- Anyone who has studied the topics listed in the title of this book will know the work of John Perry. The volume collects seven important papers from the 1970s and early 80s, along with four previously unpublished essays on similar themes and a substantial glossary. It is a welcome addition to an earlier collection of Perry’s work (Perry 20001).
- The first two essays, "Perry (John) - The Same F" and"Perry (John) - Relative Identity and Relative Number", defend the Fregean view that things are identical or distinct simpliciter against Geach’s view that identity is always relative to a sort: that this thing and that one might be the same F or different Gs, but it is meaningless to say they are one or two without qualification. The final two pieces, both new, concern the semantics of first-person judgments, pursuing the theme of Perry’s famous paper "Perry (John) - The Problem of the Essential Indexical". In between are a fascinating series of papers on the nature of identity over time in general and personal identity over time in particular. I will focus on these.
- Perry’s discussion of identity over time is based on the idea, derived from Carnap and Quine, that things identified at different times are identical just when the momentary ‘stages’ of those objects by which we identify them at those times stand in the appropriate unity relation ("Perry (John) - Can the Self Divide?" and "Perry (John) - Personal Identity, Memory, and the Problem of Circularity"; see also "Perry (John) - The Problem of Personal Identity"). Suppose R is the unity relation for people: the relation things stand in just when they are stages of the same person. Then a person we identify at an earlier time is the same person as someone we identify at a later time if and only if the person-stage identified at the earlier time bears R to the person-stage identified at the later time. To ask under what circumstances people identified at different times are the same person is therefore to ask under what circumstances person-stages occurring at different times stand in R. Given all this, an account of what personal identity over time consists in will be an analysis of relation R.
Footnote 1: The Problem of the Essential Indexical and Other Essays. University of Chicago Press.
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