Are Identities Unexplainable? Towards a Non‐causal Contrastive Explanation of Identities

Theoria 87 (2):457-482 (2020)
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Can an identity be the proper subject of an explanation? A popular stance, albeit not one often argued for, gives a negative answer to this question. Building from a contentious passage from Jaegwon Kim in this direction, we reconstruct an argument to the conclusion that identities, to the extent in which they are necessary, cannot be explained. The notion of contrastive explanation, characterized as difference-seeking, will be crucial for this argument; however, we will eventually find the argument to be unsatisfactory. On the contrary, the discussion provides enough resource to sketch a very simple framework for a non-causal contrastive explanation of identities. Many instances will be provided, with different varieties of explanans, ultimately suggesting that certain entailment or biconditional principles involving identities (first and foremost, so-called two-level identity criteria) may indeed be taken to have an inherent explanatory value.

Author Profiles

Massimiliano Carrara
University of Padua
Lorenzo Azzano
Universidade de Santiago de Compostela


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