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Indiscernibles (Odegard)

Indiscernibles (Odegard)

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Published by: William J Greenberg on Mar 12, 2011
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03/12/2011

 
IndiscerniblesAuthor(s): Douglas OdegardSource:
The Philosophical Quarterly,
Vol. 14, No. 56 (Jul., 1964), pp. 204-213Published by:
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Accessed: 12/03/2011 03:01
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204
INDISCERNIBLES
1.In itslogicalform,theprincipleoftheIdentityof Indiscerniblescan bestated asfollows: Itislogicallyimpossiblefor twoparticularstobeindiscernible,i.e.,tohavealltheirpropertiesin common.Or,anytwoparticularsmust bediscernible, i.e.,haveatleast onepropertynotincommon.Or,again,itislogicallyimpossiblefor two(i.e.,numericallydifferent)particularsnottobequalitativelydifferent,i.e.,tobequalitativelyidentical.Henceforth,Ishall call thelogicalprincipleoftheIdentityofIndiscerniblessimply'thePrinciple'.Thereisaso-called weakerformof thePrinciplewhichcommands someplausibilityinareas where thecorrespondingso-calledstrongerformisrejected.Ishall call theso-called weakerform 'the"weaker"form',andthe so-calledstrongerform 'the"stronger"form'.The"weaker " formisdistinguishedfromthe"stronger"formbysomeinsuchawaythat,within the termsofreferenceof thePrinciple,the formeradmits,whereasthelatterexcludes,numericalidentityandnumerical difference asproperties.Forexample,on the"stronger"interpretation,althoughitlogicallyfollowsthat oneparticular(x)andanotherparticular(y)arediscernibleif xhas,andydoes nothave,theso-calledpropertyofbeingnumericallyidenticalwiththesnake whichbit aqueen,the factthat xhas,andydoesnothave,this so-calledpropertydoesnotitselfmake xandydiscernible.In his"TheIdentityof Indiscernibles,1,Max Blackbrieflyconsidersthe "weaker"version,and criticisesitforamountingtonothingmorethan anuninterestingtruism(p.82).Hethengoeson toargueprimarilyagainst usingthe verificationist'stheoryofmeaningto defendthe"stronger"form.Idonotagreethatthe"weaker"formis anuninterestingtruism.Onthecontrary,Ithink itstands(or,rather,falls)on allfours withthe"stronger"form, and,therefore,isin thissense no weaker.Thefollowingdefence ofthisclaim,however,dependsinpart uponpointsofthekindintroducedbyBlack himselfin thesecondportionofhispaper.Consequently,with referencetohisgeneralposition,my argumentmightbe takenasmoreof anattempted"ironingout"thanastraightforwardcriticism.Hereafter,unless otherwiseindicated,theform of thePrincipleunderconsiderationisthe"weaker" one.2.Considerthefollowing argumentonbehalf of thePrinciple:Given twoallegedlyindiscernibleparticulars,A andB,thenA isnumer-icallyidenticalwithAandnumericallydifferent fromB,and Bisnotnumericallyidentical withAand isnotnumericallydifferentfromB(Prin-
1Problemsof Analysis (London,1954),80-92.OriginallypublishedinMind,lxi(1952).Pagereferences are to theformer.Inhisnotes(pp.292-293),BlackquotesapassagefromPrincipiaMathematica(1:51),in whichthe "weaker"form ofthePrincipleisdefended.
 
INDISCERNIBLES205
cipleofIdentity).Therefore,AandB arediscernible,insofaras Ahas,butBdoesnothave,thepropertyofbeingnumericallyidentical withAandnumericallydifferent fromB.And, therefore,anytwoparticularsarediscernible,since whatholdshere forA andB,holds foranytwoparticulars(cf.Black,pp.80-81).Instead ofcriticizingthisargumentforgeneratinganuninterestingtruism,onecan criticizeitasfollows:Theargumentconsistsinanattemptto demonstratethePrincipleviaareductioadabsurdum.Itpostulatestheallegedlypossiblecaseof two com-pletelyindiscernibleparticularsandthenattemptsto demonstrate thelogical impossibilityofsuch acase.Consequently,itbegins:'Given twoallegedlyindiscernibleparticulars,A andB...'.But,using'A'and'B'torefer to thegivenparticularsisineffectanattemptto usedifferentnamestoreferto eachofthem-a movewhichisexhypothesiimpossiblebecauseitcontradictstheindiscernibilityconditionofthehypotheticalcase.For,the successful use of different namesinthiscasepresupposesthepossibilityofqualitativelydistinguishingthegivenparticulars,i.e.,thepossibilityofsayingtruly'Aistheparticularwhich
...and'B istheparticularwhich...'.And,exhypothesi,thereareno
possiblegroundsforsodistinguishingthem. Theexponentof thePrinciplemusthereprovethediscernibilityofthegivenparticulars,notassumeit;and the use of differentnames to refer to each of themsimplyassumesit.Blackclearly recognizestheforce of thispoint(seepp.83-87),butfailstoapplyit,at least inanyrecognizable way,to theargumentforthe"weaker"form ofthePrinciple.If,on the otherhand,'A'and'B'arenotbeingused as differentnames in thiscontext,thentheymust havesomethingoftheforce ofvari-ables.In thiscase,however,theclaimthat,e.g.,A has thepropertyofbeingnumericallyidenticalwithAandnumericallydifferentfromB,re-duces(roughly)to theclaim thatoneof thegiven particularsisnumericallyidenticalwith itself andnumericallydifferentfrom theotherone-aclaimwhichholds foreither of thegivenparticularsand whichdoes notsupporttheconclusionthat the twoparticularsare discernible(cf.below,section5).3.Amodifiedargumentfor thePrinciplemightthen be introduced:Granted,one cannotactuallyuse differentnamesto refer to eachofthegivenparticulars.But,ifoneoftheparticularswere calledAandtheothercalledB,then theparticularcalledAwould be identicalwiththeparticularcalledA,and theparticularcalled B would notbe identicalwith theparticularcalledA.Consequently,thetwoparticularsarediscernible,sincethepartic-ular whichwould becalledAhas,whereas theparticularwhichwould becalledBdoes nothave,thepropertyofbeingidenticalwiththeparticularwhich wouldbe calledA.Thisargument,however,isclearlyjustas futileas the formerone-andforthesametypeof reason.Threepointsareespeciallyrelevant:

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