- Although this is a new book, it began in an attempt to expel error, gratuitous compression, and obscurity from the author's 1967 "Wiggins (David) - Identity & Spatio-temporal Continuity", which has been out of print for a number of years. The revision was undertaken in the idealistic belief that at a time when philosophy is in danger of caving in under the weight of its own productions, it would be a good thing if authors neither printed nor reprinted that which they saw as standing in need of correction. Unluckily, however, and in defiance of all the maxims against overproduction that are implied by the said belief, the outcome of the revision process has proved to be a new and longer book. Symbolism, conventions of nomenclature, one extended smaller print tract of Chapter One, and isolated pages of Chapters Two and Three are all that will be literally reidentifiable.
- The theory of individuation defended in this new book is the same as that advanced in "Wiggins (David) - Identity & Spatio-temporal Continuity". But it has appeared necessary to remove not only plain blunders but also the several sources of misunderstanding for which expressions in the earlier text were to blame — not least the title even. With that removed, let me now reaffirm a proposition that is common to both books: that nothing whatever is to be made of bare continuity. A fortiori, neither identity, nor even the identity relation as restricted to material objects, is the same relation as continuity. "Wiggins (David) - Identity & Spatio-temporal Continuity" was intended as the first engagement in the war against this idea. And it has always been the purpose of Proposition D (that is the Thesis of Sortal Dependency, now freshly stated and argued in Chapter Two), implying that behind every true identity there is an identity sentence covered by a substance concept for some particular kind of thing, to show that the idea of mere continuity is just as dispensable as it is incoherent.
- Many of the amplifications and refinements of the original theory have been explained and justified, sometimes less summarily and dogmatically than has been possible in a book whose purpose is to organize them into one consolidated statement, in journals and collections:
I am grateful to the appropriate editors for permission to reproduce certain passages. But in accordance with the belief that I mentioned at the beginning I have corrected these passages too, sometimes substantially.
- "Wiggins (David) - On Being in the Same Place at the Same Time", Philosophical Review January 1968.
- "Wiggins (David) - Reply to Mr. Chandler", Analysis 1969.
- "Wiggins (David) - Essentialism, Continuity, and Identity", Synthese 1974, some of whose conclusions are further modified in 4.
- 'Frege's Problem of the Morning Star and the Evening Star' in M. Schirn, ed., Studies on Frege II: Logic and Philosophy of Language, Stuttgart, Bad Canstatt, 1976.
- ‘The De Re "Must": A Note on the Logical Form of Essentialist Claims' (with an Appendix by C. A. B. Peacocke) in Evans and McDowell, eds, Truth and Meaning: Essays in Semantics, Oxford, 1976.
- "Wiggins (David) - Locke, Butler and the Stream of Consciousness: And Men as Natural Kind", Philosophy, April 1976.
- "Wiggins (David) - Identity, Necessity and Physicalism" in Stefan Korner, ed., Philosophy of Logic (Proceedings of 1974 Bristol Conference), Blackwell, 1976.
- "Wiggins (David) - Reply to Richard Wollheim" (for Bristol Conference on the Philosophy of Art, 1976, Ratio 1978).
- ‘Contingency, Identity, and de re and de dicto Necessity', forthcoming in Proceedings of the 1979 Keele Conference on the Philosophy of Language, J. Dancy ed., published by Dept. of Philosophy, University of Keele.
- From the 1967 monograph that this book is to replace I must carry forward a grateful acknowledgement of the advice and assistance of Professor Peter Geach and Dr Wilfrid Hodges; and an acknowledgement of my special indebtedness to the views and writings of Professor Bernard Williams, who has also made comments on two of the new chapters. Among those who have read and helped me with comments on tracts of new text that have varied from chapters to notes or single paragraphs are Martin Davies, Edward Hussey, D.W. Hamlyn, Richard Wollheim, Christopher Peacocke, D. F. Cheesman, J. A. W. Kamp, N. Tennant, John McDowell. I am extremely grateful to them, and have tried to acknowledge in the text or notes all the original points that they made to me. My greatest debts, however, are to my co-editor Peter Strawson and to Jennifer Hornsby, each of whom, at some moment when I was almost resolved to postpone publication sine die, came to my rescue, read through the bulk of the manuscript and offered encouragement usefully qualified with detailed criticism and advice.
- In trying to clarify in the new book two points that seemed to many people to have been left in a state of great obscurity, viz. the notion of a principle of individuation and the doctrine of essentialism, I have greatly profited by studying the writings of Hilary Putnam, Saul Kripke and Richard Cartwright, and most particularly the book, "Ishiguro (Hide) - Leibniz's Philosophy of Logic and Language" (London, Duckworth, 1972). In various and different ways (for which, whenever they deem the result unfortunate, they are not to be blamed — and, having heard +Saul Kripke talk once on this subject, I know that this caveat is called for), these authors have helped me toward the expression of convictions more extreme than any I previously dared formulate about the mutual dependence of substance, causality and law, and metaphysical de re necessity. (Causality and nomological considerations were previously accorded an important and explicit role only in the discussion of persons. Where identity of artifacts is concerned, these convictions have served to temper somewhat the vehement anti-conventionalism of the original monograph. Where natural things and people are concerned they have fortified that anti-conventionalism.
- In "Wiggins (David) - Identity & Spatio-temporal Continuity" certain dark claims were made about the relevance and importance for the theory of individuation of the philosophy of biology. As the present book was going to press I was pleased to make the discovery that, in response to all the facts that confront the biological scientist, Professor J. Z. Young has arrived in chapters five and six of "Young (J.Z.) - An Introduction to the Study of Man" (Oxford, 1971) at a conception of identity over time substantially similar where living things are concerned to my own conception:
The essence of a living thing is that it consists of atoms of the ordinary chemical elements we have listed, caught up into the living system and made part of it for a while. The living activity takes them up and organises them in its characteristic way. The life of a man consists essentially in the activity he imposes upon that stuff... it is only by virtue of this activity that the shape and organization of the whole is maintained.
- A reader who wishes to begin by seizing the main essentials of the theory advanced here should omit the Preamble, which is largely methodological, and look back at this only for explanations later referred to. He should begin with Chapter One, sections 1-5, then skip to section 9 of that Chapter, then read Chapters Two and Three omitting passages in smaller type. A summary is given at Chapter Three, section 5 of just this material. The chief aim of these sections is to place questions of individuation and identity or persistence through time on a firmer and broader basis of theory which will determine better the point that is at issue in particular problems of identity, and suggest securer standards of relevance and irrelevance to each case of the empirical information that is collateral with it.
- Individuation, real essence, and identity through change, I have come to see, are matters on which it is easy to be misunderstood, and especially perhaps by those who give the appearance of instantaneous understanding and agreement. For the one aim of being understood, mistakes and all, every aspiration to grace, expedition or economy of expression has in this new book been ruthlessly sacrificed. As a result it is now a long book. It would have been a fine thing to have arrived, by making it so, at the point where one could echo Nelson Goodman's complaints against critics who suppose they do him a favour by thinking that he does not mean what he says. But in truth there are miserably few sections where I could dispense with the readiness, which that realist Frege so earnestly required of his reader, to meet the writer half way and not begrudge a pinch of salt.
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