The Identity of Necessary Indiscernibles

Philosophers' Imprint (forthcoming)
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I propose a novel metaphysical explanation of identity and distinctness facts called the Modal Proposal. According to the Modal Proposal, for each identity fact – that is, each fact of the form a=b – that fact is metaphysically explained by the fact that it is necessary that the entities involved are indiscernible, and for each distinctness fact –that is, each fact of the form a≠b – that fact is metaphysically explained by the fact that it is possible for the entities involved to be discernible. I argue that the Modal Proposal has greater payoffs at less cost than any of its competitors. It gives simple, uniform, and intuitive explanations of identity and distinctness that conserve longstanding philosophical insights about identity that go back to Leibniz. It does this while making our fundamental base more parsimonious, determining whether controversial cases of identity or distinctness are possible, and expanding our understanding of these central philosophical relations. It does all this while avoiding controversial ontological commitments.

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Zach Thornton
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill


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