Upward Collapses and Downward Explosions: The Emergence of the Problem of Individuation in Plato and Aristotle and the Solutions Proposed by Porphyry and Boethius

Dissertation, State University of New York at Albany (2002)
Abstract
This is a development of Jorge Gracia's Introduction to the Problem of Individuation in the Early Middle Ages. Here I resolve some of the ambiguities that he points out in respect to Porphyry's and Boethius' initial treatments of individuation by examining them in the context of the related problem of universals and both the Platonic and Aristotelian conceptions of the individual that they were working with. ;Although Porphyry endorses a bundle theory of individuation, his account is ambiguous as to exactly what properties he is including in the individuating set. I argue that we can interpret Porphyry as holding that individuals have a unique but unidentifiable subset of essential properties beyond those assigned by the species form. This strategy essentially amounts to introducing something like an individual form, and is a valid interpretation given his general agenda of reconciling the Platonist/Neoplatonist conception of universals with Aristotle's Categories. ;Boethius' account is ambiguous as well. He could be appealing to a bundle theory that includes accidents in the bundle, or an accidental theory that relies on the numerical distinction of accidents to individuate. I argue that Boethius is best read as endorsing a bundle theory that includes accidents in the set. This makes the most sense given the nature of his Aristotelian solution to the problem of universals . ;Ultimately, Boethius' bundle strategy falls victim to Peter Abailard's objections against the use of accidents to individuate. When we see the ontological mechanics going on underneath Boethius' bundle theory, the intuitive power of Abailard's objections is shown to generate a paradox in which synchronic individuation assumes diachronic individuation and diachronic individuation assumes synchronic individuation. The only obvious way out of this is to introduce individual forms as Porphyry does. But this strategy fails too because it would require an infinite amount of individual forms. From these difficulties, we can see that the root of the problem of individuation in the early medieval period is with the difficulties both Platonic realism and Aristotelian moderate realism have in accommodating both universals and individuals into one ontology
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