Open individualism is the view in the philosophy of self, according to which there exists only one numerically identical subject, who is everyone at all times.[clarification needed] It is a theoretical solution to the question of personal identity, being contrasted with "Empty individualism", the view that personal identities correspond to a fixed pattern that instantaneously disappears with the passage of time, and with "Closed individualism", the common view that personal identities are particular to subjects and yet survive over time.
The term was coined by philosopher Daniel Kolak, though this view has been described at least since the time of the Upanishads, in the late Bronze Age; the phrase "Tat tvam asi" meaning "You are that" is an example. Others who have expressed similar views (in various forms) include the philosophers Averroes, Arthur Schopenhauer, and Arnold Zuboff, mystic Meher Baba, stand-up comedian Bill Hicks, writer Alan Watts, as well as renowned physicists Erwin Schrödinger, Freeman Dyson, and Fred Hoyle.
Leo Tolstoy in the short story "Esarhaddon, King of Assyria", tells how an old man appears before Esarhaddon and takes the king through a process where he experiences, from a first-person perspective, the lives of humans and non-human animals he has tormented. This reveals to him that he is everyone and that by harming others, he is actually harming himself.
In the science fiction novel October the First Is Too Late, Fred Hoyle puts forward the "pigeon hole theory" which asserts that "each moment of time can be thought of as a pre-existing pigeon hole" and the pigeon hole currently being examined by your consciousness is the present and that the spotlight of consciousness does not have to move in a linear fashion; it could potentially move around in any order. Hoyle considers the possibility that there might be one set of pigeon holes for each person, but only one spotlight, which would mean that the "consciousness could be the same".
"The Egg", a short story by Andy Weir, is about a character who finds out that they are every person who has ever existed. The story was adapted into an animation by the YouTube channel Kurzgesagt, for its ten-year anniversary.
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- "Mushroom scene from, American - The Bill Hicks Story". YouTube. May 18, 2014.
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- Tolstoy, Leo (1906). Twenty-three Tales. Translated by Maude, Aylmer and Louise. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 256–263.
- Webb, Stephen (2017). All the Wonder that Would Be: Exploring Past Notions of the Future. Cham: Springer International Publishing. p. 162. ISBN 978-3-319-51759-9. OCLC 985702597.
- Prisco, Giulio (2015-07-18). "A short story about Open Individualist resurrection by Andy Weir, author of The Martian". Turing Church. Retrieved 2020-05-04.
- "The Egg". YouTube. Kurzgesagt. Retrieved 2019-09-01.
- Fasching, Wolfgang (2009-05-26). "The mineness of experience". Continental Philosophy Review. 42 (2): 131–148. doi:10.1007/s11007-009-9107-z.
- Gómez-Emilsson, Andrés (2016-02-24). "Ontological Qualia: The Future of Personal Identity". Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies.
- MacLeod, Roderick (2011-04-29). "Individual Consciousness: An Argument for the Numerical Identity of All Conscious Existence".
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- Kolak, Daniel (1999). In Search of Myself: Life, Death, and Personal Identity. Wadsworth. ISBN 9780534239282.
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- Kern, Joe (2019). The Odds of Existing: Or, Why Death Is Not the End. Academia.edu.