Could Armstrong have been a universal?

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There cannot be a reductive theory of modality constructed from the concepts of sparse particular and sparse universal. These concepts are suffused with modal notions. I seek to establish this conclusion by tracing out the pattern of modal entanglements in which these concepts are involved. In order to appreciate the structure of these entanglements a distinction must be drawn between the lower-order necessary connections in which particulars and universals apparently figure, and higher-order necesary connections. The former type of connection relates specific entities. By contrast, the latter type of connection is unspecific: it relates entities to some others. I argue that whilst there may be techniques that succeed in providing reductive truth conditions for sentences that say particulars and universals figure in lower-order necessary connections, such techniques cannot succeed in providing reductive truth conditions for sentences that say these entities figure in higher-order necessary connections. I conclude that this situation leaves reductionists with a dilemma. If they wish to affirm that there are particulars and universals then the project of reducing modality by positing these entities must be abandoned. Alternatively, they may continue to deploy their usual reductive techniques but then they must abandon the doctrine that there is more than one fundamental category of entity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)471-501
Number of pages31
Issue number431
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 1999


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