01 September 2022

Identity Crisis


Identity Crisis,


Topic by James

Essay by Lawrence


An identity crisis implies that the individual is going through some trying times due to some adverse or challenging events. The issue is: how serious must these events be to bring about such a crisis to the fundamental core of being a human?


So how would we define identity in the first place? And what is so special about identity that maybe many adverse events in our life do not necessarily lead to a crisis? I would argue that our identity depends on two questions: Who am I? and What am I?


These two questions are strictly speaking not philosophical in te traditional sense but rather a sociological notion of (personal) identity. Identity in philosophy usually deals with whether an entity is the same entity in two different contexts. The classical example is the observation of the morning star (Venus) and the evening star. It just happens that both are the same planet or the Ship of Theseus in Greek philosophy. The Theseus ship takes identity in the context of time and replacement of parts.


Leibniz introduced the principle of Identity of Indiscernibles to move away from the classical Greek noti : basically this says that X is Y if all that can be said about X is true about Y as well. (see Identity (philosophy) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Identity_(philosophy) OR The Identity of Indiscernibles https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/identity-indiscernible/)


But we are discussing identity in a human context. Applying human moral standards, someone who has changed from the past does not mean that they stopped being that person. The clash between the logic of Identity of Indiscernibles and our morality towards other people means that the meaning of identity is different in the different contexts and disciplines. This is made clear in the references above. But it also means that there is an element of linguistic laziness by not creating new terms to refer to some new phenomenon we discover through our scientific method.


But it is this linguistic laziness that can confuse our topic, in the same way that stodgy pap is called pizza. But I digress! So for us the issue is: what do we mean by identity crisis? Someone’s crisis might be an ordinary event for others. Even more, adverse life changing events must surely influence one’s identity. This does not mean we stop being “us” but maybe we start thinking of “us” in a different way.


The crisis can be a crisis of “who am I?” or “what am I?”, but also “who shall I be?” given the crisis. Surely having to change one’s personality and character must qualify as a crisis? But will others know or will they notice because we change our relationship with them?


Take Care




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