, Volume 21, Issue 4, pp 507-529

Can Persistence be a Matter of Convention?

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Abstract

This paper asks whether persistence can be a matter of convention. It argues that in a rather unexciting de dicto sense persistence is indeed a matter of convention, but it rejects the notion that persistence can be a matter of convention in a more substantial de re sense. However, scenarios can be imagined that appear to involve conventional persistence of the latter kind. Since there are strong reasons for thinking that such conventionality is impossible, it is desirable that our metaphysical-cum-semantic theories of persistence be able to account for such scenarios in terms of conventions of the first kind. Later parts of the article therefore investigate whether three of the currently most influential metaphysical-cum-semantic theories of persistence—the endurance theory, the stage theory, and the perdurance theory—can do this. Fortunately, for them, it turns out that all can, though some philosophers have disputed this. However, when we ask how they account for a typical case of “conventional persistence” some problematic features of the theories—having to do with reference, persistence conditions, how they relate, and the epistemology of persistence—are revealed.