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“Cicero” and “Tully” are different, at least for some people, or they
couldn™t move these people™s minds differently. Their causal action on
these people™s minds is not the same, so clearly they are mediated dif-
ferently. The question is whether their contents must be different in or-
der for this to be so. Might they not differ instead, as it were, merely in
notation, in vehicle?
One has to assume same-different transparency, in particular, one has
already to have externalized differents, for this Fregean argument to go
through. One has already to believe that only different contents could
correspond to, that is, either determine or be determined by, different
movements of the mind. But it is perfectly possible that even though
the same movements of the mind always corresponded to the same
contents again, different movements sometimes corresponded to the
same content as well. Sames can be externalized without externalizing
differents. One needs an argument that different movements of the
mind always correspond to semantic differences, to different ways of
helping to determine truth value. One needs an argument that only
content can affect movements of the mind, that there is no vehicle
moving the mind but the very content itself. Or one needs an argument
that different movements of the mind result in different contents, differ-
ent ways of helping to determine truth value, if that is the direction in
which the determination goes.


In confusing the content of thought with its vehicle, I believe the pas-
sive picture or repetition theory of the act of reidentifying is surely mis-
taken.This point needs to be made very generally. For example, no mat-
ter what kind of description is given of “modes of presentation,” say, as
words or descriptions in a language of thought, or as graspings of ab-
stract objects, or as presentations of Kaplan-style character types, or ap-
plications of concepts with certain possession conditions (Peacocke), or
ways that the thinker knows which object it is he thinks about (Evans),
and so forth, still, the repetition of such a referential mode of thought
would not, simply as such, constitute an act of reidentifying content.
Reciprocally, there can be no direct argument from the fact that a cer-
tain sameness of content is or is not grasped to a conclusion about
identity or difference for corresponding “intermediaries” (Section 8.3).
There can be no direct argument from the necessary visaging of same-
ness (by a rational or well-oiled mind), say, from the impossibility of
taking opposing attitudes toward contents, to a conclusion about repe-
tition of aspect in the presentation of these contents, that is, to a con-
clusion about sameness of mode of presentation as this notion is usually
Supposing that identical intermediaries always possess identical con-
tents (that is, suppose we externalize sames), then sameness in interme-
diaries will be an indication of sameness in content, perhaps it will con-
tain the fact of this sameness as natural information and so forth. But
compare: Two bee dances danced side by side may jointly be an indica-
tion, or between them contain the natural information, that two sites of
nectar are forty yards apart. It does not follow that the bees can read this
information off the pair of dances. Not everything that falls out of a
representational system is necessarily read or readable even by its pri-
mary interpreters. If we have rejected the passive picture theory of in-
ner representation we should also be able to see that the mere being the
same of two thoughts or percepts does not accomplish anything all by
itself even when the fact of this sameness is a natural indication of
sameness in content, or when this sameness is an implication of the
content represented. The fact of sameness must be read somehow if it is
to represent, rather than just be, a sameness. This sameness must appro-
priately interact with or move the thinking system in some way if it is
to represent itself.

Nor should we fall into this nearby error: The way that the system
must move or be moved in order to be grasping a sameness is just in-
the-same-way-again. Given the same context, having the same effects
may be secured, of course, just by being the same. Having the same ef-
fects is merely a part of being the same, and does not add anything to it.
Consider the story of Zak, a patient at the Bell Neurological Insti-
tute, a victim of stroke, suffering selective amnesia. Each morning, Dr.
Helm comes in to see Zak, wearing a white coat and a name tag that
says “Dr. Helm, MD.” Each morning Zak greets him with “good morn-
ing, Dr. Helm,” and when asked if he knows who Helm is, being no
fool, Zak unhesitatingly answers “my doctor.” The appearance is thus
that Zak always identifies Helm the same way and correctly. Nor, we
suppose, does Zak have problems articulating a theory of the identity of
persons over time; he used to be a philosophy professor. Upon further
questioning, however, each morning Zak reveals that he does not re-
member ever having seen Helm before, nor does he show any signs of
familiarity with the routine Helm puts him through each morning.
That is, it appears that Zak does not recognize Helm after all. Though
he appears to have an individuating idea of Helm, even what Gareth
Evans would call a “fundamental Idea” of Helm (Section 13.3), he is in-
capable of reidentifying him. He has no concept of this person that lasts
over time.
Compare a much simpler case. The frog that reacts the same way
each time its optic-nerve bug-detector fires does not thereby cognize a
sameness among the bugs it eats. Something rather like the opposite is
true, I suggest. A creature™s perception that it is encountering the same
thing again shows up, characteristically, in its reacting differently this time,
differently according to what it learned last time. That the baby recog-
nizes you is exhibited not in its crying again “ that is how it reacts to
strangers “ but in its smiling, or exhibiting other behaviors apparently
based on its earlier experience with you. And, of course, the notion that
reidentifying a thing involves “applying the same concept again,” say, at-
taching the same thought or mental name to it, is precisely the central
version of the passive picture theory we have been discussing all along.4
As mentioned in Section 9.3, there is a passage in which Evans an-
swers Molyneux™s question by externalizing sameness, taking behaving
the same in response to visual and tactual perceptions to constitute vis-
aging of sameness in content. It would be odd to call this an application

