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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

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Hi Bill,
While I have no problem with your definition of an accident that pertains to a particular substance, I am worried about whether this suffices as a definition of an accident as such. Consider the difference between the blue of this book and blueness, the universal (I am assuming that there are universals). The former is a particular, whose existence depends on this book, and which is predicable of this book—and which differs from the blueness that covers this pen. Don't both of these, though, instantiate the universal blueness? If they do, and I think that a good case can be made in the favour of this thesis, then it seems to me that there is good sense in labeling blueness as such an accident. The reason for this is that blueness cannot be instantiated without being a part of some substance. A book, in contrast, is a universal that can be instantiated without being part of any other substance. This implies that there are two types of universals: accidents and substances. Could it be that particulars are only called accidents or substances mediately, depending on whether they are instances of self-sufficient or non-self sufficient universals (i.e. accidents or substances)? Your thought on this would be appreciated.
Erol

Thanks for your comment, Erol.

>>Don't both of these, though, instantiate the universal blueness?<<

Both of what? The accident blueness and the universal blueness? If they both instantiate the universal blueness, then the universal blueness is itself blue -- which is absurd, unless we think of universals as Platonic paradigms. But let's not go there.

What do you mean by "blueness as such"?

>>The reason for this is that blueness cannot be instantiated without being a part of some substance.<<

That is not obvious, and would be denied by most philosophers these days. By (D6) only nonconstituent universals are definable in terms of instantiation. Instantiation is not a mereological or quasi-mereological notion.

>>A book, in contrast, is a universal that can be instantiated without being part of any other substance.<<

That is plainly false. A book is a particular, hence not a universal.

>>This implies that there are two types of universals: accidents and substances.<<

Doubly false. Neither accidents nor (primary) substances are universals. Both are particulars, unrepeatables.

Thanks for the response Bill. I think that my sloppy language covered up the meaning I was attempting to express.

By "both of these" I meant two particular cases of blueness, say the blue of this pen and the blue of this book. These are different objects (a term that I take in the broadest sense possible); a fact I can confirm by a simple comparison. However, they also have something in common. I say that what they have in common is that they instantiate the universal Blueness (I will capitalize the words that refer to universals). I can now say that a particular whole X cannot instantiate Blueness unless X also instantiates Extension. Perhaps there is good sense in saying that only the particulars are genuine parts, thereby avoiding making instantiation a mereological notion.
Because Blueness cannot be instantiated without Extension also being instantiated, it seems correct to say that it cannot have an independent existence, that it is not self sufficient, that its particular instances will be accidents...
Now this is evidently not the case with other types of universals. 'A book' is a particular, you're right. What I meant to say was that the universal Book differs from the essence Blueness in that the former needs no supplementation of the kind required by the latter.A book can exist anywhere: on the bench, on the lawn etc...
These thoughts seem to justify the difference between two types of universals, let us call them 'self-sufficient' and 'non self-sufficient' universals and reserve the names 'substance' and 'accidents' for their respective particulars.

Erol,

That's a lot better. Let me get back to you later. Other tasks beckon . . .

Erol,

It is certainly reasonable to maintain that the blue of the book is numerically distinct from the blue of the pen. But I would deny that this is a fact that can be "confirm[ed] by a simple comparison." For the phenomenology of the situation is compatible with one universal blueness being seen in two places.

But I will concede arguendo that there are these two bluenesses in addition to the universal Blueness.

>>Because Blueness cannot be instantiated without Extension also being instantiated, it seems correct to say that it cannot have an independent existence, that it is not self sufficient, that its particular instances will be accidents...<<

This is confused. True, Blueness cannot be instantiated without Extension being instantiated, though not conversely. But surely it does not follow that Blueness cannot have an independent existence.

Apparently, what you want to say is that there are two kinds of universals, substance-kinds and universals that are not substance-kinds. Substances instantiate substance-kinds, while accidents instantiate universals like Blueness. E. J. Lowe maintains something like this, though his terminology is different.

But how does this relate to the subject matter of my post?

Hi Bill.

If there are universals instantiated by accidents that differ from universals instantiated by substances then my request was for your definition of such universals. I was at first inclined to call such universals accidents also, albeit in a derived manner.In relation to your post, then, I thought that the definition of particular accidents was right but that it could be complimented by a definition of the universals of which these are the instances.I now think that it is confusing, at best, to call such universals 'accidents' but you can see why, if they were attributed with that label, I would think your definition of accidents insufficient.

Erol

Many thanks, Bill, the penny has dropped. I had been thinking of accidents as the like of smiles, bulges, waves, dimples, etc, rather than smilingness, bulgedness, wavedess, dimpledness, etc. This is a traditional usage I think, or have I been mistaken all along? I couldn't fathom why you saw accidents as abstract particulars until now. The two bulges versus one bulgedness example did the trick.

David,

You mean I've actually convinced you of something?

Here is a second argument. Nothing can have a shape without a size. 'Pudgy,' I take it, is a shape predicate. (I believe on your side of the pond the word is 'podgy.') One can be small and pudgy or big and pudgy. Pudginess and smallness are distinct accidents in a person who is both poudgy and small, though in reality they are inseparable.

Erol,

I see what you're saying.

Well, shall we say that I now appreciate the distinctions you are drawing, Bill, and understand the associated jargon. Let me test myself...

Consider a second carpet (c2) that's been stretched across a room whose floor is convex. As a result it has acquired curvature everywhere. This contrasts with our original carpet (c1) that is mostly flat but with local curvature at the bulges. Definition D1 allows us to say that both carpets have the accident of distortedness. We can now run an analogue of Lucas's argument in On the Nature of Accidents: Objections and Replies. The analogue argument would not be vulnerable to your counter argument (1) because, unlike colouredness, distortedness is not a necessary property of carpets (though this doesn't reflect my experience of carpet-laying). Argument (2), though not blocked, is rather weakened because c2 shows that distortedness can be present without bulgedness (unless you say that c2 is one vast bulge, which I reject because I say a bulge must contrast with a non-bulgy remainder). Distortedness is thus a genuine accident, at least of c2.


I think your objection requires the assumption that whatever is bulged is distorted. But suppose I say that distortedness and bulgedness are mutually exclusive features that are instances of deformedness. Then I can simply admit that there are two distinct accidents, *bulgedness* and *distortedness.* And then Lukas' argument can't get started.

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