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Monday, December 10, 2012


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Thanks, Bill! I agree that the dispute is merely terminological; however, I regard the more general usage at least partly justified by the fact that this is the usage adopted by the proponents of Transparent Intensional Logic (TIL). Although arguably an obscure cabal, they are (as well arguably) developing and defending the most expressive Fregean-based formal language available. I simply chose to discuss their position, using their terminology. Best,


One more rambling thought: You yourself, Bill, have defined a bare particular as a "particular that lacks nature or nontrivial essential properties", obviously referring to the Bergmannian bare particular. However, thus defined, the notion does not seem to me to contain any implicit ties to constituent ontology. It seems to be general enough to cover both the Bergmannian notion and the TIL notion. So I wonder: was Bergman's notion actually defined in the narrow way suggested by you? Wasn't it rather part of Bergmann's non-trivial ontological theory that bare particulars, defined broadly as particulars without natures, function as constituents of familiar particulars that individuate them?

It seems desirable to me to develop philosophical vocabulary and conceptual arsenal independent, as regards its meaning, from the competing philosophical theories, so that it can be used to discuss and compare them "from without". Of course -- it is a non-trivial philosophical assumption that it is at all possible.




Thanks for the response. I hope to get on with the substantive discussion before long.

You may be interested that four years ago I discussed existence with Pavel Materna. http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2008/11/existence-some.html


As for your second comment, I should think that 'bare particular' is a terminus technicus whose meaning is wholly derived from the theory in which it is embedded. You seem to be suggesting that 'bare particular' has a meaning independent of philosophical theories so that it would be possible to ask which theory of bare particulars is to be preferrred. That may be true of 'ordinary particular' which is closer to ordinary language. With respect to OPs we can ask which theory of them is the best. This is because it is a datum that there are ordinary particulars. But it is not a datum that there are BPs. They are more like theoretical explanatory posits. Compare materia prima in Aristotle. It is not given that there is prime matter. One arrives at the concept only via theoretical considerations.


begging your pardon if being obtuse, but it seems to me that the content of a theory is derived from the content of the concepts that are employed in it, rather than vice versa. So you first have to have the concepts (e.g. the concept of a bare particular), at least implicitly, and only then you can formulate a theory. Thus any concept can in principle be divorced from any theory, keep its meaning, and be used to construct a different (not necessarily consistent but meaningful) theory.

The fact that it is not a datum that bare particulars exist and that their existence is only inferred via theoretical considerations does not seem to me to make a (significant) difference. Of course it may be part of the correct theory of bare particulars that they do not (or even cannot) exist. In the middle-ages, there was a bunch of competing theories of prime matter. This could not be so if the meaning of "prime matter" had been wholly derived from those theories in which these notions were embedded. Rather, there was a shared broad "nominal definition" of prime matter, and then various opinions on its precise nature and ontological role(s).

But we are drifting off topic, so perhaps I had better stop my ramblings... :-)


Compare and contrast:

1. There are cats
2. There are material substances
3. There are bare particulars
4. There are common natures.

(1) simply records a datum. it is at the level of common sense and ordinary language.

(2) generalizes from (1) but also adds the theoretically loaded term 'substance' from the Aristotelian tradition. But (2) doesn't go as far in the theoretical direction as (3) or (4). We are now at the level of phil. theory.

Theories arise from problems that arise when data seem to come into conflict. For example, these two tomatoes are both the same and not the same. How can that be? And so one may be led to posit immanent universals to account for the sameness and bare particulars to account for the difference.

My point is that that is how 'bare particular' enters our discourse.

Of course you are free to use those words any way you like . So I suggest you say the following:

"Whatever G. Bergmann and the members of the Iowa School may have meant by 'bare particular,' and regardless of the problems they were trying to solve by the introduction of that terminus technicus, what I mean by 'bare particular' is any particular that has none of its properties as a matter of de re necessity."

But even better, to avoid confusion, would be to invent a new phrase such as 'stripped particular' or 'nude particular' or whatever.

The same goes for 'common nature.' Wouldn't it annoy you if I started using that phrase in my own idiosyncratic way without heed of Aquinas and the Thomist tradition? There is a cluster of problems that Thomists are trying to solve, problems about predication, universals, intentionality, etc. And so they posit common natures. The meaning of that phrase is determined by the problems deemed genuine and the solutions thought workable.

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