Edited by Chad Carmichael (Indiana University Purdue University, Indianapolis)
About this topic

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), indiscernibility, 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 must always be 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 1994 for replies. On relative identity, see Geach 1967, Geach 1962, and Perry 1970.

Introductions See the Stanford Encyclopedia piece on Identity Noonan & Curtis 2014 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 et al 2011.

Related categories

1063 found
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Material to categorize
  1. David Wiggins, Continuants: Their Activity, Their Being and Their Identity. Twelve Essays, Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 2016, 239 Pp., $50.00 , ISBN: 9780198716624. [REVIEW]Robert Michels - 2018 - Dialectica 72 (2):325-328.
  2. Transitivity of Visual Sameness.Blazej Skrzypulec - forthcoming - Synthese.
    The way in which vision represents objects as being the same despite movement and qualitative changes has been extensively investigated in contemporary psychology. However, the formal properties of the visual sameness relation are still unclear, for example, whether it is an identity-like, equivalence relation. The paper concerns one aspect of this problem: the transitivity of visual sameness. Results obtained by using different experimental paradigms are analysed, in particular studies using streaming/bouncing stimuli, multiple object tracking experiments and investigations concerning object-specific preview (...)
  3. Authenticity.Anna Karlström - 2015 - In Kathryn Lafrenz Samuels & Trinidad Rico (eds.), Heritage Keywords. University Press of Colorado..
  4. What Is the Essence of a Natural Object? Comparing Western-Individualist and Afro-Relational Ontologies.Thaddeus Metz - forthcoming - Synthesis Philosophica 33 (2).
    The dominant view amongst contemporary Anglo-American philosophers about the essence of a natural object is that it is constituted by its intrinsic properties. The ontological approach salient in the African philosophical tradition, in contrast, accounts for a thing's essence by appeal to its relational properties. The African ontology is under-developed, with the primary aim of this article being to help rectify that weakness. Specifically, this article's aims are: to articulate an African approach to understanding the essence of a concrete, natural (...)
  5. Authenticity.Anna Karlström - 2015 - In Kathryn Lafrenz Samuels & Trinidad Rico (eds.), Heritage Keywords. University Press of Colorado.
  6. Referent Tracking of Portions of Reality. Docket No. 1097.015A (USPA 2009055437).Werner Ceusters, Shahid Manzoor & Barry Smith - 2008 - In U.S. Patent Application. US Patent Office.
    Management of information is facilitated by unambiguously tracking portions of reality over time. To track the portions of reality, a referent tracking system is used. The referent tracking system is able to communicate with other tracking systems and/or tradition information systems. Errors in the referent tracking system are detected and corrected to maintain actual representations of the portions of reality.
  7. Referent Tracking and its Applications.Werner Ceusters & Barry Smith - 2007 - In Proceedings of the Workshop WWW2007 Workshop i3: Identity, Identifiers, Identification (Workshop on Entity-Centric Approaches to Information and Knowledge Management on the Web), Banff, Canada. CEUR.
    Referent tracking (RT) is a new paradigm, based on unique identification, for representing and keeping track of particulars. It was first introduced to support the entry and retrieval of data in electronic health records (EHRs). Its purpose is to avoid the ambiguity that arises when statements in an EHR refer to disorders or other entities on the side of the patient exclusively by means of compound descriptions utilizing general terms such as ‘pimple on nose’ or ‘small left breast tumor’. In (...)
  8. The Argument From Almost Indiscernibles.Gonzalo Rodriguez-Pereyra - 2017 - Philosophical Studies 174 (12):3005-3020.
    What I call the argument from almost indiscernibles is an argument, put forward by Robert Adams in 1979, for the possibility of indiscernibles based on the possibility of almost indiscernibles. The argument is that if almost indiscernibles are possible, indiscernibles are possible, but since almost indiscernible are possible, indiscernibles are possible. The argument seems to be an improvement over the mere appeal to intuitions, like that suggested by Max Black, that situations in which there are indiscernibles are possible, for the (...)
