José Klingbeil
(French version)

Copyright © 1997 José Klingbeil. The author hereby grants permission to use this article in electronic form only, in part or in whole, to any person or institution for educational purposes, provided no charge is made for such use.

I would like to add another example of 'sameness' to that of Roy, this time not with water samples but blood samples, both taken from a 'unique' person at a given 'time'.
Let's heat one and let it cool off.

If we examine these samples for physical components, we may find they both contain hydrogen, oxygen, carbon plus some other elements in minor quantities...

Are these samples the 'same'?

Yes, on the abstracted (limited) physical-component level, as we can measure with our instruments. They might have the 'same' temperature, 'same' quantity, etc.

But what about their inside sub-structures? It appeared later that the donor was HIV+ and had some AIDS virus in his blood. In the heated sample, the virus structures were destroyed.

On the event level, as Roy mentioned, the samples cannot be the same. That's one of gs premises. Let's not forget the natural order, and remember that this level is the most important for survival. That's one of the good reasons to learn about it with our sciences.

So, at some level of abstraction, one of the blood samples can be correctly labelled "contaminated blood" or "suspect blood" and must be eliminated for the sake of human safety. It can be labelled also "blood for transfusion", if we make a judgment of 'sameness' by measuring the physical components. But would you take some of it (now that you 'know')?

In conclusion, a judgment of 'sameness' is only a function of how and what we abstract from the event level, a decision we make about differences that make a difference at best, a proof of our ignorance at worst. In my experience, no two objects (silent levels) are ever the 'same'. At some higher levels (verbal), we can make an evaluation of 'sameness' (similarity, more precisely) to our own or other's risks. Hence my reactions at any claim to use the word "same" at one (objectified) level of abstracting.

By the way, this is not only a rhetorical example, in France. We had a scandal about contaminated blood, where some 'responsible' (but 'not guilty') persons knew that there was a chance that the samples were contaminated but allowed them nevertheless for transfusion.