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Philosophy

Identity

Speaking of identity, we may as easily speak of language or any other indefinitely-extensible and recursively self-generating symbolic system of information definition, encoding, compression and self-propagation. Language is always and already that discontinuous difference and dissociative experience that simultaneously facilitates and creates us as Subjects in, through and as communication (or culture) while also implicitly alienating us from ourselves and each other.

The many binary issues of Self and Other, of inside and outside represent foundational ontological symmetries, only intelligible in as much as they exist through language – for both those who seek to inhabit the manifold quicksilver insecurities of self-identity and for those seeking to explain it.

The issue at the base of this problem (and it is, on any mature assessment of our fractured world, a profound and difficult problem) is not that we do not possess sufficiently sophisticated models or frameworks and behavioural or idiomatic templates of (or for) human being. The issue is that no such closure exists, no such ontological definition or clarity through which Self and Other might be either existentially or analytically differentiated. Identity is the problem.

3 replies on “Identity”

I think Claude Steiner gave a comprehensive treatment on the subject of identity in his book, “Scripts People Live [by]”. He explained how people select their identities (or their identities are selected for them) from a set of culturally defined scripts, based on fairy tales or myths. The scripts lay out the cast of characters, the scenes, the plots, and interactions of the actors (we are all actors) from birth until death. Of course, all scripts, as well as all games (Eric Berne’s “Games People Play”), contain elements of pathology. A healthy personality would strive for a script-free and game-free existence. I guess this is where Steiner and Berne would depart from your concept of “identity”. I don’t see how we could live without an identity or be identity-free. We need an identity in order to locate ourselves in the world. We need to know where we are in order move from one place to another. We need an identity in order to act at all.

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Yes… to act in the world at all we need an identity but those actions are always and already of the world if they are at all meaningful or intelligible and in every fractal iteration of possible choice, of free will and self-determination we might recreate ourselves but equally if not more so we recreate the world through which these scripts, narratives and the unfurling process of identity or culture and cognitive hyper-extension of technology self-replicates; through us, as us. Yes, we need identity but the free-floating abstraction of identity lives through us as much as we do so through it and, in any case, I don’t really argue against identity so much as suggest that what we experience it as is only a very superficial experience, that at base identity is something quite dramatically more subtle than those caricatures and abbreviated selves with which the world relentlessly bludgeons its inhabitants and with which they reflexively, tragically bludgeon each other. 🙂

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