Time and Identity
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: The MIT Press
Title Page, Copyright
Introduction: Framing the Problems of Time and Identity
Many philosophical concepts are difficult. Some, however, are doubly confounding in their apparent familiarity . The concepts of time and identity may top this list. The fourth-century philosopher, Augustine of Hippo, expressed his exasperation with time this way: ...
Part I Time
1 Temporal Reality
Nonphilosophers, if they think of philosophy at all, wonder why people work in metaphysics. After all, metaphysics, as Auden once said of poetry, makes nothing happen ( Auden 1940 ). Yet some very intelligent people are driven to spend their lives exploring metaphysical theses. Part of what motivates metaphysicians is the appeal of grizzly puzzles (like the paradox ...
2 Time for a Change: A Polemic against the Presentism–Eternalism Debate
An intuitive criterion much discussed by the ancient Greek philosophers gives conditions under which an object can be said to change.1 According to that criterion, an object changes just in case it has a property at one time that it lacks at another: ...
3 Context, Conditionals, Fatalism, Time Travel, and Freedom
In this essay, building on the work of Robert Stalnaker and David Lewis, I sketch a theory describing the context-dependence of certain modal sentences, including counterfactual sentences. Then, I reveal its potential by briefly considering its application to a familiar argument for fatalism and a recent exchange about time-traveler freedom between Kadri Vihvelin and ...
4 The Identity of the Past
The presentist, after denying that past and future individuals exist, must still account for the manifest facts about the past and the future. It is simply too extreme a view to deny that Lincoln was shot by Booth and that the Earth will orbit the Sun. ...
Part II Identity
5 Identity through Change and Substitutivity Salva Veritate
... The puzzle is this. When it was small and had waterlogged streets, Toronto carried the moniker ‘Muddy York’. Later, the streets were drained, it grew, and Muddy York offi cially changed its name to ‘Toronto’. Given this, each premise in the following argument seems true. Yet the conclusion is a contradiction. ...
6 Identifying the Problem of Personal Identity
This chapter has two main aims. The first is to propose a new way of characterizing the problem of personal identity. The second is to show that the metaphysical picture that underlies my proposal has important implications for the 3D–4D debate. I start by spelling out several of the old ways of characterizing the problem of personal identity and saying what I think is wrong with each of them. ...
7 Persistence and Responsibility
Let me begin with the seemingly simple fact that I persist through time. If, while preparing dinner sometime next week, I accidentally cut off the end of my finger, I will survive. And not just in the ordinary sense that this biological organism will continue functioning; even in the philosopher’s sense, I’ll survive. That is, the person who gets rushed to the hospital will ...
8 Descartes on Persistence and Temporal Parts
The subtitle of the first edition of Descartes’s Meditations promises a demonstration of the immortality of the soul (AT 7, xix).1 But although the “real distinction” between the mind and body is defended in the Sixth Meditation, early readers like Arnauld, and here Mersenne, were quick to point out that “it does not seem to follow from the fact that the mind is ...
Part III The Self
9 Persons, Animals, and Human Beings
The position I defend takes psychological continuity as the sole and sufficient criterion of personal identity.1 I here confront the suggestion recently made by a number of authors, including Paul Snowdon (1991) , Peter van Inwagen (1990), and Eric Olson (1997 , 2002 ), that any such psychological approach must be mistaken, because in fact the correct account of personal ...
10 Me, Again
Thought about the self raises some very special problems. Some of these concern indexical reference quite generally; but there is one, having to do with identity over time, that seems to be unique to the self. I’ll be using a historical exchange between Anscombe and Descartes to raise the problem and proposing a resolution that casts light both on why self-directed ...
11 Selves and Self-Concepts
Some philosophers think of selves as rather mysterious things. Sometimes selves are identified with the souls of Christian theology, or the essential natures that are passed along in reincarnation, or as noumenal objects that exist beyond normal space and time, outside of the causal realm, and join, in some Kantian way, with the primordial structure of reality to create the ...
12 Ex Ante Desire and Post Hoc Satisfaction
Seven years, My lord have now past since I waited in your outward Rooms or was repulsed from your Door, during which time I have been pushing on my work through difficulties of which it is useless to complain, and have brought it at last to the verge of Publication without one Act of assistance, one word of encouragement, or one smile of favour. . . . The notice which you have been pleased to take of my ...
Part IV Death
13 Eternalism and Death’s Badness
Suppose that at the moment of death, a person goes out of existence.1 This has been thought to pose a problem for the idea that death is bad for its victim. But what exactly is the problem? Harry Silverstein says the problem stems from the truth of the “Values Connect with Feelings” thesis (VCF), according to which it must be possible for someone to have feelings about a thing in order for that thing ...
14 The Time of the Evil of Death
The “Epicurean view” (EV) is, roughly, the view that death cannot intelligibly be regarded as an evil for the person who dies because the alleged evil lacks a subject or “recipient.” The basic argument underlying this view was briefly, but eloquently, articulated by Epicurus in a famous passage from the Letter to Menoeceus (1940, 31): ...
15 The Retroactivity Problem
Can the dead be harmed, or suffer misfortune? The usual view is that there seems to be a “no subject” problem if one answers in the affirmative. If death is the end of the existence of a person, then when something occurs after Smith’s death, it cannot happen to him, because at the time of the event there is no Smith existing to whom it occurs. Most philosophers ...
Part V Postlude
16 Love Conquers All, Even Time?
“There are several different accounts that we get from philosophy and physics on the nature of time,” he said, starting a substitute lecture in his colleague’s undergraduate class in metaphysics. Andy had just started a new position in the philosophy department at the University of Portland. His new colleague Wendy was out of the country at a conference in Australia and had asked him to take over a week’s worth of lectures. ...