Yesterday I made an objection to Richard Hennessey's neo-Aristotelian theory of accidental predication. But this morning I realized that he has one or more plausible responses. By the way, this post has, besides its philosophical purpose, a metaphilosophical one. I will be adding support to my claim lately bruited that philosophy -- the genuine article -- is not a matter of debate, as I define both 'philosophy' and 'debate.' For have you ever been to a debate in which debater A, having made an objection to something debater B has said, says, "Wait a minute! I just realized that you have one or more plausible ways of turning aside my objection. The first is . . . ."?
1. 'Socrates is seated' is an example of an accidental predication. For surely it is no part of Socrates' essence or nature that he be seated. There is no broadly logical necessity that he be seated at any time at which he is seated, and there are plenty of times at which he is not seated. 'Socrates is seated' contrasts with the essential predication 'Socrates is human.' Socrates is human at every time at which he exists and at every world at which he exists.
2. Hennessey's theory is that ". . . only if the referent of the 'Socrates' and that of the 'sitting' of 'Socrates is sitting' are identical can it be true that Socrates is actually the one sitting." The idea seems to be that accidental predications can be understood as identity statements. Thus 'Socrates is seated' goes over into (what is claimed to be) the logically equivalent 'Socrates is (identical to) seated-Socrates.' Accordingly, our sample sentence is construed, not as predicating a property of Socrates, a property he instantiates, but as affiming the identity of Socrates with the referent of 'seated-Socrates.'
3. But what is the referent of 'seated-Socrates'? If the referent is identical to the referent of 'Socrates,' namely Socrates, then my objection kicks in: how can the predication be contingently true, as it obviously is, given that it affirms the identity of Socrates with himself? Socrates is essentially Socrates but only accidentally seated.
4. Perhaps Hennessey could respond to this objection by saying that 'Socrates' and 'Socrates-seated' do not refer to the same item: they refer to different items which are, nonetheless, contingently identical. This would involve distinguishing between necessary identity and contingent identity where both are equivalence relations (reflexive, symmetrical, transitive) but only the former satisfies in addition the Indiscernibility of Identicals (InId) and the Necessity of Identity (NI). It is obvious that if a and b are contingently identical, but distinct, then these items must be discernible in which case InId fails. It is also obvious that NI must fail for contingent identity.
5. Closer to Aristotle is a view described by Michael C. Rea in "Sameness Without Identity: An Aristotelian Solution to the Problem of Material Constitution" in Form and Matter, ed. Oderberg, Blackwell 1999, pp. 103-115. I will now paraphrase and interpret from Rea's text, pp. 105-107. And I won't worry about how the view I am about to sketch differs -- if it does differ -- from the view sketched in #4.
When Socrates sits down, seated-Socrates comes into existence. When he stands up or adopts some other nonseated posture, seated-Socrates passes out of existence. This 'kooky' or 'queer' object is presumably a particular, not a universal, though it is not a substance. It is an accidental unity whose existence is parasitic upon the existence of its parent substance, Socrates. It cannot exist without the parent substance, but the latter can exist without it. The relation is like that of a fist to a hand made into a fist. The fist cannot exist without the hand, but the hand can exist without being made into a fist.Though seated-Socrates is not a substance it is like a substance in that it is a hylomorphic compound: it has Socrates as its matter and seatedness as its form. As long as Socrates and seated-Socrates exist, the relation between them is accidental sameness, a relation weaker than strict identity.
Accidental sameness is not strict identity presumably because the former is not governed by the Indiscernibility of Identicals. Clearly, Socrates and seated-Socrates do not share all properties despite their sameness. They differ temporally and modally. Socrates exists at times at which seated-Socrates does not exist (though not conversely). And it is possible that Socrates exist without seated-Socrates existing (though not conversely).
Are Socrates and seated-Socrates numerically the same? They count as one and so they are one in number though not one in being. So says Aristotle according to Rea. After all, if Socrates and Alcibiades are seated at table we count two philosophers not four. We don't count: Socrates, seated-Socrates, Alcibiades, seated-Alcibiades.
But I will leave it to Hennessey to develop this further. It looks as if this is the direction in which he must move if his theory is to meet my objection.
What about essential predication? Is there a distinction between Socrates and human-Socrates? These two cannot be accidentally the same. They must be strictly identical. If 'Socrates is human' is parsed as 'Socrates is identical to human-Socrates' then how does the latter differ from 'Socrates is Socrates'? The sense of 'Socrates is human' differs from the sense of 'Socrates is Socrates.' How account for that? 'Socrates is Socrates' is a formal-logical truth, trivial and uninformative. 'Socrates is human' is not a formal-logical truth; it is informative.