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Identity of Indiscernibles

Identity of Indiscernibles

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Published by Raja Bahlul

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Published by: Raja Bahlul on Nov 08, 2011
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PHILOSOPHYRESEARCHARCHIVESVOL.XIV,1988-89
25.OCKHAMtSRAZORANDTHEIDENTITYOFINOIS-CERNIBlES
RAJAA.BAHLUL
YARMOUKUNIVERSITY,JORDAN
ABSTRACT.InthispaperitisarguedthatThePrincipleoftheIdentityofIndiscerniblescanbejustifiedasaconcreteapplicationofOckham'sRazor,themaximwhichenjoinsusnottomultiplyentitiesbeyondnecessity.First,astatementofthePrincipleispresented,ac-cordingtowhichthePrinciple,whileinterestingenough,isnotlogi-callynecessary.
It
isthenarguedthattheassumptionofthefalsityofthePrincipleprescribesanepistemologicalsituationwhereitseemstobeimpossibleto
find
groundsforthinkingthatthePrincipleisin-deedfalse.Henceitistobeacceptedasanepistemologicalnecessi-tyofsorts,onethatrecommendedbythedesirenottomultiplyenti-tiesbeyondneed.
D
nthispaperIarguethatwecanjustifytheacceptanceofThePrincipleoftheIdentityofIndiscernibles(PH)asaconcreteapplicationofOckham'sRazor,themaximwhichenjoinsusnottomultiplyentitiesbeyondnecessity.In
§
1Idistinguishbetween(PIT)andcertainotherprinciples,orrather,in-terpretationswhichoftenpassfor(PH),butwhich,Ithinkarebettercalledsomethingelse.(PH),asIviewithere,isinterestingenough,butitdoesnotfollowfromlogic,orfromfactsregardingtheoccupationofplacesattimes.In
§
2Iofferanargumenttoshowthattheassumptionofthefalsityof(PH)prescribesanepistemologicalsituationwhereitseemstobeimpossibletofindgroundsforthinkingthatanobject
a
andanobject
b
aredistinctyetindiscernible.Thatis,Iaimtoshowthatweshallnever
have
tothinkthattherearedistinctyetin-discernibleobjects.Once
this
isestablished,wecanproceedtoapplyOckham'sRa-zor,bydeclaringtheidentityofthe"distinct"indiscernibles.
 
406
RAJA
A
BAHLUL
§
I,PRINCIPLESOFmEIDENTI1YOFX-ICALSSocratesisidenticalwithSocrates.Butdoeshehaveapropertyof
beingidentical
with
Socrates?
And,ingeneral,doesathing
x
haveapropertyof
beingidenticalwith
x?
Thesearecontroversialquestionswhoseanswerdependsonhowtheterm'property'isunderstood.Havingnowishtodealwiththesequestions,letmeneverthelessassume,forthesakeofdistinguishingdifferentwaysoftaking(PII),thattherearesuchpropertiesas
beingidenticalwith
x,
where
x
is
anyparticularobject.Withoutanyquestion,anything
y
that
has
thepropertyof
beingidentical
with
x
just
in
ease
x
has
it,
isnoneotherthanx.Toexpressthistruism
in
symbolswewrite:
(1)
(x)
(y)
(x=y'"
x=z,:)
x=y)
Theantecedentofthisconditionalsaysreallylittlemorethan
just
x=y,
or,
in
accordancewithourpresentassumption,that
y
hasthepropertyof
beingidenticalwith
x.
This
being
so,we
shall
honor
(1)
withtheimposingname'ThePrincipleoftheIdentityofIdenticals'.For
it
simplysaysthatnotwothingsare
identical,
or,
in
some-whatmoreimpressiveterms,thatnotwothingsshareanidentityproperty,whichiswhatwetakethesententialfunction
x=
C..)'
todesignate.Alongsimilarlines,letussupposethateachthing
x
hasapropertyof
occupy-ing
space-timeregionpot,
or
being
at
pot,
forshort.Assuming,furthermore,thatnotwo
things
can
occupythesamespace-timeregion,welaydowntheprinciplethat
(2)
(x)
(y)
(x
isat
pots
y
isat
p-t.:»
x=y)
Tothisprinciplewegiveanotherimposingname:wecallit'ThePrincipleoftheIdentityoftheSpatio-TemporallyCoincident'.
It
simply
says
thatnotwothingsoccupythesamespace-timeregion,or,insomewhatdifferentwords,thatnotwothingsshareaspatio-temporalproperty,whichiswhatwetakethesententialfunction'(...)isat
pot'
todesignate.Ingeneral,ifeachthing
x
hasaproperty
X
which
is
suchthatnothingbut
x
canhave,thenweareinpositiontospeakofaPrincipleoftheIdentityofXdcals,aprinciplewhosegeneralformis:
(3)(x)
(y)
[X(x)'"X(y).:Jx=y]
AfurtherillustrationofthisformmaybefoundinRussell'sandGoodman'snotionofspatio-temporal"qualia"orvisualspacelocations.(SeeRussell[9],298-9,andGood-man[5]196and201.)NowoverandabovePrinciplesoftheIdentityof
Xvicals
standsthefamiliarPrincipleoftheIdentityofIndiscernibles.Thisprinciplemayberepresentedthus:
(4)
(x)
(y)
[(f)
(D:""
M:J
x=y]
 
