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Thursday, 26 February 2015

Whitehead and Quine's ontological criterion

Quine famously pontificated that "No entity without identity". He understood identity in terms of qualities - properties of an object, or rather predicates that could be applied to the term that is quantified and deserves ontological commitment. On that account, Whitehead's actual entities would not qualify for they have no independent quality-based identity. Their identity is no more than a product of they being subject of a perception. There is no identity that is independent of other entities, as I wrote in my recent post about Whitehead's realism. Quine, who had been supervised by Whitehead, was perhaps not aware of his speculative thoughts on actual entities. But to be sure, his slogan can be understood in a Whiteheadian mode: if nothing identifies an actual entity in its perceptions, there is no entity. No entity without (perceptual) identification.

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