Topic: Ontology&possible worlds
The paper below is interesting though, it has no abstract (that I could find) and was not signed by anyone. I presumed that the owner of the site is the one who wrote it, hence put his name on it. Please, correct me if my guess was wrong.
UNIVERSALS AND PROPERTIES
By B. Sidney Smith
Once intuitions are acknowledged as having evidential weight, there is hope of showing that universals exist and settling their modal status. Some philosophers take a direct approach. For example, from the intuition that humility is a virtue (Armstrong 1978), or the intuition that some things have a property in common (Lewis 1983), these philosophers infer directly that universals exist. But sophisticated nominalists are unimpressed, for this direct approach disregards coherent nonrealist interpretations of the language used to report these intuitions. For example, mathematical sentences with apparent commitment to abstract entities have been interpreted as disguised intensional-operator or adverbial sentences having no such commitment. So-called modal interpretations of mathematics fall into this family. Fictionalism inspires another kind of nonrealist approach. On this approach, an atomic sentence (e.g., ‘Apollo is a Greek god’) can be taken as true even though a singular term occurring within it is genuinely vacuous and has no ontological commitment. What makes the sentence true is that it is suitably “backed by” the beliefs and/or discourse of the speakers. Then, of course, there are non-objectual treatments of quantifiers, notably, various substitutional treatments (pronominal, proverbal, prosentential). If any such variety of nonrealist interpretation is acceptable, then intuitions reported within the associated idioms would lose their apparent ontological commitment to universals.
The prospect of such nonrealist interpretations have rendered the direct intuitive arguments for mathematical objects unpersuasive. If this is so in philosophy of mathematics, surely analogous non-realist moves could be made in metaphysics against universals. In view of this, I believe that the most promising way to establish the existence and modal status of universals is by means of a modal argument which focuses on the behavior of intensional abstracts—’that’-clauses and gerunds—in modal contexts. (For now I will assume that Meinongianism is mistaken; I will return to that topic in the final section.)
Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 BST
Updated: Friday, 26 August 2005 02:13 BST