Tuesday, December 20, 2011

On learning the law of identity

Anthony asks whether we could learn in 2012 that Shakespeare is identical with Shakespeare, given that we learned in 2012 that the Oxfordian theory is correct. I reply, this makes it difficult to distinguish between principles like the law of identity, and flaky theories like the Oxfordian theory. Consider the following two statements.

(1) It follows from the law of identity that Shakespeare is identical with Shakespeare
(2) It follows from the Oxfordian theory that Shakespeare is identical with Edward de Vere

It would clearly be false to say – even if it did turn out that the Oxfordian theory was correct - that it follows from the law of identity that Shakespeare is identical with Edward de Vere, i.e. that it follows from a logical principle that some fringe theory is correct. Otherwise we could prove all sorts of strange theories from logical principles, which of course we can’t.

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6 Comments:

Blogger J said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6:42 pm  
Blogger Anthony said...

>> Anthony asks whether we could learn in 2012 that Shakespeare is identical with Shakespeare, given that we learned in 2012 that the Oxfordian theory is correct.

Nope, that is not what I said. I said that, in 2012, we might be able to correctly say "We just learned that Shakespeare is Shakespeare." The difference is that, in 2012, the predicate "is Shakespeare" might be different from the predicate "is Shakespeare" today.

"We just learned that Shakespeare is Shakespeare" is no more ridiculous than "I just learned that the people who bought my Christmas presents are the people who bought my Christmas presents."

9:12 pm  
Blogger Anthony said...

Also, consider the opposite possibility. What if a subscriber to the Oxfordian theory is proven wrong. He thought that Bacon was Shakespeare. Might he not say "Ah, you're right. Now I know that Bacon is not Shakespeare. Now I know that Shakespeare is Shakespeare."?

9:18 pm  
Blogger J said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:47 pm  
Blogger Anthony said...

>> (1) It follows from the law of identity that Shakespeare is identical with Shakespeare

You reject this, right?

You think "Shakespeare is Shakespeare" is false, right?

10:08 pm  
Blogger J said...

Right. It's a matter of fact: synthetic, not analytical. The ambiguities with names trivial. Ie, "DeVere was the man who--most likely-- wrote the plays falsely attributed to one Shakespeare". (Actually somewhat related to Russell's klassic "On Denoting" essay--"DeVere was possibly the author of the plays supposedly written by a man supposedly named Shakespeare..")

Of course, that doesn't stop some people (whether they know modus ponens from their meth stash or not) from trying to turn it into a pseudo-philosophical issue.

12:59 am  

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