Taller «Varieties of Identity», 15-16 de noviembre

Los próximos 15 y 16 de noviembre se celebrará en el Carmen de la Victoria el workshop "Varieties of Identity", organizado por el Proyecto de Investigación FFI2015-65953-P: "Habla interna, metacognición y la concepción narrativa de la identidad", del Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad.

Workshop "Varieties of Identity"

La identidad es un concepto central en muchas disciplinas. Sin embargo, no está claro si es una noción unívoca que permite un análisis de conjunto o si es algo que requiere diferentes enfoques, ya que se aplica a diferentes campos. Para investigar este tema, el taller tiene una mirada interdisciplinaria. Los oradores abordarán temas sobre identidad e individualización en áreas tan diversas como la metafísica, la filosofía de la lógica, la filosofía de la computación, la filosofía de la química, la filosofía de la biología o la filosofía de la psicología. El objetivo del taller es promover el debate para explorar en qué medida los tratamientos de la identidad en un dominio determinado se pueden aplicar fructíferamente a los problemas que surgen en otros dominios.


Jueves 15

9:20                 Bienvenida

9:30-10:40     Stephen Mumford (Durham): Identities of Nothingness, Absences and Holes

10:45-11:55     Javier Cumpa (Complutense): Neutralism and the Problem of Universals

12:30-13:40    Mirco Sambrotta (Granada): Cross-sortal Identity Claims


15:00-16:10     Marcin Miłkowski (Polish Academy of Sciences): Identity of Computational Mechanisms

16:15-17:25      Fernando Martínez-Manrique (Granada): Identity and Individuation in Hybrid Concepts

Viernes 15

9:20-10:30      Juan José Acero (Granada): Emotion, Perception and Fiction

10:35-11:45      María José García-Encinas (Granada): Essence Is Not Identity: On Being What and Being That

12:20-13:30     Otávio Bueno (Miami): Identity and Quantification


15:00-16:10     Paul Needham (Stockholm): Chemical Substance and Macroscopic Ontology

16:15-17:25      Thomas Pradeu (CNRS/Bordeaux): Identity, Substance, and Processes: A Biological Viewpoint

Fecha y Lugar

15 y 16 de noviembre de 2018, en la Sala de Juntas del Carmen de la Victoria

Organizado por el Proyecto de Investigación FFI2015-65953-P: "Habla interna, metacognición y la concepción narrativa de la identidad" (Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad).

Entrada libre hasta completar aforo

Ponentes y resúmenes

Emotion, Perception and Fiction

The Paradox of Fiction has been a central topic of the debate on the relation between art and emotion. The paradox has its origin in the question whether the reader of a literary work and the spectator of a film can feel the characters’ emotions or be moved towards what happen to them. Alternatively, the question is whether the events in which those characters get involved can give rise in the readers and spectators to proper emotions. (I will call these reactions emotions towardsfictions and distinguish them from emotions aside fromfiction.) In the past philosophers have disagreed on what the right answer to these questions are. Some think that they cannot feel real emotions because characters’ reactions substantially differ from what they would feel towards real-world agents. (I cannot reproach Anna to go on loving Harry Lime in spite of knowing how much grief and death Lime has caused by dealing with adulterated penicillin (The Third Man, 1949).) One viewpoint (Walton) has it that they are emotions at all; another (Currie) chooses the view that they are emotions, though emotions of a marginal variety. Although there is much in these judgements I agree with, it is necessary to qualify them. I share the opinion that emotions towards fiction do not play the same role as emotions aside from fiction in spectators’ psychological economy, but reject that it does follows from it that a character's story cannot prompt any emotional experience. On the contrary, in very specific circumstances they definitively can.

A relevant feature of this debate is that philosophers seldom help themselves of an articulated theory of emotions. At most emotions are thought of as body reactions, with characteristic physiological, phenomenological, attentional profiles, caused or modified by cognitive ingredients. The kind of view that cognitive psychology has made popular. The core of my argument is a theory of emotional experiences as perceptual experiences. I favor a combination of ideas from phenomenology, the ecological approach to perception and enactivism. In going through an emotional experience an agent perceives a situation (event, state of affairs) as affecting him or her. My interest focus on establishing the conditions of which two different agents go through emotional experiences of the same type and a fortiori the conditions that make them perceptual experience of the same type. The last piece I resort to in my argument comes from a theory of fiction that views fiction works are guides that help readers and spectators to imagine. Imagination is basically in its core sensory imagination, a perception-like kind of mental state out of the real-world's reach. To conclude that it is possible that both a spectator and a character of a fiction work go through emotional experiences of the same type, I make use of Peacocke’s Experiential Hypothesis, a resource put forward in his analysis of sensory imagination. To this hypotheses I add a Principle of Transparency which in very specific circumstances licenses to straightly assign the spectators the perceptual contents of a character’s perceptual.

