Here is a train of thought I’ve put together inquiring into the nature of properties, with some questions at the end. Comments and recommendations for further reading are welcome.
We usually only consider certain kinds of things as being able to instantiate certain properties. For example, we would never say “snow is a prime number” or “beliefs are cold” or “hockey is tall” on the conventional meanings of these terms, because snow does not have the property of being a number, so it cannot be prime; beliefs are not thermodynamic systems, so they cannot be cold; hockey is not a solid chunk of matter, so it cannot be tall. To do justice to this intuition, I propose the following principle:
Things must have some more basic property in order to instantiate a class of properties associated with that more basic property.
However, despite its intuitive force, I think this principle leads to a problem. Consider the following argument:
- Things must have some more basic property in order to instantiate a class of properties associated with that more basic property.
- This may lead to a regress, since it could be the thing needs an even more basic property as a prerequisite for instantiating the first basic property, and then another, and so forth. (For example, something may be cold only if it is a thermodynamic systems, but something may be a thermodynamic system only if it is a body of matter.)
- Therefore all a thing’s properties must either be fundamental properties or possessed ultimately in virtue of fundamental properties - properties those things have not in virtue of it having any other property. (i.e being a body of matter might be a fundamental property.)
But how do we decide which properties of a thing are fundamental and which ones are not? Could a property be fundamental for one thing but not fundamental for another? If a thing does not have a fundamental property in virtue of another of its properties, then what’s the explanation for why it has that fundamental property?