Parts, Persons, Regret
February 15, 2010 — 12:05

Author: Michael Almeida  Category: Uncategorized  Comments: 20

Maybe there’s a simple solution (or dissolution) to this problem. Suppose early in life Smith commits some terrible crime. She murders someone in a burglary. Smith never does anything wrong again and yet never regrets what she did. But no worries. Smith has a very good–indeed, decisive–reason not regret what she did. Here’s the argument.
1. At time t, a temporal part S of Smith commits terrible crime C.
2. At no time t’ later than t does a temporal part S’ of Smith commit any crime at all.
3. For any S, it appropriate for S to regret performing some action A only if S performed A.
4. For every part of Smith S’ such that S’ ≠ S, it is inappropriate for S’ to regret performing C. (from 2 and 3).
5. If, for every part of Smith S’ such that S’ ≠ S, it is inappropriate for S’ to regret performing C, then it is inappropriate for Smith to regret performing C.
6. :. It is inappropriate for Smith to regret performing C. (from 4, 5)
The shorter story is that no part of Smith other than S did C or anything else wrong. So no part of Smith other than S can properly regret performing C. But, other than S, there is no more to Smith than every part S’ such that S’ ≠ S. So, Smith cannot properly regret performing C. But that can’t be right. So either Smith can regret performing C though no part of Smith can, or Smith is not composed of temporal parts.

Comments:
  • bennington

    How is (5) true? How does it follow from all parts S’ such that S’ ≠ S not regretting performing C that all of Smith should regret performing C? Is there not part S that still regrets performing C? How then can you justify applying this to Smith?

    February 16, 2010 — 9:57
  • Mike Almeida

    I’m not sure I understand your question. The temporal part S endures only as long as it takes to commit C. So S has nothing to regret while S endures. It is the subsequent parts of Smith that might regret performing C, but none of them actually have the property of having performed C. So no part of Smith can properly regret having performed C. So neither can Smith. That’s the idea.

    February 16, 2010 — 10:54
  • …or it is appropriate for a stage S to regret the actions of other temporal parts of a person that S is a part of. That seems like the right thing for the 4-dimensionalist to say here. So we deny premise 3 when it is applied to stages. We can explain why 3 initially sounded good by pointing out that in ordinary talk, if we talk about stages as bearing the kinds of properties appropriate for people, then we generally “count by persons”: that is, we consider person-stages S and S’ the same iff they are stages of the same person.

    February 16, 2010 — 17:36
  • Perhaps I’m misreading your terminology here, but do 3, 4, and 5 all require that “S at t” and “S at T'” are totally discrete entities?

    February 16, 2010 — 17:45
  • Mike Almeida

    …or it is appropriate for a stage S to regret the actions of other temporal parts of a person that S is a part of. That seems like the right thing for the 4-dimensionalist to say here
    Jeff, right, that’s a natural way to go. But it conflates regreting that something occurred with regretting having done something. I can regret that the earthquake in Haiti occurred, since it’s a regrettable incident. But I’m not thereby regretting anything I did. We need to be able to say that I regret doing A and not merely I regret that A occurred. I don’t think a 4D-ist can say that.

    February 16, 2010 — 19:46
  • Mike Almeida

    Perhaps I’m misreading your terminology here, but do 3, 4, and 5 all require that “S at t” and “S at T'” are totally discrete entities?
    Chris, I’m pretty sure I don’t follow. What is T as opposed to t?

    February 16, 2010 — 19:48
  • Nice argument.
    If you believe in temporal parts, you may not want to say that temporal parts can have regrets. After all, if they can have regrets, they can have thoughts and be conscious and all that, and then we get Trenton Merricks’ argument against temporal parts: I can no longer know how old I am, because for all I know I am one of the temporal parts, and they all have different ages.
    In Merricks’ case, one way out could be that “I” as used by a temporal part does not refer to the temporal part but to the whole that it is a part of. Thus, when the temporal part forms the belief that it would express with “I am 37-years-old”, the “I” does not actually refer to the temporal part, but to the whole, and so it can be true even if the temporal part is five minutes old. But maybe you can’t do the same move with agent-centered regret, because such regret is essentially self-referential. It wouldn’t make sense for the part to regret that the whole did something.

    February 17, 2010 — 9:09
  • Sorry, the first one is T and the other one is T’. The apostrophe may have been hard to see because of the quote marks.
    So, to rephrase, are Smith at t and Smith at t’ discrete, separate entities?

