Causal essentialism and the identity of indiscernibles

Philosophical Studies 175 (9):2331-2351 (2018)
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Abstract
Causal essentialists hold that a property essentially bears its causal and nomic relations. Further, as many causal essentialists have noted, the main motivations for causal essentialism also motivate holding that properties are individuated in terms of their causal and nomic relations. This amounts to a kind of identity of indiscernibles thesis; properties that are indiscernible with respect to their causal and nomic relations are identical. This can be compared with the more well-known identity of indiscernibles thesis, according to which particulars that are qualitatively indiscernible are identical. Robert Adams has developed a well-known objection to this thesis by considering a series of possibilities involving nearly qualitatively indiscernible particulars that naturally leads to a possibility involving qualitatively indiscernible particulars. I argue that we can construct parallel cases involving a series of possibilities involving properties that are nearly indiscernible with respect to their causal and nomic relations that naturally lead to possibilities involving properties that are indiscernible with respect to their causal and nomic relations. The same features that make Adams’ argument forceful also carry over to my cases, giving us a powerful objection to the causal essentialist identity of indiscernibles thesis.
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