Against Determinable Universals

University of Durham, November 24, 2009 Dr Markku Keinänen University of Turku

‡ In this presentation, I argue against the existence of determinable universals. ‡ Properties and relations are assumed to be tropes. ‡ Both determinate and determinable properties (if considered as universals) are identified with sortal notions applying to tropes that are in certain formal relations to each other. ‡ I take up certain recent arguments for determinable universals (Armstrong 1997; Johansson 2000; Ellis 2001) and attempt to formulate a trope theorist answer to them.

General motivation
‡ Several recent advocates of determinate universals (e.g., Armstrong (1997), Johansson (2000), Ellis (2001) and Keller (2007)) defend the existence of determinable universals. ‡ Why to argue against determinable universals? [1]: Assume that properties and relations are tropes (the claim which I will not defend). The postulation of determinable universals contradicts the trope nominalist claim that all properties and relations are particulars. [2]: Second, if we need not introduce determinable universals and can account for the same facts by means of tropes, we gain qualitative economy.

.General motivation [3]: Determinable universals are prima facie redundant postulations: property tropes already suffice to determine the determinable characteristics of objects. [4]: Property tropes seem to fall under a certain (highest) determinable because of their very nature and we need not introduce determinable universals to explain this. We need not introduce separate determinable properties.

durations.Examples of determinates of determinables Monadic natural properties ‡ Qualities: shapes. . I will concentrate on quantities. colours ‡ Quantities: masses. space-time intervals ‡ Since quantities are best a posteriori candidates for natural properties. charges Natural relations ‡ Quantitative relations: distances. lengths.

‡ Moreover. . a specific mass) iff they are exactly similar in respect of D (mass). charges).Conventions ‡ Let us stipulate that two objects share a determinate feature falling under determinable D (e. we can say that object i has determinable characteristics D if the attribution of determinable D to i is true of i.g. ‡ In continuation. charge) and on the lowest determinates (specific masses. I will concentrate on the highest determinables (mass..

‡ .General characteristics of the determinate determinable relation ‡ Downward entailment: If object i possesses a determinable characteristics D. For instance. Upward entailment: If object i possesses some determinate feature F. an object having a mass must have some determinate mass. a circular object must have a shape. For instance. i must possess some determinate feature F falling under D. i must possess the determinable under which F falls.

For instance. ‡ . a 1 kg object cannot have any other mass. Resemblance: The different objects possessing a determinate feature falling under determinable D resemble each other in respect of D. The corresponding determinate properties falling under the determinable resemble more or less closely. For instance. Assume that the determinate features are determined by the determinate properties of objects.Relations between determinates of a determinable ‡ Exclusiveness: The determinate features falling under a common determinable D are exclusive of each other. objects having specific masses resemble in respect of mass more or less closely.

Neo-Aristotelian property kind universals. universal properties of objects. (Russellian) second-order universals. determinable universals (if postulated) can be categorized in three alternative ways: (Russellian) first-order universals.e. modes). determinate universals are determinate kinds of tropes (or. properties of determinate properties (Armstrong 1997.Different categorizations ‡ ‡ 1) 2) 3) Determinate properties are commonly considered as first-order properties (universals or tropes).... i. Johansson 2000 (?)). According to this approach. i.e. determinable kinds of tropes (Ellis 2001).e. By contrast. i. .

Gillett & Rives (2005) have already argued against the first approach fairly convincingly (redundancy argument). Including the arguments Johansson (2000) presents.Different categorizations ‡ In what follows. I will take the third Neo-Aristotelian approach as granted for three reasons: It is suitable for a theorist who assumes that properties of objects are tropes. We can construct all main arguments for determinable universals by assuming that determinable universals are kinds of property and relation tropes. 1) 2) 3) .

The Neo-Aristotelian approach to determinable universals ‡ An important recent representative: Brian Ellis (2001. ‡ Properties of objects are particulars: tropes (or modes). 2002). ‡ The distinct tropes (mass tropes) belong to the same determinable kind because of being instances of a determinable kind universal (of being a mass trope). ‡ The determinate kinds of tropes are sub-kinds of the determinable kinds. . ‡ The distinct tropes (1 kg tropes) are exactly similar because of being instances of the same determinate kind universal (of being a 1 kg trope).

