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demurph

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Problem with realism?
« Reply #15 on: September 15, 2007, 12:15:27 am »

  I meant that Platonic properties transcend their instances, and that it seems that you either end up falling to the third man argument or saying that self-instancing properties are "in" themselves pace Platonism.


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Luke Martin

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« Reply #16 on: September 15, 2007, 11:10:30 am »
I'm not sure I understand what "transcend" means in this case.  I think of exemplification as simply the relation that holds between a property and its instance when the property is true of that thing.  Since propertyhood is a property, it is an instance of itself and so exemplifies itself.  I don't see the problem.
A big difference between us, I guess, is that I hold an abundant view of universals.  But even on a sparse view, don't you have to believe in modal properties?  And if so, wouldn't being possibly instantiated be possibly instantiated and so exemplify itself?

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demurph

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« Reply #17 on: September 15, 2007, 01:04:53 pm »

Luke wrote: I'm not sure I understand what "transcend" means in this case.  I think of exemplification as simply the relation that holds between a property and its instance when the property is true of that thing.  Since propertyhood is a property, it is an instance of itself and so exemplifies itself.  I don't see the problem.
A big difference between us, I guess, is that I hold an abundant view of universals.  But even on a sparse view, don't you have to believe in modal properties?  And if so, wouldn't being possibly instantiated be possibly instantiated and so exemplify itself?

  In response to your first question, when I say that a Platonic universal transcends a particular, I simply mean that they don't constitute their instances.  They are "outside" the particulars that instantiate them.  So, it sounds to me like you would have to say that a self-instancing universal doesn't constitute itself, which seems absurd.  How can A=B be true if A is "outside" B?  So, you end up with a trilemma.  You will either have to say that the universal transcends itself, that it actually does constitute itself , or that there is actually a further universal that it instantiates.  None of these options seem to be very desirable for the Platonist.  The first option seems unintelligible, the second seems to deny the Platonic thesis, and the final option denies that self-instantiation is possible and might lead to an infinite regress.  If I'm mischaracterizing Platonism, feel free to enlighten me.
  In response to your second question, I would deny that modal properties exist.  It seems to me that the notion of a modal property doesn't entail any kind of causal power or resemblance between the entities that would have it.  
  It also seems to me that you could reduce the notion of a modal property to a disposition, or in Aristotle's terminology, a potentiality grounded in the other properties that actually are instantiated by a particular that might be actualized by the causal power of another particular or the powers inherent within itself (this latter notion applying to rational agents that do not need to be moved to act).  This might be because to the ways that universals are related to one another.  Regardless, how this is spelled out may be different between different philosophers, but I think that anyone that takes the sparse view will deny that to say that
 
  1.)x is possibly P
 
  is to say that x actually instantiates anything, but only that it could, given certain circumstances, instantiate P.

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Luke Martin

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« Reply #18 on: September 15, 2007, 02:45:55 pm »
I don't understand the Aristotelian notion of potentiality that you appeal to.
I don't understand the Aristotelian notion of constitution that you appeal to.  Constitution is a relation that, if it is instantiated by anything, is instantiated by material objects.  For a property to be an instance of itself is just for it to be true of itself.  For a concrete particular to be an instance of a property is just for the property to be true of the particular.  The ball is an instance of redness because it is true of the ball that it is red, not because redness is some kind of "constituent" (whatever that means) of the ball.  So, I guess I am saying that you are mischaracterizing Platonism, since there is no notion of constitution in the Platonist account.

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james

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« Reply #19 on: September 15, 2007, 03:12:47 pm »
Luke wrote: I don't understand the Aristotelian notion of potentiality that you appeal to.

   

   You're lucky.  I don't understand a single thing any of you guys are talking about.

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demurph

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« Reply #20 on: September 15, 2007, 03:35:42 pm »

Luke wrote: I don't understand the Aristotelian notion of potentiality that you appeal to.
I don't understand the Aristotelian notion of constitution that you appeal to.  Constitution is a relation that, if it is instantiated by anything, is instantiated by material objects.  For a property to be an instance of itself is just for it to be true of itself.  For a concrete particular to be an instance of a property is just for the property to be true of the particular.  The ball is an instance of redness because it is true of the ball that it is red, not because redness is some kind of "constituent" (whatever that means) of the ball.  So, I guess I am saying that you are mischaracterizing Platonism, since there is no notion of constitution in the Platonist account.

