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Identity

Edited by Chad Carmichael (Indiana University Purdue University, Indianapolis)
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Summary

Identity is sameness: the relation that holds between each thing and itself, and never holds between two things. Most philosophical issues about identity concern the relationship between identity and other important concepts: time, necessity, personhood, composition (parthood), and vagueness. In addition to these issues, some have suggested that identity is not absolute, but relative, so that we may say two things are the same person or statue, but not the same simpliciter. Finally, there are questions about whether there are informative criteria of identity that settle questions about when identity holds or fails to hold.

Key works

Quine 1950 is a classic piece that treats several of the issues mentioned above. For the relationship between identity and modality, see Kripke 19711980, and Gibbard 1975. On the identity of indiscernibles, see Black 1952 and Adams 1979. Baxter 1988 and Lewis 1991 defend versions of the thesis of composition as identity. See Van Inwagen 1994 for a critique. Evans 1978 argues against vague identity. See Stalnaker 1988 and Parsons & Woodruff 1995 for replies. On relative identity, see Geach 1967, Geach 1980, and Perry 1970.

Introductions See the Stanford Encyclopedia piece on Identity Noonan 2008 for a nice overview of nearly all of these topics. Hawthorne 2003 has an excellent discussion of several of these issues as well. Many of the papers listed above are collected in Kim & Sosa 1999.

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Subcategories:History/traditions: Identity
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  1. Deborah Cook (2005). From the Actual to the Possible: Nonidentity Thinking. Constellations 12 (1):21-35.
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  2. Imre Garaczi (2010). Identitás És Stratégia. Stratégiakutató Intézet.
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  3. Ludger Jansen (2011). The Ship of Theseus. In Michael Bruce & Steven Barbone (eds.), Just the Arguments: 100 of the Most Important Arguments in Western Philosophy. Wiley-Blackwell.
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  4. Ludger Jansen (2007). Larry Ackerman, The Identity Code. [REVIEW] Metapsychology 11.
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  5. Ludger Jansen (2004). Ulf Hedetoft, Mette Hjort (Hgg.), The Postnational Self. Belonging and Identity. [REVIEW] Meta­Psychology 7.
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  6. Ludger Jansen (2002). Amin Maalouf, In the Name of Identity. Violence and the Need to Belong. [REVIEW] Meta­Psychology 6.
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Contingent Identity
  1. Ralf M. Bader (2012). The Non-Transitivity of the Contingent and Occasional Identity Relations. Philosophical Studies 157 (1):141-152.
    This paper establishes that the occasional identity relation and the contingent identity relation are both non-transitive and as such are not properly classified as identity relations. This is achieved by appealing to cases where multiple fissions and fusions occur simultaneously. These cases show that the contingent and occasional identity relations do not even satisfy the time-indexed and world-indexed versions of the transitivity requirement and hence are non-transitive relations.
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  2. Lynne Rudder Baker (1999). Unity Without Identity: A New Look at Material Constitution. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 23 (1):144–165.
    relation between, say, a lump of clay and a statue that it makes up, or between a red and white piece of metal and a stop sign, or between a person and her body? Assuming that there is a single relation between members of each of these pairs, is the relation “strict” identity, “contingent” identity or something else?1 Although this question has generated substantial controversy recently,2 I believe that there is philo- sophical gain to be had from thinking through the (...)
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  3. Andrew Brennan (1986). Best Candidates and Theories of Identity. Inquiry 29 (1-4):423-438.
    Attacks on ?closest continuer? and ?best candidate? theories of identity have something correct in them while still failing to discredit the theories they oppose. What follows from Noonan's and Wiggins's objections to such theories is that they need to be so formulated as not to deny the necessity of identity. The best metaphysics for best?candidate theories to adopt is one in which everyday objects are taken to transcend, in a certain sense, their life histories in given worlds. This metaphysics also (...)
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  4. W. R. Carter (1982). On Contingent Identity and Temporal Worms. Philosophical Studies 41 (2):213 - 230.
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  5. William R. Carter (1987). Contingent Identity and Rigid Designation. Mind 96 (382):250-255.
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  6. Albert Casullo (1984). The Contingent Identity of Particulars and Universals. Mind 93 (372):527-541.
    The primary purpose of this paper is to argue that particulars in the actual world are nothing but complexes of universals. I begin by briefly presenting bertrand russell's version of this view and exposing its primary difficulty. I then examine the key assumption which leads russell to difficulty and show that it is mistaken. The rejection of this assumption forms the basis of an alternative version of the view which is articulated and defended.
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  7. Pablo Cobreros, Paul Egré, David Ripley & Robert van Rooij (2013). Identity, Leibniz's Law and Non-Transitive Reasoning. Metaphysica 14 (2):253-264.
