The Ambiguity of Indiscernibility

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I argue that there is an ambiguity in the concept of indiscernibility as applied to objects, because there are two different categories of properties, associated with two different ways in which all of the pre-theoretical 'properties' of an object may be identified. In one structural way, identifications of properties are independent of any particular spatial orientation of the object in question, but in another 'field' way, identifications are instead dependent on an object's particular spatial orientation, so that its properties as thus identified in one orientation are distinct from its properties as identified in any other orientation--all of which ‘field’ properties must hence also be distinct from the previous structurally defined properties. To accommodate the two kinds of intrinsic properties, the standard concept of indiscernibility is redefined as structural indiscernibility, while a new concept of field indiscernibility is introduced. I argue among other things that, though two objects may be structurally indiscernible under all orientational (and other) conditions, those objects may nevertheless fail to have field indiscernibility with each other under some orientational conditions. I also briefly discuss the implications of these results for general issues about the nature of properties, and of realist versus nominalist approaches to them.
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