Syllabus: Persistence and Parthood


In this seminar we'll study some of the recent literature on the topics in the title. The main focus will be the doctrine that objects persist through time by means of temporal parts. According to this view, since I exist during 1998, there is a thing we might call Ted-during-1998, which looks just like a person, walks, talks, types on the computer occasionally, etc., but which came into existence last New Year's Eve and will go out of existence this coming New Year's Eve. This is my 1998 temporal part. The main question of the seminar is: is this doctrine true?

Requirements and readings

Four very short discussion notes, and a longer seminar paper. Readings will be drawn from Michael Rea's anthology Material Constitution, drafts from a book in progress by me (comments welcome!), and from other sources; readings not in Rea will be on reserve in the graduate lounge. In the first meeting we'll discuss the material under the first outline heading (below), and perhaps also the second heading.

Course Outline

Readings: Readings are in the outline below. Readings preceded by an *asterisk are in Rea. For my own work, I list both the projected chapters of the emerging book, and my earlier papers; note that these will overlap considerably in content.

  1. Introduction
  2. In favor of 4D: the best overall theory of the paradoxes of coincidence
    1. Three routes to the absurd conclusion that there can exist two things in the same place at the same time
      • *David Wiggins "On Being in the Same Place at the Same Time"
      • David Lewis "Survival and Identity"
      • *Peter van Inwagen, "The Doctrine of Arbitrary Undetached Parts"
    2. A pretty good solution: the worm view (Lewis) Can anyone else match it?
    3. Standard 3D account
      • Wiggins
      • *J. J. Thomson "Parthood and Identity through Time"
      • optional: Denis Robinson, "Can Amoebae Divide without Multiplying?"
      1. The supervenience argument against coincidence
        • Michael Burke,"Copper Statues and Pieces of Copper: A Challenge to the Standard Account"
        • Sider, "Global Supervenience and Identity Across Times and Worlds"
      2. Why Wiggins isn't as good as the 4D account
        • section 3 of Sider, "Four-Dimensionalism" (talk given at Rutgers)
    4. Burke
      • *Michael Burke, "Preserving the Principle of One Object to a Place..."
      • Sider, section 3 of Rutgers talk
    5. Eliminativist views
      • *Peter Unger, "I Do Not Exist"
      • *Peter van Inwagen, "The Doctrine of Arbitrary Undetached Parts"
      • selections from Peter van Inwagen, Material Beings
      • Sider, "Van Inwagen and the Possibility of Gunk"
    6. Mereological essentialism
      • *Roderick Chisholm, "Identity through Time"
      • selections from Michael Jubien, Ontology, Modality, and the Fallacy of Reference
      • Sider, critical study of Jubien
      • optional: Michael Della Rocca, "Essentialists and Essentialism"
    7. The stage view
      • Sider, "All the World's a Stage"
  3. "Direct" arguments in favor of 4D
    1. Space/time analogies
      • Chisholm, appendix A to Person and Object
    2. Required for relativity
      • (TBA)
    3. The problem of temporary intrinsics
      • David Lewis On the Plurality of Worlds, pp. 198-204
      • E. J. Lowe "Lewis on Perdurance Versus Endurance"
      • Lewis: "Rearrangement of Particles: Reply to Lowe"
      • Lowe, "The Problems of Intrinsic Change: Rejoinder to Lewis"
      • Sally Haslanger "Endurance and Temporary Intrinsics"
      • Optional: Graham Forbes, "Is there a Problem about Persistence?"
      • Mark Johnston, "Is there a Problem about Persistence?"
    4. Lewis's supervenience argument
      • Postscript B to "Survival and Identity"
    5. Arguments from exotica
      • Sider, "Four Dimensionalism and the Possibility of Time Travel"
    6. The argument from vagueness
      • Sider, "Four-Dimensionalism", section 3
  4. What exactly is the dispute between 3D and 4D?
    1. Is the dispute non-conventional?
      • readings on "stuff" TBA
    2. Formulating 4D
      • Sider, "Four-Dimensionalism", section 1
    3. Formulating 3D
      • Sider, "Four-Dimensionalism", section 2
    4. The 3D/4D dispute and the philosophy of time
      • Trenton Merricks, "On the Incompatibility of Enduring and Perduring Entities"
      • Sider, "On the Compatibility of Presentism and Perdurance"
      • Sider "Comments on Merricks's 'Persistence, Parts, and Presentism'"
      • J. Butterfield, "Spatial and Temporal Parts"
      • Quentin Smith, "Personal Identity and Time"
  5. Arguments against 4D
    1. Objections to reducing person-predicates to stage-predicates
      • George Graham, "Persons and Time"
      • Roderick Chisholm, Appendix A to Person and Object
    2. Crazy metaphysic
      • *J. J. Thomson "Parthood and Identity through time"
      • *Mark Heller, "Temporal Parts of Four Dimensional Objects"
      • optional: Paolo Dau. "Part-Time Objects"
    3. Denies change
      • Peter Geach, "Some Problems about Time"
      • Mark Heller, "Things Change"
      • Lawrence Lombard, "The Doctrine of Temporal Parts and the 'No-Change' Objection"
    4. Rotating disk
      • David Lewis, introduction to his Philosophical Papers, vol. 2
      • Dean Zimmerman, "Temporal Parts and Supervenient Causation: The Incompatibility of Two Humean Doctrines"
    5. PvI's modal argument
      • *Peter van Inwagen, "The Doctrine of Arbitrary Undetached Parts"
      • *David Lewis, "Counterparts or Double Lives? (selections)"
    6. Temporal parts cannot solve the modal versions of the standard puzzles
      • *Michael Burke, "Preserving the Principle of One Object to a Place..."