.g.Arguments for determinable universals [1]: The Argument from Resemblance (Ellis 2001: sec.3. . two 1 kg tropes) are exactly similar to each other. cf. also Johansson 2000: sec. Moreover. while the tropes falling under distinct determinables do not resemble (are not connected by quantitative distance). Property tropes resemble exactly because they are instances of the same determinate kind universal.3) The distinct tropes belonging to the same determinate kind (e. Similarly. the tropes belonging to the same determinable kind (two mass tropes) resemble each other (are connected by quantitative distance). the best explanation of why the tropes belonging to a determinable kind resemble is that they are instances of a determinable kind universal.2.

. The best explanation of the objective and mindindependent division of tropes into determinate and determinable kinds (mass. distance) is that tropes are instances of the corresponding property kind universals.Arguments for determinable universals [2]: The Argument from the Hierarchy of Natural Kinds (Ellis 2001: 70ff. determinable kinds are sub-kinds of still higher natural kinds (such as the kind of causal powers).) The natural kinds of tropes form a hierarchy: the determinate kinds (e. such as the mass of 1 kg) are sub-kinds of the determinable kinds (such as mass). . This accounts for the hierarchy of the natural kinds of tropes existing in the world.g. electric charge. In turn.

Johansson 2000: sec. many determinate quantities belonging to certain distinct dimensions can be multiplied by each other and we obtain determinates falling under a new determinable. . ontological determinables having the determinate quantities in question as their instances. Secondly.Arguments for determinable universals [3]: The Argument from the Physical Magnitudes (cf.4) The physical quantities falling under the same determinable and related by quantitative distance form a physical dimension: we can add the determinate quantities in the same dimension and obtain new determinates falling under the same determinable. The best explanation of these facts is that (many) physical dimensions correspond to determinable universals.

determinable dependences) or intra-determinable relationships (e..Arguments for determinable universals [4]: The Argument from the Laws 0n Determinables (Johansson 2000: sec. 7) The determinable kinds of tropes are subjected to laws constraining the inter-determinable (e. determinate exclusions).g. These laws are made true by the determinable kind universals determining the essential nature of each determinable kind.g. .. Determinable kind universals must not be replaced with nominalist constructions.

the quantity tropes belonging to a spectral kind do not suffice to constitute it. Some of the determinable kinds of tropes (e. Thus. a dense) variation among the intrinsic values of their instances.g. mass..e. Spectral kinds allow for a continuous (or. Hence. distance) are spectral kinds. we need to introduce determinable quantity universals to act as spectral kinds having uninstantiated values.Arguments for Determinable Universals [5]: The argument from spectral kinds (Ellis 2001: 65-66.. . Spectral kinds cannot be constituted by their instantiated values: it is probable that every quantity which is a spectral kind has uninstantiated values (i. gappy instances). 79).

that there are infinitely many masses between any two distinct masses). it can be argued that masses form a spectral kind.Arguments for Determinable universals ‡ 1) For instance. the quantity mass gets arbitrarily small values. many of which are uninstantiated. 2) 3) 4) 5) . Arbitrarily small instantiated masses are possible. It is conceivable that there are arbitrarily small masses. Consequently. the quantity mass cannot be construed by means of property tropes in formal relations to each other. Hence. It is consistent with physics that masses get arbitrarily small values (or.

In establishing the necessary connections. distances and gravitational attractions by some force). Since (some of) these quantities have uninstantiated values. they are completely undiscriminative between determinates (they do not contain exceptions). ..Arguments for determinable universals [6]: The Argument from Functional Laws (Armstrong 1997) Functional laws (such as Newton¶s inverse square law of gravitation) establish necessary connections between determinate quantities falling under some distinct determinables (e. we cannot build the truthmakers of functional laws solely by of means of the instantiated determinate quantities. masses. We must introduce determinable universals to act as the parts of the truthmakers of functional laws.g.

i. spatio-temporal entity. it is either simple or all of its proper parts are further tropes (entities of the same category).e..g... A concrete. Countable and identifiable (has identity of its own indepedent of the identity any other entity).e. 2) 3) 4) .The trope nominalist account of determinables ‡ 1) Tropes are particular properties. i. Has a thin particular nature to determine a single feature of the object possessing the trope (e. the mass of 1 kg). A trope is: Categorially simple.

