How is the debate between presentism and eternalism to be characterized? It is usual to suggest that this debate about time is analogous to the debate between the actualist and the possibilist about modality. I think that this suggestion is right. In what follows I pursue the analogy more strictly than is usual and offer a characterization of what is at the core of the dispute between presentists and eternalists that may be immune to worries often raised about the substantiality (...) of the debate. I suggest that the debate be characterized in Lewisean terms and define positions I call *Lewisean* eternalism and anti-*Lewisean*' presentism (analogous to Lewisean possibilism and anti-Lewisean actualism). I explain some advantages of the proposal and discuss some objections. I conclude that pursuing the analogy strictly offers the prospect of giving clear sense to a controversy which otherwise seems to many deeply obscure. (shrink)
Much of the debate about identity in recent decades has been about personal identity, and specifically about personal identity over time, but identity generally, and the identity of things of other kinds, have also attracted attention. Various interrelated problems have been at the centre of discussion, but it is fair to say that recent work has focussed particularly on the following areas: the notion of a criterion of identity; the correct analysis of identity over time, and, in particular, the disagreement (...) between advocates of perdurance and advocates of endurance as analyses of identity over time; the notion of identity across possible worlds and the question of its relevance to the correct analysis of de re modal discourse; the notion of contingent identity; the question of whether the identity relation is, or is similar to, the composition relation; and the notion of vague identity. A radical position, advocated by Peter Geach, is that these debates, as usually conducted, are void for lack of a subject matter: the notion of absolute identity they presuppose has no application; there is only relative identity. Another increasingly popular view is the one advocated by Lewis: although the debates make sense they cannot genuinely be debates about identity, since there are no philosophical problems about identity. Identity is an utterly unproblematic notion. What there are, are genuine problems which can be stated using the language of identity. But since these can be restated without the language of identity they are not problems about identity. (For example, it is a puzzle, an aspect of the so-called “problem of personal identity”, whether the same person can have different bodies at different times. But this is just the puzzle whether a person can have different bodies at different times. So since it can be stated without the language of personal “identity”, it is not a problem about identity, but about personhood.) This article provides an overview of the topics indicated above, some assessment of the debates and suggestions for further reading. (shrink)
What is the self? And how does it relate to the body? In the second edition of Personal Identity, Harold Noonan presents the major historical theories of personal identity, particularly those of Locke, Leibniz, Butler, Reid and Hume. Noonan goes on to give a careful analysis of what the problem of personal identity is, and its place in the context of more general puzzles about identity. He then moves on to consider the main issues and arguments which are the subject (...) of current debate, including the work of Bernard Williams and Derek Parfit, and makes new and challenging interpretations of them. This new edition contains additional material assessing the biological approach which has become increasingly popular in recent years, and extends the treatment of indeterminate identity to take account of the epistemic view of vagueness. This book covers the problem of personal identity from its origin in Locke's work to the most recent debates in the philosophical literature, and will be invaluablereading for any student of the topic. (shrink)
In recent years largely due to the seminal work of Kit Fine and that of Jonathan Lowe there has been a resurgence of interest in the concept of essence and the project of explaining de re necessity in terms of it. Of course, Quine rejected what he called Aristotelian essentialism in his battle against quantified modal logic. But what he and Kripke debated was a notion of essence defined in terms of de re necessity. The new Aristotelian essentialists regard essence (...) as entailing but prior in the order of explanation to de re necessity. In what follows I argue that the concept of essence so understood has not been adequately explained and that any attempt to explain it, at least along the lines most familiar from the literature, must be flagrantly circular or make use of de re modal notions. (shrink)
Personal pronoun revisionism (so-called by Olson, E. 2007. What are We? A Study in Personal Ontology. Oxford: Oxford University Press) is a response to the problem of the thinking animal on behalf of the neo-Lockean theorist. Many worry about this response. The worry rests on asking the wrong question, namely: how can two thinkers that are so alike differ in this way in their cognitive capacities? This is the wrong question because they don't. The right question is: how can they (...) fail to be the same? From the materialist viewpoint shared by the animalist and neo-Lockean they can't. Personal pronoun revisionism is a consequence of their cognitive identity. (shrink)
