Identity, Truth & Value: Essays for David Wiggins
Lovibond (Sabina) & Williams (S.G.)
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BOOK ABSTRACT:

Back Cover Blurb

  1. This collection of essays was presented to David Wiggins to mark his 60th birthday and his accession to the Wykeham Chair of Logic at Oxford.
  2. The contributors, who include both long–established and younger writers, take up some of the many important philosophical debates on which Wiggins has made an impact.
  3. Their chosen topics range from ancient philosophy to contemporary questions in ethics, metaphysics and the theory of meaning.
  4. An attractive feature of the volume is that it contains Wiggins′s comments on each of the papers, and so offers an accessible guide to his present thinking.
  5. Sabina Lovibond: Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy at Worcester College, Oxford. She is author of Realism and Imagination in Ethics (Blackwell, 1983) and co–editor of Ethics: A Feminist Reader (Blackwell, 1992).
  6. S. G. Williams: also Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy at Worcester College, Oxford and has written on philosophical logic and metaphysics.

Review: Full Text1
  1. David Wiggins is not a populariser, but a philosophers' philosopher. As Wilfrid Hodges says: "He is in philosophy exactly what he is in real life" - a philosopher through and through.
  2. He has tackled some of the deepest problems of philosophy: truth, objectivity and subjectivity, the possibility of moral knowledge, identity, freedom of the will, theories of meaning, weakness of the will, the nature of practical reasoning, and various topics in ancient philosophy. The list is not intended to be exhaustive by any means. But his philosophical style is at once exciting and infuriating, tantalising and off-putting.
  3. The thirteen essays in this collection were (with one exception) written to mark Wiggins's 60th birthday and to celebrate his accession to the Wykeham chair of logic at the University of Oxford. There is a 66-page "Reply" by Wiggins to those essays which extend over a wide range of topics, to all of which Wiggins has contributed: moral philosophy, practical reasoning, classical philosophy, truth, identity, personal identity and the philosophy of language.
  4. The essays are written by former colleagues or students, many now eminent professional philosophers in their own right. John McDowell calls Wiggins "this best of teachers and colleagues", and the fitting description can be attested to by many others in the profession, not here represented, who have also benefited from his friendship, warmth, and kindness.
  5. I can think of no philosopher who has cared more about his subject. I recall his passionate advocacy of offering permanent positions to members of staff who, in the years when almost literally no permanent philosophy jobs were available, held a succession of temporary posts. These had helped carry the profession forward, and were then deemed by various foolish decisionmakers to be too old for the few permanent positions that subsequently arose.
  6. As his colleague at the University of London, I remember a discussion on the board of philosophical studies, when some unmentionable and cretinous governmental agency or other had us discussing how we could modify the federal BA in philosophy to bring it closer in line with proposed changes in the A-level (or was it the O-level?) syllabus. Wiggins argued that we should write back with suggestions as to how they could modify their national curriculum to fit better our philosophy degree. Politically astute - no. Never Wiggins's forte. Right - most definitely, yes. He seemed to me right about most of the causes he championed in university life, even though they sometimes had little chance of winning the day because they were based on such a firm grasp of the nature of the subject and its intellectual demands.
  7. Because the essays were solicited from former colleagues and students, the collection has a certain "local" flavour. The contributors are or were from Oxford, with a few University of London contributions representing Wiggins's stay at colleges of the latter on more than one occasion. I found Timothy Williamson on distinctness, Peter Noonan on identity, Paul Snowdon on personal identity and S.G. Williams on ambiguity the clearest and most rewarding. In these, real advances were being made. Snowdon's piece was particularly helpful - exploratory, but a real advance nonetheless.
  8. Some but not all of the others were difficult to understand, written in that rather opaque style that infects philosophy in certain quarters. This is true of essays in moral philosophy and practical reasoning, and the ones that appear to take Kant not only as their intellectual but also as their literary mentor. I found that in some cases I understood them only after I read Wiggins's reply; only then could I work out what they were getting at. In a few cases, it appeared as if the essay represented the most recent stage in an ongoing conversation between the author and Wiggins that I would have to struggle very hard to join.
  9. Many of the papers address the subjectivity/objectivity dialectic that runs through so much of Wiggins's own writings, with his attempt to mediate between an unacceptable realism about values and an equally unacceptable relativism arising from subjectivity, but, despite the extended attention given to that topic in this volume, I did not feel much clearer about these issues than I had been at the outset.
  10. Wiggins's replies are suggestive, diffident and lacking in any sort of the I-was-right-all-along arrogance one so often finds in dedicated collections of this sort. He apologises to McDowell for misunderstanding him, on several occasions he retracts something he has written previously and in most cases assumes that misinterpretations are the fault of his own writing. It is a pleasure to read Wiggins's replies, just as it is a pleasure to know him.



