Is there a connection between you today and your decisions tomorrow?
This post presents a philosophical idea inspired by the text of today’s Daf. The Daf is one page in the Talmud that tens of thousands of people study each day. I explain the connection to the text in a comment below. My purpose is to show that there are underlying philosophical assumptions in the Talmud that can have great significance for anybody today trying to understand our complex reality.
There are two ways to understand the concept of the self: diachronic and dischronic (also known as synchronic). Diachronic refers to the way that an object, organism, concept, or convention exists over time, including its past, present, and future. Dischronic, on the other hand, refers to the way that something exists at a single moment in time, ignoring its past or future. It is worth noting that some people may understand the term “synchronic” to mean “the same now as in the past,” so I prefer to use the term “dischronic” instead of “synchronic”.
I can study a language in two ways: dischronic or diachronic. When I study a language dischronically, I focus on its current form and usage, including its rules and meanings. When I study a language diachronically, I examine its development and evolution over time, including the origins and histories of its features.
I can study morals, norms, rules, and laws from a dischronic perspective, focusing on their current form and meaning. However, Nietzsche’s “Genealogy of Morals” takes a diachronic approach, examining the development and evolution of morality over time. Nietzsche seeks to challenge our current understanding of morality by showing that it has not always been the same, there are alternative systems of morality, and the history of how it has evolved calls into question its validity.
An inanimate object, such as a rock, remains unchanged over time and it is possible to logically identify the rock today with the rock from yesterday because they are identical in every way. On the other hand, a seed and the oak tree that it has grown into are not identical, even though they are related. It can be difficult to determine whether something that has changed and evolved over time is the same thing at different points in its history. From a dischronic perspective, or at a single moment in time, they are not the same. However, from a diachronic perspective, taking into account the full history and development of the organism, it is possible to view them as the same. Both perspectives are valid.
A person’s beliefs and perspectives can change over time. For example, someone may hold a certain belief before taking a Philosophy course and then adopt a different belief after completing the course. Similarly, a person’s views may change after watching a documentary or experiencing a significant life event. From a dischronic perspective, examining a person at a single moment in time, it may seem that they are not the same person as they were before. However, from a diachronic perspective, taking into account their full history and development, it is possible to view them as the same person despite these changes.
Looking at myself is different from looking at someone else because I have a unique perspective on my own life. From my own perspective, I am the same person across time, with hopes and fears for the future and vivid memories of my past self. Therefore, the diachronic perspective, which takes into account my full history and development, is more correct for me. However, when looking at someone else, my perspective on them may be more dischronic, focusing on their current form and characteristics at a single moment in time.
When making a promise about the future, I am able to do so because I see myself as the same person in the future. While I won’t be identical in the future, as every moment in time changes who I am and I don’t have control over my own evolution, my diachronic view of myself is still valid. On the other hand, it doesn’t make sense for me to make a promise on behalf of someone else, even if I know they will listen to me, because my perspective on them is likely to be more dischronic. From my perspective, the person they are now is not the same as the person they will become in the future. Both the diachronic and dischronic perspectives can be useful and valid, depending on the context and the subject being considered.