    Arguments based on Leibniz's Law seem to show that there is no room for either indefinite or contingent identity. The arguments seem to prove too much, but their conclusion is hard to resist if we want to keep Leibniz's Law. We present a novel approach to this issue, based on an appropriate modification of the notion of logical consequence.
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  8. B. Jack Copeland (2000). Indeterminate Identity, Contingent Identity, and Property Identity, Aristotelian-Style. Philosophical Topics 28 (1):11-25.
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  9. Andre Gallois (1988). Carter on Contingent Identity and Rigid Designation. Mind 97 (386):273-278.
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  10. André Gallois (1986). Rigid Designation and the Contingency of Identity. Mind 95 (377):57-76.
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  11. Allan Gibbard (1975). Contingent Identity. Journal of Philosophical Logic 4 (2):187-222.
    Identities formed with proper names may be contingent. this claim is made first through an example. the paper then develops a theory of the semantics of concrete things, with contingent identity as a consequence. this general theory lets concrete things be made up canonically from fundamental physical entities. it includes theories of proper names, variables, cross-world identity with respect to a sortal, and modal and dispositional properties. the theory, it is argued, is coherent and superior to its rivals, in that (...)
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  12. Irwin Goldstein (2004). Neural Materialism, Pain's Badness, and a Posteriori Identities. In Maite Ezcurdia, Robert Stainton & Christopher Viger (eds.), New Essays in the Philosophy of Language and Mind. University of Calgary Press. 261-273.
    Orthodox neural materialists think mental states are neural events or orthodox material properties of neutral events. Orthodox material properties are defining properties of the “physical”. A “defining property” of the physical is a type of property that provides a necessary condition for something’s being correctly termed “physical”. In this paper I give an argument against orthodox neural materialism. If successful, the argument would show at least some properties of some mental states are not orthodox material properties of neural events. Opposing (...)
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  13. Tobias Hansson Wahlberg (2011). Can Persistence Be a Matter of Convention? Axiomathes 21 (4):507-529.
    This paper asks whether persistence can be a matter of convention. It argues that in a rather unexciting de dicto sense persistence is indeed a matter of convention, but it rejects the notion that persistence can be a matter of convention in a more substantial de re sense. However, scenarios can be imagined that appear to involve conventional persistence of the latter kind. Since there are strong reasons for thinking that such conventionality is impossible, it is desirable that our metaphysical-cum-semantic (...)
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  14. Toomas Karmo (1983). Contingent Non-Identity. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 61 (2):185 – 187.
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  15. Rosanna Keefe (1995). Contingent Identity and Vague Identity. Analysis 55 (3):183 - 190.
    Evan's influential argument against vague objects (_Analysis, 1978) has a parallel directed against contingent identity. I argue that Noonan failed in his attempt to accept Evans's argument but save contingent identity by establishing a disanalogy between the two arguments (in The Philosophical Quarterly 1991). Instead, I suggest an alternative way to block the argument against contingent identity and argue that its analogue provides a satisfactory response to Evans's original argument.
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  16. John L. King (1978). Chandler on Contingent Identity. Analysis 38 (3):135 - 136.
    In his article "rigid designation" ("journal of philosophy", Volume lxxii, Pages 363-9) hugh s chandler presents an alleged counterexample to the principles that proper names are rigid designators and that identity statements using proper names as designators are non-Contingent. In the present paper this counterexample is shown to rest on a tacit assumption which the principles' proponents need not accept. Chandler's example is redescribed in a way which is both plausible and compatible with the two principles.
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  17. Saul A. Kripke (1980/1998). Naming and Necessity. Harvard University Press.
  18. Saul A. Kripke (1971). Identity and Necessity. In Milton K. Munitz (ed.), Identity and Individuation. New York University Press. 135-164.
    are synthetic a priori judgements possible?" In both cases, i~thas usually been t'aken for granted in fife one case by Kant that synthetic a priori judgements were possible, and in the other case in contemporary,'d-". philosophical literature that contingent statements of identity are ppss. ible. I do not intend to deal with the Kantian question except to mention:ssj~",.
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  19. Jerrold Levinson (1988). A Note on Categorical Properties and Contingent Identity. Journal of Philosophy 85 (12):718-722.
    Stephen Yablo has attempted recently to revive the notion of contingent identity, identifying this with a relation of L coincidence between objects that are "distinct by nature but the same in the circumstances" (296). Yablo argues convincingly for the need of essentialist metaphysics to recognize some relation of this sort, a relation of "intimate identity-like connections between things" (296) if it is to acknowledge properly the intuitive difference between (i) the nonidentity of a bust B and a hunk of wax (...)
