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Joey

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Problem with realism?
« on: September 13, 2007, 08:32:59 pm »
Hi!

I have 2 questions on the nature of abstract objects (properties etc) and their existence which can ultimately have a bearing on how we can understand their relation to God (if we believe in aseity).  In any case, I assume a traditional realist view of metaphysics as taught in the book "Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview" by Craig and Moreland.

1.  This question is in the form of a realist vicious regress.  In that book, the definition of existence is roughly "the belonging of some property".  If so, and properties exist, some property P1 exists as some higher order property P2 belongs to it.  But P2 exists as some P3 belongs to it, and so forth.

Does this seem like a vicious regress?  Also, it becomes hard to conceive of exactly what the very high order properties like P3, P4 etc are.

2.   The definition of existence as "the belonging of some property" is not self-refuting as the exemplification or belonging-to relation is exemplified - it has the "property of being a relation".  Therefore, what can we make of "the property of being a property"?  If such a thing exists, all properties (both low- and high-order) would exemplify it, and it would seem to exemplify itself, which seems circular.

Thanks for your responses!
Joey

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Luke Martin

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Problem with realism?
« Reply #1 on: September 13, 2007, 09:04:10 pm »

I don't see the problem with self-exemplification.  Some properties "have" themselves.  For example, abstractness is itself an abstract object and so must exemplify itself.  Being-possibly-exemplified is possibly exemplified and so exemplifies itself.  What's the problem supposed to be?


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Joey

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Problem with realism?
« Reply #2 on: September 13, 2007, 09:21:04 pm »
Thanks Luke for your response!  I guess my problem is that it seems circular that properties exemplify themselves (on the view that existence = property exemplification, it's almost as if they exist "before" they exist, so to speak).  However, if other people don't have a problem with that (and if it's an inescapable fact of reality that it must be so), then I guess I shouldn't either  
Do you have anything to say to my first question, or does your answer to the self-exemplification problem solve that one too?

Thanks again!
Joey

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demurph

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Problem with realism?
« Reply #3 on: September 13, 2007, 09:51:13 pm »

Joey wrote: Thanks Luke for your response!  I guess my problem is that it seems circular that properties exemplify themselves (on the view that existence = property exemplification, it's almost as if they exist "before" they exist, so to speak).  However, if other people don't have a problem with that (and if it's an inescapable fact of reality that it must be so), then I guess I shouldn't either  
Do you have anything to say to my first question, or does your answer to the self-exemplification problem solve that one too?

Thanks again!
Joey


Hey,

 I did my undergrad honors thesis on realism and the problem of universals, and I've been waiting for someone to post on this topic!  Anyway, it seems to me that you can avoid the infinite regress with instantiation if you simply refuse to "re-ify" it as a relation.  That is simply a way of saying that instantiation isn't really a universal relation between a particular and a universal, but rather a sui generis, un-analyzable tie between the two.  To put it even more simply, each instantiation has to be taken as a brute fact about how two things are put together.  Basically, if this is the case, all the talk of the properties of instantiation are simply verbal, and don't refer to anything in reality per se.  Not totally satisfying, but, at the same time, every theory within this discussion, realist or nominalist, have to take their fundamental tie or relation as primitive (e.g. resemblance for resemblance nominalism, class membership for primitive natural class nominalism, etc.).

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Joey

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Problem with realism?
« Reply #4 on: September 13, 2007, 10:22:40 pm »
Hi Demurph!

A lovely response you gave there, thanks for that!  If I understand you correctly, you're saying that the instantiation relation is not so much an abstract object that needs further exemplification but is itself a brute fact, at least when it ties universals themselves (maybe not between particulars and universals).  

I don't know if you've directly dealt with my first question (I may have misunderstood you, if so, I'm sorry), as my concern there was more to do with an (apparent) infinite regress of properties that enter into this "instantiation" in order for any object to exist rather than the fact that the instantiation itself needs to be exemplified ad infinitum (it's good nonetheless that you pointed this other regress).  

Have you something to say on my second question (on self-exemplification), or does your answer cover that too?

Thanks again,
Joey

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demurph

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Problem with realism?
« Reply #5 on: September 13, 2007, 11:34:32 pm »
Hey,

  Well, now that you point out how irrelevant my answer was, I feel kind of silly.  Let's give this another try.  While I see the benefits of this view, e.g. necessarily no actually bare particulars in the world, etc., I still wonder if you're right that it's a fatally flawed theory.

Joey wrote: Hi!

I have 2 questions on the nature of abstract objects (properties etc) and their existence which can ultimately have a bearing on how we can understand their relation to God (if we believe in aseity).  In any case, I assume a traditional realist view of metaphysics as taught in the book "Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview" by Craig and Moreland.

