Preface (Full1 Text)
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- What is Identity? is the last volume in a trilogy which began with What is Truth? (Cambridge University Press, 1976) and continued with "Williams (Christopher) - What is Existence?" (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981). The other two members of the trilogy were largely devoted to the defence of positions held by earlier philosophers: the view of Frege and Russell that existence is not a property of objects, but of concepts or propositional functions, and Ramsey and Prior's so-called prosentential theory of truth. The most original part of What is Existence? was the section on the Analogy of Being, i.e. the attempt to explain how the same word can have both a copulative and an existential function. Since this theory was presented in the final chapter of the book, it is not surprising that few readers, to judge from the reviews, persevered long enough to become acquainted with it. The impression left may have been conservative rather than radical.
- The present volume, however, has a greater component of originality. To be sure, it begins with an exposition and defence of Wittgenstein's curiously neglected denial that identity is a relation. But it dissents from Wittgenstein's accompanying view that there is no need of a sign of identity. Consideration of intentional contexts seems to make clear that the concept of identity requires verbal expression. What is important, however, is that the expression required is not one that belongs to the category of two-place, first-level predicable, an expression whose purpose is to form a proposition when attached to a pair of names. Rather, it belongs to a category whose function is, roughly speaking, to form a one-place out of a two-place predicable. More of this later. It is already apparent that, like the other members of the trilogy, the theme of this book is that what is required for a proper understanding of concepts like being, identity, and truth is an appreciation of the syntactical categories to which the words which express them properly belong. What sounded like a metaphysical diatribe turns out to be an exercise in syntax.
- Those who look for more stirring stuff than disputes over categorial boundaries may be encouraged by the news that consequences are drawn, not only for the philosophies of logic and mathematics, but for the philosophy of mind. The concept misleadingly expressed by the apparently relational predicable '— is the same as ......' is the self-same concept, I argue, as that expressed by 'herself' and other reflexive pronouns. But there is a concept of self, closely allied to that expressed by the first person pronoun, which is different from, though connected with, the concept of identity. These connections are explored in the longest chapter of the book. And there is another chapter which argues that the attempts of certain philosophers of mind to assert identity between mental events and physical events in the brain fail, not merely to attain truth, but to be intelligible. Professor Kripke holds that, since the propositions Identity Theorists are trying to establish are not necessarily true, they are simply false. In maintaining that the sentences in question are strictly meaningless, I hope to have trumped Kripke.
Footnote 1: Less Acknowledgements.
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