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Friday, November 28, 2008


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I have a potentially dumb question about Molnar's attack on the bundle theory variety of trope theory that you might be able to answer. When talking about tropes in the context of substratum theory, we say that they inhere in the substratum by a primitive fundamental tie of instantiation. This is done in order to stop the vicious infinite regress involved by saying that a property is *related to* a substratum. Why couldn't the bundle theorist avail himself of the same move and say that the compresence isn't so much a relation as it is a fundamental tie between the tropes at a location?


Yours is not a dumb question at all, either potentially or actually. It's a reasonable question. "Why couldn't the bundle theorist avail himself of the same move and say that the compresence isn't so much a relation as it is a fundamental tie between the tropes at a location?"

1. If compresence is not a relation but a tie, then it is a non-relational tie. One problem is that a non-relational tie between distinct items (in this case, distinct tropes) is rather mysterious. It seems that if the items are distinct then the tie is a relation. And if the tie is not a relation, then the items are not distinct. So a non-relational tie could hold between distinct items only if they are not distinct. To put it another way, 'non-relational tie' seems to collapses into the oxymoron 'non-relational relation.' This is not a knock-down objection, but unless the mysteriousness of non-relatinal ties can be cleared up, introducing them won't help us solve the problems we are trying to solve.

2. Another consideration is that a trope bundle theory is a one-category ontology: everything is either a trope or a construction from tropes. Since tropes are particulars (unrepeatables), constructions from them will also be particulars (unrepeatables.) This is the trope version of Armstrong's "Victory of Particularity." (But I don't know if Armstrong would endorse my extension of his principle to tropes. His point was that a (thin) particular instantiating a universal -- a state of affairs -- is itself a particular.) So there is no room in trope bundle theory for universals (repeatables). If so, a non-relational tie would have to be a particular, and it is difficult to understand how a particular could perform a tying function. Universals are essentially such as to be possibly exemplified: by their very nature they admit of being linked to items external to them. But particulars are not essentially such as to be possibly connected to what is external to them: something external to them must do the connecting.

3. A third consideration is that compresence is an external relation or, if you will, an external non-relational tie: it does not supervene on its relata. Two tropes are not compresent justin virtue of having the natures they have. Since it is external to its relata, and also a particular, it is difficult to see how compresence could connect tropes without igniting a regress.

4. Note finally that even if a tie connects a and b directly, without intermediaries and thus without engendering a regress, there is till the problem of explaining the difference between the true unity Cab and the mere aggregate C, a, b.

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