Logical Properties
McGinn (Colin)
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  1. The concepts of identity, existence, predication, necessity, and truth are at the centre of philosophy and have rightly received sustained attention. Yet Colin McGinn believes that orthodox views of these topics are misguided in important ways. Philosophers and logicians have often distorted the nature of these concepts in an attempt to define them according to preconceived ideas.
  2. Logical Properties aims to respect the ordinary ways we talk and think when we employ these concepts, while at the same time showing that they are far more interesting and peculiar than some have supposed. There are real properties corresponding to these concepts - logical properties - that challenge naturalistic metaphysical views. These are not pseudo-properties or mere pieces of syntax.
  3. Logical Properties is written with the minimum of formal apparatus and deals with logico-linguistic issues as well as ontological ones. The focus is on trying to get to the essence of what the concept concerned stands for, and not merely finding some established notation for providing formal paraphrases.

  • Clarendon Press; New Edition (3 April 2003)
  • First 4 (of 5) Chapters photocopied.
  • Available electronically at Link

"McGinn (Colin) - Précis of 'Logical Properties: Identity, Existence, Prediction, Necessity, Truth'"

Source: Philosophical Studies, Vol. 118, No. 3 (Apr., 2004), pp. 407-411

Author’s Introduction
  1. Logical Properties is a short intense book about large abstract questions. It deals with highly general concepts - identity, existence, predication, necessity, and truth - from a linguistic, logical and ontological point of view.
  2. I wrote it with a kind of aesthetic aim: to squeeze as much into a short space as possible while retaining clarity. I wanted the impact on the reader to be one of pure unadulterated abstract thought - an intellectual proximity to the bloodless world of abstracta. The immersion would be relatively brief, but it would be complete.
  3. I therefore composed the book with little reference to other writers, though footnotes do relate what I am saying to relevant literature. I also intended the book to be thought-provoking rather than safe, exposed rather than protected.
  4. Partly I had my eye on student readers, who need to see the wood for the trees, and partly I wanted to re-invigorate a subject that has (in my view) grown rather stale and mechanical (whether I succeeded is another question). The style of the book is therefore intentionally blunt and bold, and tries to mirror the intoxicating aridities of its subject-matter.

COMMENT: Precis of "McGinn (Colin) - Logical Properties".

"McGinn (Colin) - Identity"

Source: McGinn - Logical Properties, 2000, Chapter 1

Author’s Abstract1
  1. Four central claims about the nature of identity are formulated. Identity is unitary, indefinable, fundamental, and it is a genuine relation.
  2. This general conception of identity is appealed to in later chapters when discussing other topics.

Author’s Abstract2
  1. I start the book with the notion of identity, which I take to be a paradigm logical notion. I argue that identity is a single unitary relation applicable across the full range of objects (and properties etc); it is not in any way relative or qualified according to the type of object to which it applies. It is a simple absolute relation that necessarily holds of any actual or conceivable entity.
  2. Attempts to define identity - say by Leibniz's law - are doomed to circularity, since it occupies far too deep a role in our thought for it to emerge from other concepts. Every thought brings with it a tacit invocation of the identity concept.
  3. Despite its universality, the concept of identity is not redundant or in any way unreal; it is simply a relation that characterizes every thinkable (and unthinkable) thing. I expect much of this chapter will strike the reader as familiar; my aim is to use these claims about identity as a foil for what follows.

COMMENT: Photocopy filed in "Various - Papers on Identity Boxes: Vol 10 (M1: Ma-Mc)".

In-Page Footnotes ("McGinn (Colin) - Identity")

Footnote 1: Taken from Oxford Scholarship Online.

Footnote 2: Taken from "McGinn (Colin) - Précis of 'Logical Properties: Identity, Existence, Prediction, Necessity, Truth'".

"McGinn (Colin) - Existence"

Source: McGinn - Logical Properties, 2000, Chapter 2

Author’s Abstract1
  1. The 'naïve view' of existence, according to which 'exists' is a genuine predicate, expressing a genuine property, is defended against the orthodox Russellian view, which maintains that to predicate existence of an object is really to say of some property that it is instantiated.
  2. It is argued that the orthodox view faces intractable problems, which the naïve view does not face, and that the latter fares better than the former in three specific contexts in which the notion of existence plays a central role: the cogito, essentialism, and the ontological argument.