In-Page Footnotes ("Lovibond (Sabina) & Williams (S.G.) - Identity, Truth & Value: Essays for David Wiggins")

Footnote 1:
BOOK COMMENT:
  • Aristotelian Society Series: Volume 16. Blackwell, 1997, Paperback.
  • For those works of Wiggins I possess, see David Wiggins.



"Crisp (Roger) - Naturalism and Non-Naturalism in Ethics"

Source: Lovibond & Williams - Identity, Truth & Value: Essays for David Wiggins

COMMENT: See "Wiggins (David) - Replies: To those other than Noonan, Snowdon and Williamson" for a Reply.



"Hodges (Wilfrid) - Logic, Truth and Moral Judgements"

Source: Lovibond & Williams - Identity, Truth & Value: Essays for David Wiggins

COMMENT: See "Wiggins (David) - Replies: To those other than Noonan, Snowdon and Williamson" for a Reply.



"Hussey (Edward) - Rescuing Protagoras"

Source: Lovibond & Williams - Identity, Truth & Value: Essays for David Wiggins

COMMENT: See "Wiggins (David) - Replies: To those other than Noonan, Snowdon and Williamson" for a Reply.



"Jack (Julie) - Paradoxes of Content Monism"

Source: Lovibond & Williams - Identity, Truth & Value: Essays for David Wiggins

COMMENT: See "Wiggins (David) - Replies: To those other than Noonan, Snowdon and Williamson" for a Reply.



"Lovibond (Sabina) - Ethical Upbringing: from Connivance to Cognition"

Source: Lovibond & Williams - Identity, Truth & Value: Essays for David Wiggins

COMMENT: See "Wiggins (David) - Replies: To those other than Noonan, Snowdon and Williamson" for a Reply.



"McDowell (John) - Incontinence and Practical Wisdom in Aristotle"

Source: Lovibond & Williams - Identity, Truth & Value: Essays for David Wiggins

COMMENT: See "Wiggins (David) - Replies: To those other than Noonan, Snowdon and Williamson" for a Reply.



"Misak (Cheryl) - Pragmatism, Empiricism and Morality"

Source: Lovibond & Williams - Identity, Truth & Value: Essays for David Wiggins

COMMENT: See "Wiggins (David) - Replies: To those other than Noonan, Snowdon and Williamson" for a Reply.



"Moore (Adrian W.) - On There Being Nothing Else to Think, or Want, or Do"

Source: Lovibond & Williams - Identity, Truth & Value: Essays for David Wiggins

COMMENT: See "Wiggins (David) - Replies: To those other than Noonan, Snowdon and Williamson" for a Reply.



"Noonan (Harold) - Absolute and Relative Identity"

