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Sunday, July 17, 2011

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Dr. Vallicella,

Thanks for the post. I, too, thought of that passage upon reading your argument; sorry for not alerting you of it sooner!

I interpreted the argument differently than you seem to. Whereas you take the torturers question to be "Is it possible that your being tortured now not obtain?" I read him as asking "Is it possible that your being tortured not obtain?" simpliciter. The victim's thinking is, on this reading, supposed to go something like "I have now undergone both my being non-tortured and my being tortured, so I know that both are possible, so I know that either one obtaining is a contingent affair." Such an interpretation has the virtue of, at a first glance, avoiding your criticism.

Excellent point, Leo.

But suppose the victim holds the view that there is no strict numerical identity of a person (or of any concretum) over time. Then he has reason to think that it is not the case that he has undergone both states: none of the temporal parts of him that are tortured are identical to any of them that are not.

So I rather doubt that even on your reading is it self-evident that there is contingency in the world.

Bill, two quick things. First, even a 4D-ist wouldn't deny that he is being tortured when a stage of him (or a temporal part of him) is being tortured, any more than denying that he is in pain when a spatial part--his hand, say--is in pain. So you can affirm that no temporal part is identical to any other and yet hold that I am being tortured just if a temporal part of me is being tortured. But suppose one holds the radical view that the temporal parts (of concrete objects) do not compose any other object. So we have a world of infinitely many instantaneously existing concreta. Holding such a view is admitting there are contingent states of affairs, viz. the existing of temporal part P. There are alternatives. Let the spatial location of what we mistakenly take to be a sentient concrete continuant be [x,y, z]. Ask this question: is it possible that the state of affairs of something's being tortured at [x, y, z] not obtain? It seems close to evident that a temporal stage can move to [x, y, z'], or the torture could otherwise cease at [x, y, z].

But then, alternatively, take the state of affairs of something at [x,y,z] having just heard these words. If it is true that something at [x,y,z] just heard this words, then the state of affairs of it's having heard these words is possible but neither necessary nor (of course) impossible. But then it's contingent.

On the interpretation od Scotus, many scholars doubt that the Scholium in which the passage is included is his own verbatim, yet many scholars believe the Scholium really captures his own doctrine. I doubt Scotus was not asking, Is it possible that your being tortured now not obtain?, and was merely asking, Is it possible that your being tortured not obtain? On the pages following the passage I highlighted to Bill, Scotus considers both of these senses of contingency. E.g., on pp. 628-29, he considers a will willing something at a particular instant yet possibly not willing it at the same instant (cf. A. Kenny, Essays on the Aristotelian Tradition, pp. 95-96 for some exposition of this passage; available via Google Books). Moreover, the SEP entry on medieval modal theories adduces this saying of Scotus: "I do not call something contingent because it is not always or necessarily the case, but because its opposite could be actual at the very moment when it occurs" (Ord. I.2.1.1-2, 86).

So I think Bill's original interpretation, suggested in this post, is more close to Scotus's intention.

Bill,

Are you suggesting by your reply to Leo that it is not evident to you that you are a continuant? If so, I (and surely not only I) would be very interested in some thoughts (posts) of you on how you understand the word "evident" and on what (kinds of) things you take to be evident to you.

Vlastimil,

It depends on what you mean by 'continuant.' Do you mean something that is wholly present at each time at which it exists, a perdurant as opposed to an endurant? Setting aside the case of the self, I don't think it is self-evident that a banana is a perdurant.

Mike writes, >>First, even a 4D-ist wouldn't deny that he is being tortured when a stage of him (or a temporal part of him) is being tortured, any more than denying that he is in pain when a spatial part--his hand, say--is in pain. So you can affirm that no temporal part is identical to any other and yet hold that I am being tortured just if a temporal part of me is being tortured.<<

Right, but the point is that on the 4D view there is no one item that is both in pain at one time and not in pain at a different time.

Bill,

Yes, I mean "continuant" in the sense of something wholly present at each time at which it exists.

(I think in current terminology "continuant" equals "endurant", not "perdurant"; so I think you switched the two latter terms.)

Even if it is not evident to you that a banana is a continuant, is it evident to you that you are a continuant? In other words, is "I am a continuant" evident to Bill Vallicella?

Vlastimil,

You are right: I switched the two terms around. Amazing, since I have written about this topic more than once. Thanks for pointing out the mistake.

Are selves endurant? Well, I argue that they are in this critique of Buddhism: http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2011/03/can-the-chariot-take-us-to-the-land-of-no-self.html

See especially Part Two.

So I suppose it is evident to me that I am an endurant. But it is not clear that it is self-evident in general that selves are endurants given that there are intelligent philosophers who deny it.

Bill,

What you say is just right, IMO. Have you written on the notion of the evident?

Only some minor things. I'll look around . . .

I recall you had some nice posts on "per se nota" and "prima facie" on the MPII (PowerBlogs). But I wasn't able to find them in the archives.

V,

I just found the one on 'prima facie' and I reposted it. Thanks for your interest! Now I'll look for the other one.

V,

I can't find anything on per se nota. Do you remember any other key words?

V,

I just posted the one you may have been referring to.

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