Oxford Studies in Metaphysics: Volume 3
Zimmerman (Dean), Ed.
This Page provides (where held) the Abstract of the above Book and those of all the Papers contained in it.


Amazon Product Description (for the Series)

  1. Oxford Studies in Metaphysics is the forum for the best new work in this flourishing field. Much of the most interesting work in philosophy today is metaphysical in character: this new series is a much-needed focus for it. OSM offers a broad view of the subject, featuring not only the traditionally central topics such as existence, identity, modality1, time, and causation2, but also the rich clusters of metaphysical questions in neighbouring fields, such as philosophy of mind and philosophy of science. Besides independent essays, volumes will often contain a critical essay on a recent book, or a symposium that allows participants to respond to one another's criticisms and questions. Anyone who wants to know what's happening in metaphysics can start here.
  2. Dean Zimmerman is at Rutgers University.


OUP, Clarendon Press (31 May 2007)

"Robinson (Denis) - Human Beings, Human Animals, and Mentalistic Survival"

Source: Zimmerman (Dean), Ed. - Oxford Studies in Metaphysics: Volume 3

Author’s Introduction
  1. The debate over personal identity is a complex one, involving many contrasting views, and ingenious and controversial arguments. But standing back from the complexity, we can see a couple of major and strongly contrasting groupings into which many recently defended views may be seen as falling.
    • At one extreme, we find diverse forms of Psychological Reductionism,
    • and at the other, views we may group under the label ‘Animalism’1.
    Though Psychological Reductionism is (deservedly, I think) more popular2, Animalism3 also has its following, and has fairly recently been given an unusually blunt, succinct, and passionate defence by "Olson (Eric) - The Human Animal - Personal Identity Without Psychology".
  2. The doctrinal opposition between these main groupings tends to line up rather neatly with a general methodological opposition which has ramifications in metaphysics generally: one where the key issue is, roughly, the relative priority in metaphysics of folk intuitions and a priori judgements, as against the findings of natural sciences.
  3. But the very distance between these two main doctrinal groupings makes it natural to look for some kind of intermediate position, and for some corresponding methodological middle way for defending it.
    • My aim in this paper is to inspect this intermediate terrain, and in so doing to draw doctrinal and methodological conclusions of my own.
    • My sympathies are with Psychological Reductionism, rather than with Animalism4, but it is not my aim here to defend the former, nor to attack the latter.
    • Rather, I aim to bring out the importance in this area of very general ontological assumptions or presuppositions, and the way in which the outcome of applying a particular methodology may be radically affected by them.
    • I shall build my discussion around one well-known attempt – "Johnston (Mark) - Human Beings" – to defend a middle way between the extremes of Animalism5 and Psychological Reductionism.
    • I shall argue that the attempt is unsuccessful6, that the middle ground it attempts to occupy is unstable, and that the methodological proposals invoked in its defense cannot do what is asked of them.
  4. Not only is Johnston’s view in "Johnston (Mark) - Human Beings" (henceforth, “the Human Beings view”) one which might be thought to combine elements characteristic of our main opposing camps, it also offers what might be seen as an attempt at a methodological middle way in support, since (as we shall see below) it invokes a priori intuitions about personhood on the one hand, while expressing caution about such intuitions, and prioritising naturalistic ontological categories, on the other. I shall argue, however, that any substantive alternative to Psychological Reductionism which that methodology can be made to support will be even closer to animalism7 than the Human Beings view, which is itself, despite the appearance of compromise, already quite close to an animalist8 view.
  5. To move on, we must begin by saying more about the kinds of positions referred to above. I shall say quite a bit about Johnston’s position, the kind of ontological standpoint which underpins it, and the errors, as he sees them, which he wishes to avoid, before finally examining his methodological proposals, and the positive arguments for his view, to which they lead.


In-Page Footnotes ("Robinson (Denis) - Human Beings, Human Animals, and Mentalistic Survival")

Footnote 2:
  • Robinson has a footnote to the effect that Johnston describes PR – denominated “Wide Psychological Reductionism” – as “dominant”, citing Sydney Shoemaker, Quinton and Lewis as supporters of this view.
  • Robinson also notes that "Olson (Eric) - Psychology and Personal Identity", FN13, lists over 30 philosophers – including 19 “big names” (listed on p. 20) – as supportive of some form of Psychological View.
Footnote 6:
  1. But Robinson notes in a footnote that we need to read other works by Johnston to get his full position, namely:-
  2. He says that "Johnston (Mark) - Relativism and the Self" is “perhaps both the most important and the most difficult” of the suggested papers.
  3. Robinson’s own view appears in "Robinson (Denis) - Failing To Agree Or Failing To Disagree?: Personal Identity Quasi-Relativism".

