Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Perdurance and slices

One of the main problems with perdurance is thought to be that it makes intrinsic properties be primarily properties of slices, and only derivatively of the four-dimensional whole.

The most worrisome case of this problem has to do with mental properties. For if our slices have the mental properties primarily, and we only have them derivatively, then that leads to a sceptical problem (how do I know I am a whole and not a slice?) and besides violates the intuition that we have our mental properties primarily.

But someone who accepts a perdurantist ontology and accepts the idea that we are four-dimensional wholes does not have to say that intrinsic properties are primarily had by slices. For a property that involves a relation to one’s parts can still be intrinsic (having one’s parts is surely intrinsic!). Now instead of saying that, say, Bob has temporary property P at time t in virtue of his slice Bt at t having P, we can say that Bob has P in relation to Bt. This is very similar to how relationalist endurantists say that we have our temporary properties in relation to times, except that times are normally thought of as extrinsic to the object, while the slices are parts of the objects.

In fact, this helps save some intuitions of intrinsicness. For instance, it seems to be an intrinsic property of me that my heart is beating. But if t is now and At is my slice now, then At does not seem to intrinsically have the property of heart-beat. It seems that heart-beat is a dynamical property dependent not just on the state of the object at one time but also at nearby times. Thus, if we want to attribute heart-beat to At primarily, then heart-beat will not be intrinsic, as it will depend on At as well as slices At for t′ near t. But if we see my present heart-beat as a property of the four-dimensional worm, a property the worm has in relation to At (as well as neighboring times), then heart-beat can be an intrinsic property—and it can be had primarily by me, not my slices.

It is plausible that mental properties are dynamical as well: that one cannot tell just from the intrinsic properties of a three-dimensional slice whether thought is happening. (This is pretty much certain given materialism, but I think is plausible even on dualism.) So, again, mental properties aren’t going to be intrinsic properties of slices. But they can be primarily the intrinsic properties of four-dimensional persons, had in relation to their slices.

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