1.  This question is in the form of a realist vicious regress.  In that book, the definition of existence is roughly "the belonging of some property".  If so, and properties exist, some property P1 exists as some higher order property P2 belongs to it.  But P2 exists as some P3 belongs to it, and so forth.

Does this seem like a vicious regress?  Also, it becomes hard to conceive of exactly what the very high order properties like P3, P4 etc are.
 
  I think that the individual that takes this theory of existence (though, I will admit that I'm not one who does) doesn't seem to have a better choice than to say that some properties are self-instantiated.  This isn't too problematic if one takes an immanent view of universals, where one has a universal as a property if and only if the universal is a metaphysical constituent of the thing.  This seems to avoid the third man argument.  However, I think that there's still a problem (see below).
Joey wrote:
2.   The definition of existence as "the belonging of some property" is not self-refuting as the exemplification or belonging-to relation is exemplified - it has the "property of being a relation".  Therefore, what can we make of "the property of being a property"?  If such a thing exists, all properties (both low- and high-order) would exemplify it, and it would seem to exemplify itself, which seems circular.

  In answer to this, there are schools of thought that think that simply because there is a meaningful predicate, this does not entail that there is a universal that it refers to (see D.M. Armstrong Universals: An Opinionated Introduction, Boulder, Co:  Westview Press, 1989).  (This is where the notion of supervenience comes into play; it is sometimes easy to say that certain properties supervene on more obviously existent ones, e.g. beauty or goodness supervening on certain physical properties).  One might simply say that there is no real property of being a property or being a relation, and hence, no circularity.
  However, I have to wonder whether or not this would undermine the solution to your first question, since, as a person who takes this view of properties, I seem hard up to come up with a truly self-instantiating universal.  
  Here's why I think this:  If we take abstract objects to be immaterial, then they don't take up space.  Spatiality is a necessary condition for visibility.  Necessarily, if something is colored, then it is visible.  Let's assume that redness is an abstract object.  If this is the case, then it redness is not spatial.  If it is not spatial it is not visible, it is not colored and paradoxically, redness is not red.  It seems to me that we could come up with a parallel argument for real properties like thought, circularity, materiality, etc.  But, who knows?  It's been a long day, it's late, and I may just be mistaken due to exhaustion.  

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Joey

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Problem with realism?
« Reply #6 on: September 14, 2007, 07:59:18 am »
Hi Demurph!

That's a wonderful reply, thank you!  I don't know if you know that Prof. Moreland has written the book entitled "Universals" that defends traditional realism (and offers some critique to Armstrong's "impure realism", as he calls it).  Although I've read the book some time ago, I currently don't own a copy, but my suspicion is that he would argue for the immateriality even of universals that, when exemplified, must be necessarily exemplified  by spatial particulars.  

Again, please forgive me if I misunderstand your views, but regarding the view of immanent universals, do you thus mean to suggest that universals don't have other universals as their metaphysical constituents to avoid the regress?  I'd very much like to know your view(s) on how existence is understood.  It'd seem that we must ultimately arrive at some self-instantiated universals on any theory of existence, and thus the same conditions for existence of other objects are not applicable for these.

I'm also a bit unsure about your reference to bare particulars; as I understand them, they are more relevant to the problem of individuation than the current one we're discussing.  Do you mean that self-instantiated universals possess bare particulars as their individuators and that's all we can say about their existence?

If suppose we agree that some things must simply "exist" and be self-instantiated, perhaps we have a way to flesh out a model of aseity?  For perhaps God, logically prior to creation/conceptualization of abstract objects, can exist without needing to 'possess' properties i.e. God is self-instantiated Himself.  I suppose God would still "have" a nature in that logical moment, but it wouldn't be understood in terms of God's exemplifying properties e.g. if self-instantiated universals exist we can still describe them but they don't actually 'exemplify' further properties the way concrete particulars do.

I hope what I'm saying isn't completely nonsensical.  I'd love to hear more discussion on this topic, as it is starting to get over my head .

Regards,
Joey

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demurph

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Problem with realism?
« Reply #7 on: September 14, 2007, 11:14:44 am »
Again, sorry about my lack of clarity.  I've just read up on this issue so much over the past year that I sometimes forget that I need to explain what certain terms mean.
Joey wrote: Hi Demurph!

That's a wonderful reply, thank you!  I don't know if you know that Prof. Moreland has written the book entitled "Universals" that defends traditional realism (and offers some critique to Armstrong's "impure realism", as he calls it).  Although I've read the book some time ago, I currently don't own a copy, but my suspicion is that he would argue for the immateriality even of universals that, when exemplified, must be necessarily exemplified by spatial particulars.  

