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TWO SPHERES, TWENTY SPHERES, AND THE IDENTITY OF INDISCERNIBLES

by MICHAEL DELLA ROCCA


Abstract: I argue that the standard counterexamples to the identity of indiscernibles fail because they involve a commitment to a certain kind of primitive or brute identity that has certain very unpalatable consequences involving the possibility of objects of the same kind completely overlapping and sharing all the same proper parts. The only way to avoid these consequences is to reject brute identity and thus to accept the identity of indiscernibles. I also show how the rejection of the identity of indiscernibles derives some of its support from its afnity with a Kripkean account of trans-world identity and theories of direct reference.

I know theres only, only one like you. Theres no way they could have made two. Barry White, Youre the First, the Last, My Everything

The Principle of the Identity of Indiscernibles has fallen on hard times. Despite its prominence in the philosophies of Leibniz and of Spinoza in the great heyday of rationalism, and despite its more recent advocacy by Russell and Ayer and, in a limited fashion, by Hacking, most philosophers nowadays seem not to accept this principle.1 What has brought PII (as I will refer to it hereafter) into such disrepute? The primary reason is, of course, the great intuitive plausibility of certain well-known apparent counterexamples. These counterexamples involve various kinds of symmetrical universes that would directly entail the falsity of PII, as I will explain shortly. Such counterexamples date back at least to Kant and have been developed in important papers by Max Black and Robert Adams.2
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But rarely, of course, does a single counterexample result in the apparent downfall of a philosophical thesis. The philosophical climate must be right for such counterexamples to be taken seriously and it has been the misfortune of PII that other developments in philosophy have of late created an environment in which, for general theoretical reasons, such counterexamples to PII seem particularly compelling. To be more specic, I would say that the socalled new theory of reference and the standard essentialist account of transworld identity have a close afnity with the rejection of PII, even if this rejection does not stand in any direct entailment relation with these other theses. I will explain the nature of this afnity in due course, but here I want to suggest that such afnity is part of what makes the apparent counterexamples so convincing and leads so many philosophers nowadays to reject PII. However, I remain undaunted by the apparently overwhelming intuitive support for the rejection of PII. In this paper, I aim to take some important steps toward undermining this support. I will not, however, be able to make a complete case here for PII to do so would require, inter alia, taking on the foundations of so much of contemporary metaphysics and philosophy of language. But I will show how to loosen the hold of the seemingly devastating counterexamples by arguing that they have in rather surprising ways very unpalatable consequences. First we need to have a statement of the principle I want to defend. For a rst pass at PII, we might say this: If a and b have all the same properties, then a = b. Depending on the scope that one allows the phrase all the same properties to have, the principle may be trivially true or else unreasonably strong and so likely to be false. The trick is to nd some middle interpretation of PII that steers between these alternatives. The trivially true version of this principle includes properties such as being identical with a within the scope of all the same properties. If such properties are included, the principle becomes quite trivial for it can then be read as: If a and b have all the same properties, including the property of being identical with a, then a = b. To eliminate this and other similar difculties, it will be helpful to amend the principle to say the following: If a and b share all the same qualitative properties, then a = b. Roughly, a qualitative property is the property of being a thing of a certain kind; a qualitative property can thus, in principle, apply to more than one
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thing. Further, a qualitative property is neither a property of being a particular object nor a property of being related to a particular object. So the property of being identical with a and the property of being ve feet from a are not qualitative properties.3 Two further qualications are in order. First, I intend for PII to cover both relational and non-relational qualitative properties. So read, the principle is quite strong, but one can envisage even stronger versions of PII, versions according to which fewer properties guarantee identity. Thus we might say either: If a and b have all the same non-relational qualitative properties, then a = b or: If a and b have all the same relational qualitative properties, then a = b. I do not want to defend here either of these very strong principles. The version of PII that includes both relational and non-relational properties is quite strong enough, and to defend it would be an important achievement. Also and this is the second qualication I see the principle I seek to defend as a necessary truth. Thus the version I am actually defending is: Necessarily, if a and b share all the same qualitative properties, then a = b.4 The weaker, non-necessitated version, although not trivially true, is one many would be willing to grant. But the necessitated version is far from being trivially true: even if the universe is not symmetrical, it might seem possible for the universe to be symmetrical, and if this is possible, then PII (in its necessitated version) is false after all. Let us turn now to the way in which symmetrical universes have a bearing on the truth or falsity of the version of PII that I have isolated. Consider the famous example from Max Black. He asks us to consider whether it is possible for there to be a universe that contains only two eternal homogeneous spheres located, say, ve feet apart from each other. Each sphere is made of material that is qualitatively exactly like the material constituting the other sphere; each sphere has the same dimensions as the other sphere and moves (if it moves) in precisely the same way as the other. Further the two spheres have all the same qualitative relational properties. For example, each sphere is ve feet away from another sphere, etc. If such a universe is possible, then we seem to have a direct counterexample to PII: the two spheres are qualitatively indiscernible and yet they are two; they are not identical.
