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Identity Theory

My philosophical studies have finally taken me to their final leg of the journey: the psychological turn. I have spent years understanding the nuances of metaphysics, logic, society and ethics. I have now reached a point where I feel that my understanding of the universe and of people can help me understand myself and to reach of ultimate goal of being happy and content with my own life.

With that said, I started with a reader. It was my hopes that I could be introduced to the subject of the self by reading, "The Mind's I," by Hofstadter and Dennett. It really, really did. These writers and scientists are nothing but brilliant. Their understanding and insight were very enlightening and helped me sort through this giant can of worms.

Among the worms is the subject of identity. Identity on a metaphysical level is very difficult to sort through. It is a favorite analogy of philosophers to use computers and robots to study the question of what a person is, what is the mind, what is a soul, how is conscious possible, etc. But once you get past that you are left with a more practical question. That question is simply, "What constitutes a person?" I think, for a human being imbued with all of the normal senses at least, that can be broken down into three important ideals: I) a person's conceptual framework, II) a person's historical perspective, and III) a person's actions.

I. Conceptual Framework
Unfortunately neuroscience hasn't given us even a basic understand of how our brain works. But, I think it is understood that the mind (at least on a higher level) operates on symbols and that these symbols are all connected to each other in various degrees and numbers. I think how a person defines themselves is embedded in this framework. It is defined in two ways. The first is that your identity is it's very own symbol in your mind. It's how you see yourself. That is different from the metaphysical discussion in that we aren't asking for an apriori understanding. This is personal insight. This concept of self is connected to all the other concepts in your mind that you associate with yourself. Understanding this idea and being very cognizant of that interconnectedness is exactly the same as knowing yourself. The second way is connected to the things you've been exposed to. A person with a strong knowledge of mathematics and computer programming will undoubtedly have a differences in the concepts they've been exposed to than say, a priest. I am not sure if the person (by choosing their profession) will affect the conceptual framework or if the conceptual framework affects or somehow defines a person in this way. This is more metaphysical I think because it is a discussion of what the essence of a person is. But the conceptual framework will affect how a person thinks in that a person's assumptions and knowledge will come from this. This will directly affect their behavior the a person's actions. This leads us to the other two ideals.

II. Historical Perspective
A person's identity is often defined by their past actions. People (I do at least) define themselves not just as a core of ideas but also as a story. From one perspective it's a written record of how their ideals have changed over time. But it is also a source of information and knowledge and is very closely related to the conceptual framework that exists in our minds. Our memory is not just a record of events and ideals, I prefer to see it as a record of choices. It is our moral record of what we've done and how we've acted. When we judge ourselves, when we determine how much, exactly, we value ourselves, we look back to do so.

III. Actions
A person is also defined by what they do. We saw this was true in the second ideal, but it is also just as important to be defined by what we will do. Relationships are in a way based on what will be done (e.g. game theory and philosophical ideals like loyalty). I admit this category is more of a "how others see you" and this is important because in a very abstract way you will define yourself in how others see you. Not only will you be concerned with how others see you, you will inevitably ask yourself "how do I look from the outside?" or "how do I truly appear to others?". But more imporantly you will define yourself by the things your buy or the things you do with the following question: "What kind of person do I want to be?" Do I want to wear leather jackets and go to bars, or do I want to wear suits and go to fancy balls? Do I want to be a scientist? Would that make me happy? Or would I make a better soldier. So the definition of a person comes not only from within but from without. For example who they associate with, the career they have chosen, marriage and family choices, their material possessions, and the things they do in their free time (i.e. hobbies).

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