Again, please forgive me if I misunderstand your views, but regarding the view of immanent universals, do you thus mean to suggest that universals don't have other universals as their metaphysical constituents to avoid the regress?  I'd very much like to know your view(s) on how existence is understood.  It'd seem that we must ultimately arrive at some self-instantiated universals on any theory of existence, and thus the same conditions for existence of other objects are not applicable for these.

  What I'm trying to say here is that I don't think that we need to say that all universals are themselves metaphysically complex, but that some are simple entities.  However, I'm not sure that we should (or could) say that these simple universals are themselves instances of themselves.  It seems that Moreland and those that defend his notion of existence would probably have to say this, but I'm not entirely sure that it is necessary for the realist qua realist to do so.

Joey wrote: I'm also a bit unsure about your reference to bare particulars; as I understand them, they are more relevant to the problem of individuation than the current one we're discussing.  Do you mean that self-instantiated universals possess bare particulars as their individuators and that's all we can say about their existence?


  Sorry for just throwing that mention of bare particulars into the mix without any explanation.  All I was trying to say is that Moreland's theory of existence avoids the problem of a totally bare particular.  There is a debate among realists whether or not a bare particular that does not instance any universals can exist, and all I was trying to say was that Moreland's theory has a ready answer for this question:  Emphatically NO.
  But, you do bring up a good point, in that it seems that instantiation implies some kind of particularity, but if this is the case, when we discuss self-instantiation, we have a universal which is also a particular, which just sounds weird (and possibly incoherent).  If we want to say that a universal is capable of self-instantiation, we should avoid saying that instantiation implies particularity.

Joey wrote: If suppose we agree that some things must simply "exist" and be self-instantiated, perhaps we have a way to flesh out a model of aseity?  For perhaps God, logically prior to creation/conceptualization of abstract objects, can exist without needing to 'possess' properties i.e. God is self-instantiated Himself.  I suppose God would still "have" a nature in that logical moment, but it wouldn't be understood in terms of God's exemplifying properties e.g. if self-instantiated universals exist we can still describe them but they don't actually 'exemplify' further properties the way concrete particulars do.

  Actually, I think that this is an excellent way to deal with the notion of divine simplicity and a very strong notion of aseity within an Aristotelian realist or moderate nominalist framework (especially in the latter).  This allows us to say that God is identical with his nature, existence, and particularity in a very coherent way.  Also, the above worry doesn't apply, since if God is simple, Godhood isn't a universal, but rather, a necessarily instantiated trope (particularized property).  But, if this is the case, we would have to stipulate that property instances are concrete, since God is a concrete being, but in the process create a problem for self-instantiating abstract objects.

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Luke Martin

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Problem with realism?
« Reply #8 on: September 14, 2007, 06:54:57 pm »

Joey, I don't see any reason to think there must be a vicious infinite regress of property instantiation on a realist view.  Consider, say, redness.  It exemplifies visual property, which exemplifies sense property, and so on, until you get to propertyhood (or whatever you want to call it), which is itself a property and so exemplifies itself.  It further exemplifies abstractness, which is itself abstract.  Abstractness exemplifies existence, which itself exists.  I don't see the trouble for realism in any of this.


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Luke Martin

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Problem with realism?
« Reply #9 on: September 14, 2007, 07:02:50 pm »
demurph, why do you think that Aristotelianism can handle self-exemplification better than Platonism (contemporary Platonism, not Plato's Platonism)?
Why do you think it's weird that redness isn't itself red?  That seems to be exactly right.  I would think any result that implied otherwise was weird.  Balls and fire trucks are red, not redness itself.  Do you think sphericity is spherical?  Wisdom wise?  Materiality material?  Concreteness concrete?  Power powerful?  Eloquence eloquent?

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Joey

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Problem with realism?
« Reply #10 on: September 14, 2007, 08:25:04 pm »
Hi Demurph and Luke,

Thanks for your responses and clarifications.  I guess I'd like to know (unless you've already alluded to it) what your theories of existence are.  

If some universals e.g. propertyhood can exemplify themselves or  are  "metaphysically simple" as Demurph says, then  we don't need to explain  their  existence in terms of other  universals, or basically, their existence doesn't depend on the existence of other universals (hence ending the regress)?  Thus  it'd seem (according to Luke) that existence just exists?

If so then if we believe in aseity, we can say logically prior to God's creation/conceptualization of universals, God just is, and his existence need not depend on possessing properties first e.g. his nature?

