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Douglas Edwards

ISBN: 978-0-745-68410-9

May 2014, Polity

160 pages



The world is populated with many different objects, to which we often attribute properties: we say, for example, that grass is green, that the earth is spherical, that humans are animals, and that murder is wrong. We also take it that these properties are things in their own right: there is something in which being green, or spherical, or an animal, or wrong, consists, and that certain scientific or normative projects are engaged in uncovering the essences of such properties. In light of this, an important question arises: what kind of things should we take properties themselves to be?

In Properties, Douglas Edwards gives an engaging, accessible, and up-to-date introduction to the many theories of properties available. Edwards charts the central positions in the debate over properties, including the views that properties are universals, that properties are constructed from tropes, and that properties are classes of objects, and assesses the benefits and disadvantages of each. Attempts to deny the existence of properties are also considered, along with ‘pluralist’ proposals, which aim to accommodate the different kinds of properties that are found in various philosophical debates.

Properties is the ideal introduction to this topic and will be an invaluable resource for scholars and students wishing to learn more about the important roles that properties have played, and continue to play, in contemporary philosophy.

Preface x

1 Introducing Properties 1

1.1 Why Think that There Are Properties? 1

1.2 What Is a Theory of Properties? 8

1.3 A Methodological Strategy 8

1.4 The Jobs Properties Do 9

1.5 Definitions and Terminological Notes 11

1.6 Further Reading 14

2 Universals 16

2.1 Introduction 16

2.2 Transcendental Universals 16

2.3 Immanent Universals 28

2.4 Further Reading 46

3 Tropes 48

3.1 Introduction 48

3.2 The Basic Idea 49

3.3 Tropes and Causation 51

3.4 Properties as Sets of Tropes 53

3.5 The Relation between Objects and Tropes 54

3.6 Accounting for Resemblance between Tropes 61

3.7 Tropes and Universals 64

3.8 Further Reading 67

4 Properties Eliminated? 68

4.1 Introduction 68

4.2 Russell and Quine on Ontological Commitment 69

4.3 Ostrich Nominalism 71

4.4 Primitive Predication 73

4.5 Paraphrase 74

4.6 Objects and Properties 77

4.7 A Revised One Over Many Problem 78

4.8 Implications for Ostrich Nominalism 80

4.9 Implications for Universals and Tropes 80

4.10 Further Reading 84

5 Varieties of Nominalism 85

5.1 Introduction 85

5.2 Predicate and Concept Nominalism 86

5.3 Class Nominalism 94

5.4 Mereological Nominalism 100

5.5 Resemblance Nominalism 104

5.6 Chapter Summary 110

5.7 Further Reading 111

6 Pluralist Views of Properties 112

6.1 Introduction 112

6.2 The Distinction between Abundant and Natural Properties 114

6.3 Grounding the Distinction: Universals, Tropes and Primitive Naturalness 118

6.4 Degrees of Naturalness: Supervenience, Definability and Grounding 121

6.5 Universals, Tropes and Degrees of Naturalness 128

6.6 Graded versus Egalitarian Conceptions of Naturalness 130

6.7 Chapter Summary 135

6.8 Further Reading 136

7 Kinds of Properties 137

7.1 Introduction 137

7.2 Methodology: Descriptive and Prescriptive Metaphysics 138

7.3 Mathematical Properties 140

7.4 Mental Properties 144

7.5 Moral Properties 148

7.6 Chapter Summary 157

7.7 Further Reading 158

Conclusion 159

Notes 164

References 169

Index 177

"Talk of properties is ubiquitous throughout philosophy, but the literature on the subject can be disparate and thorny. Edwards has therefore produced an extremely valuable book – one which not only presents a masterful overview of the current literature on the nature of properties, but, building on earlier work by Lewis, presents a new 'pluralist' view of the subject. A must read for anyone working on properties or metaphysics more generally."
Michael Lynch, University of Connecticut

"A nice introduction to the extremely dense group of issues that surround the metaphysics of properties. The reader-friendly prose and presentation of ideas make this difficult topic accessible to undergraduates and other non-experts."
Paul Audi, University of Nebraska at Omaha