The Bundle Theory of Substance and the Identity of Indiscernibles

Analysis 55 (3):191 - 196 (1995)
The strongest version of the principle of the Identity of Indiscernibles states that of necessity, there are no distinct things with all their universals in common (where such putative haecceities as being Aristotle do not count as universals: I use 'universal' rather than 'property' here and in what follows for the simple reason that 'universal' is the term of art that most safely excludes haecceities from its instances). It is commonly supposed that Max Black's famous paper 'The identity of indiscernibles' (2) refutes this thesis. (Armstong's [1], chapter 9 is representative here.) Black argues ([2], p. 156) that it is perfectly possible that there be a world consisting solely of two indiscernible spheres at some distance to each other and that this world constitutes a counterexample to the principle above. The strongest version of the bundle theory of substance claims that of necessity, the substances that make up the world are bundles of universals.1 It is commonly supposed that a consequence of Black's defeat of the principle of the Identity of Indiscernibles is that this bundle theory of substance is mistaken. (Again, Armstong's [1] is representative.) I shall argue that Black's thought experiment does not defeat the bundle theory and that, as a result, the bundle theory can be used to salvage the principle of the Identity of Indiscernibles
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DOI 10.1093/analys/55.3.191
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