As an atheist, in the sense that I do not hold to any idea of god or follow any theistic religion, I’d like to propose that identity is a social fiction that exists for the purposes of convenience, and that we confuse the fiction for the reality.
The most simple argument against dualism (and in turn identity) is how one explains relationship if things are truly separate. How can mind (non-physical) interact with matter (physical) when all well-behaved ghosts walk straight through walls without so much as leaving a mark?
Physicalism is the notion that everything is just matter and that’s it baby, that’s all she wrote. But to say the world is physical is the same thing as saying it is spiritual, or mental. These are words, and of course they feel incomplete as descriptions of reality for the simple fact that reality isn’t words. It is no more mental than it is physical.
Physical is just a mouth noise we use to describe what feels solid. How do we determine if something is physical? Well, we get a net, we put it around the wiggly world and we say, ah yes, do you see that solid block of pattern there? That’s physical.
But when we magnify the situation, we find out that what looked solid and physical is really just a hell of a lot of space with a few tiny little bits that look solid frantically vibrating back and forth, at such a rate and in such a small space that we can’t put our hand through. The same process occurs when you try to stick your hand through a pedestal fan at a high RPM, it’s like touching a solid. Then when we look inside of those little bits of “solid” matter, we find yet even more space with a similar situation taking place!
So if the physical is the “stuff”, then what of the space in between? Is reality really “physical” when most of it is seemingly empty space? We could say that physical is “on” and space “off”, but even then, reality would be neither physical or non-physical but an oscillation, a dance of one coming into being and cancelling out the other and then vice versa and on and on into the eternal now, which is roughly what the Taoists mean by yin and yang, with the crucial point that within yin is yang, and yang, yin.
And of course, the only way that the physical can be physical is if there is a polarity to it, to define it and imply it, in the same way that we cannot have the peaks of waves without troughs, the peaks of mountains without valleys, black without white, on without off, and so on.
Therein you see that there must be a fundamental unity underlying all apparently distinct and separate phenomena, otherwise there’d be nothing going on whatsoever. Try to imagine a fact in isolation.
The thing to understand here is that all explicit polarities are implicit unities. They mutually arise and imply one another, for example, bees and flowers. You never find bees in an environment devoid of flowers, and vice versa. So, the idea that bees and flowers are in total isolation is, in fact, a hallucination. It would be more correct to say that they are aspects of a single process, that they join on the backside of the weaving so to speak, in the same way the north and south poles of a magnet are joined by the whole magnet.
Then, we must recognise that all designations of identity would be more useful if restated as designations of position and behaviour. Instead of saying, “this is what it is” or “this is who I am, basically”, we could instead say, “ah, look at what’s happening here”, or even better, “look at what the cosmos is doing as centred here and now”.