Proper Names, Rigidity, and Empirical Studies on Judgments of Identity Across Transformations
- 28 Downloads
The question of transtemporal identity of objects in general and persons in particular is an important issue in both philosophy and psychology. While the focus of philosophers traditionally was on questions of the nature of identity relation and criteria that allow to settle ontological issues about identity, psychologists are mostly concerned with how people think about identity, and how they track identity of objects and people through time. In this article, we critically engage with widespread use of inferring folk judgments of identity from study participants’ use of proper names in response to experimental vignettes. We provide reasons to doubt that using this method one can reliably infer judgments of numerical identity over time and transformations. We also critically examine allegedly-Kripkean justification of this method and find it lacking. Merely assuming that names are rigid designators will not help. A study participant’s use of proper names can be taken to track the participant’s identity judgments only if supported by the participant’s belief that names used in the scenario are used rigidly.
KeywordsProper names Rigidity Personal identity Individual identity Saul Kripke
An earlier version of this paper was presented at Vilnius University, University of Warsaw, Boğaziçi University, University of Helsinki, and Academia Grammaticorum Salensis. We wish to thank the audiences at these events for suggestions on how to improve the paper. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for this journal for their valuable suggestions.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
The author(s) declare that they have no competing interests.
- Blok S, Newman G, Behr J, Rips LJ (2001) Inferences about personal identity. Proceedings of the twenty-third annual conference of the cognitive science society. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum, pp. 80–85Google Scholar
- Kripke S (1980) Naming and necessity. Harvard University Press, Cambridge (Original work published 1972)Google Scholar
- Kripke S (ed) (2011) Identity and necessity. In: Philosophical troubles, collected papers: volume 1. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 1–26 (Original work published 1971)Google Scholar
- LaPorte J (2013) Rigid designation and theoretical identities. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
- LaPorte J (2016) Rigid designators. In: Zalta N (ed) The stanford encyclopedia of philosophy (Spring 2016 Edition)Google Scholar
- Liittschwager JC (1994) Children’s reasoning about identity across transformations. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Stanford University, CaliforniaGoogle Scholar
- Rhemtulla M (2005) Proper names do not allow identity maintenance within the basic level. Unpublished master’s thesis, University of British Columbia, British Columbia, CanadaGoogle Scholar
- Stanley J (1997) Names and rigid designation. In: Hale B, Wright C (eds) A companion to the philosophy of language. Blackwell, Oxford, pp 555–585Google Scholar
- White C, Kelly B, Nichols S (2016) Remembering past lives: Intuitions about memory and personal identity in reincarnation. In: Cruz H, Nichols R (eds) The Cognitive science of religion and its philosophical implications. Bloomsbury Academic, London, pp 169–196Google Scholar