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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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Demarest, Heather, , . Fission May Kill You (But Not for the Reasons You Thought)
2016, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 93, 3.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Shen Pan

Abstract: If a person, A, branches into B and C, then it is widely held that B and C are not identical to one another. Many think that this is because B and C have contradictory properties at the same time. In this paper, I show why this explanation cannot be right. I argue that contradictory properties at times are not necessary for non-identity between descendants, and that contradictory properties at times are not sufficient for non-identity. I also argue that the standard explanation cannot be salvaged by a shift to personal time. Appeals to a lack of continuity, or to the absence of unity of consciousness likewise fail. Rather, B and C are non-identical simply because A branched into B and C. Why branching should be problematic for personal identity remains a deep puzzle though I offer some tentative suggestions.

Comment: Useful for teaching time, time travel, and personal identity.
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Demarest, Heather, , . Fundamental Properties and the Laws of Nature
2015, Philosophy Compass 10(5) 224-344.
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Added by: Laura Jimenez, Contributed by:

Abstract: Fundamental properties and the laws of nature go hand in hand: mass and gravitation, charge and electromagnetism, spin and quantum mechanics. So, it is unsurprising that one’s account of fundamental properties affects one’s view of the laws of nature and vice versa. In this essay,the author surveys a variety of recent attempts to provide a joint account of the fundamental properties and the laws of nature. Many of these accounts are new and unexplored. Some of them posit surprising entities, such as counterfacts. Other accounts posit surprising laws of nature, such as instantaneous laws that constrain the initial configuration of particles. These exciting developments challenge our assumptions about our basic ontology and provide fertile ground for further exploration.

Comment: The article introduces in a simple way some fundamental concepts such as ‘law of nature’, ‘properties’, the notion of ‘categorical’ and ‘dispositional’ or the distinction between the governing and the systems approaches. It could serve as an introduction for those undergraduates that have never heard of these concepts before, or as a further reading for those in need of clarification. Some examples of modern fundamental physics are used as examples.

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Peterson, Bailie, , . Attributes of God
2018, 1000-Word Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Nathan Nobis

Abstract: Theists believe God exists, atheists believe that God does not exist, and agnostics suspend judgment on the issue. But what do each of these mean by ‘God’? What is the concept of God that underlies the debate? This essay explains three important features of a widely-accepted idea of God and discusses some puzzles and paradoxes related to their application.

Comment: An introduction to a traditional concept of God accepted by many theistic religions.
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Siegel, Susanna, , . Which Properties are Represented in Perception?
2006, In Tamar S. Gendler & John Hawthorne (eds.), Perceptual Experience. Oxford University Press: 481-503.
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Added by: Andrea Blomqvist, Contributed by:

Abstract: In discussions of perception and its relation to knowledge, it is common to distinguish what one comes to believe on the basis of perception from the distinctively perceptual basis of one’s belief. The distinction can be drawn in terms of propositional contents: there are the contents that a perceiver comes to believe on the basis of her perception, on the one hand; and there are the contents properly attributed to perception itself, on the other. Siegel argues that high-level properties should be attributed to percception itself. That, high-level properties can be the content of perception.

Comment: This paper is interesting to consider in the cognition/perception debate, since high-level properties such as being a natural kind, or emotions and intentions, are normally taken to be features of cognition rather than perception. It raises interesting questions about the relationship between concepts, the content of perception and perceptual experience. It would be good in a third year module on perception.

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Vetter, Barbara, , . Dispositions without conditionals
2014, Mind 123(489): 129-156.
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Added by: Laura Jimenez, Contributed by:

Abstract: Dispositions are modal properties. The standard conception of dispositions holds that each disposition is individuated by its stimulus condition(s) and its manifestation(s), and that their modality is best captured by some conditional construction that relates stimulus to manifestation as antecedent to consequent. In this paper Vetter proposes an alternative conception of dispositions: each disposition is individuated by its manifestation alone, and its modality is closest to that of possibility – a fragile vase, for instance, is one that can break easily. The view is expounded in some detail and defended against the major objections.

Comment: This article serves as a complementary reading for the book Potentiality: From Dispositions to Modality, or as a replacement for those who are only interested in Vetter’s analysis of dispositions and not in her entire theory of potentialities. Recommendable for postgraduate courses in philosophy of language, metaphysics or philosophy of science.

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Yagisawa, Takashi, , . A New Argument Against the Existence Requirement
2005, Analysis 65 (285): 39-42.
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Added by: Nick Novelli, Contributed by:

Abstract: It may appear that in order to be any way at all, a thing must exist. A possible – worlds version of this claim goes as follows: (E) For every x, for every possible world w, Fx at w only if x exists at w. Here and later in (R), the letter ‘F’ is used as a schematic letter to be replaced with a one – place predicate. There are two arguments against (E). The first is by analogy. Socrates is widely admired now but he does not exist now. So, it is not the case that for every x, for every time t, Fx at t only if x exists at t. Possible worlds are analogous to times. Therefore, (E) is false (cf., Kaplan 1973: 503 – 05 and Salmon 1981: 36 – 40). For the second argument, replace ‘F’ with ‘does not exist’. (E) then says that for every x, for every possible world w, x does not exist at w only if x exists at w. This is obviously false. Therefore (E) is false (cf., Kaplan 1977: 498). Despite their considerable appeal, these arguments are not unassailable. The first argument suffers from the weakness inherent in any argument from analogy; the analogy it rests on may not.

Comment: A very concise argument against the claim that existence is a prerequisite for having properties. This is a familiar claim, and this paper would be useful when it comes up to show that there is controversy about it. It does presuppose a basic understanding of possible world semantics, so should be reserved for courses where students already have a grasp of such semantics or the instructor wants to teach it beforehand.

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