The trope nominalist account of determinables ‡ According to trope nominalism. ‡ We must not introduce such entities: since determinate 1kg tropes t1 and t2 are exactly similar because of their existence. Thus. any further entity (e.g. exact similarity is an ungrounded internal relation (³strict internal relation´) between tropes t1 and t2. ‡ Consequently. two distinct 1 kg tropes) are exactly similar simply because of being particular properties they are.g... . two distinct tropes t1 and t2 (e. relational trope of similarity) that would ground their exact similarity would be a redundant postulation. we need not introduce any further entities to ground their exact similarity.

Consequently. They belong to the same determinate kind because they are exactly similar to each other. ‡ The trope nominalist can identify the determinate kind of tropes (the kind of 1 kg tropes) with a kind term applying to a group of tropes exactly similar trope to each other.g.The trope nominalist account of determinables ‡ The exactly similar tropes (e. ‡ The property tropes t1 and t2 are the truthmakers of the claim of their belonging to a determinate kind: [1]: t1 and t2 are 1 kg tropes.. she can reject the existence of determinate property kind universals . all 1 kg tropes) are all certain kinds of tropes (1 kg tropes).

The trope nominalist account of determinables ‡ We obtain the trope nominalist account of determinables as a generalisation of the trope nominalist account of determinates (tropes belonging to a determinate kind). ‡ However. . all quantity tropes belonging determinable kind D are connected by quantitative distance and (usually) ordered by greater than relation. we cannot express quantitative distances between tropes without recourse to the determinable kind itself (the specifications of quantitative distance such as trope t is 1kg greater than trope u contain reference to the determinable kind via the unit). ‡ Prima facie.

It seems that the idea can be genaralized to apply the other quantities. . for instance: [3]: Two kilogram trope t3 is in the 2 : 1 relation to one kilogram trope t2. ‡ It is easy to observe that all mass tropes and distance tropes are connected by different formal relations of proportion.Trope nominalist account of determinables ‡ Proposal (inspired by Bigelow & Pargetter (1990)): all quantity tropes belonging to determinable kind bear the different formal relations of proportion to each other. Each relation of proportion can be expressed by a (real) number divided by another.

. ‡ The formal relation relation of exact similarity is a special case of the proportion relations (1 : 1 proportion). we can determine order between them and specify quantitative distances between them (given some conventionally chosen unit of the quantity).The Trope Nominalist account of determinables ‡ Some quantities (such as electric charge) take positive and negative values and we must introduce both positive and negative relations of proportion. ‡ If the relations of proportion between determinate quantities falling under D are given.

tropes t1 and t2 are truthmakers of claim [5]: [5]: t1 and t2 are mass tropes ‡ The trope nominalist can identify each determinable kind of tropes (the kind of mass tropes) with a kind term applying to a group of tropes connected by the formal relations of proportion and (possibly) combinatorial exclusion. i..e. . the trope nominalist can reject the existence of determinable kind universals.The trope nominalist account of determinables ‡ Thus. with a formal kind of tropes. ‡ Consequently.

e.. are connected by quantitative distance). The tropes belonging to distinct determinable kinds are not connected by the relations of proportion. a determinate kind universal) to account for the exact similarity of tropes leads to redundancy. . ‡ Similarly. The introduction any further entity (e.g.. Again.g. certain property tropes are exactly similar to each other simply because of their existence. determinable kind universals) to account for these facts leads to redundancy.. the quantity tropes falling under highest determinable D are connected by the relations of proportion because of their existence.The trope nominalist answer ‡ [A1]: According to the trope nominalist. Therefore. they resemble each other (i. the introduction of any further entities (e.

.The trope nominalist answer ‡ [A2]: The division of tropes into determinate and determinable kinds is objective and mind-independent because tropes are in the required formal relations independent of us and our classifications.. ‡ Determinate kinds are sub-kinds of determinable kinds because the formal relation determining the membership of trope in a determinate kind (i. we need not introduce determinate or determinable kind universals to make true the attributions of natural kind to tropes. exact similarity) is a special case of the formal relations that determine the membership of tropes in a determinable kind (i. the relations of proportion). Hence.e..e.

