Wednesday, October 30, 2019

1+1=3 or 2+2=4

On numerical-sameness-without-identity views, two entities that share their matter count as one when we are counting objects.

Here is a curious consequence. Suppose I have a statue of Plato made of bronze with the nose broken off and lost. I make up a batch of playdough, sculpt a nose out of it and stick it on. The statue of Plato survives the restoration, and a new thing has been added, a nose. But now notice that I have three things, counting by sameness:

  • The statue of Plato

  • The lump of bronze

  • The lump of playdough.

Yet I only added one thing, the lump of playdough or the nose that is numerically the same (without being identical) as it. So, it seems, 1+1=3.

Now, it is perfectly normal to have cases where by adding one thing to another I create an extra thing. Thus, I could have a lump of bronze and a lump of playdough and they could come together to form a statue, with neither lump being a statue on its own. A new entity can be created by the conjoining of old entities. But that’s not what happens in the case of the statue of Plato. I haven’t created a new entity. The statue was already there at the outset. And I added one thing.

Maybe, though, what should be said is this: I did create a new thing, a lump of bronze-and-playdough. This thing didn’t exist before. It is now numerically the same as the statue of Plato, which isn’t new, but it is still itself a new thing. I am sceptical, however, whether the lump of bronze-and-playdough deserves a place in our ontology. We have unification qua statue, but qua lump it’s a mere heap.

Suppose we do allow, however, that I created a lump of bronze-and-playdough. Then we get another strange consequence. After the restoration, counting by sameness:

  • There are two things that I created: the nose and the lump of bronze-and-playdough

  • There are two things that I didn’t create: the statue of Plato and the lump of bronze.

But there are only three things. Which makes it sound like 2+2=3. That’s perhaps not quite fair, but it does seem strange.


Philip Rand said...
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Dagmara Lizlovs said...

Maybe it should be restated as 1+1=3 or 2+2=3 because an improper repair has been made to the statue of Plato.