Moderate Monism, Sortal Concepts, and Relative Identity
Noonan (Harold)
Source: The Monist, Vol. 96, No. 1, Constitution and Composition (January, 2013), pp. 101-130
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction

  1. Coincidence (e.g., of a statue and the piece of bronze which constitutes it) comes in two varieties - permanent and temporary.
    1. Moderate monism (about coincidence) is the position that permanent coincidence, but not temporary coincidence, entails identity.
    2. Extreme monism (a version of which is stage theory ("Sider (Ted) - Four-dimensionalism: An Ontology of Persistence and Time" [2001], "Hawley (Katherine) - How Things Persist" [2001])) is the position that even temporary coincidence entails identity (those who deny that there are merely temporary coincidents are another sort of extreme monist, I shall not be considering this position1 in this paper).
    Pluralists are opponents of monism tout court2. The intuitively obvious, commonsensical position (= my own position) is moderate monism. It is therefore important to see if it can be sustained.
  2. I first outline the moderate monist position and compare and contrast it with other metaphysical positions with which it is often associated. I then indicate the arguments for moderate monism that seem to me most persuasive, drawing on earlier work of my own ("Noonan (Harold) - Constitution Is Identity" [1993]) and "Johnston (Mark) - Constitution is Not Identity" (1992).
  3. Next I turn to three criticisms of moderate monism, by
    1. Jim Stone ("Stone (Jim) - Why counterpart theory and three-dimensionalism are incompatible" [2005a]; "Stone (Jim) - Why counterpart theory and four-dimensionalism are incompatible" [2005c]),
    2. Eric Olson ("Olson (Eric) - The Paradox of Increase" (2006), "Olson (Eric) - What are We? A Study of Personal Ontology" (2007)), and
    3. Penelope Mackie ("Mackie (Penelope) - Coincidence and Identity" (2008) and Penelope Mackie “Sortal Properties, Modality and Persistence” (unpublished)).
  4. In responding to these criticisms I maintain
    1. that sortal concepts satisfy de dicto modal principles that constrain the histories and spatiotemporal surroundings of the things falling under them and that may be thought of as specifying their criteria of identity,
    2. that a distinction is required between restricted sortal quantification and unrestricted quantification over the things falling under a sortal concept (between e.g., 'some statue is . . .' and 'something is a statue and is . . .') and
    3. that reflecting on the arguments which enforce this distinction provides the best ground for accepting that 'identity is relative' in one sense familiar from the writings of Peter Geach (Reference and Generality 1980), namely that identity under a sortal concept at a time (expressible in the form 'is the same S as at t') does not entail absolute, Leibnizian identity.
  5. I shall suggest that one way (not the only way) of combining these ideas is to defend a variant of stage theory which is a sort of synthesis of some of the ideas of Hawley (2001) and Sider (2001), but does not depart so far from standard perdurantism and which yields a variant on moderate monism which may be thought of as moderately extreme monism (see "Noonan (Harold) - The Four-Dimensional World" [1976]).

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1: Footnote 2:

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  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2019
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