- When philosophers have tried to give an ontological analysis of familiar concrete particulars, they have frequently assumed that they are wholes made up of metaphysically more fundamental constituents and have endorsed either of two opposed positions - the substratum theory or the bundle theory.
- On the former view, a concrete particular is a whole made up of the various properties we associate with the particular together with an underlying subject or substratum that has an identity independent of the properties with which it found - a bare particular; and the claim is that the bare particular or substratum is the literal exemplifier of those properties.
- On the latter view, there are no underlying substrata: ordinary particulars are constituted exclusively by the properties associated with them; they are just "bundles" or "clusters" of those properties.
- Empiricists have typically found the idea of an underlying substratum objectionable and have been bundle theorists: but substratum theorists have argued, first, that bundle theorists cannot account for the fact that there are true, yet informative subject-predicate claims and, second, that the bundle theorist is committed to the truth of a false principle known as the Identity of Indiscernibles1, the claim that it is impossible for numerically different concrete particulars to have exactly the same properties. To overcome these difficulties, they claim, we must posit bare particulars or substrata as constituents of concrete particulars.
- The difficulty is that the notion of a bare particular is, as bundle theorists claim, incoherent; and the attempt to revise the notion of an underlying substratum in such a way as to remove the incoherence has the result that substrata are incapable of resolving the philosophical problems their introduction was meant to resolve.
- The difficulties associated with the bundle and substratum theories have led some metaphysicians to reject the assumption that familiar particulars are wholes made up of metaphysically more basic constituents. One influential form this denial takes is an Aristotelian substance theory, where familiar concrete particulars or some among them are ontologically fundamental entities. On this view, it is the concrete particular itself that is the literal exemplifier of the universals2 associated with it. Some of those universals3 are external to the essence of the particular and are only contingently exemplified by it; whereas others - the substance kinds under which the particular falls - mark the particular out as the thing it is and are essentially exemplified by it.
- Substratum and bundle theories
- An objection to the bundle theory — subject-predicate discourse
- Another objection to the bundle theory — the Identity of Indiscernibles4
- An argument for the substratum theory
- Problems for the substratum theory
- Aristotelian substances
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