Presentism, some say, is either the analytic triviality that the only things that exist now are ones that exist now or the obviously false claim that the only things that have ever existed or will are ones that exist now. I argue that the correct understanding of presentism is the latter and so understood the claim is not obviously false. To appreciate this one has to see presentism as strictly analogous to anti-Lewisean actualism. What this modal analogue makes evident is (...) that singular tensed statements can have scope ambiguities and so can be thought of as true with the temporal operator represented by the tense read as having wide scope. Secondly, I argue that the analogy with the modal case also makes it clear that presentism must be understood as a thesis of the form: ‘the only things that have ever existed or ever will exist stand in relation R to this utterance’, and is not a substantive topic for debate until relation R is characterized in non-temporal terms. However, despite the strict analogy, I argue that presentism may be a harder position to defend than actualism, since the truth-maker objection, properly interpreted, with Lewis, as based on a supervenience thesis, has more force as an objection to presentism since supervenience is itself a modal notion. (shrink)
What are the requirements on an adequate genuine modal realist analysis of modal discourse? One is material adequacy: the modal realist must provide for each candidate analysandum an analysans in the language of counterpart theory which by his lights has the same truth value as the candidate analysandum. Must the material biconditional joining these be necessarily true? This is the requirement of strict adequacy. It is not satisfied if Lewis’s 1968 scheme provides the analysis. John Divers puts forward a modification, (...) which identifies cases of ‘advanced modalizing’ in which the modal operator is semantically redundant. Even with this modification modal realist analyses of statements of modal discourse will be strictly inadequate. Strict adequacy can be achieved by extending the redundancy interpretation to all de dicto modal statements. The price is the denial of de dicto contingency. But perhaps material adequacy is enough. If the modal realist has a systematic means of replacing every sentence of quantified modal logic which he considers true by a sentence of counterpart theory that he considers true, perhaps he need do no more. Still, traditionally philosophical analysis aims at strict adequacy so it is as well to know that this is a test the modal realist analysis fails unless he abandons de dicto contingency. (shrink)
The aim of the paper is to discuss some recent variants of familiar puzzles concerning the relations of parts to wholes put forward by Trenton Merricks and Eric Olson. The argument is put forward that so long as the familiar distinction between 'loose and popular' and 'strict and philosophical' senses of identity claims is accepted the paradoxical conclusions at which Merricks and Olson arrive can be resisted. It is not denied that accepting the distinction between 'loose and popular' and 'strict (...) and philosophical' senses of identity claims is itself a departure from common-sense, but it is argued that it is the smallest such departure available to us. (shrink)
Personal Identity is a comprehensive introduction to the nature of the self and its relation to the body. Harold Noonan places the problem of personal identity in the context of more general puzzles about identity, discussing the major historical theories and more recent debates. The second edition of Personal Identity contains a new chapter on 'animalism' and a new section on vagueness.
In this book, Eli Hirsch focuses on identity through time, first with respect to ordinary bodies, then underlying matter, and eventually persons. These are linked at various points with other aspects of identity, such as the spatial unity of things, the unity of kinds, and the unity of groups. He investigates how our identity concept ordinarily operates in these respects. He also asks why this concept is so cental to our thinking and whether we can justify seeing the world in (...) terms of such a concept. This is the revised and updated edition of a hardback published in 1982. (shrink)
Van Inwagen has an ingenious argument for the non-existence of human artefacts . But the argument cannot be accepted, since human artefacts are everywhere. However, it cannot be ignored. The proper response to it is to treat it as a refutation of its least plausible premise, i.e., to ‘tollens’ it. I first set out van Inwagen’s argument. I then identify its least plausible premise and explain the consequence of denying it, that is, the acceptance of a plenitudinous, pluralist ontology. I (...) argue that denying it is not so difficult, since its denial is an easy consequence of ordinary beliefs. I finish by explaining why van Inwagen has not persuaded me that it may be that artefacts do not exist and conclude that nothing stands in the way of tollensing van Inwagen and accepting the consequence of doing so. (shrink)
Debate between Humean contingentists and anti-Humean necessitarians in the philosophy of science is ongoing. One of the most important contemporary anti-Humeans is Alexander Bird. Bird calls the particular version of Humeanism he is opposed to 'categoricalism'. In his paper (2005) and in Chapter 4 of his book (2007) Bird argues against categoricalism about properties and laws. His arguments against categoricalism about properties are intended to support the necessitarian position he calls dispositional monism. His arguments against categoricalism about laws are intended (...) to refute the contingent regularity view of laws (even in its sophisticated Lewisean version) and the nomic necessitation view of Armstrong (which involves a contingent necessitation relation). The general position Bird defends is that properties are necessarily related to the dispositions they bestow on their bearers and laws are necessary truths. I consider two of Bird's arguments against categoricalism about properties, and one of his arguments against the regularity view of laws. Maybe other arguments against categoricalism are persuasive. These, I submit, are not. (shrink)
Examples suggest that one and the same A may be different Bs, and hence that there is some sort of incompleteness in the unqualified statement that x and y are the same which needs to be eliminated by answering the question “the same what?” One way to make this more precise is by appeal to Geach's idea that identity is relative. In this paper I evaluate Geach's relative identity thesis.
