Universals V Tropes Essay, Research Paper
In examining the world around us we notice many similarities. There is a great deal of reoccurrence, which we can not help but to notice. The same shape occurs over and over in so many different objects. Rings, cans, bottles, candies, the same property we term roundness is found in all these objects. Likewise we see the same color in so many different objects. Often people say these recurrences make the world a dull place. The same set of properties continuously shows up. The best we can hope for is a new combination of these old features. Although this repetition is somewhat boring it is also incredibly important. The right sorts of recurrences, like musical notes, can make a musical piece much more captivating. If the world did not have these similarities running through it there would be no way of recognizing anything. No concepts could ever be made; thinking even in its most basic state would be impossible. The world would only be an experience.
Many people classify these properties found in our world as particular things in their own being. The color red as a particular of the apple. Thus all things that have the color red have either, depending on your view, the same particular or parts of the same particular. But are the properties of particulars themselves particulars?
In an effort to classify what sort of things properties are several possibilities have been introduced. The favorite theory of D.M. Armstrong was that of properties as universals. Armstrong beliefs that universals are an ontologically basic component of the world. He compares them to the letters of the alphabet, rather than the words. Universals are thus a basic component of things. Armstrong also made several other claims about universals. First universals must be sparse. There isn?t a universal corresponding to every set. There are only as many universals as there are genuine similarities. Every universal must also be instantiated by something, either in the past, present or future.
The question arises of why we should believe that all universals need be instantiated? The view that uninstantiated universals can exist is called the Platonist view. In this view we obtain two realms: one for the uninstantiated universals and one for the instantiated universals. The Platonic view is very hard to belief. Many people find it hard to fathom two separate realms for uninstantiated and instantiated universals. If one rejects this view we are in effect bringing all the universals down to earth. Everything that exists is in a certain space and time. It would be enough if a universal did not exist now, but existed in the past, or will exist in the future. Having this in mind there can be no universal such as “unicornhood”.
We can view a things properties as constituents of the thing and think of the properties as universals. Since universals are located in space and time universals are “wholly” present wherever their instances are. In bringing the universals into a world with space and time it seems to say something rather strange. If a particular universal is located “wholly” in every object that contains that property then they are apparently simultaneously located in multiple places. This view of universals seems strange as something can not possibly exist entirely in two separate areas of space and time. But, Armstrong clearly states that universals are “wholly” present and are found wherever the particulars that instantiate them are found. If two rings each have the property roundness, than roundness, a universal, is to be found in two different places. Some philosophers have simply tried to look past the problem by accepting the multiple locations of universals. Simply ignoring the problem though does not make it go away. One may attempt to argue that it is a flaw in our language that brings about the problem. When a person is presented with two white objects, we use the universal term “white” to describe both of them. They belief that “white” is a general term and our language does not have a specific or proper name for each of the two universals. This argument seems very elementary. We use this term “white” for a reason, because we see the color white in so many things. We this use this term to describe things because of its constant recurrence. There is no need to have proper names for every single object. As Armstrong stated universals are sparse.
In an attempt to correct the problem of having the particular of a property found wholly in two places at the same time the trope theory evolved. In many ways the trope theory is similar to the theory of properties as universals. Tropists also believe that tropes are very sparse. Also, there are only as many tropes as there are genuine similarities. Tropists too believe only in instantiated tropes and not in uninstantiated tropes, like the universalists. All tropes must have a space and time location.
Where the tropists and universalist differ is in what way the particular property is found. Tropists believe that properties are in fact particulars. But, they think of a particular such as the roundness of a penny as being found only in that penny. Tropists believe that a certain trope is found only in a particular object. They label the properties as tropes, just like universalists call them universals. However, tropists believe that when two objects resemble each other they have matching tropes. Remember though that these are not the same tropes, two different objects cannot have the identical trope. Since the same trope is not wholly located in all objects with the same property, it seemingly takes care of the problem of being located in multiple locations at the same time. Someone can accept universals and deny that universals are in space at all. Also, one could argue that the trope theory faces a similar problem. If there is such a thing as the trope “blue” in jeans then wouldn?t it be in both legs at once? This would force the tropist to believe in multiple locations. One could however, avoid the problem of multiple locations by thinking of tropes as being present at points and not spatially extended. If two objects have the property red they are said to have two matching tropes at the those particular points, not the identical trope and not spatially extended. This seems to be the greatest advantage that the tropist theory has over the universalists theory. With this problem eliminated it seems as though the trope theory is by far the superior.
Also when a scientists reports his data like the temperature of an experiment or the acceleration of an object, he is reporting a trope, not a universal. This is an occurrence and will often change. Tropes can thus be a case, state, event or a process. Tropes can also be geometrical figures. If this is true a person?s figure could be a trope. So in this case someone is more concerned with taking care of their own “figure” than those of anyone else.
Both of these theories state that the properties of particulars are in themselves particulars. I also believe that properties are particulars. Some people argue that in order to truly exist the object must be able to exist by itself. Clearly color and shape cannot exist on there own. Where we can take the ink out of a pen, we cannot strip the color from an orange. More obviously we can not make an orange by putting the shape, color, and flavor of it together. Based on this properties are not particulars. However, this argument quickly goes away under close examination. There are many particulars that cannot be removed and cannot exist on there own. It would be impossible to remove Lake Superior and place it somewhere else on its own. We have no problem though with saying that Lake Superior is in fact a concrete object. Most things when they are removed are so damaged we wouldn’t say they were the same things at all. So it seems to me that it is no problem for a property to exist even though it is unable to exist on its own.
I often find myself caring much more about the property and little about the particular. I care more about the excellent property of “taste” in a steak, or the “smell” of a piece of oak wood. I would rather just have these properties without the rest of the bulk. Most people would not enjoy certain foods if they didn?t have a particular taste within.
I believe more strongly in the tropist theory of properties as particulars. It just seems more logical for me to believe that objects exist in space an time and of those that have the same property have matching tropes. I don’t believe they have the same particular in both objects. When we say that a property, such as roundness, is presented over and over in our world, what we are saying is true. All the objects that share a certain property have different, but matching particulars.
Every world is completely made up of its tropes. The particulars of properties is what makes the world into a recognizable place. The properties of shape, color, taste, etc. exist as particulars of the object they are found in. It is not the same particular as the universalists state, but rather matching particulars.