Graduate studies at Western
Philosophical Perspectives 20 (1):387–397 (2006)
|Abstract||One often hears a complaint about “bare particulars”. This complaint has bugged me for years. I know it bugs others too, but no one seems to have vented in print, so that is what I propose to do. (I hope also to say a few constructive things along the way.) The complaint is aimed at the substratum theory, which says that particulars are, in a certain sense, separate from their universals. If universals and particulars are separate, connected to each other only by a relation of instantiation, then, it is said, the nature of these particulars becomes mysterious. In themselves, they do not have any properties at all. They are nothing but a pincushion into which universals may be poked. They are Locke’s “I know not what” (1689, II, xxiii, §2); they are Plato’s receptacles (Timaeus 48c–53c); they are “bare particulars”.1 Against substratum theory there is the bundle theory, according to which particulars are just bundles of universals. The substratum and bundle theories agree on much. They agree that both universals and particulars exist. And they agree that a particular in some sense has universals. (I use phrases like ‘particular P has universal U ’ and ‘particular P ’s universals’ neutrally as between the substratum and bundle theories.) But the bundle theory says that a particular is exhaustively composed of (i.e., is a mereological fusion of) its universals. The substratum theory, on the other hand, denies this. Take a particular, and mereologically subtract away its universals. Is anything left? According to the bundle theory, no. But according to the substratum theory, something is indeed left. Call this remaining something a thin particular. The thin particular does not contain the universals as parts; it instantiates them|
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