Naturalness: Abundant and Sparse Properties

In Anna Sofia Maurin & Anthony Fisher (eds.), Routledge Handbook on Properties (2024)
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Commitment to sparseness amounts to the idea that there is an objective, worldly privileging of certain properties over others that makes the privileged properties suited to play certain roles, and is responsible for their playing such roles. In this chapter I offer a brief, opinionated overview of sparseness. I begin by examining a set of problems that I call “problems of abundance”, which generate canonical motivations for sparseness. I then survey some influential approaches to sparseness and the roles that they attribute to sparse properties, noting that on most approaches sparse properties are deeply connected to inquiry. Finally I consider some problems for sparseness, focusing on the purported connections between sparseness and inquiry, particularly in philosophy of science and inquiry into the social world.



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