This quote hails from the liner notes to this CD: John Adams's Violin Concerto performed by Leila Josefowicz, David Robertson of St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. Alice Miller Cotter has a BA in Music (Berkeley), PhD in Musicology (Princeton).

Wiktionary and p 1060 on Oxford Latin Dictionary (2012 2 ed) avouch nothing on 'change'.

image of a book mentioning that idem indicates sameness and idem indicates change

  • It's baloney. Ipse means -self
    – Colin Fine
    Apr 20, 2019 at 22:56
  • @AlexB. I agree with Colin Fine - it's baloney. I read the passage by Ricoeur and I think whatever distinction he's trying to make has nothing to do with Latin idem and ipse. (Frankly, I find it incomprehensible - but then again, I'm not a philosopher.)
    – varro
    Apr 21, 2019 at 21:54
  • @varro And why should a philosophical concept bearing a certain Latin name have the exact same meaning, as it was used two thousand years ago?
    – Alex B.
    Apr 22, 2019 at 3:12
  • @AlexB. All right - you've completely lost me here. What "exact same meaning" are you referring to? I'm willing to be educated here, but at the moment I'm completely baffled.
    – varro
    Apr 22, 2019 at 3:57
  • 1
    @varro I imagine it's like how a psychologist's use of ego isn't the same as Cicero's, because Freud co-opted the word for a new concept he was developing. Cotter is referencing Ricoeur, rather than the Classical meaning.
    – Draconis
    Apr 22, 2019 at 14:31

3 Answers 3


I'm afraid that this question has nothing/little to do with linguistics but rather with philosophy. In particular, this question must be understood in the following context where Ricoeur's (famous?) distinction between two kinds of identity in relation to selfhood is summarized: see Section 5. Narrative Identity and the Turn to Selfhood in https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ricoeur/ Cf. "Idem identity is the identity of something that is always the same which never changes, ipse identity is sameness across and through change".


I cannot see how ipse would indicate change. I would rather say that both idem and ipse indicate sameness, although in a different way.

There might be an argument for the kind of distinction the text is trying to make, but no such argument is provided in what you quote. Therefore, until further proof is provided, I see that as a failed analysis of those Latin words.


Let's ignore the quote in your question for the moment.

The question is can a person, writing in a language other than Latin, take a Latin word - or rather, its sound form, perhaps with - or without- some "semantic load", shall we say - and use it in a language other than Latin, and use in a sense that they deem necessary?

The answer is - yes. Examples galore.

Does it have any bearing on Latin? The answer is no.

Now, back to nos moutons (the quote in your question. Unfortunately, Ricoeur’s philosophical distinction is presented there as a fact of Latin lexicology (vocabulary studies). This is certainly not true and imho should be rewritten, with a reference to Ricoeur’s philosophy, not the Latin language.

  • I'm not sure how your first "yes" applies to anything except the weakest sense of "can." Of course I can use a Latin word for any purpose I deem necessary, but I would certainly feel obligated to introduced at least a tenuous justification for my meaning. So, if your answer reduces to "He can because he did," I don't think it's getting at the heart of the matter.
    – brianpck
    Apr 22, 2019 at 14:27
  • @brianpck Whose usus are you discussing, the musicologist’s or Ricoeur’s?
    – Alex B.
    Apr 22, 2019 at 14:31
  • I don't know enough about either to have an opinion: I was just objecting to one (mis?)interpretation of your answer, which would have it that "I can use Latin words in English for any purpose I want."
    – brianpck
    Apr 22, 2019 at 14:51

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