Monday, April 4, 2016

Minimizing the number of fundamental relations between concreta

An interesting metaphysics project that could use more work is to minimize the number of fundamental non-intentional relations between substances. How few can we do with? I think it would be really great if one could reduce the number of such relations to a handful of relations, or at least determinable families of relations. There is only one candidate really clear to me: causation. I think it would be an interesting research project to adopt the working hypothesis that causation is the one and only such relation and see how things go.

A lot of people will want to add parthood to this list, but I don't think a substance can be a part of another substance. (Parts are grounded in wholes, and substances are not grounded in other things.) Spatial relations like being seven meters apart (on relationalism about locations) and being located at (on substantivalism about locations) are a family of plausible candidates.


entirelyuseless said...

This seems related to St. Thomas's argument that two divine persons could not have a real relation with one another, unless one was from the other.

I think I disagree with the point about parts and wholes. It seems to me that my hand is a substance which is a part of me. It is hard how you can say that my hand is not a substance because it is grounded in me, without also saying that I am not a substance because I am grounded in God. But in any case I would argue that part and whole implies the relation of one thing from another, and in that basic sense I agree.

Alexander R Pruss said...

I don't think the hand has a form: its structure comes from the form of the human being. Also, the boundaries of a hand look very vague: do you include segments of veins, etc.
I am not sure I'd say we're grounded in God. I'd say we're caused by God and participate in him.