I know modern philosophers debate whether we have sufficient warrant to conceive of properties and qualities as mutually distinct. The existence of such a debate entails the existence of, ostensibly, mutually distinct conceptions of those terms. So, generally speaking, what do the philosophers who posit a distinction between the two terms regard as distinguishing one from the other?

1 Answer 1


So, I'm not sure what motivates the position you're talking about. But off the cuff, my response would be:

X's property p is whatever makes the sentence "x is p" true.

A quality is just a particular kind of intrinsic property. Color is a quality. So are texture and temperature.

So, all qualities are properties, but not vice versa. Here's a property that isn't a quality--being a father. It is true of me that i'm a father, but that isn't an intrinsic fact about what I am like, it's true in virtue of relationship I have to something outside of me.

  • But we may say that we have relations (n-ary) : they a "basic". A property is only the "degenerate" case of 1-ary relation. This may explain for the rather vague concept : "intrinsic". The proposed criterion for object x having the property p : for a property, we may ask the question "is x a p ?" does not exclude colour ("is x red ?") May we have some example of 1-ary properties that are not qualities ? Mar 11, 2014 at 11:26
  • Getting a definition of "intrinsic" and "extrinsic" is really tough. There are famous problems about this, see for instance the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on it here plato.stanford.edu/entries/intrinsic-extrinsic Responding to your other question: mass is a unary property that isn't a quality. "is 7 kg" is a property of something, but it seems to be a really different kind of property than "is red". Aristotle would have said the mass predicates were in the category of quantity, rather than quality, for instance. Length seems to be another.
    – user5172
    Mar 11, 2014 at 20:43

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