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5/01/2017 3:14 pm  #1

Problem of Material Constitution

Consider the Venus de Milo, a marble statue. Venus de Milo has identity conditions that the marble does not. If it's melted, it ceases to be, but the marble would still remain. 

Some people argue that (i) constitution is identity, as they deny that there can two objects (or more) occupying the same spatial location. This "co-locationism" of objects seems to be the preferred solution to the puzzle in contemporary philosophy and is attributed to Aquinas by Brower and Christopher Brown. Others say that (ii) constitution isn't identity, as the marble and the statue have distinct essential properties. Although there are more solutions to the puzzle, this brings me to the puzzle of Dion and Theon, for if Dion's right foot is amputated, given (i), there would at least be two objects Dion and Theon. (1) But there's only one being which instantiates humanity here, if Theon exists, then there are two things which instantiate humanity (at the very leasts), or am I mistaken here? However, if (ii), then Dion wouldn't survive the amputation--but that doesn't seem right at all, since even if I lose a single hair, I'm still me.

Given the problem of material constitution in the form of Dion and Theon, I'm wondering if Aquinas's eliminiativist interpretation (suggested by Christopher Brown) would hold any water, is anyone familiar with it? (iii) The eliminiativist solution tends to deny the existence of the objects that give rise to the problem. So the marble exists for sure, but the Venus de Milo is just the marble put statue-wise. There are so many formulations of the problem, but I think the one which serves best and the most thorniest is the one including Dion and Theon, (2) for although we can deny the existence of statues and what not, how can we deny the existence of conscious beings? For non-conscious beings, the eliminativist solution works just fine, as I can easily deny the existence of tents, ships, and statues, but I really can't do that with conscious beings.

Note: These solutions are not the only solutions in-play here, but I've narrowed them down because of my unfamiliarity with (iv) Burke's dominant kinds and relative identity, (v) rejection of Temporal parts and deflationism. Anyone who feels that these solutions do a better job in solving this puzzle should post unhesitating.

Last edited by Dennis (5/01/2017 3:36 pm)


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