  9. La Multiplicidad de los Entes según Tomás de Aquino.Fernando Riofrío Zúñiga (ed.) - 2017 - Saarbrüken, Germany: Editorial Académica Española. OmniScriptum.
    These PhD Dissertation published as a book is a research on Metaphysics about the problem of Multiplicity explained by its principles on the grounds of Aristotle's Metaphysics focused on substance and metaphysical thought of Aquinas. According to Aquinas the multitude of forms are the cause of multiplicity of beings. Super Boethium De Trinitate has an importan treatment of matter and form as causes of substantial identity, of substance's non-being and something else and be a this. Therefore the multiplicity of beings (...)
  10. Counting by Identity: A Reply to Liebesman.Oliver R. Marshall - 2017 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 95 (2):385-390.
    David Liebesman argues that we never count by identity. He generalizes from an argument that we don't do so with sentences indicating fractions, or with measurement sentences on their supposed count readings. In response, I argue that measurement sentences aren't covered by the thesis that we count by identity, in part because they don't have count readings. Then I use the data to which Liebesman appeals, in his argument that we don't count by identity using measurement sentences, in order to (...)
  11. The Metaphysics of Identity: Is Identity Fundamental?Shumener Erica - 2017 - Philosophy Compass 12 (1):e12397.
    Identity and distinctness facts are ones like “The Eiffel Tower is identical to the Eiffel Tower,” and “The Eiffel Tower is distinct from the Louvre.” This paper concerns one question in the metaphysics of identity: Are identity and distinctness facts metaphysically fundamental or are they nonfundamental? I provide an overview of answers to this question.
  12. Human Persistence.Rory Madden - 2016 - Philosophers' Imprint 16.
    Both advocates and opponents of the animalist view that we are fundamentally biological organisms have typically assumed that animalism is incompatible with intuitive verdicts about cerebrum isolation and transplantation. It is argued here that this assumption is a mistake. Animalism, developed in a natural way, in fact strongly supports these intuitive verdicts. The availability of this attractive resolution of a central puzzle in the personal identity debate has been obscured by a range of factors, including the prevalence in contemporary metaphysics (...)
  13. Identity and Markers of Adulthood: The Relationship Between Two Constructs.Konrad Piotrowski & Anna Izabela Brzezińska - 2013 - Polish Psychological Bulletin 44 (3):254-265.
    The article presents both the classical and contemporary approaches to the analysis of identity formation. Special emphasis has been placed on the processual approach, in which identity is regarded as a dynamic construct that remains in constant, mutual relations with personal and contextual factors. Since research on identity has been predominantly based on studies conducted on individuals in adolescence and early adulthood, i.e. in the time of transition to adulthood, the article focuses on adulthood markers that may be found in (...)
  14. 6. From the Actual to the Possible: Non-Identity Thinking.Deborah Cook - 2005 - In Jonathan Short, Michael Palamarek, Kathy Kiloh, Colin J. Campbell & Donald Burke (eds.), Adorno and the Need in Thinking. University of Toronto Press. pp. 163-180.
  15. Identity Processing Style and Defense Mechanisms.Andrew Kinney & Michael Berzonsky - 2008 - Polish Psychological Bulletin 39 (3):111-117.
    Identity Processing Style and Defense Mechanisms To investigate relationships between identity processing styles and patterns of defense mechanisms, 213 participants completed measures of defense-mechanism clusters and styles of negotiating identity conflicts and threats. A self-exploratory, informational identity style was associated with defense mechanisms that control anxiety and threats via internal cognitive maneuvers. In contrast, a diffuse-avoidant identity style was found to be related to maladaptive defensive maneuvers including turning against others and turning aggression inward against oneself, which is related to (...)
