Mellor’s Question: Are Determinables Properties of Properties or of Particulars?

American Philosophical Quarterly 58 (3):291-305 (2021)
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What I call Mellor’s Question is the problem of whether determinables are properties of their determinates or properties of the particulars that possess these determinates. One can distinguish two basic competing theories of determinables that address the issue, implicitly if not explicitly. On the second-order theory, determinables are second-order properties of determinate properties; on the second-level theory, determinables are first-order properties of the particulars with these determinate properties. Higher-order properties are prima facie ontologically uneconomical, and in line with my general view that ontological parsimony is vital to metaphysics, I consider it highly important which of the two theories is true. Firstly, I argue that the second-level theory offers the best explanation of the explananda (though the race is close), including the important but neglected phenomenon of ‘intermediate determinables’. Secondly, by paying attention to intermediate determinables and instantiation of higher-order properties, I argue that the second-level theory also is more ontologically economical. For these two reasons, this theory is preferable.
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First archival date: 2020-06-21
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