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«Dear Haecceitism Delia Graff Fara Received: 27 July 2007 / Accepted: 1 December 2008 Ó Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009 Abstract If a ...»

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DOI 10.1007/s10670-008-9149-3

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Dear Haecceitism

Delia Graff Fara

Received: 27 July 2007 / Accepted: 1 December 2008

Ó Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Abstract

If a counterpart theorist’s understanding of the counterpart relation

precludes haecceitist differences between possible worlds, as David Lewis’s does,

how can he admit haecceitist possibilities, as Lewis wants to? Lewis (Philosophical

Review 3–32, 1983; On the Plurality of Worlds, 1986) devised what he called a ‘cheap substitute for haecceitism,’ which would allow for haecceitist possibilities while preserving the counterpart relation as a purely qualitative one. The solution involved lifting an earlier (Journal of Philosophy 65(5):113–126, 1968; 68(7):203– 211, 1971) ban on there being multiple intra-world counterparts. I argue here that serious problems for ‘cheap haecceitism’ lurk very close to its surface, and they emerge when we consider the effect of using an actuality operator in our language.

Among the most serious of the problems is the result that being the case in some possible world does not always suffice for possibly being the case. The result applies to any counterpart theory that employs a purely qualitative counterpart relation. The upshot is that if we are to admit haecceitist possibilities, as we should, then we must reject any purely qualitative relation as the one involved in the analysis of what might have been for an individual.

My goal here is to argue against counterpart theories that employ a purely qualitative counterpart relation. A counterpart theory is a theory of de-re modality according to which an individual possibly has a given property just in case there is a counterpart of that individual that has that property in some possible world. I use the term ‘counterpart theory’ liberally: to include all theories on which the counterpart relation is a relation other than identity, whether that relation be purely qualitative or not. (On the most liberal usage, even identity would count as a kind of D. G. Fara (&) Philosophy Department, Princeton University, 212 1879 Hall, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA e-mail: graff@princeton.edu 123 D. G. Fara counterpart relation—a very strict one—so that even an identity theory of de-re modality would count as a counterpart theory.) I argue that the qualitative-counterpart theorist who admits haecceitist possibil- ities precludes himself from accepting very plausible and traditional, if not incontrovertible, claims about actuality. In particular, the qualitative-counterpart theorist cannot in general accept both (i) that if something’s the case in the actual world, then it’s actually the case; and (ii) that the actual world is a possibility. If he does, then for him being the case in the actual world does not always suffice for possibly being the case.

1 What is Haecceitism?

To me, the intuitive idea of haecceitism is this: our identity is so separable from the way we happen to be that which things would have been which had things been different is independent of which things would have had which properties. I might have been just the way you in fact are. And I might have been just the way you in fact are even if you hadn’t existed. Moreover, this isn’t just a false description of the genuine—but distinct—possibility that you might have existed (just the way you are) without my existing; in the imagined scenario, it would be me being just the way you in fact are, but without you around at all. We might haggle over the question whether a plausible haecceitism, so conceived, is compatible with a plausible essentialism, understood as the doctrine that for some things, and some of the ways those things are, those things couldn’t but have been those ways. But that issue is not my concern here. Rather, I want to show that a similarity-based counterpart theory, such as David Lewis’s, cannot, even in Lewis’s ‘cheap’ way, coherently admit enough plausible haecceitist possibilities. More importantly, the difficulty extends to any counterpart theory that employs a purely qualitative counterpart relation.

Let’s begin by developing a clear statement of what haecceitism is.1 Throughout, we will use the notion of a qualitative description, along with other related notions suitably defined mutatis mutandis. A qualitative description is one that involves no reference to individuals (including places and, perhaps, times). On one interpretation, haecceitism is the doctrine that there are distinct possible worlds that are qualitatively just alike.2 We will call this ‘haecceitism*’. On a second interpretation, haecceitism is the doctrine that there are distinct possible worlds that are qualitatively just alike and that differ with respect to the de-re possibilities they 1 Brad Skow (2008) has recently offered a very clear and helpful discussion of how to define various interpretations of haecceitism.

2 Caveat: for ease of exposition, I speak of worlds as being qualitatively alike when it would be more accurate to speak of them as verifying all the same qualitative claims. These two notions coincide on David Lewis’s conception of possible worlds; they may well come apart on other, even stranger, conceptions. Some conception of possible worlds might allow them to be perfect ping-pong balls, each qualitatively just like the others, but which managed somehow ‘magically’ to verify different qualitative claims from each other. Then qualitatively indistinguishable worlds wouldn’t all verify just the same qualitative claims.





123Dear Haecceitism

represent for some individual—with respect, that is, to how they represent that individual as being in that world. We will call this ‘Haecceitism’ (with a capitalH’).

Instead of talking about how individuals are ‘represented’ as being in a possible world it would be nice to talk about how individuals are in a possible world. It would be nice to say that (capital-‘H’) Haecceitism is the doctrine that there are possible worlds that are qualitatively just alike but that differ with respect to what particular individuals are like in them. The talk of ‘representation’ is here, however, so as not to require, by fiat, that you be a haecceitist just because you hold that no particular individual exists in more than one possible world. For if an individual exists in one world only, then that individual will not be one way in some possible world but some different way in some other world; it would not be in any other possible world at all. So no two worlds, on this view, could differ with respect to what some individual was like in them, whether or not those worlds were qualitatively indistinguishable.

