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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

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Bill,

"... tropes, as befits their building block status, are ontologically independent: they do not depend for their existence on other entities. In particular, they are ontologically independent of the concrete wholes of which they are the abstract parts. If the trope constituents of a concrete particular C depended for their existence on the existence of C, that would be as absurd as the supposition that the stones out of which a wall is composed depend for their existence on the wall."

Here's the issue whether constituents of a complex (a unity) which is constituted by them are always independent on the complex.

Bricks constitute a wall, and are independent on it.

Barry Miller, however, claims that Fido and Fido's existence are constituents of Fido's existing which are dependent on this complex they constitute. See http://maverickphilosopher.powerblogs.com/posts/1180037630.shtml

Similarly, some philosophers say that ontological principles of, say, me -- my essence and my existence -- constitute me, but cannot occur out of (without) me.

Thus, it seems, some constituent is independent on its complex, and some constituent is independent on its complex.

Given such a division between kinds of constituents, one asks for its explanation (why some constituents are dependent, but other are independent?), and, more basically, also for the general explication of the nature of constituents as such.

Vlastimil,

You raise an important question: is it true that for every type of complex the constituents (parts, components) are ontologically basic and the complex ontologically derivative? In the case of a brick wall it seems clear that the wall depends for its existence on the bricks, but the bricks do not depend for their existence of the wall. The same is true for all sorts of artifacts including TinkerToy and Lego constructions.

I plan to discuss Barry Miller's work later on especially since a philosopher at U of Toronto wrote me and expressed an interest in my take on Miller. So I won't say anything about Miller now. (In coming weeks and months I will be discussing Bradley, regress arguments, the meaning of life (need to finish a paper for the Monist, the potentiality argument (need to respond to an argument by Lupu), and then perhaps Miller's final statement of his position in The Fullness of Being.)

A lot depends on how we define 'complex.' We might define a complex as a whole of parts whose existence is not entailed by the existence of its parts. Plato gives the example of the syllable SO which is composed of the letters S and O. (See Theaetetus 202e-205e and compare Aristotle, Metaph 1041b10-30) This is a complex by the above definition since the existence of a token of SO is not entailed by the existence of tokens of S and O. (If S is on the left side of the page and O on the right, then the letters exist but the syllable does not.)

What about the fact of Tom's being tired? Is this a complex as above defined? Surely Tom can exist without the fact's obtaining. And if being tired is a universal, then it can exist without the fact's obtaining. This is so even if one maintains that all universals are exemplified. For it may be that being tired is exemplified by some other individual but not by Tom. It would then be the case that Tom exists, being tired exists, but Tom's being tired does not exist. So the fact would be a complex as above defined.

You mention the composition of essence and existence in an individual such as Fido. There is a sense in which these are ontological parts or constituents of Fido. But what could Fido's existence be apart from Fido? It seems that Fido's existence needs Fido to be individuated as precisely Fido's existence. And what would Fido's essence be apart from Fido? This Thomistic approach makes sense but I find it problematic. In any case, Fido so construed would not be a complex as above defined.

But suppose you think of an ordinary particular as a bundle of universals and the existence of the particular as the togetherness or compresence of those universals. Then that particular would be a complex as above defined: the existence of the universals would not entail the existence of the bundle.

Bill,

Thanks for these reasonable hints.

"You mention the composition of essence and existence in an individual such as Fido. There is a sense in which these are ontological parts or constituents of Fido. But what could Fido's existence be apart from Fido? It seems that Fido's existence needs Fido to be individuated as precisely Fido's existence. And what would Fido's essence be apart from Fido? This Thomistic approach makes sense but I find it problematic."

I am not a Thomist, still, I'd like to know what, according to you, is the problem.

V,

Let's return to this discussion later, perhaps in January, in connection with Barry Miller's work. Right now I have other fish to fry.

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