Explaining identity and distinctness

  • Erica ShumenerEmail author


This paper offers a metaphysical explanation of the identity and distinctness of concrete objects. It is tempting to try to distinguish concrete objects on the basis of their possessing different qualitative features, where qualitative features are ones that do not involve identity. Yet, this criterion for object identity faces counterexamples: distinct objects can share all of their qualitative features. This paper suggests that in order to distinguish concrete objects we need to look not only at which properties and relations objects instantiate but also how they instantiate these properties and relations. I propose that objects are identical when they stand in certain qualitative relations in virtue of their existence. And concrete objects are distinct when they do not stand in the same kinds of relations to one another in virtue of their existence.


Identity Metaphysics Grounding 



Thanks to Ted Sider, Kit Fine, and David Chalmers for invaluable feedback on many drafts of this paper. Thanks to Cian Dorr, Nina Emery, Jill North, Jonathan Schaffer, and Kelly Trogdon for incisive commentary. Thanks also to Martín Abreu Zavaleta, Fatema Amijee, Nathaniel Baron-Schmitt, Michael Caie, David Charles, Vera Flocke, Ronald Houts, Michaela McSweeney, Betty Shumener, Alexander Skiles, Jack Spencer, Levy Wang, Tobias Wilsch, and audiences at NYU Thesis Prep, The 2014 Bellingham Summer Philosophy Conference, The 2018 Principle of Sufficient Reason Workshop at Simon Fraser University, and The 2018 Philosophy Mountain Workshop for helpful input on earlier versions. Mistakes/shortcomings are all my own.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of PittsburghPittsburghUSA

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