Theo Todman's Web Page - Notes Pages


Personal Identity

Intermittent Objects

(Text as at 17/08/2018 21:59:02)

(For earlier versions of this Note, see the table at the end)


  1. I allude to the possibility of intermittent existence in these Notes:-
  2. Artefacts7
    • Are the classic cases of possibly intermediate objects, in that the same object can be disassembled and then reassembled, and it is usually thought that the reassembled object is numerically identical to the original.
    • But it is not clear whether the watch (say) ceases to exist when disassembled for cleaning, or whether it continues to exist in a scattered8 state. The recipient of a bag of watch-parts would still consider they had received their watch back, even if annoyed at having to reassemble it themselves.
    • But, as with all things artefactual, there’s a question whether our intuitions are conventional, and could be otherwise. My gut-feel, however, is that disassembled artefacts just exist in a disassembled, scattered state, rather than ceasing to exist. Hence, disassembled artefacts are examples of scattered objects rather than of intermittent objects.
    • I suppose the counter-argument might be that artefacts are the things they are for functional reasons, but does a disassembled thing have a function (or, at any rate, the same function it had when assembled)? I imagine we could say that an object might be delivered in kit-form, and then assembled, and it is probably arbitrary (or can be stipulated) whether the kit is of the same kind as the object or not.
    • The Write-up9 of "Carter (William) - Artifacts of Theseus: Fact and Fission" covers all this in more detail10.
  3. Persons11
    • When it comes to Persons, it’s the possession of certain capacities, not the present exercise of them, that qualifies an individual as a person.
    • David Wiggins holds the view that a person is one who belongs to a kind whose typical members possess some open-ended list of properties.
    • In that case, a foetus or someone in a PVS12 would still be a person. They would not “intermit” while in that state.
    • However, on a “present capacity” view, they would not qualify as persons in such a state, and a person might have intermittent existence. For instance if I were to fall into, and then recover from, a PVS I would not be a person when in the PVS, but would on recovery again be a person, and (importantly) the same person.
    • So, someone like Baker13 might be committed to persons as intermittent objects because she thinks of human persons as ontologically separate from the human animals that constitute them.
    • However, an animalist like Olson14 would not be so committed. For the animalist, it’s the animal that’s the persisting thing, and the animal persists throughout the PVS.
    • I’m not sure what Olson’s view is of the ontological status of persons (I don’t think he considers them a kind); they are just individuals of another kind (most notably human animals) with special, maybe temporary, properties.
  4. Phase Sortals15
    • My view is that human persons are phase16 sortals17 of human animals.
    • So, I side with Olson against Baker in the controversy about what Persons are.
    • While persons are ontologically significant, this does not bring into being a new kind of PERSON, but raises the status of the kind whose typical members are persons (and of the individuals who are persons, of course).
    • So, I do not think that persons – at least persons falling under the kind HUMAN ANIMAL – can have intermittent existence. A fetus or a human animal in a PVS remains the same human animal.
  5. Constitution18
  6. Scattered Objects24
    • The topic of physical contiuity25 addresses – amongst much else – both scattered objects26 and intermittent objects, the former intermitting in space, the latter in time (and maybe in space as well).
    • So, if persons are things constituted by other things, then the person intermits during a PVS, but there is no physical discontinuity.
    • But, as Baker believes, the very same person can be constituted by different bodies at different times, then there must necessarily be persistence in the absence of spatio-temporal continuity, which it usually taken as a necessary, if not sufficient, condition for persistence.
    • This leads on to our next topic.
  7. Resurrection27
    • The possibility of Resurrection28 is the main reason for my interest in intermittent objects.
    • Clearly, if we are to claim that the very same individual who died is resurrected somewhere else (maybe not a place as such, though it is difficult to envisage bodies that are not at places) at some other time (or not in time – but similar worries apply) then we have an intermittent object.
    • This process (or fiat) would also seem to involve some sort of metamorphosis29, though maybe the Constitution View does not worry about such things, as it is the constituted person that persists, not the constituting body.
  8. For a page of Links30 to this Note, Click here.
  9. Works on this topic that I’ve actually read31, include32 the following:-
    1. "Ayers (Michael R.) - Locke on 'Masses of Matter'", Ayers
    2. "Carter (William) - Artifacts of Theseus: Fact and Fission", Carter
    3. "Cooper (John) - Body, Soul and Life Everlasting: Preface to the Second Printing", Cooper
    4. "Fine (Kit) - The Non-Identity of a Material Thing and Its Matter", Fine
    5. "Johnston (Mark) - Human Beings", Johnston
    6. "Lowe (E.J.) - Identity Over Time and Change Of Composition", Lowe
    7. "Markosian (Ned) - Three Problems for Olson's Account of Personal Identity", Markosian
    8. "Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity and Immortality", Shoemaker
    9. "Wiggins (David) - On Being in the Same Place at the Same Time", Wiggins
  10. A reading list (where not covered elsewhere) might start with:-
    1. "Beck (Simon) - Let's Exist Again (Like We Did Last Summer)", Beck
    2. "Corcoran (Kevin) - Dualism, Materialism and the Problem of Post Mortem Survival", Corcoran
    3. "Hershenov (David) - The Metaphysical Problem of Intermittent Existence and the Possibility of Resurrection", Hershenov
    4. "Johnston (Mark) - Is Heaven a Place We Can Get To?", Johnston
    5. "Merricks (Trenton) - There Are No Criteria For Identity Over Time", Merricks
    6. "Oderberg (David) - Fission, Intermittence and the Primitiveness of Identity", Oderberg
    7. "Simons (Peter) - Temporary Parts and Intermittent Existence", Simons



