Things and Persons
Plantinga (Alvin)
Source: Review of Metaphysics 1961, 493-519
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction

  1. Recent years have seen a resurgence of interest in such traditional problems of metaphysics as the problem of universals1, of other minds, of the nature of predication, of the nature of time and space, of whether and in what sense material objects are "basic," and the like. P. F. Strawson's book "Strawson (Peter) - Individuals: An Essay in Descriptive Metaphysics" is an important product of that renewed interest.
  2. Exciting, able and challenging, the book is also, unhappily, obscure. It is as if Strawson were so eager to pursue the main vision, that he had neither the space nor the inclination to work out carefully the connections between the various things he says or the arguments tor his crucial contentions — connections and arguments which are often essential for an understanding of the book as a whole or the main points it makes.
  3. Since I am less than confident of my understanding of the book, I offer what follows with diffidence; and my critical remarks are to be taken in the spirit of queries, requests for clarification, rather than as settled criticisms.
  4. Individuals is divided into two parts.
    • In Part I, Strawson tries to show that there is an important sense in which material objects and persons are basic particulars.
    • In Part II "the aim is to establish and explain the connexion between the idea of a particular in general and that of an object of reference or logical subject" (11-12).
  5. Part II contains a wealth of interesting material and ingenious argumentation. Most important here, perhaps, is Strawson's attempt to provide criteria for distinguishing subjects from predicates and particulars from universals2, and to show a philosophically important link between the subject-predicate distinction and the particulars-universals3 distinction.


Review of "Strawson (Peter) - Individuals: An Essay in Descriptive Metaphysics".

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)

  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2019
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

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