Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Still on the note of the trashcan, what is the threshold of properties an object must share with an object to be the same object?

For example, A = A because A has every property A has.

With our trashcan, if I cut a small hole out of the side, most people would agree it is still the same trashcan, it is still in fact a trashcan, though now it has a hole in it.

Now what if I cut a bigger hole? Or cut an entire side off of it? I think now most people would say it's a destroyed or mutilated trash can, but would still recognize it as a trash can.

But, when I shred it into tiny tiny pieces of plastic, you could no longer recognize it as a trash can at all.

So it seems that somewhere between these transformations there should be a threshold we will cross where on one side it is still the same trashcan, and on the other it is no longer a trash can.

How do we classify that?


Blogger linford86 said...

One crucial point to consider here is that there may be no threshhold at all. If the classification of "trashcan" has nothing in nature that determines its "trashcanness" then the state of being a trash can is merely a product of the collective human imagination. That is, something is a trashcan only because sufficiently large numbers of people decide that it is. Now, since it is not the case that any trash can "knows" that it is a trashcan, I would argue that the whole determination of whether or not something is a trashcan is an entirely human thing; nature does not decide this for us.

To me, the problem should not center on what makes something a trashcan but whether or not the configuration of the trashcan survives the seperation of its parts. It does not. Thus, when you remove a piece of the trashcan you end up with a different configuration of constituent parts. Whether that makes the trashcan an entirely different object is then entirely dependent upon how you define "object." Under my definition, an object is any set of things - and the set survives the scattering of the members of the set. So, under that definition, the object survives. But if what you refer to as being the object is simply the configuration of the members of that aforementioned set with regards to each other, then the object does not survive.

5:29 PM  

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