Suppose Archie is the tallest man in Antarctica. Can Archie be said to have the property of being the tallest man in Antarctica?

Now suppose Archie tries to lift a crate of penguin eggs and finds it heavy. Can Archie legitimately claim that the crate has the property of being heavy (in the sense that it's heavy for him)?

What if we took something more abstract? If object A shares each of its intrinsic visual properties with at least one other object in set S, can A be said to have the property of having no unique intrinsic visual properties in set S? If so, can this property of A be considered a visual property (since the basis for its determination is visual, rather than, say aural or gustatory)?

If any of the above is correct, what kind of properties are these? Clearly they are different from the property of being green, or the property of having a mass of 5kg, because they are context-dependent. If those aren't properties at all, what are they?


These are just normal properties. The ones you are thinking of are abstractions that do not actually apply to anything.

Even your examples don't work as context-free properties if you think them through:

  • 'Green' is already context-dependent. In a different color light, it isn't green. To an R/G colorblind man, it does not exist.
  • For the notion of mass to make sense requires a whole theory of physics. What it has that can actually be measured and is not completely theoretical is a corresponding weight, and measuring that requires this planet as a context.

By that standard, all properties are in fact context-dependent. The mathematical abstraction of a property like 'being green' is just that, an abstraction, that discards enough detail to allow it to travel to some range of related contexts.

With full detail, there will always be necessary contextual aspects. And how much detail needs to be lost is not well-defined by the abstraction process, it depends upon the intended purpose -- the potential range of related contexts. So the abstract mathematical properties are never well-defined.

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