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Ideas of M.R. Ayers, by Text

[British, fl. 1975, Professor at Oxford University, and fellow of Wadham College.]

1974 Individuals without Sortals
Intro p.113 Some say a 'covering concept' completes identity; others place the concept in the reference
     Full Idea: Some hold that the 'covering concept' completes the incomplete concept of identity, determining the kind of sameness involved. Others strongly deny the identity itself is incomplete, and locate the covering concept within the necessary act of reference.
     From: M.R. Ayers (Individuals without Sortals [1974], Intro)
     A reaction: [a bit compressed; Geach is the first view, and Quine the second; Wiggins is somewhere between the two]
Intro p.114 Speakers need the very general category of a thing, if they are to think about it
     Full Idea: If a speaker indicates something, then in order for others to catch his reference they must know, at some level of generality, what kind of thing is indicated. They must categorise it as event, object, or quality. Thinking about something needs that much.
     From: M.R. Ayers (Individuals without Sortals [1974], Intro)
     A reaction: Ayers defends the view that such general categories are required, but not the much narrower sortal terms defended by Geach and Wiggins. I'm with Ayers all the way. 'What the hell is that?'
Intro p.117 Recognising continuity is separate from sortals, and must precede their use
     Full Idea: The recognition of the fact of continuity is logically independent of the possession of sortal concepts, whereas the formation of sortal concepts is at least psychologically dependent upon the recognition of continuity.
     From: M.R. Ayers (Individuals without Sortals [1974], Intro)
     A reaction: I take this to be entirely correct. I might add that unity must also be recognised.
'Concl' p.144 Events do not have natural boundaries, and we have to set them
     Full Idea: In order to know which event has been ostensively identified by a speaker, the auditor must know the limits intended by the speaker. ...Events do not have natural boundaries.
     From: M.R. Ayers (Individuals without Sortals [1974], 'Concl')
     A reaction: He distinguishes events thus from natural objects, where the world, to a large extent, offers us the boundaries. Nice point.
'Concl' p.144 You can't have the concept of a 'stage' if you lack the concept of an object
     Full Idea: It would be impossible for anyone to have the concept of a stage who did not already possess the concept of a physical object.
     From: M.R. Ayers (Individuals without Sortals [1974], 'Concl')
'Concl' p.146 We use sortals to classify physical objects by the nature and origin of their unity
     Full Idea: Sortals are the terms by which we intend to classify physical objects according to the nature and origin of their unity.
     From: M.R. Ayers (Individuals without Sortals [1974], 'Concl')
     A reaction: This is as opposed to using sortals for the initial individuation. I take the perception of the unity to come first, so resemblance must be mentioned, though it can be an underlying (essentialist) resemblance.
'Concl' p.147 Sortals basically apply to individuals
     Full Idea: Sortals, in their primitive use, apply to the individual.
     From: M.R. Ayers (Individuals without Sortals [1974], 'Concl')
     A reaction: If the sortal applies to the individual, any essence must pertain to that individual, and not to the class it has been placed in.
'Counting' p.139 To express borderline cases of objects, you need the concept of an 'object'
     Full Idea: The only explanation of the power to produce borderline examples like 'Is this hazelnut one object or two?' is the possession of the concept of an object.
     From: M.R. Ayers (Individuals without Sortals [1974], 'Counting')
'Counting' p.139 Counting 'coin in this box' may have coin as the unit, with 'in this box' merely as the scope
     Full Idea: If we count the concept 'coin in this box', we could regard coin as the 'unit', while taking 'in this box' to limit the scope. Counting coins in two boxes would be not a difference in unit (kind of object), but in scope.
     From: M.R. Ayers (Individuals without Sortals [1974], 'Counting')
     A reaction: This is a very nice alternative to the Fregean view of counting, depending totally on the concept, and rests more on a natural concept of object. I prefer Ayers. Compare 'count coins till I tell you to stop'.
'Prob' p.119 If diachronic identites need covering concepts, why not synchronic identities too?
     Full Idea: Why are covering concepts required for diachronic identities, when they must be supposed unnecessary for synchronic identities?
     From: M.R. Ayers (Individuals without Sortals [1974], 'Prob')
'Prob' p.120 If there are two objects, then 'that marble, man-shaped object' is ambiguous
     Full Idea: The statue is marble and man-shaped, but so is the piece of marble. So not only are the two objects in the same place, but two marble and man-shaped objects in the same place, so 'that marble, man-shaped object' must be ambiguous or indefinite.
     From: M.R. Ayers (Individuals without Sortals [1974], 'Prob')
     A reaction: It strikes me as basic that it can't be a piece of marble if you subtract its shape, and it can't be a statue if you subtract its matter. To treat a statue as an object, separately from its matter, is absurd.
'Prob' p.122 Temporal 'parts' cannot be separated or rearranged
     Full Idea: Temporally extended 'parts' are still mysteriously inseparable and not subject to rearrangement: a thing cannot be cut temporally in half.
     From: M.R. Ayers (Individuals without Sortals [1974], 'Prob')
     A reaction: A nice warning to anyone accepting a glib analogy between spatial parts and temporal parts.
'Realist' vi p.131 Seeing caterpillar and moth as the same needs continuity, not identity of sortal concepts
     Full Idea: It is unnecessary to call moths 'caterpillars' or caterpillars 'moths' to see that they can be the same individual. It may be that our sortal concepts reflect our beliefs about continuity, but our beliefs about continuity need not reflect our sortals.
     From: M.R. Ayers (Individuals without Sortals [1974], 'Realist' vi)
     A reaction: Something that metamorphosed through 15 different stages could hardly required 15 different sortals before we recognised the fact. Ayers is right.
'Realist' vii p.131 If counting needs a sortal, what of things which fall under two sortals?
     Full Idea: If we accepted that counting objects always presupposes some sortal, it is surely clear that the class of objects to be counted could be designated by two sortals rather than one.
     From: M.R. Ayers (Individuals without Sortals [1974], 'Realist' vii)
     A reaction: His nice example is an object which is both 'a single piece of wool' and a 'sweater', which had better not be counted twice. Wiggins struggles to argue that there is always one 'substance sortal' which predominates.
'Realist' vii p.132 Could the same matter have more than one form or principle of unity?
     Full Idea: The abstract question arises of whether the same matter could be subject to more than one principle of unity simultaneously, or unified by more than one 'form'.
     From: M.R. Ayers (Individuals without Sortals [1974], 'Realist' vii)
     A reaction: He suggests that the unity of the sweater is destroyed by unravelling, and the unity of the thread by cutting.