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If this possibility is allowed, other intuitively acceptable possibilities can also be brought in to do the same job. We can envisage universes with more spatial or temporal complexity, but as long as the spatial and temporal symmetry is maintained, we would have further counterexamples. The counterexamples need not even be spatial at all. We can, perhaps, imagine a wholly non-spatial universe consisting of distinct but qualitatively indiscernible minds. All such scenarios start with the intuition that a certain kind of symmetry is possible a kind of symmetry that, if genuinely possible, would directly show PII to be false. Such intuitions are quite powerful even if our universe does not actually exhibit such symmetry, it seems that nothing stands in the way of the possibility of such a universe.5 Still, the intuition may seem controversial to some, and that is why it is signicant that one can actually mount an argument for the claim that such symmetry is possible and not rely on an intuition to that effect. The argument starts from what might seem to be even less controversial premises and is due to Adams. The starting assumption is not that there is a symmetrical universe with indiscernible objects, but that there is a universe with two almost indiscernible objects. Thus consider a world with two eternal spheres and nothing else. The spheres are made of similar material, but one sphere, say a, has a small chemical impurity that the other sphere, b, lacks. Otherwise, they are indiscernible. Surely, such a universe is possible (or at least I am willing to grant this for the sake of this argument). But if so, then it would seem to be equally possible for there to be a universe in which a exists but without its chemical impurity (thus the chemical impurity is not essential to a). It also seems possible that, in the universe in which a exists without the impurity, b exists just as it does in the original world, i.e. without any impurity. Now in this situation b must not be identical to a. Given their non-identity in the rst situation, they must also be non-identical in the second situation, a situation in which both exist. Thus in this situation, a and b would be distinct, yet indiscernible, even though in the rst situation they were discernible. We have reached here the conclusion that a perfectly symmetrical universe is possible and that PII is false by starting out from the very uncontroversial possibility of almost indiscernible spheres, together with certain quite plausible and widely accepted intuitions intuitions such as that a, which has an impurity, might have existed without the impurity, and that if a and b are distinct in one possible situation, then in any other situation in which they both exist they are also distinct.6 This latter intuition is tantamount to the necessity of identity. This way of arguing for the falsity of PII via the necessity of identity and a commitment to a thesis of trans-world identity is rather compelling. This is so especially because this strategy enables us to begin to see how the rejection of PII is bound up with certain other prevalent theses, and it shows how one who wants to defend PII must, at some point, challenge
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such an apparently sacrosanct thesis as the necessity of identity and, in general, the standard Kripkean account of modality. Despite the variety of ways of reaching the claim that symmetrical universes are possible, I will challenge that claim. In order to do so, and in order to bring out a further connection between the rejection of PII and other widespread metaphysical views, it is crucial to note that in Blacks example (and in the others as well) what individuates the two objects what accounts for their non-identity is not any qualitative difference between them. What individuates the objects is simply the objects themselves. All we can say by way of individuating the two spheres in Blacks example is that one sphere is distinct from the other because it is not the other. The two spheres are, as Adams puts it, primitively individuated and not individuated via their qualities. In effect, the only explanation of the fact that a is distinct from b is the fact that a is distinct from b. But this is clearly a circular explanation and so not really an explanation at all. Thus the non-identity of the spheres is a brute fact; it is a fact without an explanation.7 The same point would apply to any other purported counterexample to PII: it involves a brute fact of non-identity, non-identity not grounded in any qualitative difference. It might seem, however, that in Blacks case and other cases of spatial indiscernibility, there is an explanation of non-identity. One might appeal to the fact that the two spheres are in two different spatial locations to explain their non-identity.8 But this move only invites the question: how are these two locations to be individuated? And although there may then be an explanation of the non-identity of the qualitatively indiscernible spheres, there would be no explanation of the non-identity of the different locations. What can one do other than say that one location is not identical to the other because it is not identical to the other? One obviously cannot appeal to the spheres in the locations to individuate the locations. This would be circular in this context because the aim was to appeal to the locations to individuate the spheres. In this way, there