Author’s Abstract2
  1. Existence, likewise, has the look of a highly general property of objects - certainly of all existing objects. It is a unitary property that holds of objects of many different categories - physical, mental, abstract; it does not vary its nature according to the metaphysical type of the object that has it.
  2. Yet, of course, such a view has been widely rejected, in favor of the thesis that attributions of existence to objects are really disguised statements about properties or predicates, to the effect that they have instances (the "Russell- Frege view").
  3. I argue against this view, first noting that the notion of having instances must be interpreted to mean having existent instances, thus re-introducing the concept of existence. For a property or predicate to be instantiated in such a way that the appropriate object can be said to exist we have to assume that the instantiation relation can only relate existent objects; we cannot allow, for example, that Sherlock Holmes instantiates the property of being an opium-smoking detective. I also suggest that the Russell-Frege view cannot handle attributions of existence to properties them- selves, as well as encountering problems with singular statements of existence.
  4. On the positive side, I defend the position that non-existent objects can be "quantified over" and said to have properties. Thus I interpret quantifier words like "some", "all" and "most" as not carrying, semantically, existential import - they merely function to specify how many. This leads me to revise the usual interpretation of the "existential quantifier": I re-name it the "partial quantifier" and assign the affirmation of existence to a predicate, as in "for some x is F and x exists".
  5. I also defend the metaphysical thesis that existent objects are not intrinsically mind-dependent but that non-existent objects are - that is, there is no non-existent object that has not been an object of thought. This leads me into the thorny thickets of possible and impossible objects, about which I adopt the highly alarming position that they exist. Here I am under unwelcome pressure from a number of directions and I try to resolve these pressures as smoothly as possible; these matters strike me as still very unsettled.
  6. What mainly moves me is the thought that there cannot be any definite individuated thing that fails to exist unless thought has conferred identity on that thing - for what else could confer identity on a non-existent thing? Sherlock Holmes had no identity before he was invented by Conan Doyle, so it makes no sense to suppose that there was a definite fact of his non-existence before he was created. Non- existence requires individuation, and individuation must come from the mind if it cannot come from the world. But these matters are, I concede, very obscure.

COMMENT: Photocopy filed in "Various - Papers on Identity Boxes: Vol 10 (M1: Ma-Mc)".

In-Page Footnotes ("McGinn (Colin) - Existence")

Footnote 1: Taken from Oxford Scholarship Online.

Footnote 2: Taken from "McGinn (Colin) - Précis of 'Logical Properties: Identity, Existence, Prediction, Necessity, Truth'".

"McGinn (Colin) - Predication"

Source: McGinn - Logical Properties, 2000, Chapter 3

Author’s Abstract1
  1. The extensional view that predicates are general terms that refer severally to the members of a set of objects that satisfy them is rejected. Instead, it is argued that predicates refer to properties, and are thus singular terms like names.
  2. The distinction between names and predicates is upheld, but it is argued that what accounts for it is not the spurious distinction between singularity and plurality of reference, but rather grammatical position, and the ontological type of the reference.

Author’s Abstract2
  1. My chapter on predication is mainly a critique of the Quinean conception of predicates as referring multiply to the objects that compose their extensions, instead of singly to properties or attributes. Again, the appearances suggest that "red", say, refers to the property of being red, but Quine proposes that ""red" refers to each of the many red things there are, scattered as they may be.
  2. My procedure is to construct a contrived semantics according to which ordinary names are taken to refer multiply to the many properties possessed by their bearer, instead of referring simply to the bearer itself. I show that such a semantics can deliver the right truth conditions, however gerrymandered it may appear, and that the Quinean treatment of predicates is really no less artificial.
  3. For fear of accepting properties or attributes into one's ontology, the role of predicates has been twisted and distorted. I end the chapter with the sentiment that extensions are creatures of darkness, clumsy semantic monsters.

COMMENT: Photocopy filed in "Various - Papers on Identity Boxes: Vol 10 (M1: Ma-Mc)".

