The Problem of Universals and the Asymmetry of Instantiation

American Philosophical Quarterly 55 (2):189-202 (2018)
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Oliver's and Rodriguez-Pereyra's important interpretation of the problem of universals as one concerning truthmakers neglects something crucial: that there is a numerical identity between numerically distinct particulars. The problem of universals is rather how to resolve the apparent contradiction that the same things are both numerically distinct and numerically identical. Baxter's account of instantiation as partial identity resolves the apparent contradiction. A seeming objection to this account is that it appears to make instantiation symmetric, since partial identity is symmetric. Armstrong's standard reply is that the difference between a particular and a universal is what makes instantiation asymmetric. Brown suggests, though, that the instantiation of a universal by a universal is sometimes symmetric. However, the examples on which he relies are not universals.

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Donald L. M. Baxter
University of Connecticut


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