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I wanted to bring up the topic of identification. What is it?

We identify with a basketball player, with a basketball team, with a friend, kids, partner, family, and school. We constantly identify even with the mark of our backpack or our cloth. So what is this identification?

Let’s take the extreme example – parents with their kids. It’s not simply that they are happy for their kids when they succeed in something, but they feel like they themselves did it. Perhaps we can say that’s the utmost identification. But then, thinking of my own parents, I feel that they are even happier for me than they would be for themselves. Hence, it’s not that they completely identify themselves with me but something a bit different.

With my friends, I want them to succeed and am very happy for them, but I can’t say I feel it is me succeeding. And with my partner? There it is a bit mixed as a success of one is actually a success of the other, but again, I can’t say I feel I did it.

Returning to the basketball player. When he makes a basket how close do I feel to making a basket myself? In some way it is even better because if I make a basket it’s in some petty courtyard with a few other people, while they do it on the biggest stage and for important stuff. There is a strange identification in sports that rarely happens otherwise. When singers say “I owe it all to the fans,” I find them ridiculous, but in sports, the sportsman is almost immaterial and the crowd is what is important. It is the crowd winning and they are just the knights sent to fight for us. I’m exaggerating maybe, but it is part of the feeling that goes with sports. Without identification it is utterly boring to watch any sport more than a few minutes I find.

There is a also a kind of belonging. Academia allows people to identify themselves with a group, as does a movie or a book you like with the people who like it. It has its bad sides but also its very good sides which science or math sometimes have. A feeling of a common larger achievement. And when it is not fascist, but based on openness and a multitude of opinions, when you can both be one and the many, it is nice.

So my fellow pandas, are you with me ?  :-)

The floor is now open. What is identification? Let the discussion begin.

I want to respond to Hugh's great question about the nature of identification by elucidating this concept in relation to two interrelated concepts, identity and thinking.

In his famous essay “What is Enlightenment?” the philosopher Immanuel Kant gives a simple answer to the question posed in the title:
 Enlightenment is the capacity to think for oneself, or in Kant’s words it is to practice the “duty of all men to think for themselves” Yet what precisely does this thinking for oneself mean? we might want to ask, how can it be that someone does not think for him/herself, who is thinking if not him/her? If we are to be able to answer such a question we need to be able to understand the relations between the two key terms in the above given proposition, “think” and “oneself”. The first term denotes a fundamental activity the second denotes an identity. What Kant seems to imply then in his dictum is that having an identity, being oneself, is no guarantee for thinking, for it can happen that one does not think for oneself. Thinking and identity are thus not the same

In order to explain this disjunction between identity and thinking, I would like to introduce another concept, which was not yet available to Kant, but which is nevertheless already implied in his way of thinking. This concept comes from the domain of psychoanalysis, and it is the concept of “identification”. One of the main contributions of the psychoanalytic interpretation of human life, is to have helped us understand the human as that creature who, unlike other creatures, does not have a ready-made identity, nor ever has a fully formed identity, but is someone who constantly, because s/he does not have an identity, has to assume one, to an extent always in a temporary manner. It is thus that psychoanalysis sees the human not as a creature that has an identity, but as a creature that identifies, and through this identification becomes who s/he is. But if one is not originally an identity but someone who identifies, who is it that, precisely, performs this activity of identification, if it is not an already fully formed identity? This is the function of what psychoanalysis understands as the unconscious. The unconscious is an activity, and an activity that searches for identity, and therefore identifies. Now, any achieved identity, psychoanalysis says, is never complete, never fully formed, and as such, the unconscious is something that always remains operating, unnoticeably, at the heart of every identity, looking further for an answer to its quest for identity, an answer that can never be fully achieved. It is in this difference between the activity of the unconscious that identifies, and the formed identity that is never fully achieved, that we can locate also the Kantian difference between thinking and being oneself. The unconscious is that activity which thinks, and thinking means occupying a dimension where identity is in suspense, where one does not have an identity, is thus not fully oneself, but is in a process of becoming. If unconscious/thinking and being oneself (having an identity) never fully coincide, what can it be that Kant means by saying that one has the duty to think for oneself, for it seems that the oneself is that which doesn’t think but rather the not-oneself, the non-identity which is the unconscious, that does the thinking?  The answer lies in the conjunction “thinking for…”. To think for oneself does not mean to be oneself, but to occupy the space of suspension of identity, the suspension of a formed self, in order to occupy the “space” of becoming, being in the movement towards…towards oneself. Thus, paradoxically, to think for oneself does not imply a oneself, an identity, that, after being fully formed, performs the act of thinking, but rather the reverse, it is the thinking that is in the process of becoming that precedes the oneself, and thinks for…in the sense of  a movement towards it. Yet, there is another crucial significance to this Kantian demand to think for oneself, which has to do with the relation of this dictum to the question of freedom. Freedom is the freedom to think for oneself. To think for oneself is to be understood as opposed to the possibility of being subjected to others; not to the thinking of others (for thinking is something that by definition does not subject), but to the identity that others might want to impose on you, and through this imposition, subject you to them. What the concept of “oneself” means now, from the perspective of the question of freedom, is not an identity, but being an autonomous source whose decisions and acts do not derive from others. Again, this demand for freedom against the possibility of being subjected to others can be elucidated from the point of view of the psychoanalytic explanation of identification. If the human is the creature that doesn’t have an identity but that identifies this would mean that s/he has to receive his/her identity from others, with whom s/he identifies. If one is not originally oneself, one receives oneself, psychoanalysis says, from others. Yet, if this were the whole picture, there would not be a place for a “oneself” understood this time not as an identity but as an autonomous source of freedom that is independent from others, since one would be fully subjected to others and formed by them. It is here that the unconscious/thinking activity proves to be a source of freedom. One is never fully formed by others, never fully subjected to this or that identity that one receives, since there always remains the resource of the non-identity, the unconscious activity of becoming. To be free is thus to activate the unconscious, to think, suspending any identity one receives from others, and being open to becoming something new. In relation to identification, to be free would mean to keep the process of identification open, never allowing it to fully be closed by an identity that would as if give a final answer to its quest.
Simple, really.  It makes the monkeys feel like they're part of the group. 
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