Source: Lovibond & Williams - Identity, Truth & Value: Essays for David Wiggins


Author’s Introduction (Sections 1 & 2)
    • In "Wiggins (David) - Identity & Spatio-temporal Continuity" (1967) and its successor "Wiggins (David) - Sameness and Substance" (1980a) David Wiggins defends an absolute, or Leibnizian, concept of identity against relative identity theorists.
    • The books contain much more, of course. In particular, there is Wiggins's examination of the concept of personal identity which (in its version in (1980a)) contains the radical suggestion that the debate over personal identity is misconceived so long as we do not appreciate that the concept of a person is parasitic on that of a man and cannot involve a distinct, non-coinciding, criterion of identity.
    • But it remains true that the attack on relative identity is at the heart of Wiggins's position. In what follows I attempt an assessment of the debate.
    • In both (1967) and (1980a) Wiggins begins by asking 'Can a be the same f as but not the same g as b? Can this happen even when a or b is itself a g?' Here 'f and 'g' range over sortal concepts and hence to give an affirmative answer to the question is to endorse Geach's famous thesis of the sortal relativity of identity (see for example "Geach (Peter) - Ontological Relativity and Relative Identity" (1973)), which Wiggins refers to as 'thesis R'. Wiggins rejects thesis R and presents a case for its rejection comprising both general arguments and detailed examinations of particular cases which, at first sight, seem to support it. It is in the course of his discussion of these cases that Wiggins introduces his famous 'is' of constitution, which has since become a standard weapon employed by defenders of absolute identity against their relativist opponents.
    • I begin my discussion of thesis R, in the next section, with an analysis of what is going on in these cases. (I do not have space to discuss Wiggins's general arguments against thesis R, but I should say, to make my position clear, that I do not find them convincing) With respect to putative diachronic case of relative identity I argue that their logical form disqualifies them from illustrating thesis R - and hence that no appeal to the 'is' of constitution is needed by an opponent of relative identity to deal with them. With respect to putative synchronic cases of relative identity, the most well-known of which is the example of the cat on the mat1, I argue that whilst their logical form is not inappropriate, an opponent of thesis R can nevertheless still reject them as illustrations of that thesis without appeal to the 'is' of constitution. Appeal to the 'is' of constitution is required, it emerges, only if not only Geach's relative identity thesis, but also his thesis of the irreducibility of restricted (sortal) qualification to unrestricted quantification is rejected. But I suggest that the linguistic facts in such a case as that of the cat on the mat do not enable a decision to be made either for or against the irreducibility thesis.
    • However, the fundamental point at issue between absolutists and relativists, I believe, is not to be found here. Rather, the crucial notion to be examined is that of a criterion of identity (this is implicit, of course, in the fact that thesis R is a thesis about identity under a sortal concept, for sortal concepts are precisely those with which a criterion of identity is associated2). Absolute identity theorists like Wiggins maintain that absolute equivalence relations (i.e. equivalence relations which ensure the indiscernibility of their terms) can constitute criteria of identity but that relative equivalence relations (i.e. ones which do not ensure indiscernibility) cannot; relative identity theorists, like Geach, maintain that relative equivalence relations can constitute criteria of identity.
    • I argue, in the last two sections of the paper, that when the expression 'a criterion of identity' is used in one sense that can be given to it, the absolutist is right; when it is used in another sense that can be given to it the relativist is right, but when it is used in the sense which is its most common in the philosophical literature, neither is right. I suggest, however, that the sense which can be given to the expression by the absolutist is of doubtful legitimacy and hence that only relativists have anything useful to offer.

Author’s Conclusion
  1. Thus, I suggest, though neither the position of the relativist nor that of thee absolutist is wholly correct, the relativist position is nearer to being so.
  2. The main emphasis of Geach's work on identity has always been on the uselessness of the notion of absolute identity, and on its inability to provide any usable criterion of identity. If the arguments given in this paper are correct, this point is vindicated.


COMMENT:




In-Page Footnotes ("Noonan (Harold) - Absolute and Relative Identity")

Footnote 1:
  • Oh dear! I thought I’d not heard of this one!
  • But it’s just Tib / Tibbles, with and without a tail.
Footnote 2:
  • In a well-known passage, referred to by Wiggins, Strawson draws the distinction between sortal and non-sortal concepts in the following terms; 'A sortal universal provides a principle for distinguishing and counting the particulars it collects. It presupposes no antecedent principle or method of individuating the particulars it collects. Characterizing universals . . . whilst they supply principles of grouping, even of counting particulars, supply such principles only for particulars already distinguished, or distinguishable, in accordance with some antecedent principle or method' ("Strawson (Peter) - Individuals: An Essay in Descriptive Metaphysics" (1959), p. 168).
  • Wiggins rightly criticises the suggestion here that countability is a necessary condition of a concept's qualifying as a sortal concept, but it seems plausible if taken as a sufficient condition. However, if so, resistance to the relative identity thesis must be unmotivated. For, as Geach has made plain, and is now generally accepted, we can count by relations weaker than absolute identity.
  • Moreover, as Wiggins has made plain, a relation may be such that it cannot hold between two objects which are simultaneously spatially distinct without being an absolute identity relation. The thesis that a sortal concept supplies a principle for counting particulars thus does not require that identity under a sortal concept be Leibnizian. It is only when the notion of a criterion of identity is included in the account of a sortal concept that opposition to thesis R becomes comprehensible.