would be a commitment to brute facts of identity and non-identity here even if one appeals to locations to individuate the spheres. I will return to this complication from time to time and at crucial moments, but for the most part I will continue to speak of the non-identity of the spheres themselves as involving brute facts. As we will see, it is the general commitment to brute facts of non-identity that leads to problems for the opponent of PII. The fact that, for the opponent of PII, the non-identity of the indiscernible objects cannot be accounted for in qualitative terms reveals a further and quite general connection between the rejection of PII and certain prevalent positions in contemporary metaphysics and philosophy of language positions that also and in similar ways downplay qualitative properties. Thus, take the theory of direct reference. On such a view, one can succeed in referring to an object without needing to invoke, explicitly
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or implicitly, any of its uniquely identifying qualities or, perhaps, any of its qualities at all. In other words, just as, for the opponent of PII the qualities of an object do not in general provide an account of its non-identity to certain other objects, so too, for the proponent of direct reference, the qualities that one grasps do not in general account for ones reference to that object. Similarly, on a Kripkean or non-counterpart-theoretic account of modality, one can account for the modal properties of an object in terms of so-called trans-world identity, where such identity is seen as not grounded in any kind of relation of qualitative similarity between an actual object and an object in a merely possible situation. On this view, trans-world identity and non-identity (just as identity and non-identity simpliciter for the opponent of PII) are not to be accounted for in purely qualitative terms. Thus one can see that these prevalent doctrines easily cohere with the rejection of PII. Of course, though, to say as I do that the de-emphasis on the qualitative at work in the rejection of PII is of a piece with the attitude toward the qualitative in the new theory of reference and in the Kripkean account of modality is not to say that any of these three theses entails any of the others. (Adams stresses this point.) While I think that there are some such entailments e.g. as we have seen, with help from an uncontroversial premise concerning almost indiscernible objects, the Kripkean account of modality entails the rejection of PIIthe issues are complicated here and need to be teased apart carefully. And that, in a way, is part of my point: the obviously close afnity between, and the difculty in separating, the rejection of PII and these other formidable doctrines enables the rejection of PII to enjoy a seemingly invulnerable position, a kind of innocence by association. Having seen what the rejection of PII involves, its intuitive strength, and intellectual fellow travelers, we can begin challenging this intuitive support. My argument is rather simple. I claim that if one allows for primitive individuation or a brute fact of non-identity in Blacks twosphere case, then one has no good way to avoid other cases of primitive individuation that are intuitively unacceptable. This result would be a serious challenge to all arguments for rejecting PII because these arguments turn on the possibility of cases of primitive individuation, such as that in Blacks case. My goal is, at bottom, to show that the opponent of PII is committed to a kind of brute fact that all of us would or should nd intolerable. What kind of brute fact do I have in mind? Consider what I call the 20-sphere case. On my desk there is apparently one sphere. But in this case there is actually not just one sphere, but 20 indiscernible spheres in exactly the same place at the same time. They each have the same size, shape, weight, etc. In fact, they all have the same parts too.9 Let us
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stipulate that none of the spheres moves and that each exists for precisely the same period of time. Obviously, these spheres would be primitively distinct; each one of the spheres is individuated from each of the others simply by virtue of the fact that it is distinct from each of the others. Is the 20-sphere case possible? It seems absurd to say that it is. Just ask yourself: is it really possible that what is apparently one sphere on my desk is actually 20 completely overlapping spheres? This scenario violates what is apparently a conceptual truth to the effect that there cannot be distinct indiscernible things that occupy precisely the same location at all the same times and have all the same parts.10 Notice that I am not saying that there cannot be two objects of different kinds in exactly the same place at the same time with all the same parts. Thus, for the purposes of this paper, I am neutral on whether, for example, a statue and a non-identical lump of clay can occupy precisely the same place at the same time. I am invoking here only the much tamer claim that indiscernible things (and thus things of the same kind) cannot coincide spatially and temporally and have all the same parts. Return to PII. The worry now is that one who rejects PII is in no position to do justice to this compelling reason for denying the possibility of 20 coinciding spheres in the case I have described. That is because the possibility of primitive individuation that the