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  20. David Lewis (1971). Counterparts of Persons and Their Bodies. Journal of Philosophy 68 (7):203-211.
  21. Ofra Magidor (2011). Arguments by Leibniz’s Law in Metaphysics. Philosophy Compass 6 (3):180-195.
    Leibniz’s Law (or as it sometimes called, ‘the Indiscerniblity of Identicals’) is a widely accepted principle governing the notion of numerical identity. The principle states that if a is identical to b, then any property had by a is also had by b. Leibniz’s Law may seem like a trivial principle, but its apparent consequences are far from trivial. The law has been utilised in a wide range of arguments in metaphysics, many leading to substantive and controversial conclusions. This article (...)
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  22. Don Merrell (2011). Polger on the Illusion of Contingent Identity. International Journal of Philosophical Studies 19 (4):593 - 602.
    Abstract Thomas Polger has argued in favour of the mind?brain type?identity theory, the view that mental states or processes are type?identical to states of the central nervous system. Acknowledging that the type?materialist must respond to Kripke?s modal anti?materialist argument, Polger insists that Kripke?s argument rests on dubious assumptions concerning the identity conditions of brain states. In brief, Polger claims that one knows that x and y are non?identical when one knows the identity conditions for both x and y. Replace x (...)
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  23. Harold W. Noonan (1991). Indeterminate Identity, Contingent Identity and Abelardian Predicates. Philosophical Quarterly 41 (163):183-193.
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  24. Zane Parks (1974). Semantics for Contingent Identity Systems. Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic 15 (2):333-334.
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  25. Thomas W. Polger, Kripke and the Illusion of Contingent Identity.
    Saul Kripke’s (1971, 1972) modal essentialist argument against materialism remains an obstacle to any prospective Identity Theorist. This paper is an attempt to make room for an Identity Theory without dismissing Kripke’s analytic tools or essentialist intuitions. I propose an explanatory model that can make room for the Identity Theory within the constraints of Kripke’s view; the model is based on ideas from Alan Sidelle’s, “Identity and Identity-like” (1992). My model explains the apparent contingency of some scientific identities by appealing (...)
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  26. Murali Ramachandran (2008). Kripkean Counterpart Theory. Polish Journal of Philosophy 2 (2):89-106.
    David Lewis’s counterpart-theoretic semantics for quantified modal logic is motivated originally by worries about identifying objects across possible worlds; the counterpart relation is grounded more cautiously on comparative similarity. The possibility of contingent identity is an unsought -- and in some eyes, unwelcome -- consequence of this approach. In this paper I motivate a Kripkean counterpart theory by way of defending the prior, pre-theoretical, coherence of contingent directness. Contingent identity follows for free. The theory is Kripkean in that the counterpart (...)
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  27. Murali Ramachandran (1990). Contingent Identity in Counterpart Theory. Analysis 50 (3):163-166.
    A slight modification to the translation scheme for David Lewis's counterpart theory I put forward in 'An Alternative Translation Scheme for Counterpart Theory' (Analysis 49.3 (1989)) is proposed. The motivation for this change is that it makes for a more plausible account of contingent identity. In particular, contingent identity is accommodated without admitting the contingency of self-identity.
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  28. R. Stanton, M. Ezcurdia & C. Viger (eds.) (2004). New Essays in Philosophy of Language and Mind, Canadian Journal of Philosophy, Supplementary Volume 30. University of Calgary Press.
  29. Jim Stone (2009). Moderate Monism: Reply to Noonan and Mackie. Analysis 69 (1):91-95.
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  30. Norman M. Swartz (1974). Can the Theory of Contingent Identity Between Sensation-States and Brain-States Be Made Empirical? Canadian Journal of Philosophy 3 (March):405-17.
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  31. J. Teichmann (1967). The Contingent Identity of Minds and Brains. Mind 76 (July):404-15.
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  32. Achille Varzi, Gallois, A., Occasions of Identity: The Metaphysics of Persistence, Change, and Sameness (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), Pp. XIII, 296, £35.00 (Cloth). [REVIEW]
    This is a detailed defense of the view that identity is not an eternal, necessary relation: things can be identical at one time and distinct at another; they can be identical in one world and distinct in another. The defense is judicial rather than passionate, as Gallois’s primary goal is to persuade the reader that the view is ‘at least as credible’ as its more fashionable alternatives. But Gallois also aims to show that if the view is credible then it (...)
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  33. Alberto Voltolini, Contingent and Necessary Identities.
    A new theory of identity statements is put forward which appeals to a basic distinction between two notions of identity, i.e. strict and loose identity. The former is the traditional necessary relation of an object with the object itself, whereas the latter is a contingent relation of reduction of some (at least two) possible unactual objects to a possible actual object. By appealing to strict identity, one can maintain that some tokenings of identity sentences express a semantic content which is (...)
