Why Sortal Essentialism Cannot Solve Chrysippus's Puzzle
Stone (Jim)
Source: Analysis, Vol. 62, No. 3 (Jul., 2002), pp. 216-223
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction

  1. The Stoic philosopher, Chrysippus, posed this puzzle. Dion1, a whole- bodied man, has a proper part, Theon, which consists of all of Dion2 except Dion3's left foot. This morning Dion4's left foot was amputated. If Dion and Theon5 both survive there are two material objects coincident in space and time, and made of the same matter! Which has ceased to exist? Not Dion6 - a man can survive the loss of a foot. Not Theon, which has had no part chopped off. Given the Indiscernibility of Identicals7, we cannot say that Dion and Theon8 have merged into one thing, for it can be said truly of Dion9, but not of Theon, that yesterday he was bigger than Theon. Chrysippus's puzzle threatens us with distinct material objects in the same time and place, a consequence that many (but, as we will see later, not all) philosophers find incredible.
  2. Michael Burke's essentialist response10 to Chrysippus's puzzle has been widely discussed, but the chief reason his solution must fail has gone unnoticed. In what follows I will argue that to deploy sortal11 essentialism against Chrysippus as Burke does is to deprive it of its motivation and plausibility. More important, this paper will clarify the central thesis of sortal12 essentialism - at least as it applies to the biological kinds which inspired it - as well as its relation to the much discussed 'constitution' relation. Two versions of sortal13 essentialism emerge, 'brittle' and 'relaxed,' neither of which can solve Chrysippus's puzzle. This may discourage philosophers who hope to deploy essentialism against Chrysippus, but it will encourage those who believe in the viability of sortal14 essentialism or wish to better understand it.

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 10: See "Burke (Michael) - Dion and Theon: An Essentialist Solution to an Ancient Puzzle".

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