Cambridge Change and Sortal Essentialism
Ujvari (Marta)
Source: Metaphysica 5.2 (2004), pp. 25-34
Paper - Abstract

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Philosophers Index Abstract

  1. The paper shows the effect of Cambridge changes for undetached proper parts of substances provided that sortal1 essentialism holds.
  2. Contrary to Stone, the paper argues that the constitution relation cannot serve as a protective buffer between sortal2 essentialism and Cambridge change. For, Theon's putative survival in whatever form presupposes that an essential property of Theon is lost by Cambridge change: i.e., its being the proper part of man. And the loss of an essential property while the thing continues its existence is denied by essentialism.
  3. The moral is that the metaphysical consequences of Cambridge changes should not be underestimated.

Author’s Introduction
  1. In his recent attempt to deal with a putative conflict between Cambridge change and sortal3 essentialism put into focus by Chrysippus's puzzle Jim Stone has the following claims4.
    • First, the “brittle” form of essentialism which Burke deployed previously in his approach is implausible since it entails that trivial changes in the relational properties of objects can lead to the destruction of these objects. In the puzzle, for example, Theon, the proper part of man Dion5 consisting of all of Dion6 except Dion7's left foot is destroyed according to Burke8 by being separated from that foot by amputation. Burke's reason for Theon's destruction is that if it continued to exist it would become indiscernible from man Dion9 and so it would begin to satisfy the substance sortal10 “an” undergoing thus a “sortal11 change”. However, no survival under another sortal12 is permitted by sortal13 essentialist insights. As Stone sees it, accepting that such merely relational changes, i.e. Cambridge changes have lethal effects for the objects would reduce essentialism to absurdity.
    • Second, he claims that one can avoid such unwelcome consequences by making appeal to the constitution relation granting thereby the survival of Theon as a constitutor of Dion14. This suggestion, though it is irrelevant as a solution of Chrysippus's puzzle, as Stone admits, still, its main advantage is that the constitution relation mitigates the effect of Cambridge changes for sortal15 essentialism.
  2. In what follows I shall point out that the constitution relation cannot serve as a protective buffer between sortal16 essentialism and Cambridge change for the following reason: Theon's putative survival in whatever form, say, what is made possible by constitution, presupposes that an essential property of Theon is lost by Cambridge change. For, as I will argue, being a proper part of a man is essential to Theon. It loses that feature by the amputation, although that feature does not make a substance sortal17. And the loss of an essential property while the thing continues its existence is denied by any form of essentialism.
  3. If sound, what this shows is that it is time to revise the standard picture according to which Cambridge changes are too insubstantial to play a role in essentialist considerations. My argument does not presuppose the disapproval of appealing to the constitution relation: I do not take a stand on this issue between Burke and Stone or the rest of the philosophical community. All I am presupposing is this: pre-amputation Theon was a proper part of a man, hence it was a non-man essentially which is clearly accepted by both Burke and Stone. Theon loses by the amputation its property of being the proper part of a man, as no one denies.
  4. Before coming to my claims, the locution “being the proper part of a man” needs to be addressed briefly. Burke (1994: 129) states his argument in terms of persons, not men; Stone (2002:217) reformulates the argument in terms of men admitting that “nothing of philosophical importance hangs on the simplification”. Again, "Burke (Michael) - Dion, Theon, and the many-thinkers problem" (2004) spells out his premises in terms of “proper parts of men” while characterising Dion18 as “a whole-bodied, human person” whose “part is Theon”. In view of these formulations I take it that the suggestion is the following: Theon as a proper part is to be identified by reference to the person Dion19 in virtue of the latter’s having a human body. Since unity is traditionally ascribed to persons, presumably it is more appropriate to talk about proper parts of men than to talk about proper parts of persons.
  5. Here:-
    1. I shall show that being the proper part of a man is an essential property of Theon,
    2. I will explore the consequences of the loss of an essential property for the connection between Cambridge change and essentialism.



In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 4: See "Stone (Jim) - Why Sortal Essentialism Cannot Solve Chrysippus's Puzzle".

Footnote 8: See "Burke (Michael) - Dion and Theon: An Essentialist Solution to an Ancient Puzzle".


Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)

  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2018
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)



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