  When I was referring to potentiality, I was basically claiming that the truth-maker for a possibility proposition is grounded in the universals the particular has, and the relations between those universals and the causal powers of other particulars.  For example, I have the potentiality to instance redness due to the actually instantiated properties of my skin and the causal powers of the suns rays.  My potentiality to instantiate redness is actualized when I am in a circumstance that exposes my skin to those rays for length of time t, and I actually instantiate the property of redness.  
  When referring to constitution in the context of universals, it is simply the claim that a universal is a part of the thing in an analogous sense of "part".  For the Aristotelian, the universal is "in" the particular and part of the identity of the particular that has it.  The way that I like to think about it is to think of it in terms of being very similar to the way that a shape/form constitutes a statue. Also, I did not say that Platonism had a notion of constitution.  The exact opposite claim was part of the trilimma I proposed.  
   Finally, your explanation of Platonic instantiation is mysterious to me.  You say that a ball is red because "it is true of the ball that it is red."  Is it true because it stands in relation to the universal, or does it stand in that relation to the universal because it is true?  If the latter, the universal is superfluous.  If the former, what kind of relation is it that holds between the universal and the particular?  Is it causal?  Since Platonic universals are abstract objects, it would seem not to be causal.  If not, how is the abstract universal able to act as a truth maker for the proposition that the concrete ball is red?  

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Luke Martin

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« Reply #21 on: September 15, 2007, 04:01:20 pm »

There's a lot you said in your last post that I don't understand.  Particularly, I don't understand your claims in the second paragraph.  As for the third paragraph, I don't understand truthmaking.  Do you intend the "because" literally, as in causally?  I doubt it.  Could you explain more?  I of course agree that the ball's exemplifying redness entails that the proposition "the ball is red" is true, but you can't merely mean that, right?


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Luke Martin

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« Reply #22 on: September 15, 2007, 04:03:47 pm »

Thinking it over, I may have inadvertantly derailed the discussion by saying that redness is true of the ball.  All I meant by that was that one can truly say of the ball that it is red.


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demurph

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« Reply #23 on: September 15, 2007, 05:21:16 pm »
Luke wrote:  

There's a lot you said in your last post that I don't understand.  Particularly, I don't understand your claims in the second paragraph.  As for the third paragraph, I don't understand truthmaking.  Do you intend the "because" literally, as in causally?  I doubt it.  Could you explain more?  I of course agree that the ball's exemplifying redness entails that the proposition "the ball is red" is true, but you can't merely mean that, right?


  Basically, the analogy between the statue and a concrete particular turns on what I take a universal to be.  A universal is a "way of being."  It's the way that a particular is.  In that sense, I take a bare particular to be analogous to the clay of a statue and the universals it instantiates to be like the shape of the of the statue.  In that sense, it seems like the shape is "in" the statue, but I'm not sure that it should be thought of as a spatial sense of "in," either.  I hope that this is clear enough.  As I sit here trying to explain it, it does seem to be kind of obscure (but, I swear that it makes perfect sense in my head).
  Basically, truth-maker theory is a version of the correspondence theory of truth.  I was sloppy with my terminology, and in the process I conflated the Principle of Sufficient Reason with Truth-Maker Theory.  Basically, the claim of truth-maker theory is that for every contingently true proposition there has to be something in reality that makes it true.  The worry that I was trying to say is that, since Platonism is a relational theory of universals, it seems to be that it shouldn't be able to tell us truths about the way a concrete particular is, but rather, about the ways that it stands to certain abstract objects.  My worry is that platonic universals are unable to be the truth-makers for these properties.  That's all that I was trying to say.

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Luke Martin

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« Reply #24 on: September 15, 2007, 06:06:39 pm »
That helps some, but I'm still not sure I really understand.  I have a hard enough time understanding composition in the material case (one of the reasons I'm a compositional nihilist).
What does it mean for something to "make" a contingently true proposition true?  "Make" isn't supposed to mean "cause," right?
I realize I might sound like someone who's just trying to make life hard for you by constantly asking for definitions, but I genuinely don't understand a lot of what people say about universals.  I've been deeply influenced by van Inwagen, who's famous for claiming he doesn't understand all sorts of stuff.  He's often mocked for this, but when I think hard about a lot of the stuff he claims he doesn't understand, I realize that what I thought I understood I really didn't (Aristotelian theories of universals being one of these issues).  van Inwagen has claimed that the goal of the metaphysician should be to aspire to assert falsehoods, since they more often than not fail to even do that.