) ‡ Second. we can either postulate tropes belonging to a further determinable kind that form a physical dimension of some derived physical quantity or try to explain that dimension away as a determinable kind of tropes.The trope nominalist answer ‡ [A3]: The present approach does not directly explain the (alleged) truth of certain existence claims concerning determinates of determinables (Johansson (2000). the determinate tropes falling under D possessed by two objects a and b determine the quantitative feature falling under D possessed by the object composed by a and b. . ‡ Since certain monadic determinate quantities (such as masses and charges) are additive. (Those who like complex properties. can introduce a complex trope corresponding this feature.

the tropes acting as properties of a certain kind of object can be generically dependent on the tropes belonging to another determinable kind. These values can be added and (in some cases) subtracted. the determinate tropes falling under a determinable are exclusive of each other because they are connected by formal relation of combinatorial exclusion. . we can give them certain quantized values (given some chosen unit). determinate tropes falling under a determinable are in the relations of proportion to each other.The trope nominalist answer ‡ [A4]: Johansson¶s examples of laws concerning determinables fail to show that we need to postulate determinable universals. ‡ Thirdly. ‡ First. ‡ Secondly.

Counter-proposal: The fundamental values of quantity (rest) mass are given by the rest masses of the fundamental particles. 2) Distances (durations and space-time intervals): if space is infinitely divisible. However. distances have a stronger claim for a spectral kind. it does not get arbitrarily small values. All masses of objects are multiples of the fundamental masses. some proposed examples can be explained away: 1) Masses: the argument that masses form a spectral kind was rather weak based on the considerations of conceivability (understood as consistency with physics). .The trope nominalist answer ‡ [A5]: Spectral kinds cannot be constructed by means of the present approach. Although the quantity mass does not come in natural units.

the statements of determinate law are made true by the property tropes possessed by objects. According to dispositionalist approach.The Trope Nominalist answer ‡ [A6]: Pace Armstrong.. . many determinate laws seem to describe how the objects possessing these property tropes would behave in counterfactual situations.e. determinate laws) with relations between universals. ‡ However. we need not identify instances of functional laws (i.

This helps us to give a more unified list of formal relations.Conclusion ‡ The Trope Nominalism identifies the determinable kinds of tropes with kind terms applying to groups of tropes connected by the formal relations of 1) proportion. . ‡ The existence of property kind universals is rejected. and (usually) 2) combinatorial exclusion. ‡ Benefit: similarities between the determinates of a determinable are given by means of the relations of proportion. ‡ Burden: spectral kinds must be explained away. ‡ Tropes are in the formal relations of proportion because of being the tropes they are (as formal relations proportions are not relational entities).

Conceptus. Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Shoemaker. B. K. E. (1997): A World of States of Affairs. Vol. (Dordrecht: Reidel). Russell. Fales. 483-504. Relational´. (2003): ´Tropes. D.References ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ Armstrong. M. D. P. 2 of Universals and Scientific Realism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).(Oxford: Oxford University Press). I. Bigelow. . Simons. a world of Absolute Determinates as a Default Hypothesis´. Armstrong. 101-121. M. (Oxford: Basil Blackwell). A-S. Ellis. (London & New York: Routledge). (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). Ellis. J. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).): Time and Cause. Maurin. B. (1912): The Problems of Philosophy. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). Sanford. K. & Pargetter. (2006): ³Determinates and Determinables´. (1990): Causation and Universals. C. (1990): Science and Necessity. & Rives. (2002): If Tropes. D. (1980): ³Causality and Properties´. (2000): ´Determinables as Universals´. Gillett. The Monist 1. (1978): A Theory of Universals. B. in van Inwagen (ed. Johansson. (2001): Scientific Essentialism. (2002): Philosophy of Nature. (1990): Abstract Particulars. Nous 39:3. (Dordrecht: Reidel). Campbell. (2005): ³The Non-existence of Determinables: Or. R. S. B. (Chesham: Acumen).

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