opponent of PII accepts in cases like Blacks two-sphere case might seem to commit him to accepting the possibility of primitive individuation in my 20-sphere case. So the challenge for the opponent of PII is to nd a reason to differentiate Blacks two-sphere case and my twenty-sphere case, a reason that shows that the former case can be legitimate even if the latter is not. But what could such a reason be? If one accepts that in the original Black case, the two spheres are individuated by their locations, one would, as I mentioned, be committed to primitive individuation of the locations. In such a case, the challenge would be: if the primitive individuation of nonoverlapping regions is legitimate, why cannot there be primitive individuation of 20 completely overlapping regions of space? The problems with such completely overlapping regions would be perfectly analogous to the problems with the 20 completely overlapping spheres that I will now articulate, and the resulting difculty for the opponent of PII will be the same. One consideration that will obviously not do the job by itself is that of simplicity. One might hold that the 20-sphere case is impossible because it violates some rule of simplicity. Even if this is so, it would seem that, without further explanation, simplicity would likewise rule out the possibility of Blacks two indiscernible spheres. After all, a scenario with one sphere is simpler, one might say, than a scenario with two. What the opponent of PII needs is a reason to see simplicity as violated in the 20sphere case but not in the two-sphere case. But, again, what would be the reason be for such differential handling of the two cases?
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First, consider three answers that I regard as defeatist and that will only highlight the overwhelming plausibility of the answer I go on to offer. The rst defeatist answer is as follows: there is no explanation of the fact that the two-sphere case is legitimate and the 20-sphere case not. The former is legitimate and the latter is not and there is nothing more to be said by way of illuminating this state of affairs. I think we should take this line only as a last resort. Certainly, if there is an explanation of the differential treatment of the two cases, if there is an answer to the perfectly natural question that I have raised, then we should embrace it rather than settling for no explanation. I am not averse in principle to certain metaphysical facts lacking an explanation, but I do think that if an otherwise satisfactory explanation is available, we should prefer that to the verdict that there is no explanation. The second defeatist answer is no better. On this view, the two-sphere case is legitimate and the 20-sphere case is not simply because our practice of individuating objects embodies the view that the former is legitimate and the latter not.11 However, this view seems to get things backward. Ideally we would want it to be the case that we engage in certain individuative practices whereby we accept cases like the two-sphere case but not the twenty-sphere case because of the very fact that the twosphere case is OK and the twenty-sphere case is not. We do not, I think, want it to be the case that the two-sphere case is OK and the twentysphere case is not because of our individuative practices. We would want our practices to be responsive to the metaphysical facts here and not the metaphysical facts responsive to the practices.12 It is hard not to see this answer to my question as really offering no explanation at all of the differential treatment of the cases or at least no explanation of the kind that we seek. Again, I think this option should not be adopted except as a last resort. Finally consider a rather similar response to my challenge that suffers from a rather similar defect. One might say that the 20-sphere case is not legitimate and the two-sphere case is because there is a relevant epistemic difference between them. In the 20-sphere case, we (or an observer) would not be able to know that there are 20 spheres there. It would always look for all the world as if there were only one sphere there. However, in Blacks two-sphere case, one would be able, in principle to tell that there is a multiplicity of objects. It might be thought that this epistemic difference is what shows that the 20-sphere case is illegitimate and, indeed, impossible and that the two-sphere case is just ne. But to claim that this epistemic difference decides the issue is, I believe, to get things backward again. Why should we rule out the 20-sphere case simply because of the epistemic obstacles such a case would place before us? One is tempted to say so much the worse for us if the metaphysics of the case renders our knowledge of the number of spheres impossible. Here one is treating the
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metaphysical facts as dictated by the epistemic facts, but, if anything, the reverse seems to be true in this case: whether we know or can know should be dictated by the metaphysical facts. So this response also is not giving us the kind of explanation we seek about the difference between the 20-sphere case and the two-sphere case. Fortunately, there is a very natural way to distinguish the two cases, viz. by appealing to the apparent conceptual truth I mentioned earlier. Thus one might say (1) There cannot be two or more indiscernible things with all the same parts in precisely the same place at the same time.

