From an Ontological Point of View
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From an Ontological Point of View is a highly original and accessible exploration of fundamental questions about what there is. John Heil discusses such issues as whether the world includes levels of reality; the nature of objects and properties; the demands of realism; what makes things true; qualities, powers, and the relation these bear to one another. He advances an account of the fundamental constituents of the world around us, and applies this account to problems that have plagued recent work in the philosophy of mind and metaphysics (color, intentionality, and the nature of consciousness).
creatures. How could such properties affect the behaviour of creatures possessing them? The potential causal contribution of any higher-level property would seem to be pre-empted by its lower-level realizing property. Suppose you are in pain by virtue of being in neurological state N. When you head for the medicine cabinet to ﬁnd aspirin,are you driven by the feeling of pain, or by N, its neurological realizer? If you are inclined to see the feeling of pain as somehow getting into the act,how is
of an electron are qualities? Evidently not. Many philosophers have been attracted to the idea that powers are grounded in categorical properties.If an electron’s mass and charge are powers then,on this familiar view,mass and charge are grounded in qualities of the electron. If mass and charge are taken to be purely categorical bases of powers, they are no less qualities. In either case,the mass and charge of an electron are associated with qualities of the electron.The identity theory interprets
conception of what this thought could amount to, however, so I refrain from pressing the point here. As anecdotal evidence against the suggestion that the default conception of properties treats properties as universals, I might cite my own experiences in trying to explain universals to undergraduate philosophy students. Even those willing to suspend judgement on what they regard as loony philosophical theses typically baulk at the idea of universals; this is so even when universals are presented
with an object and (mentally) subtract its properties.This calls to mind Locke’s conception of ‘substrata’. Ordinary objects—beetroots and the like—are, on this view, substrata plus properties. Properties require substrata. Modes, ways objects are,cannot exist independently of objects.This is one way of understanding Locke’s insistence that an object’s properties must ‘inhere in’ or be ‘supported by’ a substratum. A substratum is not another property, but an ontologically distinctive bearer of
kinds of entity out of which objects could be made.This implies that, if a mode exists, it must be a mode of something. This something is a substratum: an unobservable support for observable properties. You need not be an empiricist to worry about substrata thus conceived.What could substrata (or ‘thin particulars’) be? They support,but are distinct from, properties. But then it would seem that substrata lack properties: substrata appear to be ‘bare particulars’, entities that themselves possess