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demurph

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« Reply #25 on: September 15, 2007, 07:30:14 pm »

Luke wrote: That helps some, but I'm still not sure I really understand.  I have a hard enough time understanding composition in the material case (one of the reasons I'm a compositional nihilist).
What does it mean for something to "make" a contingently true proposition true?  "Make" isn't supposed to mean "cause," right?
I realize I might sound like someone who's just trying to make life hard for you by constantly asking for definitions, but I genuinely don't understand a lot of what people say about universals.  I've been deeply influenced by van Inwagen, who's famous for claiming he doesn't understand all sorts of stuff.  He's often mocked for this, but when I think hard about a lot of the stuff he claims he doesn't understand, I realize that what I thought I understood I really didn't (Aristotelian theories of universals being one of these issues).  van Inwagen has claimed that the goal of the metaphysician should be to aspire to assert falsehoods, since they more often than not fail to even do that.

  Actually, van Inwagen is a bit of a philosophical hero of mine (even though I don't agree with anything he's written on this little topic), so, I can respect a person who's willing to follow his example and to not just BS his way through a discussion.  You seem to have a pretty good grasp on the truth-making principle.  Truth-Maker Theory asserts that for every contingent true proposition there is something in reality that it corresponds to that makes it true.  It doesn't seem to be causal.  An analogy that I just thought up is that the true proposition is like a mirror image of reality. There has to be something out there for there to be an image on the mirror, just as there have to be something in the world for the proposition to be true. It's like I said, a variant of the correspondence theory of truth.  
  As far as the statue analogy goes, I have to say that to an extent, I agree with you.  There is a bit of mystery to it at a certain point, but I still have an easier time wrapping my mind around it than the Platonic version of instantiation.  Also, there's the fact that Aristotelian theories tend to be more parsimonious ontologically, they are able to give a better account of why some classes are natural while others are arbitrary, and have a better account of intrinsic natures.  And, theologically, they are less problematic.  A potentially infinite number of necessary existent abstract objects seems to imply a huge swath of reality that is co-eternal and independent of God (and we have to worry if God depends on these for existence, which brings us back to the notion that started this little thread:  Divine Aseity).  One has to worry whether or not that reduces God to a Platonic Demiurge.

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Joey

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Problem with realism?
« Reply #26 on: September 15, 2007, 10:18:24 pm »
Hi Demurph and Luke,

I'm real glad this topic is generating the volume of discussion it's generating so far.  Demurph, could you please explain a bit further how is it that the property of redness is a real universal whilst supervenient concepts like beauty aren't?  You said "predicates only match up to universals when the predicate is associated with a causal power or moderately strong resemblance".

Also, just to clarify, on Aristotelian realism universals are "in" particulars whilst on Platonism they're "related" to particulars?  I realize this topic is probably treated in many standard texts, but for my sake (and for others reading), could you please highlight salient differences between the two, and explain the concept of universals "in" something further?

Thanks,
Joey



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Luke Martin

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« Reply #27 on: September 16, 2007, 04:44:16 pm »
Well, since I don't really understand truth-making, I have trouble seeing the problem for Platonism.  Consider the proposition "x is red" where x is a name for a rubber ball.  Suppose further that the ball exists and stands in the exemplification relation to redness.  What more is required to get a truthmaker?
I don't see any necessary correlation between Aristotelianism and ontological parsimony.  Aristotelians qua Aristotelians are not committed to a sparse theory of properties, and Platonists qua Platonists are not committed to an abundant theory.  The debate between sparse and abundant theorists is independent of issues of "constitution."
Aristotelianism does a better job (allegedly) of explaining natural kinds only if there are natural kinds.  Why think there are such things (I presume you mean things like rocks and rivers as opposed to the collection of things on my desk)?
What do you mean by "intrinsic natures"?  If you mean essences, then I don't see the slightest Aristotelianism has over Platonism.
I don't see any connection between Platonism and reducing God to the demiurge.  Nothing in Platonism rules out creation ex nihilo.
I would think Aristotelianism is more theologically objectionable than Platonism.  Aristotelians have to say that God is literally a composite of various parts (universals at least, and if one isn't a bundle theorist, then also bare or thin particulars).  Platonists, on the other hand, are "blob theorists" about substances, to use Armstrong's wonderful term.  Substances are metaphysical simples.  Universals are no parts of substances, and there is no notion of "dependence" on universals, whatever that might mean.  Yes, Platonists believe in uninstantiated universals, and abundant Platonists believe in an infinite number of properties, relations and propositions (and maybe also states of affairs).  But these are spaceless, causally impotent entities.  I don't see anything theologically problematic about them.  It's not like they do anything, so that God isn't sovereign over everything that happens.