We may then use ‘representation’ as a neutral word to denote the relation that’s relevant for a possible-worlds analysis of de-re possibility: being-U is a possibility for a thing just in case there’s a possible world in which that thing is represented as being U. An identity theorist is one who thinks that representation is identity: that being-U is a possibility for a thing just in case there’s a possible world in which something identical to that thing is U. Those who think that identity is not the relevant relation then owe us an account of what relation an individual must bear to a possible world in order to count as being represented as U in it.

A counterpart theorist is someone who thinks that an individual is represented as being U in a world just in case that individual has a counterpart that is U in that world. The counterpart theorist is one who agrees with the identity theorist that the analysis of de-re possibility involves a relation holding between individuals in different possible worlds, but who disagrees in thinking that the relation involved is not the identity relation.

Note that I’ve set up the classifications so that a counterpart theorist is just one kind of non-identity theorist. For one might reject the idea that the analysis of de-re possibility involves a relation that an individual bears to an individual that’s in a world as opposed to bearing some other sort of relation to the world itself. I’ve also set up the classifications so that one could be a counterpart theorist without thinking that the counterpart relation is a relation based on similarity. Finally, I’ve allowed that in particular cases an individual might be identical to her counterpart in another possible world. A counterpart theorist needn’t require that individuals are ‘worldbound’. This may deviate somewhat from the standard classifications. I find this way the most useful.

It would be nice if we could eliminate reference to possible worlds when defining haecceitism. We might like to say that haecceitism is the doctrine, for example, that I might have been born before 1970 while things were completely described in some purely qualitative way, and that I might also have been born after 1970 while things were completely described in that very same purely qualitative way. Given the schema ‘a might have been U while things were completely described by a purely qualitative description D, while a might also not have been U while things were

123 D. G. Fara

completely described by D’, haecceitism would be the doctrine that the schema is true for at least one of its instances. We could call this doctrine ‘haecceitism?’. We

now have three statements of what haecceitism is:

(1) There are distinct possible worlds that are qualitatively just alike;

(haecceitism*) (2) There are distinct possible worlds that are qualitatively just alike that also differ with respect to how they represent some individual as being in that world;

(Haecceitism with a capital-‘H’) (3) The following schema is true for at least one of its instances: ‘a might have been U while things were completely described by a purely qualitative description D, and a might also not have been U while things were completely (haecceitism?) described by D’.

The third interpretation of haecceitism is not equivalent to either of the other two.

Within some theories of modality, it can be upheld while the other two are rejected.

Lewis’s is an example. Here’s why: his theory allows for an individual to be represented in more than one way in a single possible world—when that individual has more than one counterpart in that world. This alone suffices to make the theory haecceitist?. To see this, suppose that there’s an individual who might have been tall and also might not have been tall. Call her Alberta. Let us suppose that Alberta has these two modal properties in virtue of there being a world w in which she has a pair of counterparts, one of whom is tall, the other of whom is not. Suppose that S is a complete, purely qualitative description of this world w. Obviously, if a description S describes the world w, then it will describe it twice over. ‘Alberta’, ‘tall’, and S therefore provide the requisite substitution instance of the schema ‘a might have been U while things were completely described by a purely qualitative description D, while a might also not have been U while things were completely described by D’. But the theory need not thereby be capital-‘H’ Haecceitist, however. For it may nevertheless be that any world that’s indistinguishable from w also represents Alberta both as being tall and also as being not tall—which would mean that it’s not (capital-‘H’) Haecceitist.3 Despite its independent interest, however, we will ignore haecceitism? for the remainder of this paper.

The distinction between the first two interpretations of haecceitism comes from Lewis.4 If it is difficult to see how they can come apart, that is because they do not come apart on the most plausible theories of what possible worlds are like.

On any theory according to which possible worlds are individuated no more finely than the sets of propositions they verify are, the first two haecceitisms must stand or fall together.5 This would include theories according to which a possible world is the set of all the propositions that are true at that world, or the big 3 Nor need the theory be haecceitist* since it may nevertheless be that no two distinct worlds are qualitatively just alike.

4 See On the Plurality of Worlds (Lewis 1986, p. 224).

5 This is subject to the caveat mentioned in note 2, according to which the qualitative indistinguishability between worlds that’s mentioned in the statements of haecceitism* and Haecceitism is indistinguishability with respect to which qualitative claims they verify.

123Dear Haecceitism

conjunction of all the true ones of those that are propositional ‘literals’ (either propositionally atomic or a negation of such). For on any such theory, distinct possible worlds always hand down a different verdict on at least one proposition, in which case distinct worlds would hand down the same verdict on all qualitative propositions only if they differed with respect to some non-qualitative proposition— one which could be expressed only by mentioning some particular individual or individuals. That is to say that such theories would be haecceitist* only if they were Haecceitist (with a capital-‘H’). Conversely, every Haecceitist theory is trivially haecceitist*, since if there are distinct worlds that are qualitatively just alike and that differ with how they represent some individual as being, then a fortiori there are distinct worlds that are qualitatively just alike, full stop. So on a theory of possible worlds according to which worlds are individuated no more finely than the sets of propositions they verify, haecceitism* and Haecceitism stand or fall together.

The first two haecceitisms are not equivalent, however. On a theory that allows for distinct possible worlds to verify exactly the same propositions, haecceitism?



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