Essentialism, Continuity, and Identity
Wiggins (David)
Source: Synthese, Vol. 28, No. 3/4, On Logical Semantics (Nov., 1974) (pp. 321-359)
Paper - Abstract

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Introduction (“Three Questions”)

  1. The Problem of Identity, Persistence and Coincidence
    What is it for Hesperus to be one and the same planet as Phosphorus? In what does it consist for the consul of 63 B.C., Marcus Tullius Cicero, to be the very man who denounced Mark Antony twenty years later, and paid for that with his life?
  2. Frege's Problem and Its Variants
    Does 'Hesperus is Phosphorus' fall short of matching 'Hesperus is Hesperus' in necessity, or in sense or truth-grounds, or in any semantical respect?
  3. The Problem of Essence
    If there is some necessity that Hesperus be Hesperus and Tully Tully, then is there a similar necessity (and how grounded) that Hesperus be a heavenly body, or Tully be a human being?
After all the thought which so many scholars have invested in them, these are familiar questions. But how exactly are they connected? Because I feel we are still unsure, I offer here an attempt to trace the interrelations of (1), (2) and (3). On one construal, this task might have involved a survey of eighty years’ worth of scattered contributions in logic, philosophy and formal and informal semantics. But a recital of the illustrious names associated with every issue, like a serious attempt to pursue and interrelate everything germane to each, might prove less useful in practice than a more modest attempt at one overall perspective, however idiosyncratic, oriented from an argued discussion of a small selection of representative writings under each head.

The more ambitious project would certainly have to stretch longer than my essay: and if the selection on which the essay is based seems capricious that may be explained, if not actually excused, by the original source of its maker's impulse to find a way to relate problems (1), (2) and (3). This was his reading of a recent collection on identity and individuation1. What distinguishes the collection from others of the same kind is only that it is graced by the contributions of at least two scholars whom any survey of the literature would ignore at its peril; and that it is to one of them, Saul Kripke, that I think philosophy owes the idea that such questions as (1), (2) and (3) must be closely connected. Kripke says little or nothing directly about the first question, but he must bear some of the responsibility for the general observation with which I shall broach even that. This is the observation that most work upon (1) has in one way or another underestimated the conceptual importance to individuation2 of both causality3 and natural law.

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