- This monograph proposes and attempts to resolve one problem about the notion of identity. The problem is a wholly general one and in the first instance I answer it purely formally. Some defence is offered in 1.2 and 1.7 of the formal principles which I use to get to that answer, but I must emphasize that it is not my intention to offer any complete defence of these principles in this monograph. After two or three indications of the grounds for supposing them to be incontrovertible principles and partially definitive of what we mean by identical or same, I concern myself almost entirely with their consequences, which are many and complex. In particular, the negative answer to the original question leaves us with a number of interesting problems about the identity of persisting material substances. These are the problems which are then taken up.
- Spatio-temporal continuity or coincidence and bodily continuity1 have regularly figured in recent discussions of such problems as ‘What is the principle of individuation2?' and ‘What is personal identity?'. I think that the notion of spatio-temporal coincidence itself has been assumed to be perfectly clear or quite easy to clarify. That it is clarifiable I am inclined to agree, but the result of clarifying it is not in every case to leave things exactly as they were, or as they seemed to be when the notion was originally imported into these discussions. In Part Four I attempt to give colour to this claim so far as it concerns personal identity.
- It gradually became evident to me in constructing this work that for the future of metaphysics no single part of the philosophy of science was in more urgent need of development than the philosophy of biology. It is well known that Aristotle believed something like this but it seems to be the misfortune of that particular philosopher that few of the things he said can be understood or believed until they are laboriously rediscovered. And it is a misfortune of present-day analytical philosophy that it has not inspired the production of any writings in the philosophy of biology which are both worthy to succeed the seminal writings of J. H. Woodger and capable of illuminating present day philosophical discussions of classification and individuation3 in the way Aristotle would have argued that they require. To this important task I incite those better qualified than I am to undertake it.
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