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Friday, January 30, 2015


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Bill, here are some suggested ways in which your conclusions A, B, and C might be resisted.

A) Claim that there are second order relations of compatibility and inclusion within the realm of properties. Thus 'felinity' is compatible with 'blackness' but incompatible with 'caninity' and includes 'furriness' and 'four-leggedness'. If Max instantiates 'felinity' then he may instantiate 'blackness' but cannot instantiate 'caninity' and must instantiate 'furriness'. The constraints lie within the abstract realm, not the concrete.

B) Three suggestions:
(a) Deny that instantiation is a relation. The notion of relation presupposes instantiation. Following PVI, a relation is an assertible with one or more unsaturated places and we need the idea of instantiation to explain 'filling the blanks'.
(b) Deny that it is external. What more intimate a connection can there be than between an object and a property it instantiates?
(c) Characterise properties in the abstract realm by the second order properties of 'relationality' and 'intrinsicality' and allow that these are 'inherited' through instantiation. Thus if Max instantiates the intrinsic property 'blackness' then Max is intrinsically black.

C) Say that you see that Max instantiates 'blackness' or feel that the ball is spherical, but deny that you can perceive the properties 'blackness' or 'sphericality'.


A. There are the relations of compatibility and inclusion you mention and they do impose constraints, e.g., nothing instantiating felinity can instantiate caninity. So if Max is feline, then he cannot be canine.

My point, however, concerns the relation between Max and a property such as felinity or blackness. Both of those properties will be had accidentally, contrary to what PvI wants to say.

B. As for (a) and (b), these are unavailable to PvI. (c) is a very interesting suggestion. I take it that you saying that some properties are, by their very nature, intrinsic and others, by their very nature, relational. And then we say: if Max instantiates an intrinsic property such as blackness, then he is intrinsically black.

But that does not change the fact that on PvI's scheme the having remains relational.

C. That in fact is what PvI says. But I don't understand it. I grant that seeing that Max is black is different from seeing blackness. But if I see (with my eyes) that Max is black, it seems to me that I must also see (with my eyes) blackness. What am I missing?

Thanks for the comments.

Morning, Bill, and thank you for the responses.

A. My thought here is that the essential/accidental distinction only makes sense relative to a prior description. The modality is logical necessity/contingency arising from the compatibility and inclusion relations between properties. But this is probably a topic for another day.

B. Could you say a bit more as to why (a) and (b) are not options? My worry here is that if we take instantiation as a relation and then impose the 'internal'/'external' dichotomy then we will run into a Grelling-like paradox. For if there is a good reason to see instantiation as external there is also a good reason to see it as internal: what more must we do to ensure that the ball instantiates 'redness' other than to paint it red? The easiest escape is to abandon instantiation as a relation, for which I think there is an independent argument.

C. Are we perhaps using two words to cover three meanings?
(a) Max is black (adjective)
(b) Max instantiates blackness (abstract noun)
(c) The quale 'black'/'blackness' (noun)

I wonder if one could soften the blow of problem (A) by saying that the fact that Max could have been a poached egg is not so bad when we consider that it may be God who causes blackness to be instantiated with Max's bare particular. Strictly speaking, God has the ability to cause the instantiation of any other property with Max's bare particular, but we ought not worry about it; if Max were a poached egg, that would require God's mind to be different than it is, and this is not possible. So, if this was how things were, van Inwagen could say that all properties are accidental in one sense (God has the power!), but not in another sense (God's not going to change his mind). Viewed in this way, the contingency doesn't seem as absurd to me.

B is definitely a problem if there are good reasons to think that there are at least some intrinsic properties.

I wonder what would happen with the rest of PvI's view if he gave up his claim that we never see properties and instead claimed that we (mysteriously) have the ability to see some abstract objects.

I think it is a mistake to bring God into a discussion like this. It smacks of *deus ex machina.*

This by itself is a huge topic.

By the way, I would avoid 'instantiate with' as you use it above. In a relation ontology a property is instantiated by a particular; in a constituent ontology one could perhaps say that a property is instantiated in a particular.

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