§1: how to identify an identification
the problematic nature of identifications was first made thematic by the philosophy known as general semantics, where an identification was any statement linking A and B using any form of the verb to be. for the moment I2 will only concern myself with identifications expressed in the first person.
in vernacular english, an identification is any statement of the form:
- I am [a(n)] <some predicate>.
in humanese english, an identification is any statement of the form:
- I2 am [a(n)] <some predicate>; or,
- I3 be [a(n)] <some predicate>.
- I1 exist as [a(n)] <some predicate>.
similarly, there can be second and third person identifications
§2: problematic identifications
identifications are problematic for both psychology and philosophy.
I2 define 'problematic' to mean 'problem-creating or problem-solving' depending on circumstances, outcome or perspective; because, one person's solution is another person's problem.
I2 might, then, speculate that identifications are problematic where they are not true identities; and, the experiencer reacts as if they were.
- true identity: A = B & B = A. example: the morning star is the evening star.
- (explicit) identification: examples: 'I2 am a bad mother', 'I2 am an alcoholic'.
- (implicit) identification as/with: example: 'I2 identify mental states as brain processes'.
§3: problematic identifications in the physical sciences
theoretical identifications result in/from an advance in our theoretical understanding of the existential universe; and, hence, they are problem-solving identifications.
naturally, one might then ask: why are such identifications problem-solving when others are problem-creating? I2 suspect that the answer is related to the fact that, in the physical sciences, there is only one correct answer to a correctly posed question. in psychology and philosophy, it is doubtful that valid questions have one and only one correct answer.
§4: problematic identifications in psychology
§4.1: rational-emotive therapy
one form of counseling, rational-emotive therapy, RET, restricts clients to speaking in e-prime, which is english minus all forms of the verb, to be. this restriction effectively bans identifications in the speech of clients so people can't say negative things about themselves. for example, the claim 'I2 am a bad mother' is banned because it is an identification. the woman who says this is implicitly saying 'I2 am only a bad mother' and may also be saying '... and, therefore, I2 am only bad'.
by banning this (and any other) identification, the therapist may more easily counsel the client; possibly helping her to see herself as merely inexperienced and motivating her to review her child-rearing patterns.
the banning of identifications is a therapeutic gambit. the RET-inspired therapists doesn't really want to ban all identifications any more than the freudian psychoanalyst wants people to conduct conversation as free association. the RET-inspired therapist might prefer that that client have some deep psychological insight (eg. 'I2 got myself into therapy by provoking a social response to my self-destructive behavior because I2 need validation of my mothering skills'); but, would likely view the therapy as a success if the client merely accepted a better identification (eg 'I2 am an inexperienced mother') --- provided, in either case, the client responded appropriately such as by seeking the counsel of her own mother (or some other elder female).
§4.2: 12 step programs
viewed superfically, alcoholics anonymous and other 12-step programs are based on assumptions diametrically opposed to the assumptions on which RET is based. acceptance of the program begins when the 'initiate' accepts a very negative identification as an alcoholic. the initiate stands up at a meeting and says (in vernacular english) 'I am an alcoholic'. accepting this negative identification is only the begining. the initiate who responds appropriately to this identification begins to 'work the program'. initiates may never outgrow the identification as an alcoholic; but, will stop drinking and start putting their lives back together
translating the alcoholic identification into the first person triplicate may give us some clue as to why adopting a negative label can be such a positive step. I2 believe that the AA initiate is saying something like this: I3 be an alcoholic. I2 am powerless to control this sickness I3 have; so, I2 surrender to a Higher Power. I2 am free to choose to stop drinking and I2 do so that I3 may be healed of this soul-sickness and I1 may be healed of alcohol poisoning. I2 accept responsibility for the pain I2 have done to others and vow to make amends. and so on.
note: I2 am not suggesting that alcoholics anonymous change their program. drunks need pragmatically effective counseling and supportive self-help programs, not semantically correct philosophical interpretations of pragmatically effective counseling and self-help programs. I2 merely suggest that, when philosophers evaluate psychologies looking for evidence relating to the structure of the human individual, we need to translate the material into semantically correct philosophical interpretations.
§5: problematic identifications in philosophy
§5.1: how identifications can be problem-creating
identifications are problematic because they are limiting or uncertain. 'I2 am a co-dependent' limits me because it defines me by a subset of attitudes and behaviors. such an identification is uncertain because I2 might not be entirely sure what it takes to be or to become a co-dependent.