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demurph

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Problem with realism?
« Reply #28 on: September 16, 2007, 07:06:57 pm »

Joey wrote: Demurph, could you please explain a bit further how is it that the property of redness is a real universal whilst supervenient concepts like beauty aren't?  You said "predicates only match up to universals when the predicate is associated with a causal power or moderately strong resemblance".

  Good question.  Just a fair warning, this may get complicated.  As I understand it, the sparse Aristotelian wants to point to a universal that is numerically identical in all its instances.  If the properties instances are identical, then it would seem that the particulars that instantiate them are completely identical in respect to that property.  This does not allow for disjunctive or negative universals (though conjunctive universals are permissible), and implies that there is also an identity of causal powers.  But, it would seem to be that these are all necessary conditions for a term to refer to a universal, yet only the causal powers are sufficient to warrant asserting the existence of a given universal.
  Because of this, no a sparse theorist will actually not say that redness qua redness is a universal, but that each shade of redness is a universal property that is grouped together in a resemblance class we referred to casually as redness.  This is due to the fact that if you notice all the different shades of red on the color wheel, that the extreme ends of the "red" part of the wheel really don't resemble one another all that much, but do have a kind of similarity with ones in between them to a more or lesser degree.  Pretty much all the sparse theorists that I've read on this subject say that this implies that a resemblance is not sufficient to warrant an existence claim regarding a particular universal, but entails either a primitive resemblance or a universal being shared.
  The reason that concepts like beauty wouldn't seem to match up to a universal is because of the fact that beauty is a relative notion.  By that I mean that beauty is relative to kind, and thus seen as a somewhat disjunctive notion.  The properties that make a beautiful horse are not the properties that make a beautiful woman.  Furthermore, it seems that we might be able to reduce the beauty-making properties to other properties.  We might be able to abstract some properties in common, like symmetry, but these concepts are pretty thin, but the degrees of which they appear in the two distinct entities might still prevent us from coming to something that is identical between the two.

Joey wrote: Also, just to clarify, on Aristotelian realism universals are "in" particulars whilst on Platonism they're "related" to particulars?  I realize this topic is probably treated in many standard texts, but for my sake (and for others reading), could you please highlight salient differences between the two, and explain the concept of universals "in" something further?

  Well, in a very loose sense, the distinction of universals "in" and universals "related" to a thing describes the ultimate distinction between Aristotelian and Platonic realism.  However, most Platonists wouldn't really say that instantiation is a real relation.  If that was the case, they would be forced to choose between it being an internal or an external relation.  Internal relations hold between the natures of two things, but, since universals are supposed to be the nature of a thing, this won't do.  External relations hold between two things, but since everything has to have a nature to exist, then it seems that an individual would have a nature of some sort prior to its instantiation of these universals.  To deny this would seem to make universals explanatorily unnecessary.  So, instantiation, Platonists reason, is not a relation.  What it becomes, however, is something that I find utterly mysterious.
  As for instantiation on an Aristotelian picture, I don't think that I can really say anything at this point that goes beyond what I've already discussed in this thread.  I'm still in the process of trying to come up with a more explicit definition.  And, this is something that realists in the Aristotelian variety have debated over the ages.  This is a weak point for my theory, I will admit, but if we consider what I think from above, then we might conclude that the Platonist is, at least, no better off.  The main reason that I accept this picture is that it seems clearer and slightly more intelligible than the Platonic picture.

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demurph

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Problem with realism?
« Reply #29 on: September 16, 2007, 08:07:19 pm »
Luke wrote: Well, since I don't really understand truth-making, I have trouble seeing the problem for Platonism.  Consider the proposition "x is red" where x is a name for a rubber ball.  Suppose further that the ball exists and stands in the exemplification relation to redness.  What more is required to get a truthmaker?
I don't see any necessary correlation between Aristotelianism and ontological parsimony.  Aristotelians qua Aristotelians are not committed to a sparse theory of properties, and Platonists qua Platonists are not committed to an abundant theory.  The debate between sparse and abundant theorists is independent of issues of "constitution."

