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)
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.
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)
In his interesting article 'Constitution is not Identity' (1992), Mark Johnston argues that (in a sense soon to be explained) constitution is distinct from identity. In what follows, I dispute Johnston's contention.
According to the presentist the present time is the only one that there is. Nevertheless, things persist. Most presentists think that things persist by enduring. Employing E. J. Lowe’s notion of identity-dependence, Jonathan Tallant argues that presentism is incompatible with any notion of persistence, even endurance. This consequence of Lowe’s ideas, if soundly drawn, is important. The presentist who chooses to deny persistence outright is a desperate figure. However, though Lowe’s notion is a legitimate and worthwhile one, this application is (...) faulty. The incompatibility of presentism and persistence is not part of Lowe’s heritage. A positive conclusion can be drawn. A form of persistence is compatible with presentism. It is one on which persistence is defined in tensed terms using an adverbial tense operator: x persists iff x exists and existed or will exist. Unsurprisingly, so understood persistence is endurance. The commonly held view is correct. (shrink)
In his book, Eric Olson (2007) makes some criticisms of a response to the problem of the thinking animal (also called the ‘too many minds’ or ‘too many thinkers’ problem) which I have offered, on behalf of the neo-Lockean psychological continuity theorist. Olson calls my proposal ‘personal pronoun revisionism’ (though I am not suggesting any revision). In what follows I shall say what my proposal actually is, defend it and briefly respond to Olson's criticism.
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)
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)
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)
My purpose is to explore the possible lines of reply available to a defender of the neo‐Lockean position on personal identity in response to the recently popular ‘animalist’ objection. I compare the animalist objection with an objection made to Locke by Bishop Butler, Thomas Reid and, in our own day, Sydney Shoemaker. I argue that the only possible response available to a defender of Locke against the Butler–Reid–Shoemaker objection is to reject Locke's official definition of a person as a thinking, (...) intelligent thing and replace it with the concept of the self– the object of self‐reference – and that this response is equally obligatory for the neo‐Lockean in replying to the animalist. I explore other possibilities, including the position that there is no sense in talking about personal identity at all. (shrink)
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)
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.
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)
What is the difference between the complex view of personal identity over time and the simple view? Traditionally, the defenders of the complex view are said to include Locke and Hume, defenders of the simple view to include Butler and Reid. In our own time it is standard to think of Chisholm and Swinburne as defenders of the simple view and Shoemaker, Parfit, Williams and Lewis as defenders of the complex view. But how exactly is the distinction to be characterized? (...) One difference between the two camps is that defenders of the simple view emphasize the difference between diachronic personal identity and the identity of other objects; they insist that in the case of the other familiar types that figure in philosophical puzzle cases about identity – ships, statues, plants and so on – the correct view is the complex one. On the other hand, defenders of the complex view do not hold a simple view of other things; rather they think that the complex view is correct across the board. We therefore need an account of the distinction which allows us to speak generally of ‘the complex/simple view of the diachronic identity of things of sort S’ where ‘S’ is a sortal term. A respectable view about problems of identity in general is that there aren’t any: any genuine philosophical puzzles can be rephrased so that the language of identity drops out . In what follows, I offer an account of the simple/complex contrast which conforms to this Lewisean view. 1 We can begin by distinguishing two types of constraint on personhood. Type , or synchronic constraints, are capturable in the form: If x is a person, then if x exists at t, Fxt where ‘ F represents a term for a non-historical property, a property …. (shrink)
Saul Kripke is one of the most important philosophers of the twentieth century. His most celebrated work, Naming and Necessity , makes arguably the most important contribution to the philosophy of language and metaphysics in recent years. Asking fundamental questions – how do names refer to things in the world? Do objects have essential properties? What are natural kind terms and to what do they refer? – he challenges prevailing theories of language and conceptions of metaphysics, especially the descriptivist account (...) of reference, which Kripke argues is found in Frege, Wittgenstein and Russell, and the anti-essentialist metaphysics of Quine. In this invaluable guidebook to Kripke's classic work, Harold Noonan introduces and assesses: Kripke's life and the background to his philosophy the ideas and text of Naming and Necessity the continuing importance of Kripke's work to the philosophy of language and metaphysics. The Routledge Philosophy GuideBook to Kripke and Naming and Necessity is an ideal starting point for anyone coming Kripke's work for the first time. It is essential reading for philosophy students studying philosophy of language, metaphysics, logic, or the history of analytic philosophy. (shrink)