"Johnston (Mark) - 'Human Beings' Revisited: My Body is Not an Animal"

Source: Zimmerman (Dean), Ed. - Oxford Studies in Metaphysics: Volume 3

Author’s Introduction
  1. Twenty years ago – in "Johnston (Mark) - Human Beings" and elsewhere – I defended an alternative methodology for arriving at an answer to the question: What kind captures our essence and so determines our conditions of survival over time?
  2. Previously, when it came to philosophical theorising about personal identity, the popular methodology – “the method of cases” – had been to collect “intuitions” about real and imaginary cases of personal survival and ceasing to be, and then bring these intuitions into some sort of reflective equilibrium that bore on the question of the necessary and sufficient conditions for an arbitrary person’s survival. Imagined cases were treated as more or less on a par with real cases; for the then natural idea was that we should not restrict our evidence base to the adventitious experiments of step-motherly nature, when we could also avail ourselves of the ingenious thought experiments1 in the philosophy journals.

Notes (By Section2)
    • Reasons for rejecting the “method of cases” …
    • The first is that the necessary conditions of our survival – arising from our common essence – are not open to a priori armchair reflection. Knowledge of our real essence is not necessary for semantic competence3 in the use of “(same) person”. Philosophy has moved on from conceptual analysis (“advanced lexicography”) to seeking the real definition of the item in question.
    • So, what is “real definition”? We want to know “what it is to be” that item – this involves using all the relevant knowledge – much of it a posteriori knowledge – and all our “argumentative ingenuity”.
    • Johnston returns4 to this topic to demonstrate the viability of the method of real definition.
    • Real definition is, however, not inherently at odds with conceptual analysis because concepts are themselves subject to real definition.
    • We can all agree that possessors of a concept must at least implicitly understand its conditions of application.
    • The exception5 is where there is deference – either to experts or reality itself – to settle the extension of a concept.
    • Johnston makes an analogy – in the case where deference is to “reality itself” – between water and human persons. In the case of water, we start off with our partial understanding of the concept and try to determine the real definition – just what is it to be water, and how do its manifest qualities enter into its real definition. Are they just contingent6, or essential like its chemical composition?
    • Then, completing the analogy, if we defer to reality in our concept of personal identity, we should address its real definition. However, the defender of the method of cases may say that we aren’t deferring to experts in the case of persons, as we all know what persons are.
    • In "Johnston (Mark) - Human Beings", Johnston argued that our concept of “person” is “highly determinable” – ie. without much content, as is shown by two considerations.
    • The first is the various and conflicting theoretical, ideological or theological elaborations of the concept.
    • The second is the consideration that our intuitions lead us to consider a person as a “Bare Locus7” of mental life that can – in principle – survive any amount of physical or psychological discontinuity.
    • The second reason …


In-Page Footnotes ("Johnston (Mark) - 'Human Beings' Revisited: My Body is Not an Animal")

Footnote 2:
  • The numbering corresponds to “Section n” of the text.
  • The full text of the un-numbered introductory section is given above.
  • Sadly, only the first numbered section has been commented on so far.
Footnote 3:
  • We can talk competently about things that don’t exist – souls, or unicorns – which – when we really dig into the concept – are a bit vague; so, in a sense, we don’t know what we are talking about.
  • So, this competence doesn’t mean that we necessarily know what we are talking about.
  • Likewise, we can competently talk about things that do exist – persons – without really knowing what it is we’re talking about.
Footnote 4: Ie. from "Johnston (Mark) - Human Beings".

Footnote 5: Johnston doesn’t put it quite like this but this is what I – at least for now – take him as saying.

Footnote 6: Footnote 7:
  • The “Bare” element inclines us to think of a haecceity, but the “mental life” gives it properties.
  • This sounds, therefore, something like Baker’s FPP.

"Heller (Mark) - Worlds, Pluriverses, and Minds"

Source: Zimmerman (Dean), Ed. - Oxford Studies in Metaphysics: Volume 3

Author’s Introduction
  1. Over the last few years I have been developing an ontology of ersatz possible worlds based on some suggestive ideas made by "Quine (W.V.) - Propositional Objects". The proposed account identifies worlds with complicated sets that represent distributions of fundamental properties across a manifold. I will henceforth call this view “Representationalism”. The purpose of the present chapter is twofold:-
    • First, I want to consider how this picture of worlds must be developed in order to accommodate the possibility of manifolds that are not connected with one another or only partially connected with one another.
    • Secondly, I want to consider how this picture of worlds must be developed in order to accommodate the possibility of non-physical minds
    The relation between these two projects is that I will propose that non-physical minds can be treated as collections of mental properties distributed in separate manifolds each of which is partially connected to the manifold in which the physical properties are distributed.
  2. I begin is Section I with an account of the Representationalist theory of worlds. In Section II, I extend the theory to include disconnected and partially connected manifolds. In addition, this section will serve to clarify a challenge to David Lewis’s modal1 realism ("Lewis (David) - On the Plurality of Worlds"). Section III will explore the way minds can fit into this picture of worlds.

