CORDIS - EU research results

The Many Kinds of Many: Pluralism about Properties

Final Report Summary - TMKM (The Many Kinds of Many: Pluralism about Properties)

Executive Summary:

In both ordinary and scientific inquiry we often seem to attribute properties to things, or to kinds of things: we say, for example, that grass is green, that the earth is spherical, that humans are animals, and that murder is wrong. We also seem to think that these properties are things in their own right: there is something that it is to be green, or spherical, or an animal, or wrong, and that certain scientific or normative projects are engaged in uncovering the essences of such properties.

If we take these initial thoughts to amount to anything, an important question arises: what kind of things should we take properties to be? Perhaps we should take them to be those things in virtue of which one kind of thing is demarcated from another kind of thing. Or perhaps as those aspects of an object which ground the causal powers of that object. Alternatively, perhaps we should take properties to be just those things that are referred to by our predicates.

These suggestions are all brief expressions of different ways of understanding properties, ranging from the thought that properties should only be those things that ground some genuine similarities between objects, thus rendering properties relatively sparse, to the thought that any predicate with consistent rules for its application can give rise to a corresponding property, thus rendering properties incredibly abundant.

The aim of this project was to outline and argue for pluralism about properties. The work undertaken in the project argues that we should take the existence of properties seriously, and gives an inventory of the various kinds of properties we should posit, why we should posit them, and what jobs each kind of property can do. It also shows why adopting a pluralist conception of properties over a monist conception of properties – which claims that there is only one kind of property – has some significant theoretical benefits, and investigates the connections between work on properties and work in other areas of philosophy.

Elaboration of these main findings of the project are contained in the book which was stated to be the main output of the project. This book, entitled Properties, was completed during the project period, and is currently in production, due to be published by Polity Press in May 2014. In addition to the book, complementary work was published in 7 articles.


Properties. Cambridge: Polity Press. In Production, publication date 2nd May 2014.