On Identity Statements: In Defense of a Sui Generis View

Disputatio 8 (43):269-293 (2016)
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Abstract

This paper is about the meaning and function of identity statements involving proper names. There are two prominent views on this topic, according to which identity statements ascribe a relation: the object-view, on which identity statements ascribe a relation borne by all objects to themselves, and the name-view, on which an identity statement 'a is b' says that the names 'a' and 'b' codesignate. The object- and name-views may seem to exhaust the field. I make a case for treating identity statements as sui generis instead of attempting to explain them by means of the idea that they ascribe a relation. My contention is that once we do this, no analysis is required. I do not wish to insist that we stop saying that identity statements ascribe a relation. The point is that there is a fundamental disanalogy between identity statements and other two-termed statements which we overlook to our peril. This will be seen to parallel the more recognized disanalogy between existence statements and other one-termed statements. One way of registering the fundamental disanalogy is to say that identity statements are not relational, but this is not essential. Following my negative arguments in section 2, I employ some simple diagrammatical models in section 3 to exhibit the fundamental disanalogy. In a final section I respond to some possible objections which may be raised against this kind of approach.

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Tristan Grøtvedt Haze
University of Melbourne

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