- The Introduction motivates the study of Identity, pointing out that Metaphysics underpins just what empirical matters to look out for in settling particular cases. Forensic1 matters are noted, as are distinctions between the persistence conditions2 of different kinds of thing (eg. persons, organisms, artefacts) and we are warned that applications to Personal Identity are made in the conclusions to each chapter3 .
- Histories as well as present properties are relevant to questions of identity: the Wembley turf, and Elvis’s guitar are examples.
- The very first sentence states that the book is about “what it takes for a material object to last from one moment to another”, yet later4 in the Introduction the possibility that persons might be immaterial is mooted.
- Motivating summaries are given by Chapter:-
- Chapter 1: The connection between change and persistence – just what changes can a thing of a certain kind undergo while remaining the same thing?
- Chapters 2 & 3: set out to determine whether facts “at a moment in time” are all the facts there are, or whether something more holistic5 is required.
- Chapter 4: attempts to determine whether or not persistence can be indeterminate.
- Chapters 5 & 6: discuss the possibility of coinciding objects: the cat and its matter, for instance.
- There are (at least) two objections to the possibility of any metaphysical resolution to the above questions:-
- There are no “metaphysical facts” to be discovered. All we’re doing is choosing a way of talking about persistence in order to tackle the related practical questions.
- Even if there are metaphysical facts, can we actually discover what they are?
- Hawley thinks that we need to be careful if we say that the persistence conditions6 of certain things are “up to us”, as this might imply mystical powers of retrograde mental causation7. She adopts (unargued) a realist position whereby we cannot affect the persistence and existence of material objects other than by physically manipulating the world.
- Persistence and existence questions may be “up to us” not just (trivially) in how we use our words, but depending on what aspects of the world interest or concern us, and how we choose to divide it up. The world is ontologically rich (says Hawley). So, if it is “up to us” whether by “person” we mean something (inter alia) that begins at conception or conversely (inter alia) begins to exist at some undetermined later moment, then both such things must already exist in the world. Our minds are not creating them. This and its contrary (the mind-dependence of the world, which Hawley rejects) are metaphysical claims.
- Arguments over such points are embedded in wider metaphysical disputes about vagueness, wholes and parts, time, movement and change, necessity and possibility, language and reference.
- Metaphysical truths are neither self-evident nor empirically verifiable8. We need to see how our metaphysics in the area of persistence fits in with other things we hold, and maybe even challenge (the evidence for) those prior beliefs.
- Eg. Matters of (self-) concern, prudence and value; legal questions of ownership, and the like: Click here for Note.
Which is good to know, as it ties in nicely with my research interests. Footnote 4:
Footnote 5: Footnote 8:
- Re-reading the introduction, I couldn’t find this idea, so maybe it’s incorrectly attributed to Hawley.
- She does posit the possibility (by way of illustration) that the same human organism might “house” (her term; top of p.3) a different person from time to time, or indeed, no person at all.
- Which is why the Logical Positivists thought there were no such things, and decried any “metaphysical” claims!
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- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2020