The Things We Mean

Review of Metaphysics 58 (4):916-917 (2005)
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Abstract

A pleonastic entity is one whose existence can be validly inferred from statements making no reference to that entity. For instance, properties are pleonastic entities, since we can infer from “Sam is a goat” the pleonastic equivalent “Sam has the property of being a goat.” Inferences of this sort, which Schiffer calls something-from-nothing transformations, are conceptually valid; they are licensed by the concept of a property, since having the concept of a property just is knowing such things as that all F’s have the property of being an F. The hypostatization is harmless, however, since the properties thus added to our ontology are abstract entities with no impact on the causal structure of the world. The result is a deflationist conception of properties: yes, they exist mind-independently, but their natures are exhausted by our property-invoking inferential and linguistic practices. Where these leave individuative questions unsettled, the matter is simply indeterminate. One noteworthy consequence is that mental-physical property-identities, which many take to be knowable a posteriori, cannot be determinately true, there being nothing in our concept of being in pain that could help determine which such property pain would be.

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Thomas Bontly
University of Connecticut

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