Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Pluralist theories of predication

According to anti-pluralist theories of predication, there is only a small handful of fundamental predicates and they are all of a highly general and abstract nature.  Sometimes there is only one.  For instance, strong Platonism has as fundamental only the multigrade predicate Instantiates.  All other predications should be analyzed in terms of it.  Resemblance nominalism has the fundamental predicate ResemblesInRespect and then needs some story about respects (which story may involve one or two more fundamental predicate).  Bundle theory will have the fundamental predicate CobundledWith, plus perhaps the predicates of set theory (∈ and IsASet) or of some other highly general theory for constructing objects out of bundles.

According to pluralist theories of predication, there are many fundamental predicates and many of them are of a very concrete nature.  For instance, the pluralist is likely to have predicates like Horse, Daphnia and NegativelyCharged.  She may also have highly abstract predicates like ∈ as well.

Ostrich nominalists are pluralists.  But one can also be a weak Platonist and a pluralist.  I am inclined to think that the solution to the problem of the unity of form and matter given in Metaphysics H.6 commits Aristotle to pluralism.

The big insight of the pluralist is that the puzzle of predication is no less of a puzzle when that puzzle concerns a small handful of fundamental predicates.  There may be theoretical simplicity grounds to prefer particular anti-pluralist theories of predication over particular pluralist theories, but I suspect these will result in a stalemate.  And then the pluralist will win, as her fundamental predicates fit better with our intuitions, I think.

1 comment:

Alexander R Pruss said...

And in some sense, truthmaker maximalists hold that there are zero or one fundamental predicates. Zero if existence isn't a predicate and one if existence is a predicate.