Dion's foot

Journal of Philosophy 94 (5):260-265 (1997)
Abstract
Suppose a certain man, Dion, has his foot amputated, and lives to tell the tale. That tale involves a well-known metaphysical puzzle, for most of us assume that there was, before the operation, an object made up of all of Dion’s parts except those that overlapped with his foot-- ”all of Dion except for his foot”, we might say, or Dion’s “foot-complement”. Call that object Theon. (Anyone who doubts that there is such a thing as Dion’s undetached foot-complement may imagine that ‘Theon’ is a name for Dion’s undetached head. Surely there is such a thing as Dion’s head? And surely Dion could, in principle, survive if his head were detached from the rest of him and kept alive?) It seems obvious that Theon, like Dion, continues to exist after the operation, for you cannot destroy an object merely by changing its surroundings--merely by removing something that was never a part of it. The puzzle, then (which might be called the problem of undetached parts), is how Dion and Theon are related after the operation. The most common answer to this question is that Dion and Theon come to occupy just the same region of space and to be made of just the same matter after the operation. The next-mostpopular answer is that Dion and Theon are made up of temporal parts, and while those of their temporal parts that “occur” before the operation only partly overlap, Dion and Theon have the very same post-operative temporal parts. Much as two roads can merge and have spatial parts in common, Dion and Theon merge and have temporal parts in common. Less popular accounts of the relation between Dion and Theon involve relativizing identity to concepts or times, and denying that there is such a thing as Theon. Michael Burke has recently proposed an intriguing new solution (or resurrected an ancient one) to the problem of undetached parts. [1] He argues that, despite appearances, Theon-- Dion’s foot-complement--ceases to exist when Dion’s foot is removed..
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