Thursday, August 26, 2010

Are Scotus's haecceities really unrepeatable?

In my last post, I explained that the only way I can see that a thisness (haecceity) would be unrepeatable would be if the thisness involved some identity reference to the individual in question. Otherwise, I can't see how cloning it would result in a contradiction.

Does Scotus think a thisness involves some identity reference to the individual in question? I don't see how he could think this. Two reasons.

(1) First, identity reference is a relation, and Scotus argues that thisnesses are absolute (non-relational) entities. So it's hard to see how Scotus could say that a thisness is constituted by any reference to the individual.

I wonder, then, if a thisness is supposed to be an absolute entity, why couldn't God clone it? Why couldn't God clone any absolute entity? I can't see why not.

(2) Second, Scotus believes that relations supervene on the things they relate. That is, they are posterior to the things they relate, so if they supervene on an individual, then the individual is already individuated. In short, relationships cannot do any individuating, for they show up on the scene too late, as it were, to do any individuating.

Indeed, to say that Socrateity is the property of being identical to Socrates already presupposes that Socrates is an individual. Otherwise it would make no sense to make an identity reference to Socrates as the individual that he is.

This, I think, is a particularly powerful desideratum here. Take the view of the venerable Robert Adams. He argues that a thisness is just the property of being identical to oneself, and this explains nicely why a thisness is non-qualitative (unrepeatable) property: reproducing it would generate a contradiction.

But what I don't understand is how it does not presuppose the individual in question. If Socrateity is the property of being identical to Socrates, then doesn't that presuppose that Socrates is already an individual? How could we say x is identical to Socrates if we didn't already think of Socrates as an individual?

As Scotus would put it, identity relationships (and in fact all relationships) are naturally posterior to the things they relate, so they show up on the scene too late, as it were, to do any explaining.

One might further suggest, I suppose, that identity relationships are just figments of the imagination. When I think 'Cicero is identical to Tully', I'm imagining Cicero and Tully as if they were different individuals: I have a picture of Cicero in my mind, and I have a picture of Tully in my mind too, and then I connect them and say 'those are the same person'. But in reality, there are not two persons there. There's just one dude, so the 'identity relationship' is really not some sort of entity that exists 'out there' in Cicero/Tully. It's just a (true) connection I've drawn in my mind.

So also with Socrateity: the fact that Socrates is identical to Socrates would be a fact that supervenes on the fact that Socrates is Socrates. But doesn't that already presuppose that Socrates is already the individual Socrates that he is? How could I possibly refer to him if he wasn't?

In any case, it seems to me that Scotus cannot answer any of these questions. He says a thisness is a positive, absolute entity, but if it is an absolute entity, why couldn't it be cloned (by God at least)? I think Scotus has to take thisnesses as entities that are just (somehow) primitively unrepeatable. And that doesn't really explain very much.

But perhaps that is the meat and potatoes of Scotus's position. If so, then Scotus would be saying: we simply cannot explain individuation, for we always presuppose the individual in question. Consequently, it must be the same in reality: there must be some sort of entities 'out there' in the world which are, in and of themselves, (somehow) unrepeatable.

3 comments:

Ocham said...

Hello. I put your blog on my "interest" list some time ago, but you didn't update it for some time after January this year. Now I've seen all these posts about Scotus and haecceity. I will read them carefully and come back to you with a few questions. Meanwhile I dedicated a post to Scotus and to the making of cocktails here.

Ocham said...

Hello. I put your blog on my "interest" list some time ago, but you didn't update it for some time after January this year. Now I've seen all these posts about Scotus and haecceity. I will read them carefully and come back to you with a few questions. Meanwhile I dedicated a post to Scotus and to the making of cocktails here.

http://ocham.blogspot.com/

Ocham said...

Another post here

http://ocham.blogspot.com/2010/09/is-haecceity-repeatable.html

where I discuss this and the 3 previous posts. Little more than a summary, let me know whether it is accurate.