Identity and Quantification 

Does quantification require the identity of the objects that are quantified over? Is  quantification intelligible without such identity? In this paper, I examine a number of arguments in favor of identityǯs fundamentality in the context of quantification, and argue  that classical quantification (that is, quantification in classical logic and set theories)  requires identity. (Fundamentality is not used here in any metaphysically robust sense.)  In particular, I consider four arguments: (a) the arguments from the domain of quantification, according to which domains of  quantification, whether set-theoretic or not, require the identity of the objects that are quantified over;  (b) the argument from the range of quantifiers, according to which the specification of the range of quantifiers also requires the identity of those objects over which one quantifies; (c) the arguments from the collapse of the existential and the universal quantifiers, according to which in order to prevent that the universal and the existential quantifiers have the same inferential properties the identity of the objects that are quantified over is required. (d) the arguments from the intelligibility of quantification, according to which without objects that have well-specified identity conditions, quantification becomes incoherent.  In each case, I identify the crucial role that the identity of the objects that are quantified  over plays in quantification. I also consider quantification in non-classical contexts, and  argue that even in logics and set theories that allegedly do not require identity for quantification, identity is still required.

Neutralism and the Problem of Universals 

According to Universalism, properties are universals because there is a certain fundamental tie that makes properties capable of being shareable by more than one thing. On the opposing side, Particularism is the view that properties are particulars due to the existence of a fundamental tie that makes properties incapable of being shared. In this paper I argue, first, that universality and particularity can characterize a property if and only if there is a universalist or a particularist fundamental tie, and, second, that it is unclear that these should be the fundamental ties that connect ordinary and scientific properties to their respective bearers. Then I develop an alternative approach to properties and the fundamental tie, which is neutralist because it dispenses with universality and particularity as features of properties, and naturalist because it naturalizes the possession of properties by replacing metaphysical fundamental ties with a scientific one, in particular, a physical process. I show how this approach improves our understanding of properties and instantiation.

Essence Is Not Identity: On Being What and Being That

I will argue that not all necessary relations in are internal. Thus, essence, which is constituted by internal properties or relations, is not identity. Essence and identity are different metaphysical categories. This implies that one could maintain that there are certain metaphysical necessities without compromising with a world of essences.

To sustain the claim that not every necessary property/relation is essential, I will partly rely on Moore’s account of internal relations and use Fine’s well known examples. I will however differ from Fine’s main conclusion that essence is basic in understanding metaphysical necessity, as not every necessary property or relation is essential its entity; yet the loss of any necessary property or relation is a loss of identity.

Then the idea that identity is a necessary metaphysical relation will be contrasted with the idea that essential/internal properties and relations are necessary. With the help of the cases of the necessity of material origin and of efficient causality I will strengthen the thesis that not every necessary property/relation is essential to its entity. Origin and the casual relation are better understood as necessary relations that are not internal. Having a certain origin, or a certain cause, is necessary for being that entity, but origin and cause are no part of the essence of the entity.

Identity and Individuation in Hybrid Concepts

According to most theories of concepts, there are two key roles that concepts play: (i) they are the constituents of thoughts, and (ii) they can be shared among different individuals. These roles provide two constraints that concepts are typically expected to satisfy: compositionality and publicity. To satisfy these constraints, it must be possible to establish identity criteria –i.e., when two concepts are the same– as well as individuation criteria –i.e., what allows to distinguish a concept from another. These criteria pose a special problem for theories that regard concepts as structured mental representations. In this talk I address the problem of concept identity and individuation in the context of a variety of such theories, namely, the hybrid view of concepts sketched in Vicente & Martínez-Manrique (2016). First, I examine the problems that compositionality and publicity pose for theories of structured concepts. In particular, I review some reasons that have recently been offered to discard the publicity constraint (see Onofri 2018 for a summary), arguing that they rely on a misconception of what publicity demands. Second, I summarize a criterion of individuation for hybrid concepts that we called ‘functional stable coactivation’. I show that this view entails a two-tiered approach to concepts –as a long-term assembly of features, and as short-term instantiations of such an assembly– and I offer a version of originalism for concept individuation (Sainsbury & Tye 2011) to support the continuity between a short-term instantiation and its long-term antecedent. Consequently, questions of identity or “sameness” of concepts can be formulated for each of those tiers. I then argue that judgments of sameness between long-term concepts respond to criteria of similarity, but that this does not pose a problem for the publicity constraint as it is not at this tier where this constraint has to be satisfied. In contrast, short-term concepts can be individuated in a more coarse way so as to be shared in a communicative context.


Onofri, A. (2018) The publicity of thought. The Philosophical Quarterly, 68(272): 521–541

Sainsbury, M. and Tye, M. (2011) An Originalist Theory of Concepts. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supp., 85: 101–24.