In-Page Footnotes:

Footnote 10: Or will do, once I’ve completed it!

Footnote 30: Footnote 31: Footnote 32:


Printable Versions:



Table of the Previous 4 Versions of this Note:

Date Length Title
04/07/2014 22:46:34 5503 Intermittent Objects
18/12/2010 19:58:05 652 Intermittent Objects
26/11/2007 23:25:26 640 Intermittent Objects
12/08/2007 10:17:46 80 Intermittent Objects



Note last updated Reading List for this Topic Parent Topic
17/08/2018 21:59:02 Intermittent Objects Logic of Identity

Summary of Note Links from this Page

Artifacts Baker Carter – Artifacts of Theseus Constitution Constitution View
Fine - The Non-Identity of a Material Thing and Its Matter Fine - The Non-Identity of a Material Thing and Its Matter (Essay) Markosian - The Human Animal: Three Problems for Olson Metamorphosis Olson
Persistent Vegetative State Person Phase Sortals Physical Continuity Resurrection
Scattered Objects Sortals      

To access information, click on one of the links in the table above.




Summary of Note Links to this Page

Aeon Papers - Summary Document Artifacts Existence Interregnum Johnston - Human Beings
Life Person Phase Sortals Physical Continuity Scattered Objects

To access information, click on one of the links in the table above.




Authors, Books & Papers Citing this Note

Author Title Medium Extra Links Read?
Ayers (Michael R.) Locke on 'Masses of Matter' Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Beck (Simon) Let's Exist Again (Like We Did Last Summer) Paper Medium Quality Abstract    
Cooper (John) Body, Soul and Life Everlasting: Preface to the Second Printing Paper High Quality Abstract   Yes
Corcoran (Kevin) Dualism, Materialism and the Problem of Post Mortem Survival Paper Medium Quality Abstract    
Hershenov (David) The Metaphysical Problem of Intermittent Existence and the Possibility of Resurrection Paper Low Quality Abstract    
Johnston (Mark) Human Beings Paper High Quality Abstract   Yes
Johnston (Mark) Is Heaven a Place We Can Get To? Paper High Quality Abstract 2, 3, 4  
Lockwood (Michael) When Does a Life Begin? Paper High Quality Abstract   Yes
Lowe (E.J.) Identity Over Time and Change Of Composition Paper Medium Quality Abstract    
Merricks (Trenton) There Are No Criteria For Identity Over Time Paper Low Quality Abstract    
Oderberg (David) Fission, Intermittence and the Primitiveness of Identity Paper Low Quality Abstract    
Shoemaker (David) Personal Identity and Immortality Paper High Quality Abstract 2 Yes
Simons (Peter) Temporary Parts and Intermittent Existence Paper Low Quality Abstract    
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Artifacts Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Existence Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Intermittent Objects Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Interregnum Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Life Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Person Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Phase Sortals Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Physical Continuity Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Scattered Objects Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Wiggins (David) On Being in the Same Place at the Same Time Paper High Quality Abstract   Yes
Wright (N.T.) The Resurrection of the Son of God: Preface, Bibliography & Indexes Paper High Quality Abstract   Yes



