The Possible and the Actual
Take, for instance, the possible fat man in the doorway; and again, the possible bald man in the doorway. Are they the same possible man, or two possible men ? How de we decide ? How many possible men there are in that doorway ? Are there more possible thin ones than fat ones ? How many of them are alike ? Or would their being alike make them one ? Are not two possible things alike ? Is this the same as saying that it is impossible for two things to be alike ? Or, finally, is the concept of identity simply inapplicable to unactualized possibles ? But what sense can be found in talking of entities which cannot be meaningfully said to be identical with themselves and distinct from one another ?
- Willard Van Orman Quine, quoted in Nicholas Rescher, “The Ontology of the Possible”, in The Possible and the Actual, ed. Michael J. Loux (Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 1979), p. 177