L.S., the word numerical has several meanings. E.g. numerical in the meaning ''given by numbers', and when saying Numerical Identity, meaning 'only one'.

When was the first time the word was mentioned in the context of Identity, who was the first person which said so.

  • I am not sure if this is on topic here or not. Perhaps someone has an answer. Regardless, welcome to Philosophy! Feb 19, 2019 at 19:00
  • Try the SE history of science and mathematics group
    – Richard
    Feb 19, 2019 at 19:59
  • shame over me, sorry, sorry, because of not answering earlier. Your answer on my question was, and is of course, perfect. Special the book of Morrisson. Thank you. I thought so, 'Numerically' is only saying: a thing is a thing. Or, every separate object has the identity if being an entity, what that might be. Numerical Identity says nothing about telling-apart or distinguishes objects on a basis of unique(numerical) morphological characteristics or features. In a way, this is kind of funny. This is funny because our personal interindividual functioning as people finds its ground in morphologic
    – HenkNum
    Jul 13, 2020 at 10:26

1 Answer 1


It is "numerically" one because it is "counted" as one. The word "numerical" in this context comes from Latin translations of Aristotle, who writes in the Categories, Ch 5, 4a10–11 and 18–21:

"It seems most distinctive of substance that what is numericallyone and the same is able to receive contraries... For example,an individual man — one and the same — becomes pale at onetime and dark at another, and hot and cold, and bad and good."

Although there is some controversy as to interpreting what Aristotle meant, it was canonized in a particular way by medieval Aristotelians and spread into theological and legal discourse. For example, Aquinas writes in Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, Question 81:

"[T]he human body, over one’s lifetime, does not always have thesame parts materially... Materially, the parts come and go, and this does not prevent a human being from being numerically onefrom the beginning of his life until the end."

Morrison in Descartes on Numerical Identity and Time also discusses further developments, including Leibniz's identity of indiscernibles, and modern collapse of the distinction between numerical and qualitative identity.


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