Identity, Diversity, and Existence

  • S. Alexander


There are more senses than one of identity. There is, in the first place, bare or numerical identity, which is the identity of a thing with itself. Next, there is identity of kind, which is universality or generic identity. A dog is as dog generically identical with another dog. Thirdly, there is individual identity, which implies the blending of numerical and generic identity; an individual is a particular of a certain sort. Lastly, there is substantial identity, which, besides individuality as just described, contains the element of substance. Such substantial identity is what is commonly understood by a numerically identical individual. But it is really more complex as we shall see than merely being an individual. One of its instances is personal identity.


Generic Identity Substantial Identity Numerical Identity Categorical Proposition Metaphysical Interpretation 
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  1. 2.
    W. P. Montague, in The New Realism (New York, 1912); essay on ‘A Theory of Truth and Error,’ p. 253. I have borrowed the name ‘neutral being’ from Mr. Holt (see his essay in the same book, and his Concept of Consciousness), who uses it in a different sense. His neutral being is a being which is neither mental nor physical, the simplest form of which appears to be categories such as identity and difference. Also Mr. Montague, to whom I refer here, does not use the phrase neutral being at all, and he does not call his subsistence being, and perhaps would not do so (see his account of ‘isness’ on p. 263). Both his doctrine and Mr. Holt’s seem to me, however, in the end to imply what I call neutral or bare being, the idea of something simpler than the world of Space-Time. I stand in many respects so close to them that I am the more anxious to make the real differences clear.Google Scholar

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© Macmillan & Co. Ltd. and Dover Publications, Inc. 1966

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  • S. Alexander

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