- My subject is identity and individuation. By identity I mean being the same as. By individuation I mean something done by a thinker. Among acts of individuation I include
It will appear in due course how I take identity and individuation to be connected. By a substance I intend, with tradition, something singular or individual, a single particular object or individual thing. Unlike a universal / type / sort / kind / clone / character, a substance does not have specimens or instances. Nothing falls under it, exemplifies it or instantiates it2.
- Singling out something which is a g (a donkey, say) as a g;
- Distinguishing that g from other gs;
- Singling something out when coming upon it again and recognizing it as that g, the same g again1.
- The approach I shall commend to questions of identity and individuation will be a sortalist one, claiming among other things that the identity of x and y is to be determined by reference to some fundamental kind f that x and y each exemplify. This approach is prefigured in Aristotle's question, definitive of his category of substance, ti esti or what is it? Contrast the question, definitive of his category of quality, what is it like? It is no longer wise to assume, however, as I once was apt to do, that everyone with a serious interest in the metaphysics of identity will know Aristotle's distinction or be eager to read such texts as Categories, Chapters 1-5. Nor can the other Aristotelian resonances by which I once set such store be relied upon any longer to enlighten or remind. If they have any effect, it is rather to cast doubt on my claim to have arrived at a general account — an account not at odds with anything that modern science reveals to us — of the identity and individuation of objects which are extended in space and persist through time.
- So putting to one side the insights of Aristotle — who will enter now only at the point where the argument simply forces our attention onto him — we shall proceed here more simply and single-mindedly, starting from the bare logic of the identity relation and setting the still underestimated requirements of that logic in authority over the judgements of same and other into which we are constrained by the effort to make sense of the world of perpetual alteration in which we have to find our way.
- Originally, European Journal of Philosophy, 20, 2012, pp. 1-25.
- This version is much revised.
- Some of the acts included in this list, like others I might adjoin, go beyond the dictionary definition of 'individuate'. No matter. The word itself does no distinctive philosophical work here beyond suggesting some of the questions to be pursued and answers to be proposed.
- In due course the adjective 'individuative' will appear as qualifying thoughts or notions or terms, connoting various relations that such things can have to the business of individuation by a thinker confronting the world of substances. Such a thinker is finding his way in the world, needless to say, not creating it.
- It can of course be copied, but that is different.
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