Identity: an Excerpt From Quiddities
Quine (W.V.)
Source: Van Inwagen & Zimmerman - Metaphysics: The Big Questions
Paper - Abstract

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  1. From Quiddities
  2. Identity as a true relation (against Hume’s doubts).
  3. Identity as useful (contra Wittgenstein1’s doubts).
  4. Treats briefly of Heraclitus’s river, Ship of Theseus2 & Persons3.
  5. Common theme: persistence through complete change of parts. Riddles arise because of what we choose to count as the reference of our words.
  6. Words as occasionally vague instruments. Agrees with Humpty Dumpty.
  7. So it’s arbitrary whether we say a person counts as beginning at conception, birth or in between. Persons taken loosely to be their bodies?
  8. Continuity of change is necessary for identity-preservation.
  9. Mentions stages.
  10. Brief Evaluation:
    • Vagueness of language OK, but no mention of natural kinds4.
    • No consideration of possibility that a person may begin to exist only after birth (if ever).
    • No consideration that stages, rather than language, solve the Ship of Theseus5 problem.

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