Narrative identity and non-conscious particulars.




Ritcey, Nolan

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There exists a staggeringly large set of metaphysical problems associated with the identity of particular things. These problems range from difficulties with deciding what ought to be included in the static identity of a thing to those concerned with how things exist overtime. There are questions about how we are to understand the boundaries of thing's identity, about whether things can overlap, about whether things have their properties necessarily, or whether particular things are necessary beings. These difficulties are multiplied when we begin to think of identity over time. Questions are raised regarding the continuity of objects, whether they endure or perdure, whether objects are continuous or contiguous time slices. Many of these problems have historical roots, but have been somewhat exacerbated by shifts toward quantum physics and theories of relativity. In light of our current understanding of the physical nature of the universe, we can no longer analyze things in terms of primary and secondary qualities so to forestall these concerns: even the extension of a thing is relative to its environment. Considerations about the diachronic nature of identity, causality, possible worlds, and their modal supervaluations, detract from our ability to think of things as static and exact, in spite of our experience. Basic to all of these problems are worries about relations. I shall not offer any complete solutions to these problems here, but propose a philosophical treatment to ameliorate their standing, to begin to show the fly the way out of the bottle, as it were. My aim is to provide a means by which we can deal with the role of relations in identity and begin to dissolve these seemingly intractable debates. The treatment I shall proffer follows on a rising trend in the literature on personal -identity. Some authors have suggested that a criterion for personal identity ought to be the narrative particular individuals negotiate with their community and with themselves. Perspective is what matters for narrative theories of identity. It is the focus on perspective that grants a subject ownership of her identity, a feature unavailable to most theories that focus on physical or psychological continuity. Unlike traditional accounts which focus on memory, the role of memory in the narrative account is dynamic in the sense that memory it is a process of construction, a dialectic in the Greek sense. But more of interest to my purposes here is how the narrative account allows relations to be included in personal identity: a person's identity is not constructed in a vacuum, but developed within the context of a community. This means that contingent, relations are addressed as part of a person's identity and that the relevant community is "written" into person's identity. In the narrative theory of personal identity we have a way of understanding the internal and external relations that constitute a person's identity, which allows us to get at persons `as we know them.' I intend to detail a theory for the identity of particulars in terms of narrative identity. In this, I shall consider the perspectives of things and hope begin to address the relational components of identity, which have hitherto given rise to so many metaphysical worries, at get at the nature of particularity.



metaphysics, identity (philosophical concept)