  16. Ancient Israelite Identity.Peter H. W. Lau - 2010 - In Identity and Ethics in the Book of Ruth: A Social Identity Approach. De Gruyter.
  17. Identity and Ethics in the Book of Ruth: A Social Identity Approach.Peter H. W. Lau - unknown
  18. A Continuidade Física Garante a Persistência Pessoal No Tempo.Hugo Luzio - 2016 - Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia 72 (2-3):699-724.
    In the following sections we hold that physical continuity suffices personal persistence through time. First, we determine the theoretic and conceptual grounds of the metaphysical problem of personal identity, the relevant notion of «personal identity», the temporal persistence question simpliciter, what identity criteria and individuation principles are, and the formal properties of the identity concept. We differentiate between the simple and complex views, stating the reductionist thesis transversal to the latter. In the central sections, we discuss the main arguments and (...)
  19. Persons and Bodies: A Constitution View.Peter van Inwagen & Lynne Rudder Baker - 2002 - Philosophical Review 111 (1):138.
  20. The Metaphysics of Identity Over Time.Eli Hirsch & David S. Oderberg - 1995 - Philosophical Review 104 (3):469.
  21. The Concept of Identity, by Eli Hirsch. [REVIEW]W. R. Carter - 1984 - Philosophical Review 93 (3):468.
  22. Objects and Identity: An Examination of the Relative Identity Thesis and its Consequences.C. D. C. Reeve & Harold W. Noonan - 1983 - Philosophical Review 92 (4):633.
  23. Occasions of Identity: The Metaphysics of Persistence, Change, and Sameness.Alan Sidelle & Andre Gallois - 2000 - Philosophical Review 109 (3):469.
  24. On the Identity of the Toponym LÚ.SuOn the Identity of the Toponym LU.Su.Piotr Steinkeller - 1988 - Journal of the American Oriental Society 108 (2):197.
  25. Normative Identity.Per Bauhn - 2017 - Rowman & Littlefield International.
    This book describes what it means to have a normative identity and critically evaluates this kind of identity from the point of view of rational agency.
  26. Problems About Material and Formal Modes in the Necessity of Identity.Lawrence D. Roberts - 1985 - Journal of Philosophy 82 (10):562.
  27. The Identity Theory.E. N. & Blamey Stevens - 1937 - Journal of Philosophy 34 (13):362.
  28. VI—Is Identity a Relation?C. J. F. Williams - 1980 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 80 (1):81-100.
  29. V—Appearance, Identity and Ontology.Renford Bambrough - 1975 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 75 (1):69-76.
  30. XIV—Time, Existence and Identity.A. N. Prior - 1966 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 66 (1):183-192.
  31. VII.—Identity.G. E. Moore - 1901 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 1 (1):103-127.
  32. Tracing the Identity of Objects.Lance J. Rips, Sergey Blok & George Newman - 2006 - Psychological Review 113 (1):1-30.
    This article considers how people judge the identity of objects (e.g., how people decide that a description of an object at one time, t₀, belongs to the same object as a description of it at another time, t₁). The authors propose a causal continuer model for these judgments, based on an earlier theory by Nozick (1981). According to this model, the 2 descriptions belong to the same object if (a) the object at t₁ is among those that are causally close (...)
  33. On Identity Statements: In Defense of a Sui Generis View.Tristan Haze - 2016 - Disputatio 8 (43):269-293.
    This paper is about the meaning and function of identity statements involving proper names. There are two prominent views on this topic, according to which identity statements ascribe a relation: the object-view, on which identity statements ascribe a relation borne by all objects to themselves, and the name-view, on which an identity statement 'a is b' says that the names 'a' and 'b' codesignate. The object- and name-views may seem to exhaust the field. I make a case for treating identity (...)
