Promiscuous Endurantism and Diachronic Vagueness

Varzi, Achille C.

According to a popular line of reasoning, vagueness creates a problem for the endurantist conception of persistence. Assuming that ordinary material objects can undergo some mereological change without thereby ceasing to exist, just how much change they can tolerate appears to be a vague matter. Surely a cat—Tibbles—can lose a few body cells, but surely it cannot lose too many of them, so it seems that we are bound to be faced with “borderline cases” in which we are unsure what to say. For a perdurantist, such considerations pose no serious threat. If ordinary objects are things that persist through time by having a different temporal part at each moment at which they exist, just as they extend over space by having a different spatial part at each place at which they are found, then the borderline cases can be explained in familiar semantic terms: our linguistic practices are not precise enough to determine the exact temporal extent of the referent of such expressions as ‘Tibbles’ or ‘that cat’, just as they are not precise enough to determine the exact spatial extent of the referent of expressions such as ‘Everest’ or ‘that mountain’.



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American Philosophical Quarterly

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December 2, 2014