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  34. Tobias Hansson Wahlberg (2009). 4-D Objects and Disposition Ascriptions. Philosophical Papers 38 (1):35-72.
    Disposition ascription has been discussed a good deal over the last few decades, as has the revisionary metaphysical view of ordinary, persisting objects known as 'fourdimensionalism'. However, philosophers have not merged these topics and asked whether four-dimensional objects can be proper subjects of dispositional predicates. This paper seeks to remedy this oversight. It argues that, by and large, four-dimensional objects are not suited to take dispositional predicates.
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  35. Tobias Hansson Wahlberg (2008). Can I Be an Instantaneous Stage and yet Persist Through Time? Metaphysica 9 (2):235-239.
    An alternative to the standard endurance/perdurance accounts of persistence has recently been developed: the stage theory (Sider, T. Four-Dimensionalism: an Ontology of Persistence and Time. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001; Hawley, K. How Things Persist. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001). According to this theory, a persisting object is identical with an instantaneous stage (temporal part). On the basis of Leibniz's Law, I argue that stage theorists either have to deny the alleged identity (i.e., give up their central thesis) or hold (...)
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  36. Mark Wilson (1983). Why Contingent Identity is Necessary. Philosophical Studies 43 (3):301 - 327.
    This paper argues that the principle of necessary identity (f)(g)(f=g then necessarily f=g) cannot be maintained, At least in second order form. A paradox based upon scientific definitional practice is introduced to demonstrate this. A non-Fregean reading of standard contingent identity semantics is provided to explain how such 'definition breaking' works.
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Identity of Indiscernibles
  1. Robert Merrihew Adams (1979). Primitive Thisness and Primitive Identity. Journal of Philosophy 76 (1):5-26.
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  2. Peter Ainsworth (2011). Ontic Structural Realism and the Principle of the Identity of Indiscernibles. Erkenntnis 75 (1):67-84.
    Recently, there has been a debate as to whether or not the principle of the identity of indiscernibles (the PII) is compatible with quantum physics. It is also sometimes argued that the answer to this question has implications for the debate over the tenability of ontic structural realism (OSR). The central aim of this paper is to establish what relationship there is (if any) between the PII and OSR. It is argued that one common interpretation of OSR is undermined if (...)
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  3. Edwin B. Allaire (1967). Things, Relations and Identity. Philosophy of Science 34 (3):260-272.
    Philosophers have long believed that if the Principle of the Identity of Indiscernibles were logically true, there would be no problem of individuation. I show (a) that if spatial relations are, as seems plausible, of such a nature that it makes no sense to say of one thing that it is related to itself, then the Principle is a logical truth, asserting that a certain kind of state of affairs is impossible because the kind of sentence purporting to express it (...)
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  4. István Aranyosi, Derivational Contextualism: A Theory of Individuation.
    One of the oldest topics in foundational metaphysics is the issue how particulars are to be individuated. To individuate a particular, x, means to find criteria that are necessary and sufficient to ensure the assertibility of x ≠ y, for all and only y that are distinct from x. One can distinguish two separate issues that are run under the heading of individuation. One is the question: what is it about a particular that makes it distinct from all other particulars? (...)
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  5. Jonas Rafael Becker Arenhart (2013). Weak Discernibility in Quantum Mechanics: Does It Save PII? Axiomathes 23 (3):461-484.
    The Weak Principle of the Identity of Indiscernibles (weak PII), states that numerically distinct items must be discernible by a symmetrical and irreflexive relation. Recently, some authors have proposed that weak PII holds in non relativistic quantum mechanics, contradicting a long tradition claiming PII to be simply false in that theory. The question that arises then is: are relations allowed in the scope of PII? In this paper, we propose that quantum mechanics does not help us in deciding matters concerning (...)
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  6. R. L. Barnette (1978). Does Quantum Mechanics Disprove the Principle of the Identity of Indiscernibles? Philosophy of Science 45 (3):466-470.
  7. Jiri Benovsky (2006). A Modal Bundle Theory. Metaphysica 7 (2).
    If ordinary particulars are bundles of properties, and if properties are said to be universals, then three well-known objections arise : no particular can change, all particulars have all of their properties essentially (even the most insignificant ones), and there cannot be two numerically distinct but qualitatively indiscernible particulars. In this paper, I try to make a little headway on these issues and see how the objections can be met, if one accepts a certain view about persistence through time and (...)
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  8. Gustav Bergmann (1953). The Identity of Indiscernibles and the Formalist Definition of "Identity". Mind 62 (245):75-79.
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