(1) would rule out the 20-sphere case but would leave untouched Blacks two-sphere case, and thus the opponent of PII would be quite happy (and relieved) to appeal to it.13 Fair enough, but I want to argue now that the matter cannot rest here because a challenge to (1) can be raised. This challenge must be met and the best way to do so, I will argue, leads to a conclusion that is incompatible with the general position of the opponent of PII. In generating this challenge, I do not mean to be denying (1). Further, I believe that the challenge is rather naturally and easily met; it is the way of meeting this challenge, however, that is particularly interesting to me and particularly troublesome to the opponent of PII. The challenge arises by considering cases of partial overlap between objects (of the same kind), instead of cases, like that of the 20 spheres, of complete overlap. An example from a recent paper by Judith Thomson is helpful here:
Suppose that in 1991, a shortsighted Moscow shopkeeper made a portion of tin into a large bunch of little tin statues of Lenin. Call them lenins . . . Being unable to sell his lenins, the shopkeeper might in 1992 and purely for his own pleasure, make a big tin statue of Lenin out of them not by melting them down, but by twisting their little arms and legs together with a pair of pliers. Call the big statue LENIN.14

Consider LENIN and one of the little lenins, say lenin 1. LENIN and lenin 1 are qualitatively very similar (they are both statues, of Lenin no less) and they have some, but not all, parts in common. This case, unlike the 20-sphere case, seems perfectly legitimate. Or, perhaps, consider two overlapping human beings that contain a portion of their bodies in common, as in a case of Siamese twins. Again, this seems perfectly ne and would have to be endorsed by a proponent of (1). Such a proponent would, therefore, be adopting the position that cases of partial overlap are or can be OK, but cases of complete overlap are not. But now the question arises: why should one case be treated so differently from the other case which is, after all, only slightly different? Why is
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the one kind of overlap (partial overlap) acceptable and the other kind (complete) not? As far as I can see, this is a legitimate question and it poses a genuine challenge to the purported conceptual truth (1), the claim that I invoked on behalf of the opponent of PII. The challenge can be put this way: the legitimacy of partial overlap leads us to wonder that perhaps overlap in general is not so bad and that complete overlap is OK after all. This is a challenge to (1). Again, I am not saying that complete overlap is OK, but only that the case of partial overlap leads us to want an explanation as to why complete overlap is not legitimate as well. For fans of individuation by appeal to spatial locations, the question is: why should partial overlap of distinct spatial regions be acceptable (as it presumably is), while complete overlap of distinct regions is not acceptable (as it presumably is not)? This question too seems to be perfectly legitimate. How are we to meet this challenge? Again, there will be defeatist answers to this question, answers to the effect that no reason is needed for treating the cases of complete and partial overlap differently or that the reason for such differential treatment lies in our individuative practices or in an epistemic difference and not in any prior metaphysical fact. I would view these answers as highly undesirable for the same reasons as the previous and analogous defeatist answers were undesirable. Also, since the challenge that I am raising is a challenge to an apparent conceptual truth, i.e. to (1), it will not do any good to answer my challenge just by repeating the apparent conceptual truth. My question is, in effect, the question: why does the concept of a physical thing allow one kind of overlap but not the other? We require here at least an elucidation of the concept of a physical thing and not merely a bare, repetitive claim that the concept of a physical thing rules out the possibility in question and treats overlap differently in the two cases. Fortunately in this case, as in the previous one, there is readily available a non-defeatist and, indeed, completely natural response to the challenge I have raised. Here goes: partial overlap is OK because it allows for an explanation of non-identity; complete overlap is not because, in that case, non-identity would be inexplicable. In other words, in cases of partial overlap, such as that of the Lenins, the non-identity of LENIN and lenin 1 is not gratuitous and is completely explicable: lenin 1 and LENIN are not identical because, despite the overlap, LENIN has parts that lenin 1 does not have and has very many qualitative properties that the other lacks, e.g. lenin 1 weighs less than LENIN, lenin 1 is attached to other statues and LENIN is not, etc. By contrast, in the case of the 20 spheres, the non-identity between, say, sphere A and sphere B can seem only gratuitous. There are no parts that are not shared and no property that one sphere has and the other lacks, other than the non-illuminating properties such as being sphere A, being sphere B, etc. Thus from this point of view, the non-identity in the 20-sphere case seems gratuitous and
