Locke’s Theory of Identity

  • Christopher Hughes Conn
Part of the Philosophical Studies Series book series (PSSP, volume 98)


The first edition of the Essay was published in the December of 1689. Locke was not content to leave the Essay as it was, for he actively sought out suggestions which could be incorporated into a second edition. From his correspondence it is clear that he was particularly interested in securing comments from William Molyneux. In one of his many letters to Molyneux in this regard, Locke asked if he could suggest any additional topics under the headings of logic or metaphysics (no. 1592, iv:627). Molyneux responded by suggesting that Locke “insist more particularly and at Large on Æternce Veritates and the Principium Individuationis” (no. 1609, iv:650).1 By his own admission, Locke’s now famous chapter “Of Identity and Diversity” was written solely in response to the latter half of this suggestion. In the penultimate paragraph of his reply to Molyneux on 23 August 1693, he writes:

You will herewith receive a new chapter Of Identity and Diversity, which, having writ only at your instance, ‘tis fit you should see and judge of before it goes to press. Pray send me your opinion of every part of it. (no. 1655, iv:722)


Temporal Part Exclusion Principle Relative Identity Temporal Extent Persistence Condition 
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  1. 6.
    Thus Bennett (1971, 336).Google Scholar
  2. 10.
    Thus C. D. Broad (1951, 59); Robert Coburn (1971, 52); J. L. Mackie (1976, 141); Paul Helm (1979, 175); Edwin McCann (1987, 59); Gary Wedeking (1987, 22f); and Michael Ayers (1991, 2:2081).Google Scholar
  3. 11.
    Thus Joshua Hoffman (1980,107-9) and Martha Brandt Bolton (1994, 127n.21).Google Scholar
  4. 12.
    This has been noted by Margaret Atherton (1984b, 284), Edwin McCann (1987, 74), Vere Chappell (1990, 30) and Jonathan Bennett (1994, 114).Google Scholar
  5. 14.
    Thus Alston and Bennett (1988, 32f) and Bolton (1994, 112).Google Scholar
  6. 15.
    Thus Anthony Flew (1951, 53f), Henry Allison (1966, 42f), J. L. Mackie (1976, 141), David Behan (1979, 59f), and Christopher Fox (1988, 30).Google Scholar
  7. 17.
    Thus Paul Helm (1979, 317); Margaret Atherton (1983, 94); Edwin McCann (1987, 68f); William Uzgalis (1990, 292); and Michael Ayers (1991, 2:221).Google Scholar
  8. 19.
    Thus Anthony Flew (1951, 65).Google Scholar
  9. 20.
    See Wiggins (1967, 1) and Geach (1967, 3).Google Scholar
  10. 21.
    Thus Peter Geach (1967, 11); Douglas Odegard (1972, 38); E. J. Borowski (1975, 277); Bruce Langtry (1975, 402); J. L. Mackie (1976, 160); David Wiggins (1976, 142n.23); Nicholas Griffin (1977, 131); Edwin Curley (1982, 312); Udo Thiel (1983, 40-42); Christopher Fox (1985, 37); C. J. F. Williams (1989, 83); and Gary Wedeking (1990, 179-81).Google Scholar
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    Only recently has this interpretation been subject to serious challenge, for example, by Alston and Bennett (1988), Vere Chappell (1989), William Uzgalis (1990), and Mark Thornton (1991).Google Scholar
  12. 23.
    Quotations from De Corpore are taken from the edition by Mary Calkins (1989).Google Scholar
  13. 24.
    Quoted from the edition of Boyle’s works by M. A. Stewart (1979, 45f).Google Scholar
  14. 25.
    Here I follow Uzgalis (1990, 296n.6).Google Scholar
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    A similar point is made by Nicholas Griffin (1977, 17).Google Scholar
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    Versions of this argument are presented by both Chappell (1989) and Uzgalis (1990).Google Scholar
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    Thus Peter Geach (1979, 70f); David Wiggins (1980, 25n.l2); Lawrence Lombard (1986, 127-31); Michael Ayers (1991, 2:102-8, 319n.l5); and David Oderberg (1993, 125f).Google Scholar
  18. 32.
    Thus, for example, Quine writes that “physical objects, conceived thus four-dimensionally in space-time, are not to be distinguished from events or, in the concrete sense of the term, processes. Each comprises simply the content, however heterogeneous, of some portion of space-time, however disconnected and gerrymandered” (1960, 171). Similarly, Nelson Goodman writes that “tables, steam yachts, and potatoes are events of comparatively small spatial and large temporal dimensions (1966, 128), and C. D. Broad writes that the only difference between a flash of lightening and the cliffs at Dover “is that the former last for a short time and the latter for a long time”(1923, 54). See also Richard Taylor (1955, 600). I must add, however, that I am reluctant to attribute this thesis to Broad, the above statement notwithstanding. For later in the same chapter Broad concludes that “changes of events cannot be treated like the changes of things” (1923, 64).Google Scholar
  19. 33.
    Thus Paulo Dau (1986, 472n.6).Google Scholar
  20. 34.
    See Lewis (1986, 202).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher Hughes Conn
    • 1
  1. 1.The University of the SouthSewaneeUSA

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