What am I? And what is my relationship to the thing I call ‘my body’? Thus each of us can pose for himself the philosophical problems of the nature of the self and the relationship between a person and his body. One answer to the question about the relationship between a person and the thing he calls ‘his body’ is that they are two things composed of the same matter at the same time (like a clay statue and the piece (...) of clay which presently constitutes it). This is the ‘constitution view’. In this paper we give a novel overview of the literature on personal identity, the constitution view, and surrounding topics. (shrink)
Sider’s (2001) modification of the Lewisean argument from vagueness for unrestricted mereological composition is advertised as having the advantage over the original that the assumption of the semantic determinacy of ‘part of’ (its lack of multiple eligible precisifications) is not required. This is not so; without this assumption the crucial step in Sider’s defence of his most contentious premiss, (P3), is one no defender of the linguistic theory of vagueness is obliged to take. Since the aim of the argument is (...) precisely to show that a defender of the linguistic theory of vagueness must accept unrestricted mereological composition the argument has no advantage over Lewis’s. (shrink)
This is an elegant and clear tour through many of the issues in philosophy of mind that have occupied philosophers of this century. The topics covered include the problem of other minds, arguments for and against the existence of the soul, a discussion of the bundle theory of the mind, behaviorism, functionalism, mind/brain identity, the argument against the possibility of private language, personal identity and the possibility of after-life, and the question of whether animals and computers can have minds. Carruthers (...) emphasizes arguments for and against the various theories considered, and encourages readers to actively evaluate these approaches as well. Written with clarity and directness, Introducing Persons will prove a useful text for the beginner while simultaneously providing original material of interest to the advanced student and professional philosopher. (shrink)
The paper defends Gareth Evan's argument against vague identity "de re" from a criticism that quantum mechanics provides actual counter-examples to its validity. A more general version of Evans's argument is stated in which identity involving properties are not essential and it is claimed that the scientific facts as so far known are consistent with the Evansian thesis that indeterminacy in truth-value must always be due to semantic indecision.
Strong pluralists hold that not even permanent material coincidence is enough for identity. Strong pluralism entails the possibility of purely material objects -- even if not coincident -- alike in all general respects, categorial and dispositional, relational and non-relational, past, present and future, at the microphysical level, but differing in some general modal, counterfactual or dispositional repscts at the macrophysical level. It is objectionable because it thus deprives us of the explanatory resources to explain why evident absurdities are absurd. A (...) second objection is to the suggestion that cases involving artefacts can illustrate strong pluralism. This offends against the principle that gien a complex intrinsic microphysical property instantiated in some regiion, the number of material things possessing it in that region cannot depend on the existence and nature of intentional activity taking place outside it. (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)
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.
Eric Olson has argued, startlingly, that no coherent account can be giv- en of the distinction made in the personal identity literature between ‘complex views’ and ‘simple views’. ‘We tell our students,’ he writes, ‘that accounts of personal identity over time fall into [these] two broad categories’. But ‘it is impossible to characterize this distinction in any satisfactory way. The debate has been systematically misdescribed’. I argue, first, that, for all Olson has said, a recent account by Noonan provides the (...) coherent characterization he claims impossible. If so we have not been wrong all along in the way he says in what we have been telling our students. I then give an account of the distinction between the reductionist and non-reductionist positions which makes it differ- ent from the complex/simple distinction. The aim is to make clear sense of the notion of a not simple but non-reductionist position — which seems an eminently reasonable possibility and something it may also be useful to tell our students about. (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)
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)