Identity involves uniqueness as part of its meaning.  To identify a unique person in the spatio-temporal reality the event of birth is used to differentiate a person from another.  The most familiar document of identity is one’s passport used for travel.  

But Identity is not just about uniqueness of date of birth in a specific family, as information in a passport reveals.  Undoubtedly, the passport itself would not have existed without an “authority of origin”, which had generated that document of identity in the first place.

This simple example points to the fact that: specifying identity of a person can be accomplished only in relation to a reference of origin (to whom that person belongs).

Another example, which clarifies the link between a person’s uniqueness on one hand, and the general group to which the person belongs - is the DNA pattern. Specific DNA strand identifies a specific individual, but in the same time, the DNA contains patterns of information about the group of humanity - from whom that particular individual is inseparable.  

Uniqueness of a person occupies %0.1 of the total information of the DNA, while % 99.9 is shared among all people. 

(source: DNA Forensic Analysis)

In order to make a distinction of an object (A), the object must be consistent with itself and different from other objects - but this means that the existence of other objects is also needed for identifying (A).  There is no object (A) which can exist by itself without reference to other objects.

However, despite the necessity of relating to a reference - it is surprising that the “Law of Identity” takes the form of the expression (A = A ), a form expressing self-reference, failing to relate to the group of origin to which (A) belongs.

Western philosophical view:

The Law of Identity (A = A) is also sensed at the background of Leibnitz' “Principle of Individuation”:

Every singular substance does not need as individuating principle anything more than its entity” (1)

Leibnitz' Principle of Individuation focuses on the uniqueness of a certain singular substance (or individual).  However, to be distinguished, one must belong to a group of individuals among whom one is distinguished.  A person can be unique among other people (but not among trees or fish),and this means that referencing an individual entity to its group - is important.  

Obviously, in Western philosophy, the approach of identification is rather inclined towards individuality.  The Cogito tells us that it is sufficient that I think to be certain that I exist.  The “I” appears twice, there is no “others” around.   

Eastern Philosophical view:

From the perspective of Eastern philosophical concepts, the starting point in observation of an object is not how different it is from other objects - but (first of all) where does it belong to:  to what group of other objects it would fit.

Eastern philosophical perspectives are based on the principle of Interconnectedness of beings.  Nothing exists on its own.  Interrelatedness of objects is derived from a general observation, a principle called ‘Dependent Origination’ - that the origin of an object is dependent on other objects and their causes and conditions:

“[Dependent Origination] teaches that no beings or phenomena exist on their own; they exist or occur because of their relationship with other beings and phenomena. Everything in the world comes into existence in response to causes and conditions.That is, nothing can exist independent of other things or arise in isolation”(2)

A similar observation is shared in the African principle of Ubuntu: " I exist because of others". 

To fully identify an object or person, three components are needed:

  • Uniqueness among others
  • accepting a reference for one’s existence, to what group it belongs, and
  • understanding of the potential for change over time – (maintaining one’s uniqueness over the passage of time).