E. J. Lowe

in The Oxford Handbook of Metaphysics

Published in print September 2005 | ISBN: 9780199284221
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy


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The term ‘individuation’ has both a metaphysical and an epistemic or cognitive sense, although these two senses are closely related. In the epistemic sense, individuation is a cognitive activity—something that we, or intelligent beings in general, can do. For someone toindividuate an object, in this sense, is for that person to ‘single out’ that object as a distinct object of perception, thought, or linguistic reference. Different people clearly have different powers of individuation in this sense. One can only ‘single out’ objects which are there to be singled out, that is, parts of reality which constitute single objects. Individuation in the metaphysical sense is an ontological relationship between entities: what ‘individuates’ an object, in this sense, is whatever it is that makes it the single object that it is—whatever it is that makes it one object, distinct from others, and the very object that it is as opposed to any other thing.

Keywords: individuation; epistemic sense; cognitive sense; linguistic reference; metaphysics; ontological relationship

Article.  9978 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Metaphysics

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