When someone asks the question, “what is identity?” They are probably ‘fishing’ for some deep rooted psychological response, or it is a trick question of sorts. The quick response to this would be that identity is the objective result of characteristics that specify the differences between one thing against another. That is best effort response to the question and made in a way to generalize the term for physical, psychological and philosophical. A more impulsive response would be perhaps phrased as, “my name, my date of birth, my age; etc.”
While all of this is true, the term identity is so valued that passions are stirred up and a response could be more poetic and philosophical that it demands more answers than what was already offered to the big question “What is identity?”. There is pride attached and rightfully so, as social creatures our identities play their roles as they are intended to in history. Unfortunately identity is used to single out groups during oppression and war to either dehumanize one group against another. These are theories that are constantly written about in anthropology and psychology to name a few groups of thought. That is also one way to identify things - one can determine the characteristics of anthropology and the difference against those of psychology. They identify what they are and what they are for.
Another way of breaking it down it to point out that the majority of identity is based off of perception. When you look at yourself, you perceive a racial, cultural, physical trait which is an objective reflection of yourself. Which tell you to some extent What is identity? This is similar to how you would perceive of someone else, taking notice of the same characteristics to identify them separately. This is obviously helpful when there is a report about a wanted individual describing the physical characteristics of the person that committed the crime.
When we think about our identities, we directly eye on What is identity? The we also build the identity off of our heritage to identify ourselves. Much of this is discussed in what is referred to as collective identity referring to groups. The thoughts developed off of this are based in things like pride and ego, our lineage is specific and unique and helps to build our identity. Because of this the efforts made to protect that come with personal significance and are highly valued to most.
Outside of personal identity, the same thing applies to inanimate objects, and in most cases to identify these things it should be easy to do so and be done with it! Other than in cases of emotional attachment, it is not anything that we can necessarily relate to and unless we make the effort, by default we should move on, but this is where the idea of identity goes deeper in asking questions such as if you have two similar objects, how does one identify one from the other and ultimately What is identity?
The answer to “What is identity?” is obviously that both of the objects are identified by the fact that they are different in comparison to anything that isn't the same, but the discussion of identity dominates the thoughts of Locke, Wittgenstein and Plato to name a few philosophers as they attempt to build new perspectives and motives for their philosophies.
These are the basic forms of identity as it goes from an attempt at generalization to deeper thoughts. It doesn't take that much time after you ask, “What is identity?” before you feel compelled to go a bit further. If you look around, it is apparent how much identity drives the technology industry these days. There are new gadgets under development and social networks. Identity is big business and is just as important to that industry as it is to you.
Any way it just beginning of “What is identity?” saga... Hope we all will keep continue exploring it...