Coincidence comes in two varieties – permanent and temporary. Moderate monism is the position that permanent coincidence, but not temporary coincidence, entails identity. Extreme monism is the position that even temporary coincidence entails identity. Pluralists are opponents of monism tout court. The intuitively obvious, commonsensical position is moderate monism. It is therefore important to see if it can be sustained.
The paper defends Gareth Evans's argument against vague identity. It appeals to a principle I name the principle of the diversity of the definitely dissimilar to defend the thesis that vague identity statements owe their indeterminacy to vagueness in language.
Standardly, a one-level criterion of identity 1 is given in the form: ∀ x∀ y )where ‘ K’ denotes the kind of thing for which the criterion is being given and ‘ R’ denotes the criterial relation.Thus, we have, for example, the criterion of identity for sets: ∀ x∀ y))and for composites: ∀ x∀ y))and for events: ∀ x∀ y)). is equivalent to the conjunction of: ∀ x and ∀ x )),which just give two necessary 2 conditions for application of (...) the predicate ‘ K’. 3Consider now the reading of ‘ Kx’ as ‘ x is a member of the Theology Department’ and ‘ Rxy’ as ‘ x admires y and y admires x’. On this reading says that every theologian admires himself and admires no other member of the department. In other words it tells us that the theologians are a bunch of narcissists bound together only by mutual contempt or indifference . Suppose that this is 4 true of the theologians. It might also be …. (shrink)
In his Ted Sider takes care to define the notion of a temporal part and his doctrine of perdurantism using only the temporally indexed notion of parthood – ‘ x is part of y at t’ – rather than the atemporal notion of classical mereology – ‘ x is a part of y’ – in order to forestall accusations of unintelligibility from his opponents. However, as he notes, endurantists do not necessarily reject the classical mereological notion as unintelligible. They allow (...) that it makes sense and applies to atemporal subject matters and to temporal subject matters when the entities under discussion are not continuants. Thus, they allow that it makes sense to say that metaphysics is a part of philosophy, or that football is a game of two halves. What endurantists deny is only that the classical mereological notion is applicable to continuants: continuants , they say, have no proper parts simpliciter , either because it is false to say that they have or because it is unintelligible.Thus perdurantists do not have to embrace Sider's excessive caution in defining their position. 1 They can safely allow themselves classical mereological notions as long as it is a consequence of their definitions that continuants are perdurers/have temporal proper parts only if they have atemporal proper parts. 2In his Josh Parsons illuminatingly takes on the task he describes as ‘get[tting] the allegedly technical concepts of temporal part, perdurance and so on by ratcheting up from mereological relations, subregion relations among times and the concept of exact temporal location ’. He continues, ‘My definitions provide a good answer to those endurantists who claim …. (shrink)
A plausible principle governing identity is that whether a later individual is identical with an earlier individual cannot ever merely depend on whether there are, at the later time, any better candidates for identity with the earlier individual around. This principle has been a bone of contention amongst philosophers interested in identity for many years. In his latest book Philosophical Explanations Robert Nozick presents what I believe to be the strongest case yet made out for the rejection of this principle. (...) My aim in this paper is to argue, with reference in particular to personal and artefact identity, that Nozick's case can be met and that a theory of identity which entails the correctness of this principle is the equal, indeed the superior, in explanatory power of the theory Nozick develops on the basis of its rejection. (shrink)
Reality and Humean Supervenience confronts the reader with central aspects in the philosophy of David Lewis, whose work in ontology, metaphysics, logic, probability, philosophy of mind, and language articulates a unique and systematic foundation for modern physicalism.
Can the world itself be vague, so that rather than vagueness be a deficiency in our mode of describing the world, it is a necessary feature of any true description of it? Gareth Evans famously poses this question in his paper ‘Can There Be Vague Objects’ :208, 1978). In his recent paper ‘Indeterminacy and Vagueness: Logic and Metaphysics’, Peter van Inwagen elaborates the account of vagueness and, in particular, in the case of sentences, consequent indeterminacy in truth value, to which (...) this conception of ‘worldly’ vagueness is opposed, calling it the ‘sensible’ theory of indeterminacy and rejecting it. In what follows, I defend the sensible theory van Inwagen rejects. I first explain more fully what it involves and, as importantly, what it does not. (shrink)
This chapter discusses the suggestion that a psychological approach must be mistaken, because, in fact, the correct account of personal identity is given by the biological approach, according to which we are human beings whose identity over time requires no kind of psychological continuity or connectedness whatsoever. A number of authors support this suggestion, including Paul Snowdon, Peter van Inwagen, and Eric Olson. This also presumes that humans, i.e. members of the species Homo sapiens, are animals of a certain kind. (...) It does not rule out the possibility of persons that are not human beings or animals, but it insists that we are all human animals, possessing the persistence conditions of human animals. This biological approach is often rejected with the notion that it conflicts with human intuition, as can be seen in the transplant case. (shrink)