  34. Cruel Intensions: An Essay on Intentional Identity and Intentional Attitudes.Alexander Sandgren - 2016 - Dissertation, The Australian National University
    Some intentional attitudes (beliefs, fears, desires, etc.) have a common focus in spite of there being no object at that focus. For example, two beliefs may be about the same witch even when there are no witches, different astronomers had beliefs directed at Vulcan, even though there is no such planet. This relation of having a common focus, whether or not there is an actual concrete object at that focus, is called intentional identity. In the first part of this thesis (...)
  35. Moderate Monism, Sortal Concepts and Relative Identity.Harold Noonan - unknown
  36. Meta-Ontology, Naturalism, and The Quine-Barcan Marcus Debate.Frederique Janssen-Lauret - 2015 - In Frederique Janssen-Lauret & Gary Kemp (eds.), Quine and His Place in History. Palgrave. pp. 146-167.
    Twenty-first century critics frequently misread Quinean ontological commitment as a toothless doctrine of anti-metaphysical pragmatism. Janssen-Lauret's historical investigations reveal that they misinterpret the influence of Quine's naturalism. His naturalistic view of philosophy as continuous with science informs a much more interesting conception of ontological commitments as generated by indispensable explanatory roles. But Janssen-Lauret uncovers a previously undetected weakness in Quine's meta-ontology. Careful examination of his debate with another naturalistic nominalist, Ruth Barcan Marcus, reveals that his holism leaves him blind to (...)
  37. New Directions in Identity: Theory and Research.Jan E. Stets & Richard T. Serpe (eds.) - 2016 - Oxford University Press USA.
    Over the past four decades - and most especially in recent years as issues of identity continue to play out across the public stage - identity theory has developed into one of the most fascinating and active research programs within the spheres of sociological social psychology. Having emerged out of a landmark 2014 national conference that sought to integrate various research programs and to honor the groundbreaking work of Dr. Peter J. Burke, New Directions in Identity Theory and Research brings (...)
  38. Being Qua Being: A Theory of Identity, Existence, and Predication.Panayot Butchvarov - 1979 - Indiana University Press.
    Are there nonexistent things? What is the nature of informative identity statements? Are the notions of essential property and of essence intelligible, and, if so, how are they to be understood? Are individual things material substances or clusters of qualities? Can the account of the unity of a complex entity avoid vicious infinite regresses? These questions have attracted widespread attention among philosophers recently, as evidenced by a proliferation of articles in the leading philosophical journals. In Being Qua Being they receive (...)
  39. Weak Discernibility, Again.Thomas Møller-Nielsen - 2016 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 3.
  40. The Identity of a Word in Advance.Roger Teichmann - forthcoming - American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly.
  41. Rigidity, Reference, and Contingent Identity.Fredrik Haraldsen - 2012 - SATS 13 (2):116-127.
    Name der Zeitschrift: Jahrgang: 13 Heft: 2 Seiten: 116-127.
  42. Sharing My Body. Personal Identity and Individuation.Logi Gunnarsson - 2009 - SATS 10 (1).
  43. Reply to Noonan on Vague Identity.E. J. Lowe - 1997 - Analysis 57 (1):88-91.
  44. Vague Identity and Quantum Indeterminacy: Further Reflections.E. J. Lowe - 1999 - Analysis 59 (4):328-330.
  45. Distinctness and Non-Identity.D. H. Sanford - 2005 - Analysis 65 (4):269-274.
  46. Mathematical Structuralism and the Identity of Indiscernibles.J. Ladyman - 2005 - Analysis 65 (3):218-221.
  47. Does Ontic Indeterminacy in Boundaries Entail Ontic Indeterminacy in Identity?H. W. Noonan - 2008 - Analysis 68 (2):174-176.
  48. Identity Eliminated.H. W. Noonan - 2007 - Analysis 67 (2):122-127.
  49. Indeterminacy of Identity of Objects and Sets.Peter W. Woodruff & Terence D. Parsons - 1997 - Noûs 31 (S11):321-348.
  50. Identity and General Similarity.Harry Deutsch - 1998 - Noûs 32 (S12):177-199.
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