Determinables and Brute Similarities

In Christer Svennerlind, Jan Almäng & Rögnvaldur Ingthorsson (eds.), Johanssonian Investigations. Essays in Honour of Ingvar Johansson on His Seventieth Birthday. Ontos Verlag (2013)
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Ingvar Johansson has argued that there are not only determinate universals, but also determinable ones. I here argue that this view is misguided by reviving a line of argument to the following effect: what makes determinates falling under a same determinable similar cannot be distinct from what makes them different. If true, some similarities — imperfect similarities between simple determinate properties — are not grounded in any kind of property-sharing. I suggest that determinables are better understood as maximal disjunctions of brutely and imperfectly similar determinates. Such brute similarities have been thought to clash with realism about universals. I argue that this worry stems from the mistaken assumption that perfect and imperfect similarities are relations of a same kind. If exact and inexact resemblances are distinct and heterogeneous explananda, the realist about universals might explain the first thanks to property-sharing, while happily leaving imperfect similarities between properties unexplained.

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Olivier Massin
Université de Neuchâtel


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