COMMENT: Part II: Modalit2y

"Jubien (Michael) - Analyzing Modality"

Source: Zimmerman (Dean), Ed. - Oxford Studies in Metaphysics: Volume 3

COMMENT: Part II: Modalit1y

"McGrath (Matthew) - Four-Dimensionalism and the Puzzles of Coincidence"

Source: Zimmerman (Dean), Ed. - Oxford Studies in Metaphysics: Volume 3

Author’s Introduction
  1. Often cited in defense of four-dimensionalism about the persistence of material objects is its treatment of the so-called puzzles of coincidence. These puzzles include the statue/lump1, the ship of Theseus2, Tibbles the cat3 and the various fission and fusion puzzles in the personal identity literature. In their original versions, the puzzles involve changes which either seem to produce or terminate coincidence between material objects (the lump is flattened, the cat’s tail is cut off, etc.), but each of the puzzles also has a modal4 variant in which the relevant change could have occurred but does not. Four-dimensionalists (4Dists) standardly take themselves to have an edge over three-dimensionalists (3Dists) in the treatment of these puzzles. They claim that the original puzzles are answered easily and painlessly under 4Dism, and that their modal5 variants can be answered by something like counterpart theory. By contrast6, they claim, 3Dists have no easy way with the originals, and no better way with the modal7 variants.
  2. My aim here is to determine whether this is correct. I will argue that it is not, and that the puzzles are every bit as challenging for the 4Dist as they are for the 3Dist. In a final section, I will tentatively suggest that reflecting on the puzzles may provide a reason to reject 4Dism.

COMMENT: Part III: Coincident Objects and Temporal Parts

In-Page Footnotes ("McGrath (Matthew) - Four-Dimensionalism and the Puzzles of Coincidence")

Footnote 6: McGrath has a footnote to the effect that both 4Dists and 3Dists are in agreement, and quotes the following:-

"Gilmore (Cody) - Time Travel, Coinciding Objects and Persistence"

Source: Zimmerman (Dean), Ed. - Oxford Studies in Metaphysics: Volume 3

Author’s Introduction1
  1. Endurantism2, roughly stated, is the view that material objects lack temporal extent and persist through time by “enduring” – that is, by being wholly present at each moment of their careers. Perdurantism is the opposing view that material objects persist by “perduring” – that is, by being temporally extended and having different temporal parts located at different times. In this paper I offer an argument against perdurantism, one based largely on premises that have been used in arguments against endurantism3. Perdurantists can resist the argument, but not, I think, without weakening at least one of the relevant anti-endurantist4 arguments. In one way or another, then, this chapter is meant to alter the overall debate between endurantists5 and perdurantists to the benefit of the former.
  2. The heart of the chapter is the presentation of a new type of coincidence puzzle. A coincidence puzzle is an apparent counter-example to the following, widely accepted anti-coincidence principle:
      It is impossible for numerically distinct material objects to coincide - that is, to be (i) wholly present in exactly the same location and (ii) composed, at some level of decomposition, of all the same parts, or all the same matter at the given location
    To solve such a puzzle, as I shall use the term, is to show that the case in question does not in fact constitute a genuine counter-example to the principle.
  3. Existing coincidence puzzles can be divided into two types, corresponding to the manner in which they bear upon the endurantism6 versus perdurantism debate. Puzzles of the first type (involving temporary spatial co-location) can be solved simply by abandoning endurantism7 in favour of perdurantism, whereas those of the second type (involving career-long spatial co-location) remain equally puzzling on both views. In this paper I show that if backward time travel8 is possible, then a third type of coincidence puzzle arises. Puzzles of this third type confront perdurantists, and can be solved simply by shifting to endurantism9.
  4. The plan for this chapter is as follows. In Section 2 I introduce some new terminology and show how it applies to the older puzzles. In Section 3 I give two examples of the new type of puzzle. Finally, in Section 4, I present the argument against perdurantism and discuss a number of possible responses.

  • Part III: Coincident Objects and Temporal Parts
  • See Link for an electronic pre-print.
  • I seem to have an electronic copy of the published chapter as well; a nicely-formatted pdf.

In-Page Footnotes ("Gilmore (Cody) - Time Travel, Coinciding Objects and Persistence")

Footnote 1: I have omitted several useful footnotes, including one that excludes exdurantism from the discussion.

"Parsons (Josh) - Theories of Location"

Source: Zimmerman (Dean), Ed. - Oxford Studies in Metaphysics: Volume 3

COMMENT: Part IV: Mereology

"McDaniel (Kris) - Brutal Simples"

Source: Zimmerman (Dean), Ed. - Oxford Studies in Metaphysics: Volume 3

COMMENT: Part IV: Mereology

"Kilborn (William) - Contact and Continuity"

Source: Zimmerman (Dean), Ed. - Oxford Studies in Metaphysics: Volume 3

COMMENT: Part IV: Mereology

"Warfield (Ted) - Metaphysical Compatibilism's Appropriation of Frankfurt"

Source: Zimmerman (Dean), Ed. - Oxford Studies in Metaphysics: Volume 3

COMMENT: Part V: Free Will

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