Volume 12, 2007
Philosophical Trends in the XXth Century
Tropes and Relations
A straightforward ontological account would be one which acknowledges relations as real beings, and that means, according to the scholastic tradition, as universals. The realist move in this sense which has been re-established within contemporary analytical ontology at least since Russell's early theory, is, however, not the only possible way to take relations seriously. In my paper I shall argue that there is much room for the ontological reconstruction of relations, even if one does not accept universals. The background for this argument is a particularist and realist theory, based on tropes ("trope" being the short name for "property instance" or "individual quality"). One way of reconstruction is that relations themselves are particulars. They are supposed to be relational or polyadic tropes (J. Bacon, D. Mertz). The other way is to hold that relations are internal or formal, and therefore do not require a category sai generis (K. Mulligan, P. Simons). I shall discuss these alternatives and finally opt for the second, i.e., the reconstruction of relations as internal to their relata. Moreover, I offer an argument for why basic relations such as existential dependence should be granted a transcategorial status within trope ontology. Hence, the gist of my paper is to take relations seriously without falling prey either to stubborn nominalism or to strict realism. What I intend to explore is a middle avenue thereby choosing the best of both sides in order to explicate a moderate view on the realism of relations.