4 But see also Section 10.3.

of the “passive picture theory” of the act of identifying. But the general
principle is exactly the same. It is another kind of example of the rep-
etition theory of the act of reidentifying. Surely, merely effecting the
same connection with “behavioral space” again is not to manifest a
grasp of anything™s sameness.
In what kind of way does one™s thinking have to move then, or in
what kind of way does one have to behave, in order to grasp an iden-
tity? That is what Chapter 10 is about.

Grasping Sameness1


In Subject and Predicate in Logic and Grammar, Strawson (1974) offers “a
picture or model” of what happens when a man learns that two things
formerly thought to be separate are in fact one and the same. “We are
to picture a [knowledge] map, as it were” on which all those individu-
als the man knows of are represented by dots, and the predicates the
man knows to apply to each are written in lines emanating from these
dots or, if the predicate is relational, lines joining two dots.
Now when [the man] receives what is for him new information . . . he incor-
porates [this] by . . . making an alteration on his knowledge map [for example,]
he draws a further line between two dots. But when it is an identity statement
containing two names from which he receives new information, he adds no
further lines. He has at least enough lines already; at least enough lines and cer-
tainly one too many dots. So what he does is to eliminate one dot of the two,
at the same time transferring to the remaining one . . . all those lines and names
which attach to the eliminated dot. (Strawson 1974, pp. 54“5.)

On Strawson™s picture, the identity of a particular is represented in
the mind by the identity of another particular.2 So long as you haven™t

1 Portions of this chapter were revised from “Images of Identity” (Millikan 1997b), with the
kind permission of Oxford University Press, and from “On unclear and indistinct ideas”
(Millikan 1994), which appeared in Philosophical Perspectives, 8, Logic and Language, edited by
James E. Tombelin (copyright by Ridgeview Publishing Co., Atascadero, CA). Reprinted
by permission of Ridgeview Publishing Company.
2 I will move back and forth between idioms appropriate to traditional thinking about
minds, and idioms more appropriate to thinking about brains, on the assumption that the
structural forms we will be comparing are abstract enough to justify this. Theories of

made any mistakes, everything you know about your mother is attached
to the same particular mental representation of your mother, to the same
token. Your understanding that all these facts are facts about the same
woman consists in the representations of the logical predicates of each
of these facts being attached to numerically the same “dot” in your
mind or brain. Call this the “Strawson model” of how identity or same-
ness is thought.
A more familiar model pictures thoughts each as a separate sentence
token in a mental language. On this model the identity of a particular
is represented by the identity of a mental word type rather than the
identity of a token or particular. What Strawson would model using a
single dot and two lines, a language of thought model renders as two
different sentence tokens containing a word type in common, say,
<Tom is married> and <Tom is harried>. Generalizing this to any sys-
tem in which sameness is represented by duplication of form, we can
speak of the “duplicates model” of how identity is represented. The use
of this model should be carefully distinguished from the repetition view
of the act of identifying, scouted in Chapter 9. The duplicates model is
a model of how identity is represented.The repetition view from Chap-
ter 9 concerns what constitutes the act of reidentifying, that is, what
constitutes that the mind understands a certain representation of iden-
tity as a representation of identity. Compare: I can represent a dog by
drawing a picture of a dog or by writing down the word “dog” or by
saying “dog.” The question what it is for me to understand any of these
as a representation of a dog is another matter entirely. It might be
claimed, for example, that although the appearance of identical repre-
sentational vehicles does not actually constitute an act of identifying, still
a reasonable hypothesis about the mechanics of human conception is
that our conceptual mechanisms have a compulsory disposition to per-
form acts of identifying over identical representational vehicles.
Another model of how identity might be represented, one also taken
from language, is the “equals” model. Here a second marker, a men-
tal equals sign, rides piggyback on the duplicates marker, indicating ex-
amples of two different duplicatable types. The effect of this “identity

thought inevitably proceed on the assumption that there are abstract analogies between
how thoughts work and how more mundane things work or might work. Think, for ex-
ample, of Plato™s Theaetetus with its mind that talks to itself, its wax imprints and its birds,
or to the classical tradition that ideas are “like” their causes or that ideas are “associated” in
the mind, and so forth. My talk about “the Strawson model,”“the Christmas lights model,”
“the synchrony model,” and so forth, should be understood in the same spirit.

