(it’s what outside that counts)

a tangled pile of hair

contains at least as much information

as a printed copy of any short work of Shakespeare


philosophers of all stripes ask who am I? what am I? they reduce. some of them are upset.


i was going to define human being. i was afraid to do so; i felt i should not just give this away. apparently there are other animals who would get their feelings hurt. let me instead define identity, in a way that works for human beings, that answers the question “who am i?” for all of us.

to do so well requires i first explain functional definition. that’s fun in any case. functional definition is just a way to define something that doesn’t have a name. sure, you can use it to build sets like “all roads that lead to toronto,” but you can also just name sets. functional definitions are more interesting when you use them to define things that are nameless because we do not know what they are.

this way, functional definition allows arguments to happen (thought-arguments, not shouting-arguments) that otherwise would be impossible because there are no terms for the concepts required. “whatever it is that makes us think,” for example, could refer to a mechanism, and/or a stimulus, and/or some third thing-we-do-not-know-what-the-heck-it-is. yet we can name it this way. functional definitions are a powerful way to be correct when we do not know things.

a key attribute of functional definitions is that they are quite precise in terms of distinguishing one thing from another, because one can precisely define the things that the functional definition takes as arguments (input-arguments), for example what makes us think versus what makes you think versus what makes me think. they really are functions, as in math, applied to some things to form others, and they can be written down precisely and logicked-over, in ways that preserve identity and prove distinctness, etc. etc.

identity then, our identity, mine. i am exactly the the experiencer of everything that i have experienced. my material form you can swap out piece by piece without changing this (rather, adding to it); should my brain cease functioning, this will not change; neither will it if keanu reeves wakes me up to show me that i am a disembodied organ in a vat. further, my soul has no arguments against the idea. do you?


PS: the philosopher with the idea closest to this that i have found so far is baker, and she calls her idea “first-person perspective.” but i came up with this without her; it is born of my experience. as far as “first-person perspectives” go, i guess i don’t see why other animals shouldn’t have their too.