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On universals: an extensionalist alternative to Quine's resemblance theory

Nathan Stemmer
Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie
Vol. 38, No. 1 (April, 2007), pp. 75-90
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20722476
Page Count: 16
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On universals: an extensionalist alternative to Quine's resemblance theory
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Abstract

The notion of similarity plays a central role in Quine's theory of Universals and it is with the help of this notion that Quine intends to define the concept of kind which also plays a central role in the theory. But as Quine has admitted, his attempts to define kinds in terms of similarities were unsuccessful and it is mainly because of this shortcoming that Quine's theory has been ignored by several philosophers (see, e.g., Armstrong, D. M. (1978a). Nominalism and realism: Universals and Scientific realism (Vol. I). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). In the present paper, I propose an alternative framework that accounts for the phenomena that Quine intends to explain with his resemblance theory. The framework agrees with Quine's austere ontology; in particular, it does not assume the existence of properties and of possible worlds. (I will mention below Quine's reason for rejecting properties and possible worlds. For a theory of Universals that assumes possible worlds, see, e.g., Rodriguez-Pereyra, G. (2002). Resemblance nominalism: A solution to the problem of Universals. Oxford: Clarendon Press.) Moreover, the framework is extensionalist since the abstract entities it assumes are classes and these can be individuated extensionally, for classes are identical if their members are identical. Finally, I will refute some of the objections to Quine's approach that have been raised by Armstrong and Oliver [(1996). The metaphysics of properties. Mind, 105, 1-80.] and I will argue that, contrary to what has been claimed by Oliver in a comment on Lewis [(1986). On the plurality of worlds. Oxford: Blackwell.], Quine is able to specify an important set of sparse properties.

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