  The main problem that I have is not so much that there isn't any room in Platonism for truth-making, but rather that it seems counter-intuitive analyses of particular of truths.  When I say that a ball is red, I say something about the ball, not what it's related to.  Platonism as you have described it would seem to entail that the latter is what I'm actually saying much to my surprise.
  While I agree that Aristotelians are not logically committed to a sparse ontology, the idea of a finite thing being constituted by a potentially infinite number of universals strikes most Aristotelians as just being weird.  It's a more natural opinion for an Aristotelian than the abundant universals alternative.  Platonists, however, may be logically committed to an abundant ontology, since most Platonists seem to use semantic arguments that seem to naturally lead to an abundant ontology.  Frankly, that's not something I care to argue for, since it seems justified to say that Platonism is at least more naturally stated when including an abundant ontology.
Luke wrote: Aristotelianism does a better job (allegedly) of explaining natural kinds only if there are natural kinds.  Why think there are such things (I presume you mean things like rocks and rivers as opposed to the collection of things on my desk)?

  It seems to me that it is obvious that there are natural kinds.  The class of all electrons seems to be much more natural than say, the class of all rocks or all notebooks (the latter being one class, not the class of rocks, and the class of notebooks).  By natural, I simply mean that it's not an obviously artificial class, that all it's members seem to be unified conceptually.  Aristotelians can say that they are all unified by a universal or group of universals that are all shared by all its members.  Platonists seem committed to disjunctive universals, which would not allow them to use this answer to why the former class is natural and the latter is not.
Luke wrote: What do you mean by "intrinsic natures"?  If you mean essences, then I don't see the slightest Aristotelianism has over Platonism.

  By intrinsic natures, I simply mean the way that the concrete particular is, it's necessary and contingent properties that are not relations between it and another particular.  See my above criticism for why I think that this give Aristotelians a leg up.
Luke wrote: I don't see any connection between Platonism and reducing God to the demiurge.  Nothing in Platonism rules out creation ex nihilo.
I would think Aristotelianism is more theologically objectionable than Platonism.  Aristotelians have to say that God is literally a composite of various parts (universals at least, and if one isn't a bundle theorist, then also bare or thin particulars).  Platonists, on the other hand, are "blob theorists" about substances, to use Armstrong's wonderful term.  Substances are metaphysical simples.  Universals are no parts of substances, and there is no notion of "dependence" on universals, whatever that might mean.  Yes, Platonists believe in uninstantiated universals, and abundant Platonists believe in an infinite number of properties, relations and propositions (and maybe also states of affairs).  But these are spaceless, causally impotent entities.  I don't see anything theologically problematic about them.  It's not like they do anything, so that God isn't sovereign over everything that happens.

  Aristotelians need not say that God is composite, since simplicity is an option, which I said to Joey earlier in this thread.  Since a sparse Aristotelian doesn't say that the predicate-universal ratio is 1-to-1, we can still have distinct predicates of God while simply saying God is a metaphysically simply entity.  Also, saying that God is identical to his nature need not commit us to saying that God is an abstract entity, if we are not Platonists.
  As for dependence, let's take existence as an example for the Platonist account.  Does God exist because He is an instantiation of existence, or does He instantiate existence because He exists?  (You can take this and apply it to any predicate of God.  Is God omnipotent because he instantiates omnipotence or vice versa?  Is God omniscient because He instantiates omniscience or vice versa?)  If it is the former, He would seem to depend in some way on the universal (or at least force us to say that the universal existence is prior to God's existence).  If it is the latter, why on earth do we need Platonic universals?  They explain nothing, and frankly, why postulate a potentially infinite number of abstract entities that really don't serve any purpose?  Why not just be a Primitive Natural Class Nominalist?  
  As for sovereignty and creation ex nihilo, if we are really Platonists in our answer to the problem of universals, universals exist necessarily, and subsistently.  This would imply that they exist independent of God's power or will.  That limits God to a very small part of reality that he actually creates, and a huge section of reality that he has absolutely no control over.  Also, it seems in some way to limit what God can create, since we want to say that they play some role in what happens in the world (why else would say that they existed)?  It seems to me that God would have to be mindful of these entities when he creates, which is what Plato says of his Demiurge in the Timaeus.