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The Penny Debate as Depicted in Yablo's a Thing and Its Matter

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One highly debated piece of work in philosophy is Stephen Yablo’s “A thing and its Matter.” In this work, Yablo gives his stance on object pluralism and uses a penny as his example. The penny used in his work is a rare penny that is worth well over the original price of the copper used to make the penny, or the value of the penny when it was originally put into circulation. In his work he refers to the copper used to make the penny as “Cop” and the penny itself as “Pen”. He says that both the penny itself, and the copper the penny is made of do indeed have different properties, even though they both occupy the same space, and consist of the same material. I on the other hand strongly disagree and think that that Pen and Cop indeed do have the same properties. Pen and Cop are made of the same material and occupy the same pace which makes them the same single object. Therefore Pen and Cop have the same properties. This is my objection to Yablo’s argument that Pen and Cop’s characteristics are different.

In philosophy, there is a term known as pluralism. Pluralism is the belief that there is no consistent one-way of approaching the truth of our world or objects in our world. This is the opinion that Yablo holds. I however in this specific situation hold more of a monist view of Pen and Cop. In philosophy, a monist typically views concepts or things with oneness or singleness to them, meaning that the concept or thing only consists of itself. The penny Yablo uses in his example is a 1909-S VDB penny, which in present-day is worth several thousands of dollars. In his work, he says that the copper used to make the final product of the penny and the penny itself consist of different properties and differences. To him Pen and Cop have different properties for many reasons. One of his first arguments for this is that they are constituted differently. He says Pen is made of Cop, but Cop is not made of Cop. The first part of that argument makes sense. The penny is indeed made of copper. However, the part where he says copper is not made of copper I do not agree with. The piece of copper used to make the penny is made up of many atoms of the element copper itself. So, therefore, Cop is indeed made up of Cop. This is just one of the many examples he gives, that to me seem invalid.

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Another one of Yablo’s arguments is the value that is placed upon the copper used to make the penny and the penny itself. Yablo says that since this penny is a rare 1909-S VDB version that the penny is worth more, being valued at several thousands of dollars. He then says that the amount of copper used to make that version of the penny can be had for just a couple of cents. So with this, he says that the original copper and the penny itself have different values. To this, I would agree if we were talking about the past and present. The copper before it was made into the penny versus the penny now. However, we talking about the present state of the copper, which is the penny. Since the rare penny is made up of the copper, in this instant the rare penny and the much more abundant copper are worth the same amount, in this specific instance. That’s because here and now they consist of the same matter, are of the same shape, and exist in the same space. Therefore Pen and Cop do in fact have the same properties, and are not distinct from each other in any way. If we were talking about different instances in time, the copper when it was first mined it would have a different shape, texture, size, and occupy different space. The same sort of differences can be said for the penny in the present time. In that case, I would agree but that isn’t the case. As said early most of Yablo’s arguments in my opinion only really hold their valid if we were talking about Pen and Cop at different times of their existence.

With all of that being said I understand where Yablo’s pluralist’s ideas of Pen and Cop are coming from, but I strongly disagree with him. To him, both Pen and Cop are distinctive from each other, and both have separate qualities and characteristics such as the penny having a much greater value than the copper itself. He thinks this even though they both occupy the same space. To me, however, Pen and Cop are exactly identical because they are the same single object. Pen is made of Cop and Cop is also made of Cop. The copper made to forge the penny and the penny itself now have the same size, shape, weight, and also take up the exact same space. The value associated with the original copper and the now formed penny does not matter. In the present form of the penny, they are one and the same, which means their value is also currently equal. To me, Yablo’s argument is valid if and only if we go back in time to where the copper really is just copper and not a penny, and if we go to the present where the penny is just the penny. Then Pen and Cop can be spoken about as having different properties and even being completely separate from one another. With that all said, I respect Yablo’s opinion and argument, but heavily disagree. Pen and Cop are one and the same, so they both have the same characteristics and therefore have no differences.

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