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Lizards and lorries.
It’s the lizards again. I’ve got this idea and I can’t quite crystallise it. I was looking at some lizards in a garden centre the other day. I don’t know why I find them fascinating but I do. I’m looking at these lizards and they seem identical to each other. Like exact copies. They behave in the same way. It’s like they are the same thing. Just in a different space-time. There is something odd about this. These lizards are more similar to each other than two human beings. It is perhaps that that is sparking something off. Because the lizards are animals and they seem more alike than humans it allows the consideration of us as animals with the concept of our similarity heightened. The thought or concept that I am struggling with is the idea that we are all the same person. It’s kind of paradoxical which doesn’t make things easier.
There are some philosophical questions that people have considered relating to whether things are identical but in a different position or are they fundamentally different things. If you have a text file (this html file for example) if you delete one alphabetic character and re type it, is it the same thing. One could go a long way into discussing what is meant by the same but suffice it to say that in some sense it is the same thing. It is indistinguishable from the original. The only difference is its history. And here lies a clue. It’s fine having a concept of matter (the material stuff matter) and searching for the smallest indivisible thing - but really this is an erroneous quest. Why? Because we have a utilitarian concept of a thing, an object. We conceptualise it as “stuff”. It is the purpose that we ascribe to that stuff that gives it substance. But it is a matter of scale and significance to us. A lorry is a lorry. It’s standing there in the road and it’s a lorry - it’s that lorry. And two seconds later it’s the same lorry. Isn’t it? Yes - in the sense of what we mean by conceptualising this thing and identifying it - it’s the same lorry. Park another one next to it and we know that is a different lorry. But we know enough about atoms to know that 2 seconds later all the “matter” which makes up that lorry is moved. In some sense it is quite really not the same lorry. My point is that at every scale you consider it you conceptualise it as a thing. The electrons have spun round the nucleus. They are in a different place. But they are the same electrons. But are they. They, as far as we know, are the same as the lorry. Made up of other things. So what are “things”? I don’t suppose there are any “things”. I don’t mind people having the idea that God made all this stuff out of very tiny things that we can’t see. But it doesn’t seem like that to me.
It's all so conceptual. The next thing I run up against is software. And there has been (and still is) lots of difficulty legislating about software. But the software gets written and copies are made. They are all the same software even if they are different occurrences of that software. It would not help our understanding of things to call them different software. Every time you run the software it’s like a new occurrence of that software. You may be using the same source file from your disk but it could have been secretly replaced by another copy overnight and you wouldn’t know the difference. And it is a serious question as to whether it is different. Look at it this way. Overnight there has been a huge amount of electron movement on your disk. The copy you run today is, in some sense, a different copy from the one you ran yesterday. So what exactly is it that is the thing that is the “same”? For me it seems to be the process. The functionality. In fact, it seems to me that the “sameness” is the concept. For all your intentions and purposes it is the same. It is your intentions and purposes, it is your perception that contains something of the “sameness”. So when it comes to lizards, are they like software, a different occurrence of the same thing. And when it comes to us, are we a different occurrence of the same thing. Are we the same software doing different functions? Physically there is an argument that we are because we are copies of copies of copies. I am thinking that the “me” of today, is a copy of the me of three days ago. And that can be extended down the line. I can see that there is a slow evolutionary change happening here. But that, more than anything, seems to indicate that the flow of change from one copy to another is a defining part of what this thing is. So the sameness in me is the change as I move through time. That extends back to my parents, their parent and so on, all the way back to lizards and beyond.
[The adverts do seem to settle down after time.  Initially this page was still obsessed with money but after a while the ads seemed to settle to being more relevent to the content of this page.  So I will continue this text on a third page to see what difference it makes again to the "targetted" ads... click  HERE  for the next page.]
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