- The problem, familiarly enough, emerges as follows. Suppose I bought a ten pound portion of clay1 at 9AM. What is a portion of clay2? We will return to that question. For the time being, a portion of clay is some clay. It is a quantity of clay. Let us give the name CLAY to it: CLAY = the ten pound portion of clay I bought at 9AM.
- Suppose that at noon, I made a statue3 of King Alfred the Great out of it, and that I put it on the table at 2PM. Let us give the name ALFRED to the statue4: ALFRED = the statue5 on the table at 2PM.
- How are ALFRED and CLAY related to each other? That is the problem. Is this supposed to be a hard problem? Why isn't the solution simply that ALFRED is CLAY? If we can say that Identity Thesis: ALFRED = CLAY is true, then the problem is solved, easily.
- Some people say it is obvious that the Identity Thesis will not do, for the following reason. By hypothesis, they say, I bought CLAY at 9AM, so (1) CLAY existed at 9AM is true. But, they say, it is obvious that ALFRED did not come into existence until noon, so (2) ALFRED did not exist at 9AM is also true. And they go on to say it is therefore obvious that the Identity Thesis is false. (A similar argument turns on my smashing ALFRED at midnight.)
- If we accept this argument, then we do have a hard problem before us. ALFRED and CLAY plainly stand in some intimate relation to each other – they currently occupy the same place, they currently have the same shape, size, color, texture, smell, and so on and on. In what relation do they stand to each other if not identity? Opponents of the Identity Thesis say we should say that CLAY constitutes ALFRED. But what can "constitutes" mean for these purposes? Opponents of the Identity Thesis have not found it at all easy to say.
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