Monday, June 4, 2018

Distinguishing between properties

Some philosophers worry about “principles of individuation” that make two things of one kind be different from another. Suppose we share that worry. Then we should be worried about Platonism. For it is very hard to say what make two fundamental Platonic entities of the same sort different, say being positively charged from being negatively charged, or saltiness from sweetness.

However, the light-weight Platonist, who denies that predication is to be grounded in possession of universals, has a nice story to tell about the above kinds of cases. For here is a qualitative difference between saltiness and sweetness:

  • saltiness is necessarily had by all and only salty things, but

  • sweetness is not necessarily had by all and only salty things.

But for the heavy-weight Platonist to tell this story would involve circularity, for what it is for a thing to be salty will be to exemplify saltiness.

Of course, this story only works for properties that aren’t necessarily coextensive. But it’s some progress.


Speed Limit Forty said...

Wouldn't this be a general worry about fundamental entities, especially if we understand individuation in terms of grounding or dependence?

Alexander R Pruss said...

Is the thought something like this: If the individuation of a thing must be a partial ground of it, then a thing that is fundamental must have no grounds, not even partial ones, and hence cannot be individuated?

That's an interesting thought. I think that if the fundamental has no grounds, then there is only one fundamental entity, God.

Tom said...

This thought occurred to me recently (and this post was the closest thing to relevant I could find): do arguments for the necessity of their being only one God require the identity of indiscernibles? Because, as I've heard them, they argue that there can be only one purely actual being, since any distinction between two gods would require that one lack a feature that the other has, and then that one wouldn't be purely actual (and so not God). I believe similar proofs can be run with omnipotence (since one god would be able to prevent the other's will, and so at least one wouldn't be omnipotent). But if the identity of indiscernibles is false, is there anything to prevent there being two indiscernible gods?

One can, of course, just accept the identity of indiscernibles, but it's an interesting point to me all the same, and one I don't think I've seen addressed.

Also, re: the thought that if the fundamental has no grounds, then there God is the only fundamental argument, it seems to me that the so-called Occam's Laser principle furnishes a straightforward little argument for God. Because there is one God and God is simple, it will always be a simpler theory than naturalism, and ex hypothesi the simpler theory is to be preferred.