Vicente, A. & Martínez Manrique, F. (2016) The big concepts papers: A defence of hybridism. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 67(1): 59–88

Identity of Computational Mechanisms

In the debate over physical computation, two major proposals are defended. According to the semantic view, the function of physical computation is to model some domain and perform computations over representations of that domain (Shagrir 2017). According to the causal view, the mere causal structure of physical systems is jointly necessary and sufficient to individuate computation (Dewhurst 2018). Recently, more pluralistic views were also defended, according to which computation may sometimes be individuated semantically (Lee n.d.), which is supposed to ground computational pluralism.

I will argue that for defenders of the mechanistic view on computation, a kind of pluralism is forced naturally. The phenomenon that computational mechanisms explain is specified, as a matter of fact, depending on one’s theoretical interest, and the notion of physical computation is understood variously in different fields of inquiry. Some of them may include semantic considerations in how they understand computation (Miłkowski 2017). Some don’t.

In the talk, I will also stress the fact that in the debate, there is a yet another issue. Namely, it is far from clear that different fields of inquiry use the same methodology to delineate mechanisms. Thus, there are two different, yet highly interrelated questions: how to individuate mechanisms, and how to delineate their boundaries. This will be studied by showing current best practices in several fields of computing, including natural computation, control engineering, and neural computation.


Dewhurst, Joe. 2018. “Individuation without Representation.” The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science69 (1): 103–16. https://doi.org/10/gdvhz2.

Lee, Jonny. n.d. “Mechanisms, Wide Functions, and Content: Towards a Computational Pluralism.” The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science. Accessed October 1, 2018. https://doi.org/10/gd852z.

Miłkowski, Marcin. 2017. “The False Dichotomy between Causal Realization and Semantic Computation.” Hybris, no. 38: 1–21.

Shagrir, Oron. 2017. “The Brain as an Input–Output Model of the World.” Minds and Machines, October, 1–23. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11023-017-9443-4.

Identities of Nothingness, Absences and Holes

Absences are presumably nothing at all, e.g. the absent hippopotamus in this room. Apparently absences can have causal powers, though, as with C. B. Martin’s deadly void moving towards you. Should you get out of the way? The problem is that, contrary to any immediate intuition, there are good Parmenidean reasons to reject the reality of absences and, consequently, to reject causation by absence. Holes seem to present a counterexample in that they certainly can have a causal influence and have identity conditions, even though their identity conditions differ from those of ordinary macroscopic objects. I will account for this by saying that holes are not (merely) a type of absence. They are real, even if they are parasitic on their hosts. A hole requires a boundary, given by physical limits of its host, which must be shaped a certain way. There need be no such constraints on absences, which might be nothing at all. The metaphysical problem of absence is deeper than that of holes, therefore. A hole could be real but the problem of absence concerns something like, e.g. the non-existent hole that is in a solid table top. Among other reasons to be sceptical about the reality of any such entity is the lack of grip we have on its identity conditions.

Chemical Substance and Macroscopic Ontology

I find Putnam’s idea of the preservation of the extension of substance terms such as “water” and their determination by a “same liquid” relation more intelligible than Kripke’s idea that “Water is H2O” expresses an identity. “Water” (and “H2O”) are predicates and “Water is H2O” expresses a generalisation. But Putnam is wrong to interpret the same substance relation as restricted to phase (liquid) for good reasons of chemistry. I’ll outline how I approach the same substance relation and criteria of comprising a single substance (in the context of the historical development of the concept of a chemical substance) together with the corresponding ontology. Substance and phase predicates apply to macroscopic quantities of matter, which I treat mereologically within a framework of times and spatial regions also viewed as mereological objects, all with the corresponding identity criteria (same parts, same thing). Considering how quantities are related to matter at the microlevel suggests that phase and substance predicates apply to matter in different ways. Time permitting, I would like to conclude by saying something about the inclusion of processes in the ontology alongside continuants.

Identity, Substance, and Processes: A Biological Viewpoint

There have been recently many discussions about identity, substance, and process, including at the interface between metaphysics and philosophy of biology. This connection is yet another illustration of the vitality of current “metaphysics of science”. However, it is not entirely clear how the analysis of biological examples can shed light on metaphysical debates about substance and process and how, in turn, those debates could matter to biologists and philosophers of biology in practice.

In this paper I will try to show how an earlier discussion within philosophy of biology, centered on the notion of “genidentity”, already constituted a debate between a substance-based view of identity and a process-based view of identity, and how it can be connected to questions of direct interest for biologists and philosophers of biology, as well as for metaphysicians. The concept of genidentity has been suggested by psychologist Kurt Lewin (1890-1947) (Lewin 1922) and then further explored by philosopher Hans Reichenbach (1891-1953), mainly in the context of physics (Reichenbach 1956). According to the genidentity view, the identity through time of an entity X is given by a well-identified series of continuous states of affairs.