OCKHAM'SRAZORANDTHEIDENTITYOFINDISCERNIBLES
407
Thisprincipledoesnotsingleoutanyspecificpropertiesforspecialattention.
It
simplysaysthatnotwothingsshare
all
theirproperties,withoutsuggestingthatthereareanyspecificpropertieswhichcannotbeshared.Still,dependingonhowbroadone'sconceptionofpropertiesis,itispossibletoview(4)sothatitisnomorethananuninterestinggeneralizationofsomepetPrin-cipleoftheIdentityofX-icals.Thusifsomeonebelievesthatnotwothingscanshareanidentitypropertythen,
afortiori,
he
will
believethatnotwothingscanshare
all
theirproperties.Whateverinterest(4)hasthen,becomesecondary,derivingfromwhateverinteresttheassociatedPrincipleoftheIdentityofX-icalshas.InwhatfollowsIdonotintendtocriticizetheviewswhichbase(PH)onsomeunderlyingPrincipleoftheIdentityofX-icals.ThisisnotbecauseIamsympa-thetictosuchviews;infact,Idonotthinkthatitisrighttoreferto(PH)bythisnamewhenitisunderstoodtobetriviallyderivablefromprinciplesthatdonotevenmen-tiontheword
'indiscernibility'.
Rather,itisbecauseitisveryhardtosaywhatistocountasaproperty.ThuswhatIamproposingistotake(PIT)sothatitisabasicprinciple,or,atanyrate,onethatisnotderivablefromlessgeneralprinciples.Andthisrequiresthatweexcludefromconsideration
all
thepropertieswhosehavingservesofnecessitytomakeanobjectunique.Thisleavesuswithpropertieseachofwhichcanbehadbyamultiplicityofobjects.Andwhileitispossibletomakefmerdistinctionswithinthisclassofrelevantproperties(obviously,therearemanydifferencesbetween
beingwhite,beingaman,
and
beingasonofAdam),
stillthiswillnotbenecessaryforpurposesoftheargumentwhichwe
will
bepresentinginsupportof(PH).Sufficeittosaythateverypropertywhichweconsiderisonethatcanbehadbyanindefinitenumberofobjects.Wecannowask:Whathappensto(PII)whenitistakenthewaywetakeithere?Thefirstthingthathappens,itiscommonlyacknowledged,isthat(PII)be-comeslogicallycontingent.EvenLeibniz,whopresumablyneverthoughtabout
his
principle
in
termsoftheIdentityofanyX-icaIs,acknowledges,
in
his
FilthLettertoClarke,that
"If
twothingsperfectlyindiscerniblefromeachotherdidexist,theywouldbetwo..:.([1],62)AndinmorerecenttimesthepointhasbeenforcefullymadebyMaxBlackandothers.(See[3]and[2],forexample.)Again,thisisapositionwhichIdonotintendtodiscusshere.
It
mayormaynotbeobviousthatthePrinciplebecomeslogicallycontingent,onceitisrestrictedtopropertiesthatcanbesharedbymanyobjects.Butitwouldtakeusfarafieldtodis-cussthishere.Togetonwithourbusiness,letusthereforeassumethatthe(PII)whichisthefocusofourattentionis,
if
trueat
all,
anon-logicaltruth.Eveninitsreducedstatusoflogicalcontingency,(PH)hasalwaysfoundde-fenders.ThusLeibniz,whomwehavejustquotedassayingthattwoindiscernibleswouldbetwo,continuesbysayingthatsuchastateofaffairs"wouldbeagainstthegrandprincipleofReason",bywhich,Itakeit,hemeansThePrincipleofSufficient

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