American Philosophical Quarterly 44 (2):181 - 189 (2007)
|Abstract||1. According to a popular line of reasoning, vagueness creates a problem for the endurantist conception of persistence.1 Assuming that ordinary material objects can undergo some mereological change without thereby ceasing to exist, just how much change they can tolerate appears to be a vague matter. Surely a cat—Tibbles—can lose a few body cells, but surely it cannot lose too many of them, so it seems that we are bound to be faced with “borderline cases” in which we are unsure what to say. For a perdurantist, such considerations pose no serious threat. If ordinary objects are things that persist through time by having a different temporal part at each moment at which they exist, just as they extend over space by having a different spatial part at each place at which they are found, then the borderline cases can be explained in familiar semantic terms: our linguistic practices are not precise enough to determine the exact temporal extent of the referent of such expressions as ‘Tibbles’ or ‘that cat’, just as they are not precise enough to determine the exact spatial extent of the referent of expressions such as ‘Everest’ or ‘that mountain’. By contrast, the endurantist would seem to be committed to a different account. If ordinary objects are things that persist through time by being wholly present at each moment at which they exist, and if it is indeterminate whether a certain number of body cells suffices to constitute a whole cat, then the borderline cases correspond to times at which it is indeterminate whether a cat exists at all. To the extent that our expressions for existence are not capable of harboring semantic vagueness (e.g., because they belong to our logical vocabulary), this means that the endurantist can only regard the borderline cases as a sign of epistemic or ontic vagueness—a problem.|
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