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Sunday, December 10, 2023


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It’s an old dispute. Seneca Quaestiones Naturales “There are two opinions about mirrors. Some think that we discern simulacra in them, i.e. the shapes of our bodies emitted from, and separate from our bodies. Others do not assert that there are images in the mirror, but that those bodies are seen thrown back to the glance of the eyes and reflected back in them”.

Those who hold the first opinion are ‘multipliers’. Those who hold the second are ‘unifiers’.

The problem for a unifier is that if ‘this mirror image of this face’ refers to the same thing as ‘this face’, then we should be able to substitute the first expression for the second, salva veritate. Thus ‘this mirror image of this mirror image of this face’. But clearly we run into an infinite regress if so. Some regresses are benign. This one, I fear not. So I am a multiplier.

Let me see if I understand the problem.

Either what I see in the mirror is me, or what I see in the mirror is not me, but an image of me. The first is the unifier view, the second the multiplier view.

I am a multiplier.

Your third paragraph, however, is less than pellucid. You need to spell it out more clearly. What not just say that a man's face is made (in part) of skin, whereas no mirror image is made of skin; ergo, no man's face is identical to a mirror image of his face?

I thought the third para was very clear. (1) If the two terms ‘this mirror image of this face’ and ‘this face’ have the same referent, then we should be able to substitute one for the other without change of reference. So (2) make that substitution. Then we get the term ‘this mirror image of this mirror image of this face’. I.e. we have put the term in italics into the place previously occupied by ‘this face’. Perhaps you missed what was going on there?

But (3) it is clear that there is a regress going on, at least to me. We still have the term ‘this face’, so we can make further substitutions ad infinitum.

On your premiss ‘no mirror image is made of skin’, a unifier would say it is false, because if ‘this mirror image’ refers to a face, and if a face is made of skin, ergo some mirror image is made of skin, contradicting your premiss.

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