"Savile (Anthony) - Of the Standard of Taste"

Source: Lovibond & Williams - Identity, Truth & Value: Essays for David Wiggins

COMMENT: See "Wiggins (David) - Replies: To those other than Noonan, Snowdon and Williamson" for a Reply.



"Snowdon (Paul) - Persons and Personal Identity"

Source: Lovibond & Williams - Identity, Truth & Value: Essays for David Wiggins, 1996


Author’s Introduction
  1. David Wiggins has written, a number of times1, about the nature and identity of persons. As to their nature, Wiggins has been, like many of us, strongly influenced by P. F. Strawson's famous account of persons in Chapter 3 of Individuals ("Strawson (Peter) - Persons"), objecting primarily, and, it seems to me, rightly, to Strawson's overly even-handed treatment of the mental and the physical aspects of a person. Part, at least, of Strawson's even-handedness is revealed when he allows that just as a person's body can outlive the person's consciousness, a possibility which is not seriously in question, so a person's consciousness can outlive his or her body. This claim is questionable because it seems to be inconsistent with materialism. The simplest reply to Strawson is that it needs far more than the 'not very great' exercise of imagination, cited by him, to convince us that there is such a possibility. Wiggins himself has gone further and argued that conceptual analysis can reveal what he calls the necessary 'matter-involvingness2' of both persons and their psychological attributes.
  2. My concern here, though, is the so-called problem of personal identity. Strawson, in Individuals, said little about this problem, and suggested it should be regarded as 'of relatively minor significance and relatively little difficulty'. This is an assessment which Wiggins, again rightly, does not share, and he has recently proposed, and argued at length for, the thesis that the, or a, fundamental truth about personal identity is that persons are animals; a person remains in existence so long as the animal which that person is remains in existence.
  3. It is, surely, a very important task for current philosophy to determine what the most plausible defence of this thesis is. Wiggins is not alone in defending it, but his is the profoundest and most developed exposition of it currently available. My aim is to consider some of the propositions3 which Wiggins has endorsed (or which I interpret him as having endorsed) in the course of presenting his account.'' I shall argue that a number of them are dubious, and I shall hint at an alternative approach. This exploration is intended to be a tribute to his work on personal identity, and a contribution to the provision of a theory along lines inspired by it.

Sections
  1. Introduction;
  2. The Accept-All Theory and Some Problems for it;
  3. Wiggins's Response;
  4. Some Questions about the Term 'Person';
  5. The Animal Attribute Theory of Persons;
  6. An Alternative Proposal;
  7. Persons as Animals;
  8. Persons as Humans;
  9. Other Grounds;
  10. Summary and a Suggestion


COMMENT:




In-Page Footnotes ("Snowdon (Paul) - Persons and Personal Identity")

Footnote 1: Footnote 2: Footnote 3:
  • I shall more or less totally ignore five important aspects of Wiggins's treatment, each of which could be the subject of a paper.
    1. First, I shall not be concerned with his attempt to defend Locke's treatment of persons against what he sees as inadequate objections.
    2. Second, I shall not attempt to assess the general assumptions about identity which shape Wiggins's approach.
    3. Third, I shall not consider the (modified) Fregean semantic theories which also shape his account.
    4. Fourthly, I have not attempted to plot the significant differences between
      → "Wiggins (David) - Sameness and Substance" (1980a) and
      → "Wiggins (David) - The Person as Object of Science, as Subject of Experience, and as Locus of Value" (1987b).
    5. Finally, I have not attempted to consider what seems to me to be a very interesting, but not, perhaps, articulated or defended, conception of the geography of the personal identity debate which influences his discussion in "Wiggins (David) - Sameness and Substance" (1980a).