    February 17, 2010 — 13:42
  • Mike Almeida

    . . . one way out could be that “I” as used by a temporal part does not refer to the temporal part but to the whole that it is a part of. Thus, when the temporal part forms the belief that it would express with “I am 37-years-old”, the “I” does not actually refer to the temporal part, but to the whole, and so it can be true even if the temporal part is five minutes old
    Alex,
    I’m not sure how that would work. The properties of the whole thing which is Smith are deriviative from the properties of the parts. So, it is because the part has the property of being, say, blue or sad simpliciter that Smith has the property of being blue at t or sad at t. I have no idea how the whole get’s properties if it does not derive them in this way. So, Smith regrets at t iff the Smith-part-at-t regrets simpliciter. Maybe I’m missing some other relation in virtue of which the composition which is Smith acquires properties.

    February 17, 2010 — 14:41
  • Mike Almeida

    So, to rephrase, are Smith at t and Smith at t’ discrete, separate entities?
    Chris, yes, these are distinct (temporal) parts of the perduring whole that is Smith

    February 17, 2010 — 14:42
  • Mike:
    “[1] The properties of the whole thing which is Smith are deriviative from the properties of the parts. [2] So, it is because the part has the property of being, say, blue or sad simpliciter that Smith has the property of being blue at t or sad at t. I have no idea how the whole get’s properties if it does not derive them in this way. So, Smith regrets at t iff the Smith-part-at-t regrets simpliciter.”
    I think claim (2) does not follow from claim (1). Here’s an alternate proposal: it is because the part has the property of being, say, blue* or sad* simpliciter that Smith has the property of being blue at t or sad at t. What are “blue*” and “sad*”? Well, they’re properties we have no names for, because normally we deal with “blue” and “sad”. We can say that “sad*” denotes that property in virtue of the possession of which by a part the whole is sad. (Compare: An “electron” is dthat entity in virtue of the presence of which such-and-such physical phenomena occur. So the starred properties are like theoretical entities. They are prior in the order of being and posterior in the order of knowledge, as Aquinas would say.) So, Smith regrets at t iff the Smith-part-at-t regrets* simpliciter. But a regret* is not a regret.
    Maybe blue* = blue. Maybe even sad* = sad (though I think the parts-theorist should go that far). But your argument has shown that regret* is not regret.

    February 18, 2010 — 0:56
  • Mike Almeida

    Here’s an alternate proposal: it is because the part has the property of being, say, blue* or sad* simpliciter that Smith has the property of being blue at t or sad at t. What are “blue*” and “sad*”? Well, they’re properties we have no names for, because normally we deal with “blue” and “sad”.
    Very interesting! But how do we manage temporary intrinsics? We do want to say that at t a part of me S is bent simpliciter and at t’ a part of me S’ is not. We don’t invoke bent* or other *-properties to manage temporary intrinsics. So it looks fishy that we invoke *-properties when trying to solve certain problems, and we ignore them when trying to solve others.

    February 18, 2010 — 8:44
  • To be consistent, we should then invoke the starred properties to handle temporary intrinsics. However, in the case of geometric properties, the starred properties may turn out be the same as the unstarred ones. Not so in the case of mental properties. This asymmetry is interesting, and is a reason, but probably not by itself a conclusive one, to reject the temporal parts theory.

    February 18, 2010 — 9:03
  • Mike Almeida

    So the starred properties are like theoretical entities. They are prior in the order of being and posterior in the order of knowledge, as Aquinas would say.) So, Smith regrets at t iff the Smith-part-at-t regrets* simpliciter. But a regret* is not a regret.
    This is an interesting way to go, but the problem can be restated. No doubt, certain parts of me do experience regret. The part that occupied the interval between 9am and 9:10am for instance. And none of those parts can properly regret what was done at 8:30am. So we have the same problem at a higher level of composition.

    February 19, 2010 — 11:44
  • But the point would be that the parts can’t experience regret on this view. Maybe only persons can experience regret, and the parts aren’t persons. The parts can experience* regret* (or maybe experience* regret); they are persons*.
    Wacky view? Maybe–but I think that’s the only way for the four-dimensionalist who believes in temporal parts to go. 🙂

    February 21, 2010 — 23:12
  • Jeremy Pierce

    It seems to me that a worm-perdurantist should just say that what it is for me to have done F at t is that a stage of my worm did F at t.
    Then a stage-perdurantist should say that what it is for me to have done F at t is for me to be worm-related to an earlier stage that did F at t.
    So a perdurantist of either stripe could affirm 3 while denying 5.

    February 27, 2010 — 14:52
  • Mike Almeida

    So a perdurantist of either stripe could affirm 3 while denying 5.
    The only way for me to regret having done A yesteday is for some part of me S’ to regret having done A yesterday. But there is no part of me that is identical to anyone/anything who did A yesterday. So there is no part of me that can appropriately regret having done anything yesterday. But then I cannot appropriately regret having done anything yesterday, unless I can regret having done A yesterday without a part of me doing so. But of course that’s not possible.