Here I explain how the concept of genidentity can shed light on the long-debated problem of what constitutes biological identity (Guay and Pradeu 2016; Pradeu 2018). I describe the centrality of the concept of genidentity in David Hull’s reflection on biological identity (Hull 1978, 1986, 1992), and I then suggest an extension of Hull’s view on the basis of recent data demonstrating the ubiquity of symbiotic interactions in the living world. I conclude by showing that genidentity leads us to adopt a multilevel view on biological processes.


Guay A, Pradeu T (2016) To Be Continued: The Genidentity of Physical and Biological Processes. In: Guay A, Pradeu T (eds) Individuals Across the Sciences. Oxford University Press, New York, pp 317–347

Hull D (1992) Individual. In: Keller EF, Lloyd EA (eds) Keywords in Evolutionary Biology. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, pp 181–187

Hull DL (1978) A Matter of Individuality. Philos Sci 45:335–360

Hull DL (1986) Conceptual Evolution and the Eye of the Octopus. In: Ruth Barcan Marcus GJWD and PW (ed) Studies in Logic and the Foundations of Mathematics. Elsevier, pp 643–665

Lewin K (1922) Der Begriff der Genese in Physik, Biologie und Entwicklungsgeschichte: eine Untersuchung zur vergleichenden Wissenschaftslehre. Springer, Berlin

Pradeu T (2018) Genidentity and Biological Processes. In: Nicholson DJ, Dupré J (eds) Everything Flows: Towards a Processual Philosophy of Biology. Oxford University Press, pp 96–112

Reichenbach H (1956) The direction of time. University of California Press, Berkeley

Cross-sortal Identity Claims

One of the major themes of Sellars’s (1962) is the problem of fusing in a ‘stereoscopic vision’ the ‘manifest’ and the ‘scientific image of man in the world’. According to him, the key to obtaining such stereoscopy is the following: “[T]o complete the scientific image we need to enrich it not with more ways of saying what is the case, but with the language of community and individual intentions” (Sellars, 1962, p. 78). In this way, Sellars’s solution consists in extending the descriptive vocabulary of the scientific image by introducing the normative vocabulary that belongs to the manifest image. But the language of the manifest image also deploys vocabulary to describe and explain its world. And, as concerns the relations between the descriptions and explanations whose home is in the manifest image and those whose home is in the scientific image, the general tenor of Sellars’s view is that the latter trump the former: “In the dimension of describing and explaining the world, science is the measure of all things, of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not” (Sellars 1956, §41).

The idea is that descriptive terms from the manifest image refer, if they refer at all, to items more adequately specified in the descriptive vocabulary of an eventual or ideal science. So, if some nonscientific descriptive term refers to anything real (rather than presenting a mere appearance), it is only because it corefers with some scientific descriptive term. Coreference of terms is identity of objects. Such a view is committed to there being true identity claims relating the descriptive terms in the vocabulary of the manifest image that refer at all and descriptive terms drawn from the vocabulary of the scientific image. Therefore, the scientific naturalism of the scientia mensura essentially depends on the truth of such identities relating items referred to in the vocabulary of the manifest image and items referred to in the vocabulary of the scientific image. However, these will in general almost always be ‘cross-sortal’ identity claims: claims relating terms whose governing sortals are governed by quite different criteria of identity and individuation. But, I will maintain, cross-sortal identities are never true. If that is right, then manifest-image expressions do not refer to items referred to by expressions belonging to the scientific image and the relation between them cannot be identity. Anyway, the claim that cross-sortal identity claims are never true, does not entail that identity claims cannot be contingently true, under its de dicto reading. It follows from the widely accepted Kripkean doctrine that all true identity claims are necessarily true.

Furthermore, we cannot say that the two images are in conflict with each other either (in the sense that there is some kind of rivalry between them). Usually, arguments that compare common-sense and scientific ontologies rely on the idea that we could make category-neutral reference to some ‘thing’ we are talking about. For example, some of them might consider and the ‘table of common sense’ and the ‘table of science’ (couched in terms of waves and particles) as two different things (Eddington 1928). But comparisons of this kind cannot be done if ‘thing’ here is being used neutrally (not as a sortal term). Ideed, if ‘thing’, in its neutral use, is not a sortal term, then it cannot enable us to establish reference to something, about which science and common sense may then agree or disagree. Nevertheless, in order to avoid such difficulties, I will argue for a different understanding of counting claims of that sort. I will take their primary role not to be performing a descriptive function, but rather a (metalinguistic) expressive function. That is to say, they make explicit structural features that are already implicit in the use of the terms they are comparing. In particular, by claiming them a speaker is functionally classifying the terms in question as two different sortals belonging to two different framewoks, hence she would be expressing the commitment to withhold from using them in the same way.

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