Asymmetry cannot solve the circularity/regress problem of property structuralism

Synthese 199 (3-4):10685-10720 (2021)
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Strong dispositional monism, the position that all fundamental physical properties consist in dispositional relations to other properties, is naturally construed as property structuralism. J. Lowe’s circularity/regress objection constitutes a serious challenge to SDM that questions the possibility of a purely relational determination of all property essences. The supervenience thesis of A. Bird’s graph-theoretic asymmetry reply to CRO can be rigorously proved. Yet the reply fails metaphysically, because it reveals neither a metaphysical determination of identities on a purely relational basis nor a determination specifically of identities in the sense of essences. Asymmetry is thus not by itself sufficient for a solution to CRO. But it cannot even help to answer CRO when a model for the determination of essences is taken as a basis. Nor is asymmetry necessary for a reply, as property structures may well be symmetric. A metaphysics of dispositional properties as grounded in a purely relational structure faces serious obstacles, and the properties would not be fundamental. Since essence and grounding are notions of metaphysical priority, there can be no essentially dispositional metaphysically fundamental properties, and the prospects of a “coherentist” metaphysics of basic properties are dim. A modal retreat that refrains from a post-modal conception of essence and simply claims that fundamental properties play dispositional roles by metaphysical necessity is unsatisfactory.



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Ralf Busse
Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz

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References found in this work

Metaphysical Dependence: Grounding and Reduction.Gideon Rosen - 2010 - In Bob Hale & Aviv Hoffmann (eds.), Modality: Metaphysics, Logic, and Epistemology. Oxford University Press. pp. 109-135.
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Monism: The Priority of the Whole.Jonathan Schaffer - 2010 - Philosophical Review 119 (1):31-76.
Essence and Modality.Kit Fine - 1994 - Philosophical Perspectives 8 (Logic and Language):1-16.

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