How Things Persist
Hawley (Katherine)
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Book Description

    The world is remarkably stable – amidst the flux, physical objects continue to persist. But how do things persist? Are they spread out through time as they are spread out through space? Or is persistence very different from spatial extension? These ancient metaphysical questions are at the forefront of contemporary debate once more. Katherine Hawley provides a wide-ranging yet accessible study of this key issue. She also makes a major contribution to current debates about change, vagueness, and language.

  1. How do things persist? Are material objects spread out through time just as they are spread out through space? Or is temporal persistence quite different from spatial extension? This key question lies at the heart of any metaphysical exploration of the material world, and it plays a crucial part in debates about personal identity and survival. Katherine Hawley explores and compares three theories of persistence - endurance, perdurance1, and stage theories2 - investigating the ways in which they attempt to account for the world around us. Having provided valuable clarification of its two main rivals, she concludes by advocating stage theory3.
  2. Such a basic issue about the nature of the physical world naturally has close ties with other central philosophical problems. How Things Persist includes discussions of change and parthood, of how we refer to material objects at different times, of the doctrine of Humean supervenience4, and of the modal5 features of material things. In particular, it contains new accounts of the nature of worldly vagueness, and of what binds material things together over time, distinguishing the career of a natural object from an arbitrary sequence of events. Each chapter concludes with a reflection about the impact of these metaphysical debates upon questions about our personal identity and survival.
  3. Both students and professional philosophers will find that this wide-ranging study provides ideal access to the lively modern debate about an ancient metaphysical problem.


Clarendon Press, Oxford, 2004. Nice new paperback (Hardback published 2001).

"Hawley (Katherine) - How Things Persist: Introduction"

Source: Hawley - How Things Persist, Introduction

  1. The Introduction motivates the study of Identity, pointing out that Metaphysics underpins just what empirical matters to look out for in settling particular cases. Forensic1 matters are noted, as are distinctions between the persistence conditions2 of different kinds of thing (eg. persons, organisms, artefacts) and we are warned that applications to Personal Identity are made in the conclusions to each chapter3 .
  2. Histories as well as present properties are relevant to questions of identity: the Wembley turf, and Elvis’s guitar are examples.
  3. The very first sentence states that the book is about “what it takes for a material object to last from one moment to another”, yet later4 in the Introduction the possibility that persons might be immaterial is mooted.
  4. Motivating summaries are given by Chapter:-
  5. There are (at least) two objections to the possibility of any metaphysical resolution to the above questions:-
    • There are no “metaphysical facts” to be discovered. All we’re doing is choosing a way of talking about persistence in order to tackle the related practical questions.
    • Even if there are metaphysical facts, can we actually discover what they are?
  6. Hawley thinks that we need to be careful if we say that the persistence conditions6 of certain things are “up to us”, as this might imply mystical powers of retrograde mental causation7. She adopts (unargued) a realist position whereby we cannot affect the persistence and existence of material objects other than by physically manipulating the world.
  7. Persistence and existence questions may be “up to us” not just (trivially) in how we use our words, but depending on what aspects of the world interest or concern us, and how we choose to divide it up. The world is ontologically rich (says Hawley). So, if it is “up to us” whether by “person” we mean something (inter alia) that begins at conception or conversely (inter alia) begins to exist at some undetermined later moment, then both such things must already exist in the world. Our minds are not creating them. This and its contrary (the mind-dependence of the world, which Hawley rejects) are metaphysical claims.
  8. Arguments over such points are embedded in wider metaphysical disputes about vagueness, wholes and parts, time, movement and change, necessity and possibility, language and reference.
  9. Metaphysical truths are neither self-evident nor empirically verifiable8. We need to see how our metaphysics in the area of persistence fits in with other things we hold, and maybe even challenge (the evidence for) those prior beliefs.

In-Page Footnotes ("Hawley (Katherine) - How Things Persist: Introduction")

Footnote 1:
  • Eg. Matters of (self-) concern, prudence and value; legal questions of ownership, and the like: Click here for Note.
Footnote 3:
    Which is good to know, as it ties in nicely with my research interests.
Footnote 4:
  • Re-reading the introduction, I couldn’t find this idea, so maybe it’s incorrectly attributed to Hawley.
  • She does posit the possibility (by way of illustration) that the same human organism might “house” (her term; top of p.3) a different person from time to time, or indeed, no person at all.
Footnote 5: Footnote 8:
  • Which is why the Logical Positivists thought there were no such things, and decried any “metaphysical” claims!