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perfectly inexplicable, while the non-identity in the Lenins case seems perfectly explicable. In the same way, the non-identity of 20 completely overlapping regions of space would be completely inexplicable, while the non-identity of partially overlapping regions is explicable by the fact that the different regions have some sub-regions that are not shared. It seems to me that this answer to my challenge an answer that invokes the notion of explicability is clearly preferable to the analogues of the defeatist answers I considered earlier. Further, this answer is superior to a bare repetition of the apparent conceptual truth in question: this answer genuinely helps us to see why something like (1) should be true and does not merely assert that (1) is true. Finally, I can think of no better and, indeed, no comparably good explanation of the differential treatment given to complete and partial overlap. If the opponent of PII takes this rather plausible line in response to my challenge, then he comes up against following extremely awkward result. To answer my question, the opponent of PII who takes this line appeals to the point that an explanation is needed for any non-identity there may be in the complete and partial overlap cases. The response I have offered (and rather ungraciously put in the mouth of the opponent of PII) makes sense only as presupposing the general point that non-identity must have an explanation, for it was on precisely these grounds that we were able to say that the complete overlap case is illegitimate. In this way, we can see that attention to the issue of complete and partial overlap reveals a commitment to the explicability of non-identity that is implicit in our thinking about identity and individuation. Or, to put the point another way, I would say that in the case of identity and non-identity, we take something like the Principle of Sufcient Reason as our implicit guide. (Here my rationalist colors are showing.) Such a commitment to the explicability of non-identity a commitment that is at work in the answer to my challenge that even the opponent of PII must give is, however, bad news for the opponent of PII. This is because that commitment would rule out the kind of primitive individuation and brute facts of identity and non-identity that the opponent of PII must, qua opponent of PII, espouse. Thus it seems that in order to rule out the 20-sphere case, the opponent of PII must appeal to a principle (viz. that there can be no brute individuation) which undermines his very rejection of the PII. The only alternative is to accept the 20-sphere possibility. But this, as I have explained, is very unpalatable. It is worth pointing out that, though the argument I have just given most directly challenges opposition to PII stemming from Black-style two-sphere counterexamples, my argument invokes at the crucial stage a perfectly general principle to the effect that there can be no brute individuation of objects. Thus my line of thought would also undermine any
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argument for the rejection of PII that derives from purported examples involving indiscernible minds or other non-physical objects. I believe that my argument makes life very difcult for the opponent of PII. He now faces the following dilemma: either embrace PII or accept the 20-sphere possibility and other similarly absurd possibilities. Of course, I do not pretend that my argument is sufcient to convince a committed opponent of PII (though one can always hope!). As I said, the rejection of PII is bound up with too many other central theses in contemporary metaphysics and philosophy of language to be dislodged by an argument my argument targeted at a single (albeit central) intuition concerning the possibility of symmetrical universes. What needs to be done to complete the case for PII is nothing short of a fundamental reassessment of these other, related theses in metaphysics and philosophy of language. Obviously, I have not tried to do that here, though I have taken some steps in that direction elsewhere.15 Nonetheless, I have, I believe, shown that the apparently unassailable intuitions in support of the rejection of PII are actually not unassailable. Perhaps, then, the situation is not so grim for PII after all.16 Department of Philosophy Yale University
NOTES See Leibniz, Discourse on Metaphysics, section 9; Spinoza, Ethics, part 1, proposition 4, demonstration; Russell, Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1948, part 4, chapter 8); Ayer, The Identity of Indiscernibles, in Loux (ed.), Universals and Particulars: Readings in Ontology (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1976, pp. 263270); Hacking, The Identity of Indiscernibles, Journal of Philosophy 72 (1975), pp. 249256. For a discussion of Spinoza and PII, see my Spinozas Substance Monism in Olli Koistinen and John Biro (eds.), Spinoza: Metaphysical Themes (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), pp. 1137, esp. pp. 1314. For a discussion of Leibniz and PII, see J.A. Cover and John OLeary-Hawthorne, Substance and Individuation in Leibniz (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), chapter 5. 2 See Kant, Critique of Pure Reason A263f/B319f; Black, The Identity of Indiscernibles, Mind 61 (1952), pp. 15364; Adams, Primitive Thisness and Primitive Identity, Journal of Philosophy 76 (1979), pp. 526. Another, more recent challenge to PII derives from quantum mechanics. The bearing of quantum mechanics on PII is a controversial matter on which I am not qualied to pronounce. In this paper, my aim is to deal with the more persuasive apparent counterexamples in the tradition of Max Black and to make progress on certain prior conceptual issues. For a nice account of the complexity of the connections between PII and quantum mechanics, see Paul Teller, An Interpretive Introduction to Quantum Field Theory (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995), chapter 2, and The Ins and Outs of Counterfactual Switching, Nos 35 (2001), pp. 365 393. Peter Forrests entry on the Identity of Indiscernibles in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2002 edition, Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/ sum2002/entries/identity-indiscernible/) is brief but helpful on this point.
