Coincidence and modal predicates
Mackie (Penelope)
Source: Analysis, Vol. 67, No. 1 (Jan., 2007), pp. 21-31
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction

  1. Is it coherent to suppose that a statue and a piece of bronze that coincide throughout their existence are identical, while also holding that a statue and a piece of bronze that coincide for the first part of their existence, and then diverge, are distinct entities? Jim Stone ("Stone (Jim) - Why counterpart theory and three-dimensionalism are incompatible" [2005a], "Stone (Jim) - Why counterpart theory and four-dimensionalism are incompatible" [2005c]) argues that the attempt to defend this combination of views by an appeal to counterpart theory fails, partly on the grounds that the version of counterpart theory that is required for the defence of the identity judgement in the 'permanent coincidence' case cannot provide a satisfactory account of the modal difference between the entities in the 'temporary coincidence' case1.
  2. Although Stone's target is counterpart theory, the modal problem that he invokes has wider implications. For it appears to threaten any attempt to defend the view that there is identity in the permanent coincidence case but distinctness in the temporary coincidence case by appeal to the theory that modal predicates are what Harold Noonan ("Noonan (Harold) - Indeterminate Identity, Contingent Identity and Abelardian Predicates" [1991], "Noonan (Harold) - Constitution Is Identity" [1993]) calls 'Abelardian predicates', where an Abelardian predicate is one whose reference (the property or concept that it stands for) may be affected by the subject term to which it is attached. And although the version of counterpart theory that Stone attacks - one that involves 'inconstancy' in de re modal representation (cf. "Lewis (David) - On the Plurality of Worlds" [1986]) - implies that modal predicates are Abelardian, one can hold that modal predicates are Abelardian without adopting a counterpart-theoretic account of de re modality (Noonan 1991: 190).
  3. In addition, if (as seems plausible) the view that there is identity in the permanent coincidence case can be defended only by treating modal predicates as Abelardian, then Stone's modal objection represents a challenge to any attempt to combine the view that there is identity in the case of permanent coincidence with the view that there is distinctness in the case of temporary coincidence.
  4. In this paper, I argue that Stone underestimates the resources that are available to an Abelardian theory of modal predication, including the version of counterpart theory that is the target of his attack. I maintain that, whether or not the Abelardian theory is ultimately defensible, it can provide a plausible response to the modal challenge (or modal dilemma, as I shall call it) that Stone presents.



In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1:

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