Regards,
Joey

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Drm970

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Problem with realism?
« Reply #11 on: September 14, 2007, 08:52:16 pm »
Wow. This is an interesting thread. You lost me at "Hi!"

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Luke Martin

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Problem with realism?
« Reply #12 on: September 14, 2007, 09:30:32 pm »
I don't know that I have a "theory of existence," because I'm not sure what that means.  I think that existence is just a property like any other, except that it's something that everything has, like self-identity.  But this isn't something I've spent much time thinking about.
I don't know what you mean by universals depending for their existence on other universals.  Universals are necessary beings.
Yes, existence exists.  If it didn't, nothing could exemplify it and so it would be true that nothing exists.  But existence, being a property, is a necessary being, and so exists in all possible worlds.
What do you mean by logical priority?  You don't mean entailment, right?
Why think that God created universals?  A problem for that view is that a necessary condition for creating anything is having some power.  But if one has power, then one exemplifies the property being powerful.  Being powerful doesn't seem to be the kind of thing that could be created.
It seems that you think that if God has properties then he in some sense "depends for his existence" on those properties and so wouldn't be a se.  If so, please first define the relevant notion of dependence and then specify why anyone would believe this is true.

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demurph

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Problem with realism?
« Reply #13 on: September 14, 2007, 11:57:07 pm »

Joey wrote: Hi Demurph and Luke,

Thanks for your responses and clarifications.  I guess I'd like to know (unless you've already alluded to it) what your theories of existence are.  

If some universals e.g. propertyhood can exemplify themselves or  are  "metaphysically simple" as Demurph says, then  we don't need to explain  their  existence in terms of other  universals, or basically, their existence doesn't depend on the existence of other universals (hence ending the regress)?  Thus  it'd seem (according to Luke) that existence just exists?

If so then if we believe in aseity, we can say logically prior to God's creation/conceptualization of universals, God just is, and his existence need not depend on possessing properties first e.g. his nature?

Regards,
Joey

  This is my tentative view on existence:  I take existence as a primitive notion.  The closest that I can come to spelling that out is to say that existence and actuality are the same thing.  Right now I take this to be the case simply because it seems to me that all these other theories of existence (causal power, property instantiation, etc.), if considered carefully, are to be understood as truths about existence, but not existence itself.  Something has to exist in order to have a property, but, it doesn't seem clear to me that having a property is existence (since I think that a completely bare particular is at least epistemically possible).
  As for aseity, it depends on how strong a notion of aseity that we are willing to endorse.  I think that no matter what, God has to have a nature of some sort, since saying that something has a nature is simply to say that it is a certain way (if we take universals to be ways of being).  But, as I said above, your idea of God being self-existent and identical to his nature is one way to deal with this, and that all universal properties are causally dependent on his willing them into existence.  Others could go another way and endorse a weaker notion of aseity, and say that God's existence is necessary, but that he is not identical with his nature.   If we say that universals only exist when they are instantiated, we may not have to say that the existence of God's nature is logically prior to God's existence.  Neither of these ways are without their drawbacks, but, that's the way that philosophy goes.

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demurph

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Problem with realism?
« Reply #14 on: September 15, 2007, 12:08:29 am »

Luke wrote: demurph, why do you think that Aristotelianism can handle self-exemplification better than Platonism (contemporary Platonism, not Plato's Platonism)?
Why do you think it's weird that redness isn't itself red?  That seems to be exactly right.  I would think any result that implied otherwise was weird.  Balls and fire trucks are red, not redness itself.  Do you think sphericity is spherical?  Wisdom wise?  Materiality material?  Concreteness concrete?  Power powerful?  Eloquence eloquent?

  First, let me explain that when I wrote that post, I had had a very long and exhausting day.  Perhaps I should have waited until the next day to respond.  Basically, my comments re: Platonism vs. Aristotelianism were due to the idea that Aristotelian realist theories tend to say that properties are "in" the things that have them, while properties are external to their instances.  This latter fact seems problematic for self instantiating universals.
  Secondly, in response to your other questions, no, no, no, no, no and no.  That was the point that I was trying to make.  I claimed that it was hard to eventually come to a self-instancing universal when you have what is called a "sparse" theory of universals.  If you say that predicates only match up to universals when the predicate is associated with a causal power or moderately strong resemblance, then a lot of properties, like beauty, goodness, or propertyhood aren't really universals.  I understand them to be supervening concepts on other real instantiations of universals.  Also, these latter kinds of properties are the only kinds that seem to be candidates for self-instantiation.  That's why I'm skeptical about self-instancing properties.