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Identity And Universals: A Conceptualist Approach to Logical, Metaphysical, and Epistemological Problems of Contemporary Identity Theory
by Carolyn Ray

Date: 11 Nov 98
Copyright: Carolyn Ray

Identity and Universals: A Conceptualist Approach to Logical, Metaphysical, and Epistemological Problems of Contemporary Identity Theory

Develops a theory of identity without generating puzzles, by relating identity to a theory of common noun concepts. A conceptualist theory of objective, mind-dependent universals is presented, and it is argued that valid concept formation is crucial to an adequate treatment of identity claims. Pitfalls of realist and nominalist theories of universals are examined. The theory emulates those of John Locke, William of Ockham, and David Kelley, and relies upon Aristotelian analysis to answer the question, "What facts of reality give rise to the concept X?" Mainstream methods based logical possibilism, science fiction thought experiments, counterexamples, and counterfactuals are critiqued to show that a large class of puzzles are due to the illegitimate hypotheses they generate. Equivocation on the words 'criterion' and 'condition' occur in part because of commitments to erroneous theories of universals, which in turn lead to or exacerbate conflations of issues of epistemology with those of metaphysics. Definitions of identity in terms of biconditional statements are closely examined and ultimately rejected. Personal identity is taken as a basic fact which is argued to be the starting point of a general theory of identity, rather than a problematic application. In support, the psychology of brain-damaged human beings is presented as an approximation of life without awareness of identity, and contrasted with the paradigm case of personal identity and persistence: one's own self. Detailed conceptualist responses are provided for standard problems and their solutions, including Peter Geach's heralds, Bertrand Russell's and Gottlob Frege's intentional contexts, Gottfried Leibniz's principle of the Identity of Indiscernibles, Eli Hirsch's critique of the criterion of spatiotemporal continuity, Jonathan Glover's multiple occupancy thesis, Bernard Williams's Reduplication Argument, as well as more general problem areas such as fictional characters, numbers and equations, and the Ship of Theseus. Two cases of alleged counterexamples to our common-sense concept of personal identity--commissurotomy (or split-brain) patients, and multiple or split personality syndrome--are demystified. The concept of unity is defended against so-called 'scientific' criticisms involving electrons, atoms, and quantum theory. Includes a 5000-word Glossary of 147 terms defined by genus and differentia.

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