lot's wife be a pillar of salt? The latter notes, "Well, she was standing there, just so, and then there was a pillar of salt." This would be an account of what Lot might have seen (for example, I haven't really read the story). But this sort of answer would come from the question, "What do you mean 'she turned into a pillar of salt'?" And the previous answer satisfies that. Imagine that, some days later, while he is stadning in front of the salt, his wife steps up behind him and asks what he's doing. "Why, dear, I thought you had been turned into this pillar of salt!" And here the expression is just as useful, even though she hadn't turned into anything (God just teleported her away or something). And if she asked what he meant, wouldn't he say substantially the same thing? That he saw her there one moment, then salt the next?
Quote:
We've already conceded that the descriptions or identities we use are not actually the things they represent...
Well, this is an easy thing to say, and no one would insist that the words "Lot's Wife" has some sort of ontological import. Similarly, looking at them individually in order to discern what they refer to seems to lead us astray. Nothing here has changed except the expressions Lot would now use to describe his wife. The role that "Lot's Wife" plays in their speech has changed substantially in some ways, and not at all in others. But from this can we then say, "Surely something must be the same between them, if he used 'My Wife' to describe both the lady we knew and this pillar of salt!" Why "surely"? When does a pillar of salt have anything to do with someone's wife? Well, for instance, when someone saw their wife one moment, and then a pillar of salt the next.

The words don't have to point to something at all just by their virtue of being a word.
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  #43  
Old 12-15-2002, 09:22 PM
erislover erislover is offline
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And to be perfectly clear, whether she was really "somehow" turned into a pillar, or wasn't, and just replaced, the phrasing is the same, and the identity of the salt piller as "Lot's Wife" remains, given the appropriate prompting. No one, for example, would expect Lot to bed this salt, nor feed it, and so on. The role identity plays here is in an act of signifying, or identifying something.

Consider, for example, that a friend of Lot sees him several weeks later and knows nothing of the event. He asks, "How is your wife?" And so what do we have here? Can Lot answer the question? If the sign is supposed to indicate something (a la Lib's example), and Lot understands it, then he cannot answer the question, as the wife Lot's friend refers to is not so and that sign is meaningless; he recognizes the word, but not the referent. But of course, Lot answers: "She's a pillar of salt" (or something). (and a discussion ensues) And it isn't a role the salt plays in his life (though it couldn't be), as salt cannot either play the role of a wife.
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  #44  
Old 12-15-2002, 11:06 PM
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"A" and "Not A" are true from an atemporal perspective, but they're not true of the same part of time. In one part, "A" is true; in the other, "Not A" is true.

"A" and "Not A" are never simultaneously true.
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  #45  
Old 12-16-2002, 05:29 AM
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Vorlon wrote:

Quote:
"A" and "Not A" are never simultaneously true.
The frame of reference matters.

Again, consider the circle with a two-dimensional critter inside it. His law states that "Inside" and "Not Inside" are never simultaneously true. But you as a three-dimensional critter can see both the inside and the outside of the circle simultaneously.

-----

VarlosZ wrote:

Quote:
Lib may have to correct me, of course, but I don't think that's exactly was he's saying. Or, perhaps he is saying that, but the point he's trying to make is that those propositions which are either satisfied or not are arbitrary.
That's exactly what I'm saying, and Eris is proving my point. He doesn't want the pillar of salt to apply in identifying Lot's wife, and so he selects an arbitrary span of time for which to describe her.

-----

Eris wrote:

Quote:
It seems to me that in order to broaden the scope to keep the identity, we'd have to broaden it to the point of ridiculousness, unless we cease to look for a quality or set of qualities satisfied.
Stop being so dense. If you insist on identifying "Lot's wife" as the woman married to Lot, then Lot's wife is true from the time they are married until she dies. Lot's wife is not true when she is a little girl. And Lot's wife is not true when she is a pillar of salt.
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  #46  
Old 12-16-2002, 05:56 AM
erislover erislover is offline
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Stop looking at the words "Lot" and "wife" to understand who "Lot's wife" is.
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  #47  
Old 12-16-2002, 06:07 AM
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Well, you had said that you respond better to bluntness, and so I made the attempt.

As for this:

Quote:
Stop looking at the words "Lot" and "wife" to understand who "Lot's wife" is.
That's what I spent two hours telling you.
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  #48  
Old 12-16-2002, 07:33 AM
erislover erislover is offline
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I get the not-so-subtle feeling we are approaching this problem from vastly different perspectives, and are at this point (if not from the beginning) talking passed each other.
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  #49  
Old 12-16-2002, 08:02 AM
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What a wonderful Freudian typo!
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  #50  
Old 12-16-2002, 09:02 AM
erislover erislover is offline
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I must bid the SDMB farewell for a while. Work requires that I travel, and I'll be out all week. Then I travel back to Ohio to see some family for the holidays. I hope this thread doesn't die, it is a fascinating question.

Regards,
erl
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