original vs. copy

A friend and I were discussing whether or not if an original object, say a piano, would be preferred over an exact copy, say a computer. Say that the computer recreates all the sounds and dynamics of a real piano and one would never know the difference unless told or sees that the computer is making the sound. The question was whether or not one can prefer one over the other. We still have yet to agree, but…

I would like to think that this discussion relates to the question whether or not one can and/or ought to prefer a life lived in truth or a life lived in deception; I think most of you know the situation.

I would like to know where most of you stand and why on both matters, even though the first isn’t necessarily a normative problem or even a philosophical one (I just need someone to agree with me that an original will always be superior over any copy, perfect or not :wink: ).

Hello Baskinova43,

As it happens, I’m currently reading, Logical Properties; Identity, Existence, Predication, Neccessity, Truth by Colin McGinn. Now, I remember Derek Parfit’s explanation (Reasons and Persons) that identity comes in two flavors: qualitative and numerical. Thus, two identical things would be qualitatively but not numerically identical. McGinn denies this. He sides with Frege in claiming:

“There is no equivocation or vagueness in the notion of identity…It is, as Frege also said, that unique relation a thing has to itself and no other thing - period. It’s logical properties are reflexivity, symmetry, and transitivity. It is simply the relation x has to y when x is nothing other than y, when there is no distinction between x and y, when x is y. And when we grasp the notion of identity we implictly understand that it admits of no qualification or variation. That is the Fregian thesis…There are not two identity relations at play here but merely a unitary notion of identity…All identity is strict identity - or rather, the qualifier ‘strict’ is pleonastic here.”

To accept McGinn (and Frege) is to deny that an exact copy could be made of anything. In this light, Leibniz’s Law of Identity (Discourse on Metaphysics, 1686) stated as, “X and Y are identical if and only if they share all the same properties,” affirms that identity is unitary.

In either case, Baskinova43, I’d remark that your question is logically flawed. Even if an exact copy were ontologically possible, how could you discern an exact copy from the original? Any salient aspect of one which is not an aspect of the other would disqualify the copy as being “exact.” In which case, any question of truth or deception is rendered moot.


– A friend and I were discussing whether or not if an original object, say a piano, would be preferred over an exact copy, say a computer.

a computer isn’t an exact copy of a piano… :wink:

perhaps you mean the sound they make? but exact copies? could they exist? let’s say the differences are beyond human recognition

Thank you very much for responding and seeing a flaw in my post. I’d like to try to fix it in a way that it avoids or takes such flaw into consideration.

No, an “exact” copy cannot be physically be made, I understand that much. But what of, say a human clone? Yes, the exact physical parts (i.e. skin, bone, muscle, etc.) are not the same, but are nonetheless the same in every other way. That is to say, If one to clone (God forbid) me, my skin would be my clone’s skin, but our skin would be the same in every other aspect (exact DNA structure/code, etc.). I suppose this is what I meant by an “exact” copy.
This, then, makes room, I hope, for my argument that the only distinction between an original and a copy is that the copy must be made from an original, thus a copy/clone must be derived from an original. Unless you know the truth of the relationship between a person and her clone, then you wouldn’t think anything other than a family-like relationship.

As for the piano/computer situation, I’d like to clarify that as well (sorry for being so ambiguous). The sound and its (the sound) dynamics are what is, dare I say, “exactly” replicated by the computer. If you had to distinguish between two things making these sounds, one could swear that it is a perfect(?) pair of pianos.

Again, one can only distinguish between these two things is derivation-relationship and knowing the truth about the situation.

In the piano/computer case, is one better than the other? I would argue that since one can distinguish between the original and copy in this case, the original would be better due to this: the piano’s physical make-up directly contributes to the sound that it makes. Change the wood, you change the sound. The sound, then, is a direct effect of that specific piano, and could be even considered as a characteristic trait of that piano. As far as the computer goes, the computer’s physical make-up “indirectly” contributes to the sound that it makes. The make-up of the computer doesn’t make the sound it makes, but “allows” it to make it, along with many other sounds that the programmer allows to.