belief ” is that all tokens of either exemplified type are then treated as
representing the same.
An absorbing contemporary discussion among cognitive neurologists
concerns the “binding problem.” Neurological evidence indicates that
various kinds of sensory information arriving from the same object,
such as information about form, color, and direction of motion, are not
processed in the same area of the brain but filtered through “widely dis-
seminated feature detecting neurons located even in different areas or
cerebral hemispheres” (Engel 1993). How then is it represented that
these various features belong to the same object, and not to entirely
different objects merely copresent in the perceptual field? One hypoth-
esis is that synchronous spiking in neural firing patterns on a millisec-
ond time scale indicates which sets of neurons are responding to the
same object. Roughly, cells that fire together purport to talk about the
same object; identity is represented by synchrony. If identity might be
represented this way in perception, why not also in thought? Call this
the “synchrony model” of how identity is thought.
Connectionist explorations suggest as a crude model that units rep-
resenting the same object might be strongly connected so that they tend
to be activated together like Christmas tree lights on the same string.
Then a certain causal connection would represent identity. Call this the
“Christmas lights model” of how identity is thought.
Anaphoric pronouns, which occur in all natural languages, suggest a
model according to which each representation of the same object bears
some kind of pointing relation to prior representations of that same ob-
ject. Call this the “anaphor model” of how identity is thought.
And so forth.
Now it is strongly emphasized in the Fregean tradition that repre-
senting the same referent twice, representing it once and then again,
must be carefully distinguished from representing it as being the same
referent again. If someone represents Mark Twain to herself and then
represents Samuel Clemens, she represents the same thing twice, but it
does not follow that she represents or understands that these are the
same. Reflection on the above models, combined with the reflections in
Chapter 9, shows that we should be equally careful to distinguish be-
tween representing the same thing twice in the same way, that is, dupli-
cating a representation of it, and representing it as being the same thing
again. If someone represents Mark Twain to herself in a certain way and
then represents Mark Twain again in exactly the same way “ if she du-
plicates a representation of Mark Twain “ it does not follow that she

represents or understands that the two referents are the same.To assume
this would be either to embrace the passive picture view of the act of
reidentifying, or else to beg the question how the mind or brain repre-
sents identity. If the latter, it would assume that duplication is used by the
mind/brain as a sameness marker prior to any evidence that this is the
case.There is no reason to suppose in advance that it is sameness “ like-
ness “ that represents sameness.
Employing an example from perception, suppose that you observe
the same individual apple in exactly the same context from exactly the
same angle under exactly the same lighting conditions on two different
occasions, and make exactly the same perceptual and cognitive response
to it each time. Merely as such, this fact neither constitutes that you rec-
ognize the apple as being the same apple again, nor need it trigger or
produce such a recognition, either perceptually or cognitively. On the
other hand, there are relations other than duplication among percepts
that mark object identity across time straightaway for the human per-
ceiver, namely, the right continuities in perceived place and time. Given
the right continuities, one's perception may be of an object as being the
same one over a period of perceptual tracking despite its apparently
changing in every one of its observed properties. This sort of tracking
of an object, say, with the eyes, does not involve repeating some particu-
lar way of perceiving or thinking of the object, or repeating some way
of recognizing it over and over. It is not repetition that constitutes or
triggers perceptual grasp of identity.
What I have been saying about mental markers for identity of indi-
viduals also applies, of course, to markers for other kinds of sameness.
Just as representing the same individual twice in the same way is not
representing it as the same individual, representing the same property
twice in the same way is not representing it as the same property “ not
unless duplication happens to be what the system uses as its sameness
marker for properties.We cannot assume without evidence, for example,
that whenever the same color, shape, or distance are represented in per-
ception the same way twice, once on the left, say, and once on the right,
one ipso facto recognizes these properties as being the same. Also recall,
for example, the identifying of a heard with a seen direction. Although
this kind of identifying is automatic, even compulsory, it is implausible
that an identity in vehicles triggers it. Recall also that we can learn to
perceive hitherto unrecognized identities directly or compulsorily via
perceptual learning. It seems implausible that the vehicles of perception
are somehow changed accordingly so that they now match.

A system of thought might also use different sameness markers for
different kinds of identities. As Strawson described his own model, the
sameness markers for predicates were not what I have called “Strawson
markers,” but were duplicates markers.
In this chapter, I propose to address the question what would consti-
tute that a mind or a brain was using one method of marking sameness
rather than another.