    February 27, 2010 — 15:25
  • Jeremy:
    Are you thinking of instantaneous stages? But it’s implausible to think that instantaneous stages do any real actions (unless maybe something like instantaneous contemplatings). They don’t have enough time to!
    Suppose the stages are non-instantaneous. But now they seem to simply be temporal parts. And then we have an odd overdetermination of the truth. Suppose I do F between t0 and t1, and I live longer than that. Well, there are lots (infinitely many, if time is infinitely subdivided) of temporal parts that do F–all the ones which live for the whole interval between t0 and t1. But then I do F in virtue of each one of these doing F, and so my doing F is oddly overdetermined.
    So maybe the story is this: there is some temporal part of minimum size for the doing of F, and it is in virtue of that part’s doing F that I do F. I am not completely sure there will always be a minimum size, unless time is only finitely subdivided (which I guess is likely, given some arguments I’ve given). But let’s grant that there is a minimum size. Then it seems that, at least on the stage view, my doing of F and that part’s doing of F are significantly different, to the point where one wants to say that the “doing of F” is not univocal between the two cases. For my doing of F is not an instance of my causing anything; it is that other part’s doing of F is an instance of its causing something. On the worm view, on the other hand, it seems like we lack univocity, since “doing” is not univocal between the intentional activity of a person and the activity of something other than a person, and it is only I, not my temporal part, that am a person.
    Without univocity, maybe what we really have is my asterisk-based solution. Or maybe we call it analogy rather than equivocity and drop the asterisks? I guess that might work.

    February 27, 2010 — 16:45
  • Jeremy Pierce

    The way Ted Sider does it is in terms of temporal-counterpart relations to an earlier instantaneous stage or to some mereological sum of such stages. It doesn’t affect the analysis if you make that explicit.
    I know Ted says sometimes normal English is a paraphrase of the actual metaphysical story, and sometimes it’s not. So expressions like “having done X” should be paraphrased as “having a temporal-counterpart relation to earlier temporal parts that together did X”.
    Expressions like “being identical with X” are then ambiguous. One thing it can mean is how this argument uses the term, but Ted would say that’s not the correct paraphrase given a stage view. What you’re saying when you ask if you’re identical to some earlier stage or set of stages is you want to know if you have the right counterpart relation to those stages. So it is correct when paraphrasing to say that you are identical to the earlier stage, and Ted would say that the appropriate grounding for moral responsibility is not strict identity but what we ordinarily mean by identity when we’re talking without giving the stage-analysis.
    Worm proponents will do something similar. The problem with this argument is that it happily gives the paraphrase in order to give the metaphysical story given the ontology of four-dimensionalism, but it refuses to give the paraphrase for the statements of moral responsibility. The four-dimensionalist shouldn’t accept the one paraphrase without the other.

    February 27, 2010 — 22:16
  • Mike Almeida

    What you’re saying when you ask if you’re identical to some earlier stage or set of stages is you want to know if you have the right counterpart relation to those stages.
    No, that’s not what I’m asking at all. It is what the 4D-ist interprets me as asking. I know what the identity relation is and, unlike the relation between stages, the identity relaion is an equivalence relation. The relation btween the stages is not. Now you might argue that the two stages S and S’ are not identitical, which they obviously aren’t, but they are two stages of the same person P. I agree that the same person P exists over the two stages S and S, but P is not ‘fully present’ at either S or S’. Here’s how the problem arises: (i) P has the property F only if some stage (or set of stages) of P has F, (ii) no stage or set of stages S’ (S’≠ S) of P has the property (or could have the property) of appropriately regreting having done A. No stage of P has that property–or could have that property–because no stage S’ of P actually performed A. So, the 4D-ist has to reply that either (i’) S’ might appropriately regret having done A even though S’ did not perform A or (ii’) S’ is related to S in a way that makes it correct to say that S’ did perform A. (i’) looks to me hopelessly incoherent. S’ can’t regret doing what S’ didn’t do. What about (ii’)? It’s also incoherent. Compare my train story:

    Suppose you are wondering what parts of a train need repair. You notice that the wheels on the caboose are about the fall off. You reason this way: the wheels on the caboose C are about to fall off, but the third car T on the train stands in the right relation to C to make C and T parts of the same train T+. Since T and C are the same T+, and C has the property of having loose wheels, it is correct to say that T has the property of having loose wheels. So better get to work on T.

    The fact that the S and S’ are parts of the same train, or same person, does not entail that S and S’ have their properties in common, and it does not make it correct to talk as though they have their properties in common. So we cannot correctly say that T has loose wheels and we cannot correctly say that S’ performed A. So S’ cannot correctly regret having done A, and so (given (i) above) neither can P.

    February 28, 2010 — 8:52