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Workshop on Identity and Individuation of Particulars and Universals

June 10

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The University of St Andrews’ Arché Philosophical Research Centre for Logic, Language, Metaphysics, and Epistemology will host a one-day online workshop on Identity and Individuation, which will take place on June 10th 2021, 12:30PM-7PM (British Summer Time).

The aim of this workshop is to bring together and promote research in the metaphysics of identity and individuation, and to draw connections with ongoing work in metaphysics, including but not limited to: the logical form and function of criteria of identity, identity and indiscernibility, identity and essence, identity and modality, the individuation of particulars and properties, intrinsic and extrinsic properties, and qualitative and non-qualitative properties, as well as assessments of the relative merits of the different criteria of identity for both particulars and properties on offer today.


(N.B. Details to access the workshop can be found at the bottom of this webpage)

12:30-12:55 Registration and Coffee

12:55-13:00 Introduction

13:00-14:00 Tim Button (University College London)

14:00-14:15 Break

14:15-15:15 Sophie Allen (Keele University)

15:15-15:30 Break

15:30-16:30 Gonzalo Rodriguez-Pereyra (University of Oxford)

16:30-16:45 Break

16:45-17:45 Vera Hoffman-Kolss (University of Bern)

17:45-18:00 Break

18:00-19:00 Sam Cowling (Denison University)


Tim Button (University College London)

Title: Getting precise on indiscernibility

Abstract: “Are there indiscernible but distinct objects?” That question is imprecise, in at least two regards:

First: there are many notions of indiscernibility. For example: we say (roughly) that two objects are two-symmetricaliff you can swap the objects without affecting the overall structure. (More precisely: a and b are two-symmetrical iff there is an automorphism mapping a to b and b to a.) We say that two objects are Leibniz-indiscernible iff they stand in exactly the same relations to all entities. These are distinct notions. When asking questions about indiscernibility, we need to know which notion we have in mind.

Second: every notion of indiscernibility makes reference to a background language, with regard to which discernment occurs. When asking questions about indiscernibility, we need to choose a particular language. Which language we choose might depend on our purposes. For example, if we are interested in our ability to refer (determinately) to one entity rather than another, we should presumably choose a language we can acquire and manifest. By contrast, if we are interested in whether there are “metaphysically” indiscernible entities, we will have to assume there is a metaphysically privileged language.

To see why this matters, I will run through the question “Are there indiscernible but distinct mathematical objects?” It transpires there is a “cheap” to a version of the identity of indiscernibles (with the most demanding notion of indiscernibility); and it is not obviously too cheap.


Sophie Allen (Keele University)

Title: Sortalism, Token Identity, and the Conception of a Particular

Abstract: The conflict between sortalism and token identity between the mental and the physical is not unexpected: the former requires that the individuation of events or objects be based somehow on their type, their essence or the properties which they have, while the latter maintains that particulars can be identified across disparate domains regardless of type. In this paper, I consider the prospects for resolving this dispute, or for rejecting sortalism and characterising particulars in a way which is compatible with token identity.


Gonzalo Rodriguez-Pereyra (University of Oxford)

Title: An Argument for the Identity of Indiscernibles

Abstract: I shall argue that there is no trivial version of the Identity of Indiscernibles. I shall also identify the weakest version of the Identity of Indiscernibles (a fortiori the weakest non-trivial version of it) and give an argument for it based on considerations of grounding.


Vera Hoffman-Kolss (University of Bern)

Title: Interventionism and the Individuation of Properties

Abstract: Under what conditions is a property P identical with a property Q? Interventionist theories of causation and causal models provide a prima facie plausible answer to this question: P and Q are identical iff they (or the variables representing them) assume exactly the same position in all possible causal models. This criterion is problematic, however, if properties are individuated hyperintensionally, that is, if there are properties P and Q that are distinct, but instantiated by the same individuals in all possible worlds. In this paper, I argue that causal modeling frameworks can overcome this difficulty if the dependence relations occurring in them are characterized in terms of counterpossible conditionals.


Sam Cowling (Denison University)

Title: Haecceitism by the Numbers

Abstract: Haecceitism holds that things could be just as they are in all qualitative respects—e.g., with respect to properties like shape and mass—but differ non-qualitatively—e.g., with respect to which individuals exist or which qualitative roles they occupy. Although debate over the truth of haecceitism is commonplace, investigation into the nature or variety of haecceitistic differences we ought to accept is far more limited. This essay explores the challenges that haecceitists face when specifying which haecceitistic differences are genuine. After considering competing proposals that deliver gruesome or natural species of haecceitism, we turn to some empirical studies of haecceitistic intuitions. We conclude by considering what differ species of haecceitism might mean for the effectiveness of conceivability arguments for haecceitism.


Matteo Nizzardo

Jace Snodgrass


June 10


A virtual workshop by Zoom
The University
St Andrews, KY16 9L United Kingdom
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