Dr. Novak is invited to tell me which of the following propositions he accepts, which he rejects, and why:
0. I have reservations about an ontology in terms of substances and accidents, but anyone who adopts such an ontology needs to provide a detailed theory of accidents. This post sketches a theory. It has roots in Aristotle, Brentano, Chisholm, Frank A. Lewis, and others who have written about accidental compounds or accidental unities.
1. Accidents are particulars, not universals, where particulars, unlike universals, are defined in terms of unrepeatability or uninstantiability.
2. The accidents of a substance are properties of that substance. Tom's redness, for example, is a property of him. That there are properties is a datanic claim; that some of them are accidents is a theoretical claim. Accidental properties are those a thing need not have to exist. I am using 'property' in a fairly noncommittal way. Roughly, a property is a predicable entity.
3. It follows from (1) and (2) that some properties are particulars.
4. A substance S and its accident A are both particulars. S is a concrete particular while A is an abstract particular. For example, Tom is a concrete particular; his redness is an abstract particular. It is abstract because there is more to Tom than his being red.
5. Accidents are identity- and existence-dependent upon the substances of which they are the accidents. An accident cannot be the accident it is, nor can it exist, except 'in' the very substance of which it is an accident. Accidents are not merely dependent on substances; they are dependent on the very substances of which they are the accidents. 'In' is not to be taken spatially but as expressing ontological dependence. If the being of substances is esse, the being of accidents is inesse. These are two different modes of being.
6. It follows from (5) that accidents are non-transferrable both over time and across possible worlds. For example, Peter's fear cannot migrate to Paul: it cannot somehow leave Peter and take up residence in Paul. Suppose Peter and Paul are both cold to the same degree. If coldness is an accident, then each has his own coldness. The coldnesses are numerically distinct. They cannot be exchanged in the way jackets can be exchanged. Suppose Peter and Paul both own exactly similar jackets. The two men can exchange jackets. What they cannot do is exchange accidents such as the accident, being jacketed. Each man has his own jacketedness.
Now for a modal point. There is no possible world in which Peter's coldness exists but Peter does not. Peter's coldness does not necessarily exist, but it is necessarily such that, if it does exist, then Peter exists. And of course the accident cannot exist except by existing 'in' Peter. So we can say that Peter's coldness is tied necessarily to Peter and to Peter alone: in every possible world in which Peter's coldness exists, Peter exists; and in no possible world does Peter's coldness inhere in anything distinct from Peter. The same goes for Peter's jacketedness. Peter's jacket, however, is not necessarily tied to Peter: it can exst without him just as he can exist without it. Both are substances; both are logically capable of independent existence.
The modal point underins the temporal point. Accidents cannot migrate over time because they are necessarily tied to the substances of which they are the accidents.
7. It follows that the superficial linguistic similarity of 'Peter's jacket' and 'Peter's weight' masks a deep ontological difference: the first expression makes reference to two substances while the second makes reference to a substance and its accident.
8 If A is an accident of S, then A is not related to S by any external relation on pain of Bradley's regress.
9 If A is an accident of S, then A is not identical to S. For if A were identical to S, then A would be an accident of itself. This cannot be since 'x is an accident of y' is irreflexive.
10. If A is an accident of S, then A cannot be an improper or proper part of S. Not an improper part for then A would be identical to S. Not a proper part of S because accidents depend on substances for their identity and existence. No proper part of a whole, however, depends for its existence and identity on the whole: it is the other way around: wholes depend for their identity and existence on their parts.
11. How then are we to understand the tie or connection between S and A? This is the connection expressed when we say, for example, that Socrates is white. It is an intimate connection but not as intimate as identity. We need a tie that is is less intimate than identity but more intimate than a relation.
We saw in #10 that an accident cannot be a part (ontological consituent) of its substance. But what is to stop us from theorizing that an accident is a whole one of the proper parts of which is the substance? This is not as crazy as it sounds.
12. Let our example be the accidental predication, 'Socrates is seated.' Start by giving this a reistic translation: 'Socrates is a seated thing.' Take the referent of 'Socrates' to be the substance, Socrates. Take the referent of 'a seated thing' to be the accidental compound Socrates + seatedness. This compound entity has two primary constituents, Socrates, and the property of being seated. It has as a secondary constituent the tie designated by '+.' Now read 'Socrates is a seated thing' as expressing, not the strict identity, but the accidental sameness of the two particulars Socrates and Socrates + seatedness. Thus the 'is' in our original sentence is construed, not as expressing instantiation, or identity, but as expressing accidental sameness. Accidental sameness ties the concrete particular Socrates to the abstract particular Socrates + seatedness.
13. The accidental compound is an extralinguistic particular having four constituents: a concrete particular, a nexus of exemplification, a universal, and a temporal index. Thus we can think of it as the thin fact of Socrates' being seated. 'Thin' because not all of Socrates' properties are included in this fact.
14. My suggestion, then, is that accidents are thin facts. To test this theory we need to see if thin facts have all the features of accidents. Well, we have seen (#1) that accidents are particulars. Thin facts are as well. This is a case of what Armstrong calls the Victory of Particularity: a particular's exemplification of a universal is a particular.
Accidents are properties and so are thin facts: both are ways a substance is. Both are predicable entities. 'Socrates is seated' predicates something of something. On the present theory it predicates an abstract particular of a concrete particular where the predicative tie is not the tie of instantiation (exemplification) but the tie of accidental sameness.
Accidents are abstract particulars, and so are thin facts. They are abstract because they do not capture the whole reality or quiddity of the substance.
Accidents depend on substances for their identity and existence. The same is true of thin facts. A fact is a whole of parts and depends for its identity and existence on its parts, including the substance.
Accidents are non-transferrable. The same holds for thin facts.
Accidents are necessarily tied to the substances of which they are accidents. The same goes for thin facts: the identity of a thin fact depends on its substance constituent.
An accident is not identical to its host substance. The same is true of thin facts. Socrates' being seated is not identical to Socrates.
An accident is not externally related to its substance. The same is obviously truth of thin facts.
Accidents are not parts of substances. The same holds for thin facts.
Finally, no accident has two beginnings of existence. If Elliot is sober, then drunk, then sober again, his first sobriety is numerically distinct from his second: the first sobriety does not come into existence again when our man sobers up. The same is true of thin facts. Elliot's beng sober at t is distinct from Elliot's being sober at t*.
15. On the above theory, an accident is a complex. It follows that an accident is not a trope, pace Dr. Novak. Tropes are very strange animals. A whiteness trope is an abstract particular that is also a property and is also ontologically simple. An example is the particular redness of Tom the tomato. I can pick out this trope using 'the redness of Tom and Tom alone' where the 'of' is a subjective genitive. But note that the 'of Tom and Tom alone' has no ontological correlate. The trope, in itself, i.e., apart from our way of referring to it, is simple, not complex. And yet it is necessarily tied to Tom. This, to my mind, makes no sense, as I explained in earlier posts. So I reject tropes, and with them the identification of accidents with tropes.
My conclusion, then, is that IF -- a big 'if' -- talk of substances and accidents is ultimately tenable and philosophically fruitful, THEN accidents must be ontologically complex entities. Anyone who endorses accidents is therefore a constituent ontologist.