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Sunday, August 29, 2021


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we have discussed this before. i distinguish haecceity properties (which are implausible) from haecceity predicates.

lemma 1 is false.

"D1. C is an individual concept of x =df x is an instance of C, and it is not possible that there be a y distinct from x such that y is an instance of C."

this needs modifying to allow individual concepts of fictional beings such as frodo. perhaps "C is an individual concept if for all x, if x is instance of C, it is not possible there be a y etc."

It looks as though you borrowed, or reinvented Strawson’s distinction between pure individuating descriptions (“the first dog born at sea”), and individuating descriptions (“the first dog born in London”) that contain a singular term such as a place name (‘London’) or temporal name (‘19th century’). See Individuals p.26. Strawson (who was well versed in the traditional logic) may have got it from John Stuart Mill, who distinguishes between ‘king’ and ‘king who succeeded William the Conqueror’.

Your distinction between pure and impure therefore is the distinction between a concept expressed using a general term or set of general terms, and a concept which cannot be expressed except by using singular terms, perhaps as part of a description. But singular terms express singular concepts, so you have apparently disproved the existence of singular concepts by invoking singular concepts! Where has your argument gone wrong?

The paragraph after Lemma 2 seems to do all the heavy lifting.

You say “If C is impure, then by (D2) it must involve an individual.” Why is that? An impure concept can only be expressed by using a singular term (‘first elf born in Hobbiton’, ‘first man to forge the Ring of Power’). In what sense do concepts expressed using empty names ‘involve’ an individual, given that there is no such individual?

You say “if C is an individual concept it must involve the very individual of which it is the individual concept. In what sense does the name ‘Sauron’ involve Sauron? You go on “no individual can be grasped precisely as an individual”. I could reasonably complain that I don’t understand what is going on here.

Singular (or ‘individual’) concepts are not difficult to explain. I begin a story “there was a hobbit called ‘Frodo’”, and I continue “Frodo lived in a hole”. My first (indefinite) sentence introduces the singular concept *Frodo*, which I then go on to use, by a term (‘Frodo’) that signifies that concept. By grasping that concept, I am grasping the idea that if there were such a being as Frodo, then no other being could be Frodo: in every possible world in which the concept of ‘being Frodo’ were instantiated, it would be instantiated by the same being that it instantiates now.

“Individuum ineffabile est” – I don’t think this is a scholastic maxim. But in any case ‘ineffabile’ means ‘unutterable’ or ‘unpronouncable’ so I don’t know in what sense individuals are unutterable. Singular/individual concepts are certainly not unutterable, for we express them by uttering singular terms. A singular concept is simply the meaning of a singular term such as ‘Socrates’ or ‘Frodo’.

Reference and Identity p.33:

... a proper name cannot have a plural. Or suppose it had. Then we could use the name to signify both that the same thing is such-and-such, and that a different thing is such-and-such. But a proper name cannot signify identity and difference at the same time, so it cannot have a plural. A common name, by contrast, can be used to signify both “the same F” and “another F,” because its purpose is not to continue an anaphoric chain. The anaphoric account has no philosophical difficulties at all. We run into such difficulties only if we suppose that a name signifies some essential property of an individual, or the individual itself, rather than a property of the language alone.

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