The Dennes Room

Event Detail

Thu Nov 30, 2017
Howison Library, 4–6 PM
Graduate Research Colloquium
Alexander (Arc) Kocurek
Counterfactuals and Contingent Identity

Since Kripke’s Naming and Necessity, it has been widely accepted that identity is metaphysically necessary. In this talk, I will present a new argument against this claim. The argument makes use of a class of counterfactuals known as “counteridenticals”, i.e., counterfactuals with identity claims in their antecedents. These sentences exhibit a number of puzzling features that are difficult to explain, and it is not clear what exactly these sentences even mean. It is tempting to think that these sentences are simply quirky ways of talking, and therefore do not reveal anything deep about the nature of identity. I argue that this is not the case: what these counterfactuals reveal is that facts about identity are ultimately reducible to facts about what roles individuals occupy. And since facts about what roles individuals occupy are contingent, so are facts about identity.