- INDIVIDUAL is one of a group of peculiar words. 'Property' and 'class' are others. As long as we use such a word commonsensically, we have no difficulty. When we use it philosophically, we get into trouble. The proper way of getting out of it, according to one conception of philosophy, is to explicate the philosophical use by means of talking commonsensically about an "ideal language." This conception or method is by now familiar. So I shall not in this note expound it again but, rather, use it in trying to make a contribution to the explication of (the philosophical use of) 'individual.' An ideal language, it will be remembered, is an interpreted formalism or schema, fitting our world in certain ways, that can be put to certain uses. So understood, the phrase "the ideal language of a world" makes sense.
- Most practitioners of the method, including myself, believe that the ideal language L of our world either is or contains, as a very major part, a PM-like formalism with a type hierarchy of the order 0,1,2,3 . . . supplemented by undefined descriptive constants (udcs) distributed over all or some of the types. Upon this view, which I shall not question, our world is a subject-predicate world. For what I am about, that is its most important feature. The order type of the hierarchy suggests the following explication.
- (E1) An individual, is what either is referred to by a zero-level constant of L or, according to the rules for the interpretation of L, could be so referred to.
- E1 is familiar. Implicitly, at least, it occurs in the early work of Russell. I have, explicitly, used it for quite some time. Yet I have become increasingly dissatisfied with it. The subscript I employed foretells what I now propose to do about this dissatisfaction. In each of the two main sections of this paper I shall suggest one other explication, calling them E2 and E3 respectively. To keep the ideas straight, I shall thus soon have to speak not only about individuals1 but also about individuals2 and individuals3. Does this mean that E1 is not adequate?
- The answer is both No and Yes. For one thing, E1 captures what I am still convinced is the most important single feature possessed by all those and only those things which philosophers, speaking philosophically, have called "individuals." For another, it will transpire that in our world every individual1 is also an individual2 and an individual3; every individual2, an individual1 and an individual3; every individual3, an individual1 and an individual2. These are two very good reasons for calling E1 adequate. On the other side of the ledger, E2 and E3 each articulates a characteristic feature of "individuals" in our world. Negatively, that exposes the root of my growing dissatisfaction with E1. Positively, one would hope that such articulation yields analytical insight. I shall show that the hope is justified.
In a very subtle and very special sense E1 may thus be called inadequate. But, then, this is merely another way of saying that the task of philosophical analysis is infinite. Or, if you please, its only limits are those of our ingenuity.
- E2 leads to an explication of the pointing feature of individuality. What that means I shall explain in good time.
- E3, it will be seen, involves a contribution to the analysis of identity.
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