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Friday, April 08, 2016


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The Mighty Metaphysician just hurled a thunderbolt!

Here I am slipping on the first rung of the Ladder of Philosophical Enlightenment, while you soar effortlessly in the noösphere.

To the trope theorists whom you unanswerably challenged: Speak now or forever hold your peace!

My question is so obvious and natural that the luminaria (illuminati?) of trope theory must have thought about it and answered it somewhere.

Bill, I wonder if there isn't a more direct route to establishing universals. As I understand it universals are "repeatable entities." Aren't tropes like that? Don't all the different tropes share a common trope nature? If so, then we've already got universals.

Hi Spencer,

Yes, universals are repeatable entities. Tropes, as you know, are particulars, i.e., unrepeatable entities. The furriness of Max occurs only in Max; the furriness of Manny only in Manny. Now standard trope theory is supposed to be a one-category bundle theory. There are only tropes in this ontology and logical constructions from tropes. There are no irreducible universals.

This is why the F-ness of the F-tropes is identified with the class of all exactly resembling Fs.

So there are no irreducible universals.

Perhaps you are suggesting that exact resemblance cannot be understood except as resemblance in respect of irreducible universals. Nominalists deny this, but it is an open question. Trope theory is a form of moderate nominalism.

See here: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/tropes/#TroUni

My point is different. Even if one can eke by without genuine universals, one will need irreducible sets, and so now we have two categories, not one.

It is worth noting that 'the furriness of Max' is a potentially misleading expression inasmuch as it suggests that tropes are complexes. They are not. They are simples. It is not Max who individuates his furriness. And his furriness is not essentially his.

How should we refer to tropes? Seems we can't use proper names. We have to sue indexicals such as the demonstrative pronoun 'this,' e.g., 'this furriness.'


The typo in my last sentence does not impede the transmission of sense from writer to reader; ergo, et cetera.

"Max’s furriness is not essentially his." How so? According to trope theory, the concrete particular is constituted by the trope bundle (the compresence of tropes). Two points here stand out. On the one hand, as Ujvári notes, “A trope is a quality instance which is intimately tied up in its very existence with the thing which it belongs to” (2012, 17). On other hand, as you note in PTE, “the existence of an ordinary individual is the concurrence of its constituent tropes” (2002, 86). That is, “there is nothing in reality to distinguish CT [the compresence trope] from 0” [the concrete object] (2002, 87). In this circumstance, the object is the compresence trope (the duly bundled bundle of tropes). If Max cannot be distinguished from the bundle of tropes constituting him, how is his furriness not essentially his? After all, his furriness is an essential constituent of him. And the furriness trope is existentially dependent on being a constituent of the trope bundle which is him. The being of the individual and independently existent thing is founded its constituents, whose being, in turn, is founded on their co-occurrence with each other (since tropes are not existentially independent). Regarding the latter point (re the existential dependence of tropes on their bundle), we can recall (a) Lowe: “tropes are identity-dependent upon their possessors” (1998, 206) and (b) Maurin: “the accidental tropes depend specifically on the kernel while the kernel depends generically on the accidental tropes” (2002, 153).


I take your point and I think it's a good one, but maybe I didn't make my point as clear as I might have. A particular dog isn't a repeatable entity, but "dogness" is. Here's a dog, there's a dog, there's another -- they all have a common dog-ness. I wonder why we can't say the same thing with particulars: Here's one particular (a particular particular), there's another particular, there's another particular, and they all have a common particularity. It is in virtue of their common particularity that they all belong in the class of particulars. It has always seemed to me that you need to invoke universals here. But maybe the nominalist would just call this question-begging.




Universals, by definition, are repeatable. But you can't just assume that there are universals -- otherwise you beg the question against the trope theorist, who is a nominalist.

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