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The Proceedings of the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 2, 1999

Metaphysics

E. Jonathan Lowe
Pages 195-205

Abstraction, Properties, and Immanent Realism

Objects which philosophers have traditionally categorized as abstract are standardly referred to by complex noun phrases of certain canonical forms, such as ‘the set of Fs’, ‘the number of Fs’, ‘the proposition that P’, and ‘the property of being F’. It is no accident that such noun phrases are well-suited to appear in ‘Fregean’ identity-criteria, or ‘abstraction’ principles, for which Frege’s criterion of identity for cardinal numbers provides the paradigm. Notoriously, such principles are apt to create paradoxes, and the most intuitively plausible ‘Fregean’ identity-criterion for properties is afflicted by this problem. In this case, it may be possible to overcome the difficulty by modifying the criterion in a way which requires an independent account of the existence-conditions of properties, but it appears that such a strategy demands acceptance of the doctrine of immanent realism—the view that a property exists only if it is exemplified by some object.

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