A Problem About Identity
MacIntosh (J.J.)
Source: Dialogue 13 - Issue 3 - September 1974, pp. 455-474
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction (Sections 1 & 2)

  1. The problem:
    • Here are three plausible but incompatible propositions:
      1. The answer to Locke's question (23):
          Could we suppose two distinct incommunicable consciousnesses acting the same body, the one constantly by day, the other by night... I ask... whether the day and the night man would not be two as distinct persons as Socrates and Plato?
        is yes.
      2. I am a human being. More generally, human persons are human beings.
      3. Identity is not relative.
    • Given (3) there is a clear incompatibility between (1) and (2). For if, in Locke's case, we label the day person d, the night person n, and the (single) human being h,
      • (2) licenses (d = h) & (n = h), while
      • (1) tells us that (d <> h).
    • I shall suggest later that this is a particular case of a more general problem; I use it here because I find it the most interesting case.
  2. The possible solutions:
    • There are three possible solutions. Either (1) is false, or (2) is false, or (3) is false. There are no other possible solutions.
    • I shall follow Geach, whose argument is that (3) can be kept, but at too high a price (the price in this case would include the rejection of (2)), and try to show that the loss of (3) is not as unpalatable as has been feared.
    • I shall argue briefly in favour of (1) and (2), since they have been attacked, but a full scale defence of either is beyond the scope of this paper, and my procedure really amounts to little more than an initial assumption of them, with the consequent necessary rejection of (3) providing most of the detailed discussion.
    • In the end, the rejection of (2) will remain as a possibility.

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