Identity & Spatio-temporal Continuity
Wiggins (David)
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Cover Blurb

  1. The notion of spatio-temporal continuity figures frequently in philosophy. It is employed in discussion of material objects, for which spatio-temporal continuity is usually taken to give an unproblematic criterion of identity, and in discussion of the nature of persons, where a bodily criterion is often attacked or defended as a contentious competitor (or as an uneasy companion) of character or memory-claim criteria of identity. The notion is less often discussed for its own sake.
  2. The author examines the notion of spatio-temporal continuity in its own right, dwelling first on the purely formal requirements to be satisfied by any identity-criterion whatever, and then on the effective satisfaction of these by our conception of a persisting material body of any given sort. In the last part of the monograph he puts forward a coincidence criterion for personal identity which modifies and supersedes the criterion of straightforward bodily continuity1. The impossibility is demonstrated of conflict between any acceptable spatio-temporal criterion and any acceptable psychological criterion2 of personal identity. A unified and essentially Aristotelian conception of person is defended.
  3. The monograph reports part of a larger inquiry in which the author has been engaged, the general investigation of the concept of identity, not only in its application within the category of substance (to which the present work is entirely confined) but also in its scope, application, and purport within other categories and subject matters.
Preface (Full text)
  1. Most of the material here presented was originally given in lectures at Oxford in Michaelmas Term, 1964. Under the title ‘The Absoluteness of Identity' it was submitted in 1965 to an American journal, accepted by that journal, and then delayed by corrections and amplifications which made it much too long for publication in that manner. The text can be read continuously without much reference to the notes, but in many cases the notes are integral to any full defence of the positions taken up.
  2. I have a number of acknowledgments to make, in particular to Professor P. T. Geach, Mr. W. A. Hodges, and Professor B. A. O. Williams. These are spelled out in the notes to the text, but I cannot forbear to make a grateful general acknowledgment of my indebtedness to Williams' own views and writings on this troublesome subject.
    … New College, Oxford.


Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1967

"Wiggins (David) - Identity & Spatio-temporal Continuity: Introduction"

Source: Wiggins - Identity & Spatio-temporal Continuity, 1967, pp. vii-viii

Full Text
  1. This monograph proposes and attempts to resolve one problem about the notion of identity. The problem is a wholly general one and in the first instance I answer it purely formally. Some defence is offered in 1.2 and 1.7 of the formal principles which I use to get to that answer, but I must emphasize that it is not my intention to offer any complete defence of these principles in this monograph. After two or three indications of the grounds for supposing them to be incontrovertible principles and partially definitive of what we mean by identical or same, I concern myself almost entirely with their consequences, which are many and complex. In particular, the negative answer to the original question leaves us with a number of interesting problems about the identity of persisting material substances. These are the problems which are then taken up.
  2. Spatio-temporal continuity or coincidence and bodily continuity1 have regularly figured in recent discussions of such problems as ‘What is the principle of individuation2?' and ‘What is personal identity?'. I think that the notion of spatio-temporal coincidence itself has been assumed to be perfectly clear or quite easy to clarify. That it is clarifiable I am inclined to agree, but the result of clarifying it is not in every case to leave things exactly as they were, or as they seemed to be when the notion was originally imported into these discussions. In Part Four I attempt to give colour to this claim so far as it concerns personal identity.
  3. It gradually became evident to me in constructing this work that for the future of metaphysics no single part of the philosophy of science was in more urgent need of development than the philosophy of biology. It is well known that Aristotle believed something like this but it seems to be the misfortune of that particular philosopher that few of the things he said can be understood or believed until they are laboriously rediscovered. And it is a misfortune of present-day analytical philosophy that it has not inspired the production of any writings in the philosophy of biology which are both worthy to succeed the seminal writings of J. H. Woodger and capable of illuminating present day philosophical discussions of classification and individuation3 in the way Aristotle would have argued that they require. To this important task I incite those better qualified than I am to undertake it.

"Wiggins (David) - Identity & Spatio-temporal Continuity: Part 1.1: Relative Identity"

Source: Wiggins - Identity & Spatio-temporal Continuity, 1967, pp. 1-2

"Wiggins (David) - Identity & Spatio-temporal Continuity: Part 1.2: Leibniz's Law and the Difficulties of Relative Identity"

Source: Wiggins - Identity & Spatio-temporal Continuity, 1967, pp. 2-5

"Wiggins (David) - Identity & Spatio-temporal Continuity: Parts 1.3-8: Five Ways to be Wrong About Relative Identity"

Source: Wiggins - Identity & Spatio-temporal Continuity, 1967, pp. 5-26

"Wiggins (David) - Identity & Spatio-temporal Continuity: Part 2: Towards a Formal Theory of Substances"

Source: Wiggins - Identity & Spatio-temporal Continuity, 1967, pp. 27-40

"Wiggins (David) - Identity & Spatio-temporal Continuity: Part 3: Summary of First Two Parts, and Essentialist Postscript"

Source: Wiggins - Identity & Spatio-temporal Continuity, 1967, pp. 41-42

"Wiggins (David) - Identity & Spatio-temporal Continuity: Part 4: Self, Body and Spatio-Temporal Continuity"

Source: Wiggins - Identity & Spatio-temporal Continuity, 1967, pp. 43-58

"Wiggins (David) - Identity & Spatio-temporal Continuity: Appendix: Some Residual Problems About Sortal Concepts"

Source: Wiggins - Identity & Spatio-temporal Continuity, 1967, pp. 59-64

"Wiggins (David) - Identity & Spatio-temporal Continuity: Notes"

Source: Wiggins - Identity & Spatio-temporal Continuity, 1967, pp. 65-78

"Dummett (Michael) - Identity"

Source: Dummett - Frege, Philosophy of Language, Chapter 16
COMMENT: Dummett includes a comment to the effect that ths was written before "Wiggins (David) - Identity & Spatio-temporal Continuity", but is along the same lines.

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