Well I am not a fan of tropes either, but I don't think things being
difficult to understand is a good argument against them. I don't understand
the Higgs Boson, but it looks increasingly likely that it exists. (01)
The argument I would give against tropes is that it is an unnecessary
category. You can manage perfectly well without it, so you should. Or you
should be clear about the benefits that introducing the category provides,
and I have not found any benefits that would give me a return on my
ontological investment, only added complexity. (02)
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> -----Original Message-----
> From: ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:ontolog-forum-
> bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of John F Sowa
> Sent: 05 July 2012 13:04
> To: ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
> Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] Truth
> After the discussions in this thread last week, I browsed through some
> by Peter van Inwagen, a philosopher who writes about ontology and related
> Papers by Peter van Inwagen
> The following paper covers some of the points I was trying to make about
> simplifying the terminology for teaching ontology:
> Relational vs. Constituent Ontologies
> A relational ontology, which he favors, has a straightforward mapping to
> logic. It consists of things that you can refer to by quantified
> and the relations that relate those things to one another:
> > My own favored ontology can serve as an example of a relational
> > According to this ontology, members of the primary category that can
> > be variously called "substance," "concrete thing," "individual thing,"
> > and "particular thing" are without ontological structure...
> > everything that is not a particular thing is an abstract object or
> > relation (a proposition, property, or proper relation). And there is
> > no possible sense of 'constituent' in which an abstract object can be
> > a constituent of a substance/concrete particular/individual thing...
> This is the kind of ontology that you can map to predicate calculus to any
> dialect of Common Logic, or to RDF and OWL. Van Inwagen contrasts it with
> constituent ontologies:
> > A constituent ontology, like a relational ontology, includes "concrete
> > particular" in its inventory of ontological categories. But, unlike
> > relational ontologies, constituent ontologies imply that concrete
> > particulars have an ontological structure: they have constituents
> > (perhaps parts in the strict sense, perhaps not) that do not belong
> > to the category "concrete particular."
> Among the constituents in such theories are things like tropes and
> For example, a horse is a concrete particular that has flesh and bone as
> concrete parts, but it also has a universal, such as horseness, as a
> constituent. When the horse is happy, it would have the trope happiness
> constituent. Van Inwagen writes:
> > I will now give some reasons for preferring a relational to a
> > constituent ontology-reasons for repudiating the idea of ontological
> > My principal reason...is a very straightforward one: I do not
> > understand the idea of ontological structure or, indeed, any of the
> > ideas with which one finds it entwined in the various constituent
> When van Inwagen says he doesn't understand constituent ontologies or the
> ideas entwined in them, I despair of teaching them to people who need to
> ontology in computer systems.
> > I do not understand the words and phrases that are the typical items
> > of the core vocabulary of any given constituent ontology:
> > 'Immanent universal', 'trope', 'exist wholly in', 'wholly present
> > wherever it is instantiated,' 'constituent of' (said of a universal
> > and a particular in that order). These are all mysteries to me.
> An immanent universal, for example, is the horseness that is present in
> particular horse. As an example, van Inwagen quotes a passage by the
> philosopher David Lewis:
> > [Consider] two particles each having unit positive charge. Each one
> > contains a non-spatiotemporal part corresponding to charge. [It is a
> > universal and] the same universal for both particles. One and the same
> > universal recurs; it is multiply located; it is wholly present in both
> > particles, a shared common part whereby the two particles overlap.
> > Being alike by sharing a universal is 'having something in common' in an
> absolutely literal sense.
> Talking about atomic particles shifts the focus to something that is
> mysterious even for physicists. But if you replace the particles with
> something more familiar like horses, you get
> DL with horses:
> > One and the same horseness recurs; it is multiply located; it is
> > wholly present in both horses, a shared common part whereby the two
> > horses overlap. Being alike by sharing horsenesss is 'having
> > something in common' in an absolutely literal sense.
> A biologist would say that the two horses contain copies of the same kind
> DNA. But the DNA is a "concrete particular", not a universal.
> Each horse has its own DNA, and there is no overlap. Van Inwagen said
> > Such talk bewilders me to a degree I find it hard to covey.
> In any case, van Inwagen writes clearly about a broad range of topics
> to ontology and other philosophical issues. I recommend his writings.
> He is also sympathetic to people he criticizes. For example, he wrote the
> following review of collected papers by David Lewis:
> He gives Lewis high praise and credit for his strengths (originality,
> of analytical technique, prose style, broad and deep knowledge of the
> He strongly recommends many of the papers in the collection, but he is
> critical of some issues, such as the example above, or of Lewis's
> "Extreme Modal Realism".
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