Thesis - Intermittent Objects
Todman (Theo)
Paper - Abstract

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Write-up2 (as at 04/07/2014 22:46:34): Intermittent Objects

  1. I allude to the possibility of intermittent existence in these Notes:-
  2. Artefacts
    • Are the classic cases of possibly intermediate objects, in that the same object can be disassembled and then reassembled, and it is usually thought that the reassembled object is numerically identical to the original.
    • But it is not clear whether the watch (say) ceases to exist when disassembled for cleaning, or whether it continues to exist in a scattered9 state. The recipient of a bag of watch-parts would still consider they had received their watch back, even if annoyed at having to reassemble it themselves.
    • But, as with all things artefactual, there’s a question whether our intuitions are conventional, and could be otherwise. My gut-feel, however, is that disassembled artefacts just exist in a disassembled, scattered state, rather than ceasing to exist. Hence, disassembled artefacts are examples of scattered objects rather than of intermittent objects.
    • I suppose the counter-argument might be that artefacts are the things they are for functional reasons, but does a disassembled thing have a function (or, at any rate, the same function it had when assembled)? I imagine we could say that an object might be delivered in kit-form, and then assembled, and it is probably arbitrary (or can be stipulated) whether the kit is of the same kind as the object or not.
    • The Write-up10 of "Carter (William) - Artifacts of Theseus: Fact and Fission" covers all this in more detail11.
  3. Persons
    • When it comes to Persons, it’s the possession of certain capacities, not the present exercise of them, that qualifies an individual as a person.
    • David Wiggins holds the view that a person is one who belongs to a kind whose typical members possess some open-ended list of properties.
    • In that case, a foetus or someone in a PVS12 would still be a person. They would not “intermit” while in that state.
    • However, on a “present capacity” view, they would not qualify as persons in such a state, and a person might have intermittent existence. For instance if I were to fall into, and then recover from, a PVS I would not be a person when in the PVS, but would on recovery again be a person, and (importantly) the same person.
    • So, someone like Baker13 might be committed to persons as intermittent objects because she thinks of human persons as ontologically separate from the human animals that constitute them.
    • However, an animalist like Olson14 would not be so committed. For the animalist, it’s the animal that’s the persisting thing, and the animal persists throughout the PVS.
    • I’m not sure what Olson’s view is of the ontological status of persons (I don’t think he considers them a kind); they are just individuals of another kind (most notably human animals) with special, maybe temporary, properties.
  4. Phase Sortals
    • My view is that human persons are phase15 sortals16 of human animals.
    • So, I side with Olson as against Baker in the controversy about what Persons are.
    • While persons are ontologically significant, this does not bring into being a new kind of PERSON, but raises the status of the kind whose typical members are persons (and of the individuals who are persons, of course).
    • So, I do not think that persons – at least persons falling under the kind HUMAN ANIMAL – can have intermittent existence. A fetus or a human animal in a PVS remains the same human animal.
  5. Constitution
  6. Physical Continuity
    • This topic22 addresses – amongst much else – both scattered23 objects and intermittent objects, the former intermitting in space, the latter in time (and maybe in space as well).
    • So, if persons are things constituted by other things, then the person intermits during a PVS, but there is no physical discontinuity.
    • But, as Baker believes, the very same person can be constituted by different bodies at different times, then there must necessarily be persistence in the absence of spatio-temporal continuity, which it usually taken as a necessary, if not sufficient, condition for persistence.
    • This leads on to our next topic.
  7. Resurrection
    • The possibility of Resurrection24 is the main reason for my interest in intermittent objects.
    • Clearly, if we are to claim that the very same individual who died is resurrected somewhere else (maybe not a place as such, though it is difficult to envisage bodies that are not at places) at some other time (or not in time – but similar worries apply) then we have an intermittent object.
    • This process (or fiat) would also seem to involve some sort of metamorphosis25, though maybe the Constitution View does not worry about such things, as it is the constituted person that persists, not the constituting body.

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 2: Footnote 11: Or will do, once I’ve completed it!

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)

  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2018

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