- My ultimate goal in this essay is to propose and defend a new account of individuation1. The problem is the ontological one about the internal constitution of an individual, if any, not the epistemological one about how individuals are identified, singled out or referred to. This account has been detailed and supported elsewhere. Here, however, I provide for it a deeper ontological foundation by going beyond the dominant views and the disputes about individuation2 back to the problem itself. As an intermediate goal I want to urge, against a very widespread belief or assumption to the contrary, that the problem of individuation3 is different from the problem of diversity or non-identity. I also want to bring into the open air some even more widespread and more deeply ingrained assumptions behind the views and arguments of those philosophers who hold fast and firmly to the problem of individuation4. Once identified, the assumptions are uncompelling. I also submit an exegetical hypothesis, which seems to illuminate old and recent controversies about individuation5.
- The distinctions I introduce here are only a small segment of a set of fundamental ontological structures constitutive of individuals. Since individuals have, for the most part, been taken as ultimates, the study initiated in this essay is the inception, so to speak, of an investigation in micro-metaphysics, or better, micro-ontology. This investigation belongs primarily to the deep structure of the "picture" of reality, or world, embedded in our ordinary experience and language, i.e., to what Sellars has called in limpid phrase the Manifest Image and to the structure of canonical languages Quine discusses in "Quine (W.V.) - Word & Object" after Section 19. Thus we leave open the metaphysical question whether or not what really is is just systems of whatever fundamental entities physics postulates, or systems of unknowable entities, so that the entities of the Manifest Image are in some sense mere phantasmata. In particular, we leave it open that abstract entities may in some sense be reducible to symbols and/or the use of symbols. (Sellars' and Quine's invaluable contributions to our understanding of the structure of the Manifest Image are independent of their metaphysical scientific realism.) This is then primarily a study in phenomenological ontology.
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