Does identity come from essence or from substance?
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  1. #1
    Member BarracksSi's Avatar
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    Does identity come from essence or from substance?

    I was listening to a Car Talk podcast (bless their hearts, Tom and Ray, they retired a year ago!) and they were telling a story about a car owner who, becoming dissatisfied with the reliability of his car, wrote to the carmaker and asked that if the entire car were eventually replaced piece-by-piece, will it be a new car?

    They said, it's like the problem of Ulysses's ship: if every plank of the ship is replaced during the voyage, is it the same ship? Or the joke about George Washington's hatchet -- "The original head was lost, and the handle's been replaced a couple times, but it's the same hatchet."

    What do you think about watches? Repairs, strap changes, visual mods, things like that -- at what point does it become a different watch? Or is it always the same watch?

  2. #2
    Member Perdendosi's Avatar
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    Re: Does identity come from essence or from substance?

    Wow, an interesting, philosophical question that (to my knowledge) hasn't been answered before, and can't be answered with "Speedy Pro!," and no one's provided any replies in an hour?

    Maybe it's because we don't know.

    Dials replacements and similar mods make it a new watch. Because you've made it that way. It's unique, or it's at least not as the original manufacturer intended it to be.
    Replacement of parts that wear out, with replacement parts the same-- it's still the same watch. The manufacturer knew that, for example, the crown might wear out, or gears would have to be lubricated. Replacing with non-standard parts means it's a new watch.

    Straps -- hard to say. Generally I think not -- even if you replace the strap or bracelet with something aftermarket, because you're replacing a part of the watch different from what's inside the case. Maybe this is wishy-washy, but there's less manufacture expectation that you'll wear the watch on the thing that it was sold on (unless, of course, it has some sort of impossible to get off integrated bracelet). Heck, some watch manufacturers don't (or didn't) put straps on their watches (Vostok in the Soviet era). And when James Bond can wear a Rolex on a too-small NATO and that's seen as the epitome of Rolex wearing, I'd say that the manufacturer's intentions are not harmed by aftermarket straps.

    There you go, and there's my logic. Happy to be Answer 1.


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  3. #3
    Member BarracksSi's Avatar
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    Re: Does identity come from essence or from substance?

    Quote Originally Posted by Perdendosi View Post
    Wow, an interesting, philosophical question that (to my knowledge) hasn't been answered before, and can't be answered with "Speedy Pro!," and no one's provided any replies in an hour?


    It's an interesting question, even when applied to watches, isn't it? I still need to read what Aristotle has to say about it.

    I've got some ideas, but I'd like to see if this thread goes anywhere.

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    Member MarkingTime's Avatar
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    Re: Does identity come from essence or from substance?

    What is the essence of the watch? What is the essence of a person? If a person has a heart transplant are they the same person? What about a sex change? Or, is what makes a person a person something intangible, say a "soul". It begs the question, does a watch have a soul? It's a mechanical beast made up of the same molecules and atoms that make up anything else in the universe (just not necessarily the same atomic structure). If a watch doesn't have a soul then nothing you do can change what it was or will ever be. If there's more to a watch than a collection of atomic arrays, then perhaps it's a question of quantity. Maybe if the change happens gradually, the "essence" of what it is transfers over to the new part so that it becomes part of the whole. Philosophers among us, please help :)

  6. #5
    Member Nokie's Avatar
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    Re: Does identity come from essence or from substance?

    The "essence" is whatever you make of it.
    "Either he's dead or my watch has stopped"
    Groucho Marx

    "The only reason for time is so that everything does not happen at once..."
    Albert Einstein

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    Member mpalmer's Avatar
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    Re: Does identity come from essence or from substance?

    This seems like a question that belongs in a university epistemology course...
    "The stuff that dreams are made of…" - RGM ‘801 EE Motor Barrel’

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    Member BarracksSi's Avatar
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    Re: Does identity come from essence or from substance?

    Let's egg this on a bit. ;)

    Quote Originally Posted by Perdendosi View Post
    Dials replacements and similar mods make it a new watch. Because you've made it that way. It's unique, or it's at least not as the original manufacturer intended it to be.
    Over in the Seiko subforum, for whatever reason, the SKX007 has become a favorite watch to modify. New hands, dial, bezel, and even swapping a clear caseback in place of the original solid caseback -- all popular things to do among the modifier crowd.

    But they still call it a Seiko, don't they? Is it because the movement is the same? Well, maybe. For the moment, let's say that's the reason.

    Now look over to that TAG with the 2892 inside. Or maybe an Oris, or a Steinhart, or any other of the hundred brands that use it. Why aren't they all called ETA watches? For these, and not counting simple modifications like putting their name on the rotor, the movement's origin doesn't seem to affect the brand.

    Hm.

  9. #8
    Member ljb187's Avatar
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    Lineage and continuity. If I keep the thing long enough it'll be my watch no matter how many parts are replaced. For all practical purposes that makes it the same watch. Same way NYC or Paris are the same cities despite having changed profoundly over the centuries. You could also think of the repairs and replacements as bread crumbs that lead back to the original. No other watch can follow that same path - they just couldn't find the way,
    Last edited by ljb187; October 8th, 2013 at 05:26.
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    Seiko Spring Drive was my wedding watch, Rolex Datejust was my anniversary watch, but I call Oris home.

  10. #9
    Moderator Public Forum John MS's Avatar
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    Re: Does identity come from essence or from substance?

    What is the difference between essence and substance of a watch? Impressive sounding words but I do not know what they mean in this context. You may want to have Meno ask Socrates the question.
    Last edited by John MS; October 8th, 2013 at 07:07.

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    Member I Like em BIG ! !'s Avatar
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    Re: Does identity come from essence or from substance?

    I like pie!!
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