Substance, Identity and Time
Noonan (Harold)
Source: Supplement to the Proceedings of The Aristotelian Society Vol. 62, 1988, 79-100
Paper - Abstract

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Philosophers Index Abstract

  1. The aim of the paper is to argue that problems about criteria of identity are best construed as problems of kind membership.
  2. This view is shown to be the natural one if the Quinean conception of physical objects as aggregates of stages is accepted, but it is argued that it can and should be accepted even if the Quinean conception is rejected.
  3. The worth of the general approach is illustrated by applying it to a consideration of Saul Kripke's famous (albeit unpublished) argument for ungrounded identity over time which has previously been discussed by Shoemaker and Armstrong.

Author’s Abstract
  1. Jonathan Lowe argues1 that there must be some things whose identity over time is primitive or ungrounded, ultimately because the notion of such ungrounded identities underpins the idea of time itself.
  2. At first sight there seems to be no difficulty.
  3. The basic thought underlying this argument is twofold:
    • first, identity is not, as Locke said, ‘suited to the idea’, there is just one relation of identity, the relation everything has to itself and nothing else,
    • and secondly, this notion is unanalyzable in any more fundamental terms.
  4. There is another line of solution to the puzzle I outlined in section II, however, which has also had an influence on the discussion of problems of identity over time. We can call this, for brevity, but somewhat misleadingly, the Fregean solution.
  5. In his unpublished lectures Kripke2 argues explicitly against the strong holographic supervenience3 thesis, and perhaps against the weak holographic supervenience4 thesis also.
  6. Jonathan Lowe’s own argument for ungrounded identity is different from Kripke’s and it is unclear how, even if valid, it can refute the (weak) holographic supervenience5 thesis.
  7. To sum up: I began by presenting a puzzle which seemed to cast doubt on the intelligibility of requests for criteria of diachronic identity. I then presented two responses to this puzzle and in the light of them defined two senses which could be given to the notion of ungrounded identity over time. I argued, however, albeit tentatively, that no proof of ungrounded identity over time in either sense had been given, either by Kripke in his famous unpublished lecture or by Lowe. I have not claimed, however, that no such proof can be given.


Symposium with Lowe. See "Lowe (E.J.) - Substance, Identity and Time".

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1: In "Lowe (E.J.) - Substance, Identity and Time".

Footnote 2: See "Shoemaker (Sydney) - Identity, Properties, and Causality" for Kripke’s argument.

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  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2020
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