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For a fuller discussion, see Adams, pp. 79. Here I may differ from Leibniz who espoused PII but at times seemed to regard it as contingently true. However, the interpretive issues here are complicated. For a lucid account, see Cover and OLeary-Hawthorne, Substance and Individuation in Leibniz, chapter 5. 5 Arda Denkels assessment is, I think, representative: there is good reason for saying that the well-known counterexample by Max Black has established the failure of Leibnizian principles of individuation conclusively (Principia Individuationis, Philosophical Quarterly 41 (1991), pp. 212228, at p. 214). 6 Adams (p. 18) makes explicit his reliance on such intuitions. 7 One can thus see why Leibniz, a great denier of brute facts and a proponent of the Principle of Sufcient Reason, would also espouse PII. In fact he explicitly ties PII to the Principle of Sufcient Reason, e.g., in his correspondence with Clarke and in his essay, Primary Truths. 8 One might similarly appeal to temporal locations to explain the non-identity of the spheres in analogues of Blacks example which concern temporal (and not spatial) dispersal. Versions of the points in this paragraph hold for temporal locations as well as spatial locations. 9 At least they have all the same proper parts. When I speak of parts in what follows, I mean proper parts. 10 Locke enunciates a similar principle in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Book II, Chap. 27, 1. But Locke does not stress, as I do, that the illegitimate case involves objects that have all the same qualities and parts and that are in the same place throughout their existence. For challenges to Lockes principle (but not mine), see, e.g., J. M. Shorter, On Coinciding in Space and Time, Philosophy 52 (1977), pp. 399408, and Kit Fine, A Counter-example to Lockes Thesis, The Monist 83 (2000), pp. 357361. The purported objects in Shorters and Fines examples are not indiscernible, though they are objects of the same kind. 11 This kind of response is in keeping with Johnstons minimalism and it is reminiscent of Strawsons strategy with regard to the problem of free will in Freedom and Resentment (Proceedings of the British Academy 48 (1962), pp. 125). See Johnstons papers, Is there a Problem about Persistence? (Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society suppl. vol. 61 (1987), pp. 10735) and Constitution is not Identity (Mind 101 (1992), pp. 89105). 12 For a similar criticism of Johnstons minimalism, see Zimmerman, Theories of Masses and Problems of Constitution, Philosophical Review 104 (1995), pp. 53110 at p. 87n53. 13 Signicantly, in Blacks paper the opponent of PII accepts the necessary truth that different physical objects must be in different places (p. 158). 14 See Judith Jarvis Thomson, The Statue and the Clay, Nos 32 (1998), pp. 149173, at p. 164. 15 See my paper, Essentialism versus Essentialism in Tamar Gendler and John Hawthorne (eds.), Conceivability and Possibility (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2002), pp. 223252. There I challenge the Kripkean apparatus of rigid designation, the necessity of identity, and the description-independence of modal properties. 16 I originally developed this paper in a seminar on identity that I taught with Laurie Paul at Yale. I am very grateful to her for many fruitful discussions. A version of this paper was presented to a faculty discussion group at Yale, and at colloquia at the University of California at Irvine and at Oberlin College. I am indebted to a number of students, friends, and colleagues for helpful discussion and comments. I especially want to thank Bob Adams, Kati Balog, Tad Brennan, Troy Cross, Keith DeRose, Christine Hayes, Jenann Ismael, Robin Jeshion, Shelly Kagan, Matthew McGrath, Michael Nelson, Sam Newlands, Carol Rovane, Jonathan Schaffer, Ted Sider, Richard Swinburne, Martin Thomson-Jones, and Achille Varzi.
2005 The Author Journal compilation 2005 University of Southern California and Blackwell Publishing Ltd.