The computer’s “perfect” sound is also a “representation” of the piano, thus being a copy of the sound. This leads to another point that I haven’t articulated but just thought of, so please bare with me. The piano makes sound in nature (being a natural sound). That is to say regardless of whether or not human hearing is flawed and/or sound is relative to the type of animal that it is heard by, the piano will always sound like it does. Now, because humans must use its own hearing (perfect to humans or not), the piano’s sound is only captured by one type of animal’s perception, thus seeming to be represented “one-dimensionally” and then being perfectly represented through a computer. :confused: So then if a bird, say, heard our representation of a piano through the computer, I would figure it would sound slightly different to the bird, but I suppose that a “perfect” representation of sound would include the aspects of the sound we can not hear. Oh well for that. :unamused:

I hope I have at least slightly helped my cases so you can figure out what things I’m trying to get across. I hope it’s not too incoherent as I just woke up. Any more insight would be great.

as for your question whether the original better than the copy if they have the same qualities and why, I think it depends on the viewer/preceiver. for instance, the original of a work of art will be more precious to someone who is aware of the fact that it is original and moreover has the respect for the history and respect for original intention of the creator of that work. I§m not saying a fake canôt be appreciated, but it is done for different reason. let’s say economical. respect for history and the originality does not play any role in that case. so, I’d say everything boils down to the human respect for history, develpment, creative struggle…

the same would be applied to the human clones, in my opinion. even if we could clone the best, most exemplary human beings with the most exuisite qualities, moral incusive, still, I think the prevalent attitude of the “natural” mind would be to stick to the less perfect, yet more natural and original people. at least I hope so. whence this affinity? I don;t know. maybe nature has imprinted in us this feature.

I don’t understand where this fits in:

Really what’s happening is there are sound waves of similiar pitches simulated by the computer to match those of the piano(but you knew that). So no, one couldn’t distinguish which sound was the original…though this doesn’t mean that there isn’t an original, or that the sounds are exactly identical(hearing is just an approximation anyway)…obviously the piano sounds were duplicated by the computer. But we’re talking about “sounds” here, not computers and pianos, right?

Is it that you don’t understand how the two quotes relate to each other, or something else? I suppose you don’t really need to find a correlation between the two, thus making them two different topics, but I see the correlation in this:

You have the choice to decide which is better: life of truth, or the same life but instead all you knew was a lie, though you do not know it nor ever will know. The same exact (aw, shit, there I go again) life in both cases, the only distinction in that the latter life’s truths are all false (i.e. your friends actually hate you, along with your wife; your kids probably not even your kids, etc.). Knowing this, one would feel inclined to suggest that the life of truth and not the life of deception is better. I’d like to think so, anyway, but if my friends truly hated me and I never found out, then I’m never given such a chance to choose, which may present another topic in itself.

The piano/computer generated sound is pretty much the same situation, I think, in that if you were just listening to both objects, one wouldn’t know the difference. But if you were to decide which is better, a piano or a computer that could duplicate the piano’s sound perfectly, which one would you choose? The question is which OBJECT you would choose to listen to or produce music on, since the sound that are produced out of them are exactly the same. This, of course, you’re given the choice regardless of cost, convienence, and you have perfect hearing, so forth. The choice is only between the two things, “all other things being equal” (I dislike this phrase, but it must be a given in such a case).

I suppose the confusion may be that I see the situations “truth v. deception” and “an original v. a copy” as being very similar, in which I can see that are not at all. I think the situations still keep their interesting characters regardless, though.

I don’t know if you helped me out at all, but your idea of the “natural” mind is interesting. Is it an illogical conception we have devised through the animalistic instinct to be the “strongest” in order to survive? Possibly; that also reminds me of another argument my friend and I had, which I will present to you briefly, but may in itself to another topic: Is it our animalistic instinct to survive, or is it to live forever? I think the rational part of humans leads us to have the desire to live forever, which I think is silly and illogical, and thus may not be what is really good for us, nor a rational goal for humans. Again, that may be another topic that we could start. That’ll be fun.

Again, I thank you all for posting and providing insight, and encourage more of you to help out on the matter.

to the original question, functionally if they are the same, and can carry out the same functions in the same manner etc, then the copy is just as good as the original, but only to a person who cannot see or tell the difference. For the example between a piano and a computer, i think that the copy (the computer) could be better because unlike the piano, it has the ability to evolve (through new software etc) while the piano is going to be the same as it always was, unless it was really busted up and you got it fixed, in which case the evolution of the piano is still limited.

I suppose I’m asking whether there is any normative force in that one thing is an original (or in truth) which makes it the case that these things are better than a copy (or a life of deception). The normative force may be only and/or more evidently seen in the truth case, but I would like to think that something can be said in the case of the original v. the copy, “All other things being equal”, and please don’t make me start listing such things, but i can say that the capability of doing other things do not matter either (referring to Taita’s suggestion, but a good one though :slight_smile: ).

I gather your view is that our animalistic instinct compells us to survive rather than live forever. I agree. it is older evolutionally, since we didn’t have the idea of" forever" at certain point, if we admit darwinian theory. so living forever is in my view an idealist and naive. it is a construct of human minds, I agree it is too rational. platonistic. so the human invention of robots and similar constructs.
Christians and other religions believe souls ca live forever since it is appealing and removes the primal terror - fear of death and extinction. I think for human mind it is very painful to think of death, to try to imagine it, and that the ideas of living forever are there to cure that pain, to prevent us to go crazy from death. it’s not mzy own theory, I’ve read it somewhere.