Suppose that the cognitive neurologist “ or God “ looks down into the
mind/brain with an eye to deciphering which of its various states or
events are the ones representing identities. How is the neurologist or
God to tell, given a mind in motion, how it is thinking identities?
First, we might ask, on what evidence do neurologists in fact suppose
that synchrony may be the brain™s marker of identity for perceived ob-
jects? The evidence they give is that synchrony is in fact found (in
monkeys and cats) among cells responding to the various properties of
numerically the same visually presented objects. At least within the
more accessible visually involved layers of the brain, information about
one and only one individual object feeds into one synchrony, informa-
tion about others into other synchronies.
Generalizing the neurologist™s method suggests that evidence for some
feature being the sameness marker used by a system is that information
derived from the same thing in the environment systematically shows up
marked by this marker. Thus, evidence for Strawson™s model would be
that all and only structures bearing information derived from numeri-
cally the same environmental source showed up attached to numerically
the same something-or-other in the brain or mind; evidence for the du-
plicates model would be that all and only structures bearing information
derived from numerically the same source showed up attached to struc-
tures alike by some specified principle of likeness, and so forth.
There is an obvious problem with this method, nor has it escaped
notice by the neurologists (e.g., Singer 1995). Synchrony among neu-
ronal firings caused by the same object may be only a byproduct of the
brain™s perceptual activities. That these neurons fire synchronously may
have no connection with any cognitive work done by the brain. That a
bit of natural information about sameness of source resides in the brain
does not prove that the brain uses or understands this information, any
more than the presence of natural information in the sky carried by

black clouds proves that the sky thinks it will rain. Compare the hy-
pothesis that certain neurons in the visual system are “feature detectors.”
The circuitry that produces firing of such neurons may seem to be in-
tricately specialized to support this function, but the final proof must
demonstrate that the firings are used as feature detectors, that is, that the
information collected by them actually guides the organism to take ac-
count of the features apparently detected. Similarly, for whatever is
found in the brain or mind that appears to be a sameness marker. What
the neurologists would like to show is that synchrony is not just a nat-
ural indicator of sameness, but is effective in guiding thought and action
to take account of the indicated sameness. It appears then that we must
start further back. We must ask, what is involved in using a marker as a
sameness marker? What does a mind have to do in order to manifest
understanding of its own sameness markers? In what kind of way does
one™s mind have to move in order to grasp an identity?
Begin by asking, what is the point of grasping identity? What does
one do with a knowledge of identity? Why should it matter to any or-
ganism whether or not various pieces of information that it has ac-
quired are about the same object or about different objects? Suppose
that I recognize for the first time that Cicero is Tully.What am I able to
do that I was not able to do before? Well, if I knew before that Cicero
was bald, I now also know that Tully was bald. And how does that
change anything, that I now know that Tully was bald? After all, I al-
ready knew that Cicero was bald and that was exactly the same thing to
know. Why not be satisfied with knowing some things about Cicero
under one idea of him, other things under other ideas of him, even if I
don™t know that these ideas grasp the same? So long as I pack all the
right information in one way or another, why does it matter (putting
things in familiar duplicates-model terminology) what notation I use?
Why does an organism need to have sameness markers in perception or
It matters because if I don™t recognize the identity of Cicero with
Tully, then I cannot combine the various things that I know about this
man, Cicero/Tully, so as to yield anything new. I cannot perform medi-
ate inferences using the thought of Cicero/Tully as a middle term.Tak-
ing a mundane and more general example, suppose that I perceive that
± is orange and that β is round and that γ smells sweet and that δ is
fist-sized and that µ is within reach.Why does it matter whether ± = β,
or whether δ = µ, and so forth? Because if ± = β = γ = δ = µ, but
only then, probably this is a reachable orange, hence can provide me

nourishment. Only by using these various bits of information together
can this understanding be reached. But these bits can be used together
legitimately only if they all carry information about the same. Suppose
that I believe that A is smaller than B and that C is smaller than D. Only
if I also grasp both that B = C, and also that the thought smaller than has
the same content in both beliefs, can I make an inference: A is smaller
than D.
Some middle terms are predicative (A is smaller than B and B is
smaller than C . . . ) and some are propositional rather than denotative (if
P then Q, and P, therefore Q) but there is always at least one repeated
element involved in an amplificatory inference. Again, suppose that I
believe that Cicero is bald but that Tully is not. Only if I also under-
stand both that Cicero = Tully and that the thought bald has the same
content in both beliefs can I discover that I am involved in a contra-
diction. Consider a person manipulating symbols to derive theorems in
a logical system. In such a system, identity is marked, primarily, by du-
plication. Does such a person do the same thing again whenever the

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