I want to parse like Superman (was Re: Identity)

Christopher Lane zzyzlane at gte.net
Mon Jul 5 00:16:34 BST 1999

David Megginson:
| Here's an interesting problem -- in the world of DC comics, there
exists no time T in which Superman and Clark Kent both exist
simultaneously, and as a corollary, there exists no person P such that P
is both Superman and Clark Kent.  On the other hand, there does exist a
person who is always *either* Clark Kent or Superman.  Does this
constitute identity?|

The proposition may be stated incorrectly. If you recall your comic
history, Clark wore his Superman costume at all times under his clothes,
presumably unless he were going swimming with Lois. Clark was Superman,
most of the time, but he became identifiable as Superman when he ripped
off his "Clark" clothes and took off his glasses. Clark still was able
to perform all the actions that Superman could perform without assuming
the costume. Furthermore, you might find instances in which Superman was
still wearing Clark's glasses. All of these things are known by us, the
readers of the comic or watcher of the movie/show.

This information, in the fictional world, was "restricted" to the
characters who had access to the knowable data. Therefore, Mom and Pop
Kent could know all there was to know about Clark=Superman=Kal-El, in
the same way as your Personnel Rep. can access information in a
personnel database, which restricts your personal data from outsiders.
Lois does know some things about the data pertaining to Clark, and some
things about Superman=Kal-El, but she does not have full "read" access
to all the data, unless you want to include their post-conjugal
relationship in "Lois and Clark," in which she finally  gets the full

I think this is a simple case, in which you have one object = a person,
who has multiple identities. You have the same case with actors and
musicians who use "stage names" and authors who use pseudonyms.

Christopher Lane
zzyzlane at gte.net
clane2 at us.ibm.com

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