Identity, like any part of a framework of thought, is an area where difference easily leads into conflict. Being social animals, we intrinsically care how we are percieved by our peers and the general public, manipulating both terms and others in order to fill our desired social role. Likewise, we understand others by the frameworks of thought we use to classify them - accumulations of those identities combine with specifics to give us a view of a person. There is tension between the frameworks we use to understand others and the frameworks they use to understand themselves, and while these are normally hidden (we don't normally express our frameworks in full, keeping some things to ourselves and others among third parties), when these differences become apparent social damage or breaks can ensue. What is demanded in the public sphere in how we express our frameworks of others and ourselves?

Some frameworks for understanding people are based on entirely subjective matters, some on decisive matters, some on matters of judgement, and some on matters of fact. The classification of an axis of dimension is often a personal matter - a person might identify, for example, as being a member of a voluntary community with no prerequisites, another might identify as being an aspiring member of a philosophy, another might identify as a good musician, and another as being a member of an ethnic group. In the first case, the decision to identify is entirely sufficient to give them the identity. In the second, the decision is customarily or necessarily associated with some inner mental state whereby the person is presumed to share some goals, ethics, or other mental characteristics that are either characteristic or definitional for the identity (the difference between this and the first case is that a person may be in denial on their mental state and we may thus disbelieve them - there are actually nuanced positions between this and the first state that we shall not explore). In the third case, whether the person has the identity in the eyes of other people depend on an indirect judgement. In the fourth case, the identity is a simple matter of fact external to either viewer or viewee. Different people may ascribe different dimensions of identity to different categories, or intentionally muddy them (e.g. "are you a good jew?").

I assert that first we have no duty to conform our frameworks or framework-categorisations of someone to their perceptions of themself. If we are to be kind, we have a duty not to be malicious in our framework, meaning that we should not have a direct intent to harm or demean another in how we lay out terms. However, we may (and in fact should) be indifferent to their requests or demands if we are to have intellectual integrity, and we can respect people without respecting them in every aspect of their identity. This means that while our frameworks may in fact be greatly offensive to others, we should not construct them with the aim to be offensive - how one views the world should primarily serve oneself. I second assert that in the general case we should not feel bound to limit our expression of our frameworks to what others are comfortable with. In order to be a natural part of our way of thinking about the world, our use of language should in the general case be close to how we think, and it demeans us as an thinker to restrain our speech for another's comfort. Certain circumstances and interests may change this, particularly in the short term, but it should not be considered obligatory to do so except in cases of immanent harm or other strong need. Third, we should recognise that not everyone uses the same frameworks, and while we should feel comfortable letting our frameworks compete in the mimetic sense, we should not demand outright that others use our framework, and if we must have conformity in those we associate with in order to keep our self-worth, we should consider withdrawl, knowing that the fault is generally in us provided the frameworks are not constructed maliciously. Fourth, we should recognise that people's expression of their intent in these frameworks often is manipulative and/or dishonest and give a bit more leeway on manipulation and dishonesty than we would in other matters because the stakes are social-primal. More coloquially, this is a naturally touchy area, so if someone is descended from royalty and demands royal addressing, we are not asked to humour them but would be kind to understand their discomfort at not being so addressed.

Pat Gunn (aka Improv) <>