In-Page Footnotes ("McGinn (Colin) - Predication")

Footnote 1: Taken from Oxford Scholarship Online.

Footnote 2: Taken from "McGinn (Colin) - Précis of 'Logical Properties: Identity, Existence, Prediction, Necessity, Truth'".

"McGinn (Colin) - Necessity"

Source: McGinn - Logical Properties, 2000, Chapter 4

Author’s Abstract1
  1. The view that modal expressions can be successfully paraphrased by means of quantification over possible worlds is rejected on the grounds that such translations are either circular or inadequate.
  2. It is argued instead that modal expressions function as ‘copula modifiers’, specifying whether an object instantiates a property in the ‘necessary mode’ or in the ‘contingent mode’.
  3. The chapter concludes with a brief examination of some metaphysical issues about modality, including whether it constitutes a sui generis ontological category and whether it is causally efficacious.

Author’s Abstract2
  1. Next comes modality. Recent tradition has assimilated modal expressions to quantifier expressions: "possibly" and "necessarily" are treated as existential and universal quantifiers, respectively.
  2. From my point of view in this chapter, it matters little what these quantifiers range over - my objection is to the semantic proposal itself, not to its metaphysical interpretation. But of course it is worlds that are held to be the domain of quantification, either as robust realities or as linguistic constructions.
  3. I argue that such a quantificational translation cannot work because it must employ the world "possible" within the putative translation, and hence cannot account for every use of modal expressions. This is not to say that there are no possible worlds or that they cannot be usefully invoked in semantics and metaphysics; it is simply to say that, as an account of the meaning of modal words, the theory cannot deliver the goods, since it cannot account for all occurrences of such words.
  4. As an alternative, I amend the well-known predicate modifier treatment, suggesting that modal expressions are best seen as operating on the copula and not on the copulated predicate. Intuitively, when we say that Socrates is necessarily a man we are saying that Socrates instantiates manhood in the mode of necessity - not that he instantiates the modal property of necessary manhood. This is a subtle difference, but a significant one.
  5. This copula modifier theory can account for all uses of modal expressions, even de dicto uses, I claim, so that it does not have the same kind of problem as the quantifier treatment. It does, however, require us to enlarge our accepted types of logical form (there are no copula modifiers in predicate logic).

COMMENT: Photocopy filed in "Various - Papers on Identity Boxes: Vol 10 (M1: Ma-Mc)".

In-Page Footnotes ("McGinn (Colin) - Necessity")

Footnote 1: Taken from Oxford Scholarship Online.

Footnote 2: Taken from "McGinn (Colin) - Précis of 'Logical Properties: Identity, Existence, Prediction, Necessity, Truth'".

"McGinn (Colin) - Truth"

Source: McGinn - Logical Properties, 2000, Chapter 5

Author’s Abstract1
  1. The final topic of the book is truth, and here I am keen to curb deflationist excesses. I argue that truth is a real property of propositions, even though its essence is disquotation.
  2. I understand truth to be a property that is such that when it applies to a proposition p it follows that p. I suggest that no other property has this entailment. In my view, "true" can be defined by means of the disquotational schema, but it is not an analyzable notion, in the sense that it admits of conceptual decomposition. It is simple yet definable - and again, uniquely so. Truth, I say, is self-effacing in the sense that necessary and sufficient conditions can be specified for its application, by means of disquotation, and yet these conditions make no reference to the property of truth (under any description). But this peculiarity does not imply any sort of "disappearance theory" of truth: truth is a genuine logical property, like existence and identity. I end by comparing this view of truth to G.E. Moore's account of "good": both terms refer to properties that are simple, unanalyzable, and non-natural.
  3. It is not that such logical properties pose no philosophical problems - such as how we come to know that that are instantiated - but I think these problems are with us anyway, and it is no progress to hide under the rug what challenges our theories. In a way, then, my position here resembles my view of consciousness (and of ethics): we are indeed confronted by something genuinely problematic, but we are really confronted by something. There really are logical properties, instantiated alongside the "natural" ones.

In-Page Footnotes ("McGinn (Colin) - Truth")

Footnote 1: Taken from "McGinn (Colin) - Précis of 'Logical Properties: Identity, Existence, Prediction, Necessity, Truth'".

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