Michael Esfeld

Against properties: why relations are sufficient


The aim of this talk is to make a case for the following claim: there is no cogent reason to admit properties in the fundamental ontology. Relations are sufficient to do all the work that properties are supposed to do. Iíll illustrate this claim by considering the Humean, categorica view of properties and the modal, dispensationalist view. Against the former, I shall show that not only can natural properties be cut off from the Humean ontology without loss, but that, moreover, this ontology thereby gains in strength, since the objections from quidditism and humility then no longer apply. Against the latter, I shall argue that properties are inappropriate to exercise the modal role that they are supposed to ful fill and that, moreover, they are in any case inadequate with respect to contemporary fundamental physics. On this basis, I will outline a view that replaces properties with structures in the sense of concrete physical relations that individuate the fundamental objects. Thus, it is substances individuated by relations instead of substances being equipped with intrinsic properties.

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