"Wiggins (David) - Replies: Autobiographical Comments"

Source: Lovibond & Williams - Identity, Truth & Value: Essays for David Wiggins

COMMENT: Helps to tie the various papers together.



"Wiggins (David) - Replies: To those other than Noonan, Snowdon and Williamson"

Source: Lovibond & Williams - Identity, Truth & Value: Essays for David Wiggins


Replies to



"Wiggins (David) - Reply to Noonan (Absolute and Relative Identity)"

Source: Lovibond & Williams - Identity, Truth & Value: Essays for David Wiggins

COMMENT: Reply to "Noonan (Harold) - Absolute and Relative Identity".



"Wiggins (David) - Reply to Snowdon (Persons and Personal Identity)"

Source: Lovibond & Williams - Identity, Truth & Value: Essays for David Wiggins, 1996

COMMENT:



"Wiggins (David) - Reply to Williamson (The Necessity and Determinacy of Distinctness)"

Source: Lovibond & Williams - Identity, Truth & Value: Essays for David Wiggins

COMMENT: Reply to "Williamson (Timothy) - The Necessity and Determinacy of Distinctness".



"Williams (S.G.) - Ambiguity and Semantic Theory"

Source: Lovibond & Williams - Identity, Truth & Value: Essays for David Wiggins

COMMENT: See "Wiggins (David) - Replies: To those other than Noonan, Snowdon and Williamson" for a Reply.



"Williamson (Timothy) - The Necessity and Determinacy of Distinctness"

Source: Lovibond & Williams - Identity, Truth & Value: Essays for David Wiggins


Author’s Introduction
  1. Any metaphysical caprice can be indulged in some more or less deviant formal system. The work of David Wiggins is a reminder of the depth to be gained in metaphysics from the constraints of orthodoxy in logic. His writing on the metaphysics of identity is a salient case in point. Consider four claims:
    • (NI) If things are identical, they are necessarily identical.
    • (ND) If things are distinct, they are necessarily distinct.
    • (DI) If things are identical, they are determinately identical.
    • (DD) If things are distinct, they are determinately distinct.
    NI and DI proclaim the necessity1 and determinacy2 of identity, ND and DD the necessity and determinacy of distinctness. NI is provable with a modicum of fairly orthodox logic. A formally parallel proof can be given of DI. Similar proofs of ND and DD can be given only in an extended logic.
  2. Wiggins has endorsed NI and DI but not ND or DD, and considered sympathetically a view combining DI with the denial of DD. A parallel view would combine NI with the denial of ND.
  3. This paper assembles some considerations relevant to the assessment of such views. An alternative proof will be given of ND that is almost as compelling as the proof of NI. This result is quite consistent with Wiggins's position in "Wiggins (David) - Sameness and Substance" and elsewhere; his defence of NI against supposed counterexamples can be extended to ND. On a common view of determinacy, the alternative proof of ND can be adapted as an alternative proof of DD, contrary to the view that accepts DI and rejects DD. This result would be consistent with the main lines of Wiggins's position; his defence of DI against supposed counterexamples can be extended to DD.
  4. If these considerations point in the right direction, identity is a metaphysically rigid relation. Either it necessarily and determinately relates a given pair of individuals, or it necessarily and determinately fails to relate them. In that sense, the facts about it form part of the necessary and determinate structure of reality. Any alternative to them is epistemic, not metaphysical. In what follows, the question of necessity will be discussed first; ideas from that discussion will then be applied to the question of determinacy.


COMMENT: See "Wiggins (David) - Reply to Williamson (The Necessity and Determinacy of Distinctness)" for a reply.




In-Page Footnotes ("Williamson (Timothy) - The Necessity and Determinacy of Distinctness")

Footnote 1:
  • Necessity is understood as metaphysical necessity, although the arguments of the paper would extend to weaker kinds, such as natural necessity.
Footnote 2:

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2019
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)



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