Constitution is Not Identity
Johnston (Mark)
Source: Rea - Material Constitution - A Reader
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction

  1. Suppose that a statue1 of Goliath is made by fusing together two appropriately shaped pieces of clay and that after a few minutes, the artisan, frustrated with his work, dissolves the statue2 in a solvent which destroys clay and statue3 alike. Then a natural thing to say is that the careers of the statue4 and the lump or piece of clay which made it up are entirely coincident. The statue5 and the piece of clay came into being at the same time and ceased to be at the same time. Throughout their respective careers, the piece of clay constituted the statue6.
  2. Had the artisan despaired only of the arms and calves of Goliath and dissolved only them, replacing them with new pieces of appropriately molded clay, then we should say that distinct but not wholly distinct pieces of clay constituted the statue7 of Goliath over its lifetime. In this second case we naturally conclude that the statue8 is not absolutely identical with the whole piece of clay which originally constituted it, since the piece arguably did not survive the dissolving of significant parts of it, while the statue9 clearly did survive the dissolving; as is evidenced by the fact that the statue10 had new arms and calves attached to it.
  3. So also, it seems natural to conclude that even in the first case in which the original piece of clay constituted the statue11 throughout its entire career, the statue12 is not absolutely identical with the clay, since the statue13 could have survived certain changes which the piece of clay would not have survived, e.g. the changes described in the second case.
  4. Philosophers have gone to some lengths to resist this last conclusion. Thus David Lewis, Alan Gibbard, Anil Gupta and Denis Robinson all allege that something special about modal14 predication invalidates the argument to non-identity in the case of complete coincidence15. Concentrating on Lewis's way of putting the point, since it fits neatly into a familiar systematic way of thinking of modality16, the situation is supposed to be as follows17.


In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 15: See Footnote 17: The remarks that follow are adapted from "Lewis (David) - Counterparts of Persons and Their Bodies" (1971).

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