In a sense, we’re all copies of the orginal human prototype (Lucy, as anthropologist’s sometimes call her). Does the fact that you are, in this sense, a replica, demean the value of your life? Do parents think of themselves as more “originally human” than their child?

That’s interesting, Mark. Robert Nozick has an almost identical argument in his Philosophical Explanations. He uses an example of a happy and fullfilled husband/father who is secretly despised by his own wife and children. I disagree with Nozick’s answer. I contend that those who are blissfully unaware are blissfull nevertheless.


I agree with you and you understand what I’m saying. My friend wants to live forever, say by the means of some sort of drug (he hates that I say that) or by simply noting that the life expectancy increases over time or whatever. I think it’s weird and somewhat selfish (in the bad/extreme sense).

As for death being painful and people being afraid of death, I think these notions come from the animalistic instinct to survive, in that survival is simply the opposite of death, thus the fear of death. As for it being painful, I think that comes from the majority of ways animals/humans die, i.e. being eaten, shot, falling on a sharp rock, etc., thus death becomes attributed with pain. When people pass on in their sleep, is it painful? When an animal’s/human’s body just finally cannot function efficient enough to live, is it painful? I don’t know, so I guess I can’t shed any light on whether death itself is painful, but I would believe if that even it were, it would be so as long as you’re alive, since once you’re dead, you cannot feel anything anymore, I would hope anyway :slight_smile: .

As for living forever to cure death, that too sounds weird, in that one cannot cure something one does not have (joke: “That’s awful, he has the death” :slight_smile: ). Prevent, I suppose would be a better word, but even if you would, I still wouldn’t want to live forever. Say you could live forever, and actually couldn’t die, ever, and the rest of the human race ceased to exist, or even earth for that matter, then not only would you be alone for God knows how long but you be floating in space, hungry and pissed that you can’t die now. I personally could not bare to see anymore human injustice and destruction than I have to see in one lifetime, let alone two or more.

I’m glad you’ve raised these arguments; this is what I was kind of looking for.

Copies, as I hope i made clear, are exact copies insofar as they are not made of the same exact physcial things, i.e. skin, bone, etc., but are in every way exact. A sibling of a parent is not a copy, but sort of a blend or whatever you want to call them, but as you know they are not copies. Surelyyou can agree to that, as one would never say, “I’m a copy of my parents”, unless you believe the anthropogist’s “in this sense” theory, which I do not.

And yes, my life would seem less worthy if I were a clone, but I have yet to articulate an argument to support it, but if you could argue that it ought not to matter, then I could either change my mind or think up of something.

I am pretty much referring to Nozick’s argument/example here, thank you for placing an author with the theory (I’m so bad with names). Here, like many others, you agree with the notion that it doesn’t matter, but I will, again, disagree with you here. Yes, if you are the person who lived and died this life, you wouldn’t know, thus, as I stated before, couldn’t be given a chance to choose. But, if you were able to choose, could you make a rational and/or, dare I say, RIGHT decision in this case? I would say so, since I feel that knowledge holds normative force, and I would say that any happiness or bliss obtained from the truth is much better than any happiness or bliss obtained from deception in that your beliefs are indeed grounded in truth, and truth cannot be ungrounded (I’m talking about TRUE TRUE truth, not what we believe is truth, but actually false). Falsely-based beliefs would never satify anyone, I would think, since after-the-fact, one would be pissed.

Yes, as humans we do not know everything, and must believe things to be true whether they really are or not, but we do not have any other reason to doubt it. My friend and I used the example of changing coal into gold; even though we have pretty proved one cannot do it, my friend insists that with technology we may actually break them down smaller than quarks and manipulate them in order to change them. I disagree, due to experiments and research done as an attempt to do such things, but all have failed; we never came close, we just failed miserably. With this type of research done, I think we can pretty much say that it cannot be done, but who truly knows, right?

If you could, please provide an argument otherwise, as in support of your stance because I have very little of a compelling argument for it, except “Dude, who cares? You’re dead and you had fun, that’s all that matters”. :unamused: .

This is fun; thank all of you again and, again, I encourage more insight.

Wait, Polemarchus, does Nozick argue that one is not given a chance to decide between the two types of lives, or does he just present the situation? I remember reading the situation, but I’ve never heard the “no chance” argument before. I wonder if I reguritated that unconsciously or thought that up myself.