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

Lars Marius Garshol larsga at ifi.uio.no
Wed Jun 23 15:07:27 BST 1999

* Gregg Reynolds
| "Appearance" is something completely different, unless it is
| construed as a purely symbolic notion.  That is, "Superman"'s
| "appearance" and "CLark"'s "appearance" have the same denotation
| (but don't belong to it).

My view, which I've argued in two posts now is that this is turning
things upside down. Appearances are the sources of all this, both
names and the things you claim that they denote. As David Hume would
be quick to point out, you can't actually point to the name 'Superman'
or what you mean by it without pointing to an appearance. The thing
itself is always only inferred from appearances.

So all this talk about names and denoting things is all presupposing
something non-obvious. And the truly interesting thing about this, to
me anyway, is that user-agents clearly deal with appearances and names
and nothing else. 

So if you want identity you will have to define it first, and then
teach the definition to your user-agents, but you shouldn't make the
mistake of just presuming that there is one true concept of identity
which your definition describes (or fails to describe).

And, yeah, I seem to be headed for a major collision with Plato. Too
bad. :)

| On the other hand, "what 'Clark' looked like this morning" is also a
| name, which denotes his appearance, but not him.
That's an interesting example, and I think it shows this very clearly.
What I'm arguing is that 'Clark' denotes something you've abstracted
from appearances. 

Most readers of Superman would also claim that Lois (and the rest of
the world) has made a mistake in this abstraction by concluding that
'Clark Kent' and 'Superman' are different entities.

| What fun!

More's the trouble, since I really don't have the time to participate
in this discussion. :(

--Lars M.

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