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Allen, Sophie, , . A Critical Introduction to Properties (Bloomsbury Critical Introductions to Contemporary Metaphysics)
2016, Bloomsbury
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Naomi Osorio-Kupferblum

Publisher’s Note: What do blue things have in common? Or electrons? Or planets? Distinct things appear to share properties; but what are properties and what is the best philosophical account of them? A Critical Introduction to Properties introduces different ontological accounts of properties, exploring how their formulation is shaped by the explanatory demands placed upon them.

This accessible introduction begins with a discussion of universals, tropes, sets and resemblance classes, the major objections to them and their responses, providing readers with a firm grasp on the competing ontological accounts of what (if anything) grounds similarity and difference. It then explores issues concerning the formulation and justification of property theories such as: how many properties are there? Should we accept a sparse ontology of properties, or an abundant one? Can we make a distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic properties? Do properties have their causal roles necessarily? What is the relationship between properties and other metaphysical phenomena such as causality, laws and modality? These questions get to the heart of why a coherent theory of properties is so important to metaphysics, and to philosophy more generally.

By concluding with the question of the ontological status of properties, the reader is introduced to some Carnapian and contemporary themes about the content and methodology of metaphysics. For students looking for an accessible resource and a more comprehensive understanding of contemporary metaphysics, A Critical Introduction to Properties is a valuable starting point.

Comment: This is an excellent introduction to a particularly important chapter in (first order) metaphysics. Each chapter is dedicated to a key aspect of properties (e.g. universals, tropes, grounded/ungrounded, intrinsic /extrinsic, categorical/dispositional properties, etc.) which Allen describes with great clarity. She gives plenty of references so that interested students can dig deeper easily. It is very clear in presenting arguments and counter-arguments.

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Langton, Rae & Lewis, David, , . Defining ‘Intrinsic’
1998, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 58(2): 333-345.
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Added by: Emily Paul, Contributed by:

Summary: Something could be round even if it were the only thing in the universe, unaccompanied by anything distinct from itself. Jaegwon Kim once suggested that we define an intrinsic property as one that can belong to something unaccompanied. Wrong: unaccompaniment itself is not intrinsic, yet it can belong to something unaccompanied. But there is a better Kim-style definition. Say that P is independent of accompaniment iff four different cases are possible: something accompanied may have P or lack P, something unaccompanied may have P or lack P. P is basic intrinsic iff (1) P and not-P are nondisjunctive and contingent, and (2) P is independent of accompaniment. Two things (actual or possible) are duplicates iff they have exactly the same basic intrinsic properties. P is intrinsic iff no two duplicates differ with respect to P.

Comment: This would be a suitable further reading for a unit on intrinsic and extrinsic properties (e.g. something that students could use for essay research). This is because it delves deeper into our concept of ‘intrinsic’, and students would first need to discuss a ‘standard’ definition as a core text and in the lecture.

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Sullivan, Meghan, , . Are There Essential Properties? No.
2016, in Elizabeth Barnes (ed.) Current Controversies in Metaphysics (Routledge)): 45-61.
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Added by: Emily Paul, Contributed by:

Abstract: This paper describes motivations for the view that some objects have essential properties: properties which they must have in any world/situation where they exist (without qualification). I raise objections to the motivations for so-called “hardcore essentialism”. And I articulate and defend an alternative theory: explanation-relative essentialism.

Comment: Very useful for an intermediate Metaphysics course. Could be good to include this reading after teaching about modality, as a way to apply possible worlds talk to a new topic: are there certain properties that objects/entities must have in every possible world, in order to be that very object/entity? It could also be useful to teach de re/de dicto necessity first.

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