Philosophical Topics 26 (1-2):139-158 (1999)

Eli Hirsch
Brandeis University
The Evans-Salmon position on vague identity has deservedly elicited a large response in the literature. I think it is in fact among the most provocative metaphysical ideas to appear in recent years. I will try to show in this paper, however, that the position is vulnerable to a fundamental criticism that seems to have been virtually ignored in the many discussions of it. I take the Evans-Salmon position to consist of the following two theses: Thesis I. There cannot be objects x and y such that it is indeterminate whether x is (identical with) y. Thesis II. The only way for an identity sentence to be indeterminate in truth-value is if one of the expressions flanking the identity symbol is referentially ambiguous.] The argument for Thesis I is essentially as follows. We are assuming that the sense of identity under discussion satisfies the standard formal logic of identity including Leibniz's Law. Suppose, now, that it is indeterminate whether x is y. Since it is determinate that x is x, x differs from y with respect to the property of being determinately x, from which it follows by Leibniz's Law that x is not y. Since the supposition that it is indeterminate whether x is y leads to the conclusion that x is not y, this supposition is incoherent.
Keywords Analytic Philosophy  General Interest  Philosophy of Mind
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ISBN(s) 0276-2080
DOI 10.5840/philtopics1999261/240
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