"Hawley (Katherine) - Selections from 'How Things Persist'"

Source: Hawley (Katherine) - How Things Persist, 2001

This extract would appear to be made up of the following sections of Chapter 2 ("Hawley (Katherine) - Parts and Stages"). of "Hawley (Katherine) - How Things Persist":-
  1. Section 2.2 (“Stage Theory”1; apart from the end of the final paragraph),
  2. Section 2.6 (“Lingering and Historical Predicates”),
  3. Section 2.7 (“Reference and Reidentification”).

COMMENT: Excerpted from "Hawley (Katherine) - How Things Persist".

"Hawley (Katherine) - Sameness and Difference"

Source: Hawley - How Things Persist, Chapter 1

  • 1.1 How Things Persist
  • 1.2 Change and Perdurance1
  • 1.3 Change and Endurance
  • 1.4 Properties as Relations to Times
  • 1.5 Adverbialism: Instantiation as Relative to Times
  • 1.6 Change, Parthood, and Being “Wholly Present”
  • 1.7 Time and Persistence
  • 1.8 Conclusions, and Personal Persistence

"Hawley (Katherine) - Parts and Stages"

Source: Hawley - How Things Persist, Chapter 2

  • 2.1 Wholes and Parts, Properties and Predicates
  • 2.2 Stage Theory1
  • 2.3 Developing Stage Theory2
  • 2.4 How Long are Stages?
  • 2.5 Time and Change
  • 2.6 Lingering and Historical Predicates
  • 2.7 Reference and Reidentification
  • 2.8 Sameness, Identity, and Counting
  • 2.9 Personal Persistence

"Hawley (Katherine) - Sticking Stages Together"

Source: Hawley - How Things Persist, Chapter 3

  • 3.1 Non-supervenient Relations
  • 3.2 The Homogeneous Disc Argument: Exposition
  • 3.3 The No-difference Objection
  • 3.4 Holographic Difference Objections
  • 3.5 Non-supervenient Relations, and Alternatives
  • 3.6 Natural Objects
  • 3.7 Change
  • 3.8 Reference
  • 3.9 Personal Persistence

"Hawley (Katherine) - Vagueness"

Source: Hawley - How Things Persist, Chapter 4

  • 4.1 Sources of Vagueness
  • 4.2 Against Vague Objects
  • 4.3 Vague Worlds
  • 4.4 Might the World be Vague?
  • 4.5 Is the World Vague?
  • 4.6 Ontic Indeterminacy and Endurance Theory
  • 4.7 The Evans-Salmon Argument
  • 4.8 Leibniz’s Law and its Contrapositive
  • 4.9 Transference
  • 4.10 Is Alpha Identical to Omega?
  • 4.11 Perdurance1, Stages, and Ontic Indeterminacy
  • 4.12 Semantic Indeterminacy and Persistence
  • 4.13 Epistemic Accounts of Vagueness
  • 4.14 Vagueness, Persistence, and People

"Hawley (Katherine) - Sheer Coincidence?"

Source: Hawley - How Things Persist, Chapter 5

  • 5.1 Constitution Theories
  • 5.2 Perdurance1 Theory
  • 5.3 Dominant Sortals2
  • 5.4 Temporary Identities
  • 5.5 Stage Theory3
  • 5.6 Scepticism about Objects
  • 5.7 A Complication: Two of a Kind?
  • 5.8 How to Decide?
  • 5.9 The Problems of the Many
  • 5.10 Personal Persistence

"Hawley (Katherine) - Modality"

Source: Hawley - How Things Persist, Chapter 6

  • 6.1 Constitution Theories
  • 6.2 Perdurance1 Theory
  • 6.3 Dominant Sortals2
  • 6.4 Temporary Identities and Contingent Identities
  • 6.5 Scepticism about Objects
  • 6.6 Stage Theory3
  • 6.7 Modal4 Features of Stages
  • 6.8 Vagueness Again
  • 6.9 Sums of Stages, and Modal5 Inductility
  • 6.10 Perdurance6 Theory and Modal7 Inductility
  • 6.11 Stage Theory8 and Sums
  • 6.12 Individual Predicates and Possible Worlds
  • 6.13 Conclusions

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