Identity, Individuation and Substance

After a long break from writing on metaphysics the wonderful David Wiggins has a freely available paper published in the European Journal of Philosophy. Sameness and Substance remains one of the most satisfying  (and most difficult) reads I’ve ever experienced.

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Forty four years ago I published a short monograph called Identity and Spatio-Temporal Continuity, henceforth ISTC (Wiggins 1967). Once I saw it in print, I started putting one or two things right. From this process arose Sameness and Substance, henceforth S&S, (Wiggins 1980) and later Sameness and Substance Renewed, henceforth S&SR (Wiggins 2001). Ten years further on, noting the virtual disappearance of the sortalist view of identity from present day discussions, I wonder sometimes whether the third of these efforts was found to be unreadable. What I know for certain is that, over the passage of time, the philosophical scene has changed. It is no longer wise to assume, as I was apt to do, that everyone with a serious interest in the metaphysics of identity will know Aristotle’s distinction between what a thing is (i.e. what fundamental kind of thing it is) and what the thing is like, or be eager to read such texts as Categories, Chapters 1–5. Nor can the other Aristotelian resonances by which I once set such store be relied upon any longer to enlighten or remind. If they have any effect, it is rather to discredit the claim to have arrived at a perfectly general account—an account not at odds with anything that modern science reveals to us—of the identity and individuation of objects which are extended in space and persist through time.