Wednesday, December 13, 2006

MM Sider: The Taxonomy of Positions

As I understand it, I very much agree with the taxonomical part in Ted Sider's ‘Criteria of Personal Identity and the Limits of Conceptual Analysis.’ Actually, as I understand it, his fits nicely with the three-fold classification I’ve been suggesting in previous posts ;-)! Let me elaborate.

On the one hand there are genuine semantic disputes, where participants dispute as to whether which is the correct analysis of a given target term or concept (of the sort of Karen’s martini case we have already discussed here). These are cases “under the scope of conceptual analysis” where premise 2 fails (see p. 201): “use” fits one of the proposal better than the alternatives.

On the other hand there are merely apparent disputes, in a certain sense to be dismissed—what Siders calls ‘no-fact-of-the-matter’ cases. He seems to characterize them as cases where there is there is semantic indecision between the alternatives: nothing in “use” (nor in the “eligibility” of the options) settles one option as the semantic right one. I think I agree that this is a sufficient condition for (true) “dismissivism” (actually, something like this seems what is argued in Sidelle 2001), I am curious about whether it is also necessary.

Finally, there are genuine metaphysical disputes, where none of the former applies (and I side with him against Karen that composition provides a nice example.)

Sider illustrates this with the case of ‘person.’ Let ‘person*’ be the entities individuated by psychological conditions, and ‘person#’ be the entities individuated by the bodily conditions. Every (relevant) disputant would agree that a description in terms of persons* and persons# is complete with respect to which (relevant) facts there are. The remaining issue is how there are to be described in terms of the older ‘person.’ If there is a semantic fact of the matter, then the dispute is genuine, though semantic. Otherwise, the dispute turns out not to be genuine after all, and all subsequent discussion should, I guess, be dismissed. Sider thinks the latter is the case, I tend to think that the former seems more plausible (see discussion in section 4), but this is another matter.


Dan López de Sa said...

Ups, when publishing my post, Pablo's appeared, and there seems ot be some overlap in themes, sorry about that!

(Do people have the problem of having to reload the page in order to get the new posts? Please give feedback in the technical thread.)

Pablo Rychter said...

I think I agree with every point you make here, except maybe with the minor point of attributing Bennett the view that the debate over composition is “not genuine”. I do not remember if actually says this, but it sounds like the kind of thing that a semantic dismissivist would say, not an epistemic dismissivist. It is just a terminological point, though.

Dan López de Sa said...


Re the minor point: As I inderstand it, Sider regards the debate on composition as a genuinely metaphysical dispute, by contrast with semanticism and (true) dismissivism (and, I guess, Karen's "epistemic dismissivism", although I feel I still don't grasp the view properly I am afraid). I agree with Sider here, and Karen doesn't, don't you think?