§5.1.1: is the privileged identification uncertain?
the identification 'I2 am an experiencer' is privileged because it is not uncertain. it is as certain as the self-assertion of reality: 'I2 am'. it is absolutely certain, given the quibble that there will always be a minimal residual uncertainty with 'absolute' certainty; and, because of its certainty, it provides a foundation for psychophilosophical belief systems.
§5.1.2: is the privileged identification self-limiting?
the identification 'I2 am an experiencer' does not appear to truncate or limit the I2 in any way. on the contrary, the way is open for the I2 to consider its possible origins as a function of an existential reality or an ontological reality or both.
my privileged identification is phrased as it is to avoid the limitations suggested by the ambiguity contained within Descartes' privileged identification (in VE): 'I am a thinking thing, a mind'.
officially, Descartes used 'thinking' as I2 use 'experiencing'. he defines all subjective experiences (including willing, doubting, dreaming and sensing) as instances of thinking. there is an ambiguity in Descartes' formulation because he's using the same word, 'thinking', for the name of a class (all subjective experiences) and for one member of the class (thinking deliberately, rationally, logically and deductively). thus, Descartes' privileged identification would become problematic should anyone interpret it based on the restrictive reading of 'thinking' (as referring only to the instance instead of to the class of all subjective experiences); I cogitate; therefore, I am only a cogitator.
in another sense, one might say that I2 embrace rather than avoid the limiting aspect of identifications.
whether the I2 is, in fact, only an experiencer might be an empirical question; but, because of the way the I2 is defined ('I2' = 'that which asks "what am I2?" '), it is hardly problematic to assert, in HE, that the I2 is only an experiencer. this is so because, in HE, it is not assumed that the I0 is only the I2. in VE, it would be extremely problematic to assert 'the experiencer is only an I' for it is not clear whether the 'I' of VE is referring to the I2 or the I0 of HE. for those who accept that the I2 is nothing more than a brain function, this assumption is problem-solving; but, for those who do not make such an assumption, it is problem-creating.
§5.2: mind/brain identity theory
the name of this theory is not accurately descriptive of it. it is not alleged that mind = brain is a true identity. the theory is actually based on an identification: mental states are (identified as/with) brain states or processes. consequently, I2 will call this the mind/brain identification theory.
such an identification has consequences; hence, it is problematic. the identification is problem-creating or problem-solving depending on perspective.
the identification of mental states as being only brain states limits us to considering only theories alleging that the mental state is caused by the associated brain state.
I2 would like to consider two types of theories:
- that the material correlate of an experiential reality is necessarily the only cause of that reality; and,
- that the material correlate of an experiential reality is not necessarily the only cause of that reality.
the mind/brain identification theorist chooses to consider only theories of the first type.
there is more than a little irony (ie hypocrisy) is such a choice. in the typical presentation of mind/brain identification theory, advocates attempt to translate claims about mental states into a phenomenologically neutral language. recognizing that such a phenomenologically neutral language could be consistent with either a monistic or a dualistic metaphenomenal explanation, the mind/brain identification theorist arbitrarily rejects explanations other than materialist explanations and concludes that the best such explanation has been scientifically proven to be the best explanation.
§6: other features of privileged identification (not a part of the definition of 'privileged identification'
there are some comments to make about the privileged identification. however, these comments are not part of the definition and the philosophy built on it doesn't stand or fall on the the correctness of these comments.
§6.1: the privileged identification is universal
this simply means that the privileged identification could be used by anyone, not just someone with particular values of this or that demographic variable.
§6.2: the privileged identification as a synthetic a priori judgement
arguably, the privileged identification 'I2 am an experiencer' satisfies the criteria for classification as a synthetic a priori judgement. it is both necessarily true (a priori) and genuinely informative (synthetic).
it might be objected that 'I2 am an experiencer' is analytic rather than synthetic because it is tautologous; and, I2 would admit there is a tautology or an true identity relation lurking about; but, not the one claimed. it is:
I2 = that which asks 'what am I2' & that which asks 'what am I2' = I2.
the predicate 'experiencer' is not contained within the subject or in the definition of 'I2' as that which asks 'what am I2'. hence, the discovery of the privileged identification adds to our knowledge; it is genuinely informative. hence, the privileged identification is a synthetic statment. as I2 have shown, I2 am as certain that 'I2 am an experiencer' is true as I2 am that 'I2 am' is true; that is to say, absolutely certain. consequently, I2 say that 'I2 am an experiencer' is necessarily true. hence, it is an a priori statement. hence, the privileged identification meets all the criteria for classification as a synthetic a priori judgement.
since, the privileged identification serves as the foundation for a philosophy, it joins the other synthetic a priori judgements that Kant discovered.