The semantics and metaphysics of contingent identity
Author(s)Gray, Anthony E., 1968-
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Linguistics and Philosophy.
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The thesis is divided into three chapters. The first chapter considers how we ought to understand a thesis of contingent identity if it is to accomplish the work it is proposed to accomplish while at the same time avoiding certain obvious and otherwise persuasive objections. I begin by presenting a metaphysical thesis I call the Thesis of Contingent Identity, and defending it against alternatives. I then set out the principal objection to the Thesis, the objection from modal properties, and offer a response. The chapter concludes with an appendix devoted to criticizing Allan Gibbard's and H. W. Noonan's accounts of contingent identity and their relpies to the objection from modal properties. The chief weakness in their proposals is that they concentrate on the semantical while neglecting the central metaphysical issues of contingent identity. In the process, they compromise the metaphysics they had intended to defend. The second chapter contains a discussion of some of the technical issues surrounding the Thesis of Contingent Identity. A robust version of the semantics outlined in the first chapter is presented and contrasted with competing alternatives. It has been said that semantic considerations alone cannot decide against contingent identity; I show why this is so. The chapter ends by considering in what sense the Thesis actually expresses contingent identity, and how it affects our views on which logic is the best modal logic for metaphysical necessity. The third chapter investigates and criticizes challenges to the Thesis of Contingent Identity from the transitivity of identity and the thesis that names are rigid designators. I argue that, according to the approach to contingent identity outlined in the previous chapters, the identity relation behaves normally. Claims that it violates transitivity are based on an equivocation which is exposed by paying careful attention to the notion of perspective. Similarly, I argue that the thesis that names are rigid designators is compatible with the Thesis of Contingent Identity. I review the debate between Kripke and Gibbard and criticize the weakness in the latter's approach. Moreover, I argue that close scrutiny of the influence and function of names uncovers an equivocation in certain arguments purporting to establish an incompatibility between contingent identity and rigid designation. These considerations point to the hypothesis that some names might have multiple possible referents. The chapter concludes with some elaboration and defense of this hypothesis.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Linguistics and Philosophy, 2001.Includes bibliographical references (leaves 100-101).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Linguistics and Philosophy.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Linguistics and Philosophy.