References & Reading List

Author Title Medium Source Read?
Arnold (Keith) The Subject of Radical Change Paper - By Subtopic Medium Quality Abstract Philosophical Studies, Vol. 33, No. 4 (May, 1978), pp. 395-401 Yes
Ayers (Michael R.) Locke (Vol 2 - Ontology) Book - Cited (via Paper Cited) Low Quality Abstract Bibliographical details to be supplied 25%
Ayers (Michael R.) Locke on 'Masses of Matter' Paper - Cited Medium Quality Abstract Ayers - Locke (Vol. 2 - Ontology), 1991, Chapter 18, pp. 207-215 Yes
Beck (Simon) Let's Exist Again (Like We Did Last Summer) Paper - Cited Medium Quality Abstract South African Journal of Philosophy, 2001, Vol. 20 Issue 2, p159, 12p; No
Brennan (Andrew) Discontinuity and Identity Paper - By Subtopic Medium Quality Abstract Nous, Vol. 21, No. 2. (Jun., 1987), pp. 241-260 No
Burke (Michael) Cohabitation, Stuff and Intermittent Existence Paper - By Subtopic Medium Quality Abstract Mind, 89, No. 355, Jul., 1980, pp. 391-405 No
Carter (William) Artifacts of Theseus: Fact and Fission Paper - Cited Medium Quality Abstract Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 61.3 (September 1983) Yes
Cooper (John) Body, Soul and Life Everlasting: Biblical Anthropology and the Monism-dualism Debate Book - Cited (via Paper Cited) Medium Quality Abstract Bibliographical details to be supplied 62%
Cooper (John) Body, Soul and Life Everlasting: Preface to the Second Printing Paper - Cited High Quality Abstract Cooper (John) - Body, Soul and Life Everlasting, 1989, Preface Yes
Corcoran (Kevin) Dualism, Materialism and the Problem of Post Mortem Survival Paper - Cited Medium Quality Abstract Kevin Timpe (Ed.), Arguing About Religion (Routledge, 2009) 17%
Ellis (Brian) Australasian Journal of Philosophy - 61.3 (September 1983) Book - Cited (via Paper Cited) Bibliographical details to be supplied 83%
Fine (Kit) The Non-Identity of a Material Thing and Its Matter Paper - Cited Medium Quality Abstract Mind - 112/446 (April 2003) Yes
Gilmore (Cody) In Defence of Spatially Related Universals Paper - By Subtopic High Quality Abstract Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 81: 420-428 (September 2003) No
Hershenov (David) The Metaphysical Problem of Intermittent Existence and the Possibility of Resurrection Paper - Cited Low Quality Abstract Faith and Philosophy, 20:1, January 2003, 24-36 7%
Johnston (Mark) Human Beings Paper - Cited High Quality Abstract Journal of Philosophy, Volume 84, Issue 2 (Feb 1987), 59-83 Yes
Johnston (Mark) Is Heaven a Place We Can Get To? Paper - Cited High Quality Abstract Johnston (Mark) - Surviving Death, 2010 92%
Johnston (Mark) Surviving Death Book - Cited (via Paper Cited) Medium Quality Abstract Bibliographical details to be supplied 20%
Lowe (E.J.) A Survey of Metaphysics Book - Cited (via Paper Cited) Medium Quality Abstract Bibliographical details to be supplied No
Lowe (E.J.) Identity Over Time and Change Of Composition Paper - Cited Medium Quality Abstract Lowe - A Survey of Metaphysics, Chapter 2 No
Markosian (Ned) Three Problems for Olson's Account of Personal Identity Paper - Cited High Quality Abstract Abstracta Special Issue I – 2008 (Brazil) Yes
Martin (Michael G.F.), Ed. Mind - 112/446 (April 2003) Book - Cited (via Paper Cited) Bibliographical details to be supplied 50%
Merricks (Trenton) There Are No Criteria For Identity Over Time Paper - Cited Low Quality Abstract Noûs, Vol. 32, No. 1 (Mar., 1998), pp. 106-124 No
Oderberg (David) Fission, Intermittence and the Primitiveness of Identity Paper - Cited Low Quality Abstract Oderberg - The Metaphysics of Identity Over Time, 1993, Chapter 7 No
Oderberg (David) The Metaphysics of Identity Over Time Book - Cited (via Paper Cited) Low Quality Abstract Bibliographical details to be supplied 4%
Olson (Eric), Etc. Abstracta Special Issue on 'The Human Animal' Book - Cited (via Paper Cited) High Quality Abstract Bibliographical details to be supplied Yes
Rea (Michael), Ed. Material Constitution - A Reader Book - Cited (via Paper Cited) High Quality Abstract Bibliographical details to be supplied 53%
Shoemaker (David) Personal Identity and Ethics: A Brief Introduction Book - Cited (via Paper Cited) Low Quality Abstract Bibliographical details to be supplied Yes
Shoemaker (David) Personal Identity and Immortality Paper - Cited High Quality Abstract Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity and Ethics: A Brief Introduction, 2009, Chapter 1 Yes
Simons (Peter) Parts: A Study in Ontology Book - Cited (via Paper Cited) Low Quality Abstract Bibliographical details to be supplied 3%
Simons (Peter) Temporary Parts and Intermittent Existence Paper - Cited Low Quality Abstract Simons - Parts: A Study in Ontology, 1987, Chapter 5 No
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Intermittent Objects Paper - By Subtopic Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Wiggins (David) On Being in the Same Place at the Same Time Paper - Cited High Quality Abstract Rea - Material Constitution - A Reader Yes



Text Colour Conventions

  1. Black: Printable Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2018
  2. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2018




© Theo Todman, June 2007 - Sept 2018.Please address any comments on this page to theo@theotodman.com.File output:
Website Maintenance Dashboard
Return to Top of this PageReturn to Theo Todman's Philosophy PageReturn to Theo Todman's Home Page