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Prior Knowledge

Thursday, March 24, 2005


This time a question. Is there anything more fundamental than identity? It seems to me that, at least from our epistemic situation, the most fundamental thing is identity; without identity then all that follows cannot not make any sense.

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  • yeah, maybe. It definately seems that 'is' is the most fundamental word in our language. But that begs the question: what about the other 'is's? Predication, it could be argued, is even more fundamental.

    3/24/2005 05:09:00 PM  

  • How about causation? We might then define two things as being identical iff they have the same causal powers.

    (I think we might have discussed this in the tea room once. I seem to recall there is some problem with the view I've just described, but I can't remember exactly what...)

    3/24/2005 05:13:00 PM  

  • Hey guys, I've been looking forward to getting involved with this blog.

    It seems to me that identity is a pretty fundamental property/relation. But, Quentin Smith has argued (in Language and Time) that presentness is the only "universal metaphysical subject", and hence the most fundamental relation in the universe; everything is related to presentness. What he argues is that presentness relates even to thin states of affairs, and therefore thin objects and events. Properties like identity are involved in thick states of affairs, but not thin. At the level of thick states of affairs, however, you get other things that are equally as fundamental as identity, such as instantiation.

    I hope some of this makes sense...I know that if I wasn't taking my Language and Time course a lot of what I'm saying might not make sense to me.

    3/25/2005 03:31:00 AM  

  • Chris, Interesting post. Could you please explain the distinction between thick and thin states of affairs?

    Richard, when you say "define two things as being identical iff they have the same causal powers", I think your use of 'same' is inciting some sort of identity claim. Hence a circular account of identity.

    And Patrick, I think I agree with you, but let me try my catch-all argument to the contrary. It seems to me that before you can have a predicate-subject relation you must first have identified the subject and the predicate. As in my first post; "without identity then all that follows cannot not make any sense".

    3/25/2005 11:23:00 AM  

  • Sure thing, Reuben. First I will describe thin objects and thin properties. You can think of thin Fred as Fred as abstracted from all of his essential and nonessential properties. So, thin Fred doesn't even have the property of self-identity. (This point confuses me. At least, it seems to fly in the face of Quine's maxim, 'No entity without identity.') Similarly, thin eating (property) is eating extracted away from all of its properties.

    With these we can construct the thin state of affairs, "Thin Fred is thin eating." While this state of affairs does not exemplify properties like identity or other necessary properties (such as either being a number or a non-number), Smith argues that it does exemplify presentness.

    3/26/2005 10:52:00 AM  

  • I think the issue of presence and identity are closely related. Further I think it is typical of the Continental tradition to problematize both of these. Which leads partially to the huge divide between the Anglo tradition and the Continental tradition. Once you differ on those fundamental issues, it seems like on higher level debates you'll already differ so much that dialog will be difficult.

    3/29/2005 06:13:00 AM  

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