- Except for the occasional sceptic, we all believe that things persist through time. We think that the familiar objects and persons with which we interact on a regular basis persist from day to day. I believe that the chair on which I am sitting is the same chair on which I sat yesterday and that the man who brings me today's mail is the same person who delivered yesterday's mail; and I believe that the same is true of myself. Indeed, it almost seems misleading to say that I believe that I persist through time. The claim strikes us as too guarded: it seems to suggest that I might be in some doubt about my persistence through time. The fact is, however, that the proposition that I — this very person — existed yesterday and the day before that and the day before that is about as certain to me as any proposition.
- But what is it for a thing — whether a material object or a person — to persist through time? Metaphysicians have given us two different types of answers to this question.
The first answer to our question is called endurantism1; the second, perdurantism2.
- According to one answer, for an object to persist through time is for it to exist whole and entire at each of several different times. On this view, temporal persistence is a matter of strict identity: where something persists through time, a thing existing wholly and completely at one time is numerically identical with a thing existing wholly and completely at another time.
- The other answer to our question denies that what exists wholly and completely at one time can be literally identical with something existing wholly and completely at another time. On this view, a thing persists by having different parts — what are called temporal parts — existing at different times.
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