Concept Vs Instance
The way I define concept here, is being the idea or information of something, rather than the instance of something. In this sense, every instance of a thing, be it an apple or a human, are also a concept. However, when we look a things, such as an apple or the rules of basketball, we tend to think of one as a concept and another as an instance of a thing.
If you write a poem, it will be a string of symbols. The concept of your poem existed before you wrote it. Lets say your poem was 100 characters long, including spaces. If you took the symbols/characters you used and randomly placed them in 100 sequential slots, you would end up with all kinds of different sequences of character strings. The concept of each one exists without you write any of the sequences down. The poem you wrote, is an instance of a concept. If you wrote it again on a different piece of paper, that would be another instance, of the same concept.
Another example is math, which is considered an abstract concept. However, there are instances of math. The mathematical concept of 1 + 1 = 2 appears as instances all the time. If I give you a cookie, and then another cookie, you would have two cookies, that is an instance of the concept of 1 + 1 = 2.
Going even further 1 cookie + 1 cookie = 2 cookies is concept as well. It is simply a less abstract concept than 1 + 1 = 2. The more abstract something is, the more situations it can be applied to. You can do math not just with cookies, you can do it with apples, trees, money, and physics.
You can think of a concept as the information that represents something. When speaking about the identity of something, there are two aspects to it, the qualatative identity and numerical identity. Imagine you have a six-pack of beer. The concept is the same. Their qualatative identity is the same, they have the same qualities. But their numerical identiy is difference, they're made of different individual atoms, they are difference instances of the same concept.
This idea is also behind object oriented programming (OOP). In this case you have classes and instances of classes. You can define a enemy, who has a value for damage, hit points, and speed. You can then create multiple instances of that enemy class for the player to fight. The class or concept, is the information, the instance is you putting it into play.
|Class||Instance of a class|
|Qualatative Identity||Numerical Identity|
|Information||Instance of information|
|Poem||Instance of a specific poem (on paper)|
|Song||Instance of a song (on the radio)|
Going further with the cookie example, it can be said that every instance is also a concept. When the concept is abstract like math, we think of it as just being a concept. And when it's a much more specific concept, like you reading this right now at this very moment, we tend to think of it as an instance. To better understand this, imagine there being an exact copy of this universe, like the poem, it would be two instances of the same specific concept.
Everything has an identity. What defines you, is your identity. Your identity is composed of two things: substance (particles) and structure (information). Numerical (substance) identity is identity based on the substance something is made from. If you had a container of 1,000 molecules of water, they each have an identity of their own. They may be made out of the same TYPE of atoms or molecules (H2O), but they are made of different molecules. Each molecule is separate from one another. The other type of identity is referred to as qualitative identity, it's the structural identity, it's the information. All of the water molecules are qualitatively the same. If only one molecule of water existed, then its qualitative identity would be unique. But since their are much more, they only have a unique numerical identity.
What seems to be the most important identity to people is qualitative identity. Lets say you died right here on the spot, and every atom in your body was stored in a container in a science lab. And lets say particle for particle, every atoms you were made from was rebuilt into a new human being. This new human being would be numerically identical to you, they would be made of the exact same substance, atoms, chemical elements, molecules, chemicals, etc.. But they are qualitatively different. The information/structure is different.
Bodies And Information
Your numerical and qualitative identity are woven together, and no technology today can conveniently separate your numerical identity from your qualitative identity. This used to be the case with many others things, such as music.
Humans beings have been able to make music for thousands of years. Music is information, information can be copies and transferred, but the information was trapped in a sense. You could not record it. You could not copy it, without getting a bunch of people together with instruments and replaying it again.
Eventually, the music was recorded to record players. The actual information, was copied to a medium, that you could keep at home. But the information was still not completely set free. Over time the information was recorded to cassettes and then CDs. As time went on, it become easier and easier to copy the information yourself. Now music is stored in digital files and can be transferred to CDs, DVDs, hard drives, solid state drives, and over the Internet through P2P networks and direct downloads. The information of every song is no longer bound by bands and instruments or the media it's recorded on, it can be conveniently moved around.
Movies or plays were bound just as music was. Just as you couldn't record music, you couldn't record a play. The movie/play, was bound to the stage. But just as music was broken down into bits of information, movies can now be recorded to digital files and transferred to different mediums, such as discs or computer storage.
- People playing music
- People acting on stage
- People singing
- People teaching
- People preaching
- People lecturing
All of these things can now be broken down into 1s and 0s. What was once bound to the body of a person, no longer requires people once the information has been converted into 1s and 0s.
People themselves have a qualatitive identity that someday may be broken down into bits of information. Your voice, and your face can be replicated by speakers and little pixels on a screen. The communication of your emotion, expressed in the tones of your voice, and the expressions on your face, can be replicated inside of digital files. The sense of soul you can see in someone else's eyes, when you see them laugh or cry, can be broken down into 1s and 0s and re-created with the vibrations of speakers and the pixels of monitors.
Concepts are not invented. They are discovered. Consider math, or more specifically, calculus. Calculus as a concept exists on its own, but human discovered it in the 1600's. The same can be said of poems, music, art, and scientific theories. There are so many possible ways to combine symbols and pixels on a screen, and we create instances of them. Even if the instance is only the instance of a thought about the concept.