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Friday, November 16, 2012


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Hello Bill,

Peter's change in respect of temperature involves Peter as the diachronically persisting substratum of the change, the universal coldness, and two property-exemplifications, Peter's being cold at t and Peter's being not cold at t*.
If we wanted to resist Lukáš's argument for his (2) couldn't we claim that the above amounts to double-counting? If Peter is the persisting entity that changes, and the change is in Peter, then Peter's being cold at t is already included in Peter (at t) and to introduce it as a separate entity is superfluous.

The account is somewhat reminiscent of the caloric theory of heat: warmth is a fluid that is added to or subtracted from a body, some extra entity over and above the body itself.

Hello Bill,

Hope all is well. Just to make sure I'm on the same page, is a bare particular the same thing as a haecceity? I understand the latter to be the "this-ness" that makes one object distinct from a qualitatively identical replica with a different "this-ness" as in the classic example of two black spheres floating in empty space. If there not the same, could you explain the difference?


Bill, you write: "The notion of a bare particular makes sense only in the context of a constituent ontology according to which ordinary particulars, 'thick particulars' in the jargon of Armstrong, have ontological constituents or metaphysical parts."

I would have thought that the notion of a bare particular makes sense also in the context of a relational ontology according to which ordinary particulars are things-I-know-not-what standing in the instantiation relation to transcendent universals. Bare particulars, on this view, are the underlying substrata for properties. Ordinary objects are just the bare particulars instantiating those properties.

Indeed, I would have thought that the notion of a bare particular makes more sense in the context of such a theory. Isn't part of the motivation for adopting a constituent, as opposed to a relational, ontology precisely to avoid positing the notion of a bare particular? If properties are immanent in, or constituents of, the objects that exemplify them, then you don't need some bare particular to stand in the instantiation relation to transcendent universals; you've got what you need already there.

No doubt I am running together a variety of distinctions. In particular, I am making the constituent approach seem as though it is, and must be, a kind of bundle theory of objects. But I dimly recall Armstrong's own discussion of bare particulars in "Nominalism and Realism", and I was under the impression that the notion of a bare particular features in that discussion as an important aspect of a relational ontology.

Any help you can give me sorting this out would be helpful. Of course, nothing I've said here is particularly helpful for you, so I wouldn't be offended if you left my remarks to the side.

Hi John,

Thanks for the comments. Unfortunately, 'bare particular' is used in at least two different ways. You mentioned Armstrong. If you consult the glossary of Nominalism and Realism you will see that for him bare particulars are particulars that lack properties or lack both properties and relations. Unsurprisingly, he rejects bare particulars so understood. But that is not what Bergmann meant by 'bare particular' and he owns the phrase. Or at least he first introduced it, just as D. C. Williams first introduced 'trope.' For Bergmann, what makes bare particulars bare is not that they have no properties: they cannot exist without standing in the exemplification nexus to universals. What they lack are natures. So any two bare particulars taken as such and abstracting from the universals they exemplify, differ only solo numero. They are posited to explain numerical difference.

When I use 'bare particular' I use it only in Bergmann's sense.

Still, you might press me: what can't a BP in something like that sense be said to stand in an exemplification relation to a transcendent universal, where 'transcendent' means 'not an ontological constituent of any particular'? My answer is that that suggestion cannot be taken seriously. Suppose I am staring at a round red spot. I see the roundness and I see the redness. But I could not be seeing them if they were transcendent universals outside the spatiotemporal realm. Staring at the ball, I do not see something colorless and shapeless. The sensible world is a world of particulars, but surely it is not a world of bare particulars.

And so I say that the BPs in Bergmann's sense make sense only in the context of a constituent ontology. Furthermore, it is part of the very sense of 'BP' that they figure only in a constituent ontology.

A constituent ontology is not the same as a bundle ontology, although every bundle ontology is a constituent ontology, whether the bundle be a bundle of tropes or a bundle of universals, or, as on Castaneda's theory, a bundle of property-bundles, where properties are universals. Consider a substratum theory that posits a substratum that supports tropes. (C. B. Marin suggested something like this.) This is a constituent ontology that is not a bundle ontology. On Bergmann's view, ordinary particulars are concrete facts consisting of bare particulars and universals linked by the exemplifiation nexus. This is another example of a constituent ontology that is not a bundle theory.

Feel free to press me further if that isn't clear.

Hi Spencer,

All is well at this end, and I hope the same is true for you.

Bergmann posits bare particulars to ground or explain numerical difference. So consider Max Black's world in which all there is are two iron spheres that are indiscernible in respect of every monadic and relational property. Such a world seems possible. But if so, then the Identity of Indiscernibles cannot be a necessary truth. Black used the example to refute the Identity of Indiscernibles (which is nec. true if true), but he didn't talk about bare particulars, at least not in that famous article. Now if you asked Bergmann about the ontological ground of the numerical difference of the two spheres, he would say that they differ in virtue of the difference between two bare particulars.

One could further say that it is the bare particular that grounds the thisness or haecceity of each sphere. Each of the two spheres is a 'this-such.' Universals ground the suchness, bare particulars the thisness.

So we can say that one theory of haecceity involves the positing of bare particulars, but not every theory. Some people think of haecceities as properties. Plantinga is an example. His view is absurd in my humble opinion as I have argued elsewhere on this site and in my existence book. You can't make the thisness of a concrete particular into a property of it. Others have tried to understand haecceity in terms of spatiotemporal position. And there are still other theories.

To answer your question, 'haecceity' and 'bare particular' do not have the same meaning. Only one theory of haecceity involves the positing of bare particulars. But there are other theories.

Note also that while Bergmann is a constituent ontologist, Plantinga is a non-C ontologist, and yet the latter speaks of haecceities such as the property Socraeity.

Have I answered your question satisfactorily?

Yes, I think I understand the difference now, though those other theories do strike me as very weird. One follow-up just to make sure I'm "tracking" as they used to say in the Army: suppose bare particulars ground this-ness. Now, could God potentially switch the bare particulars of the two spheres of the Black world without making any other changes, the way I might switch the handles and heads of two axes? I find myself intuitively averse to the idea that such a miracle could be real and substantive.


I think the answer is yes. Of course the switch would make no discernible difference. So if "real and substantive" implies discernibility, then I agree with you. But why must a real difference be a discernible one?

Consider a world consisting of just two indiscernible axes. Isn't that world different from one in which the handles and heads are switched?

Suppose you have an indiscernible twin and your girlfriend has an indiscernible twin. Would it make a difference if you and your twin switched girlfriends?

It looks like we have reached the end of the usefulness of the phrase "makes a difference" that seems so clear in ordinary speech. Yes, I am inclined to accept your girlfriend intuitive nudging, and had even been thinking of such cases. I will think on this further.

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