A One Category Ontology

In John A. Keller (ed.), Being, Freedom, and Method: Themes From the Philosophy of Peter van Inwagen. New York: Oxford University Press UK. pp. 32-62 (2017)
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I defend a one category ontology: an ontology that denies that we need more than one fundamental category to support the ontological structure of the world. Categorical fundamentality is understood in terms of the metaphysically prior, as that in which everything else in the world consists. One category ontologies are deeply appealing, because their ontological simplicity gives them an unmatched elegance and spareness. I’m a fan of a one category ontology that collapses the distinction between particular and property, replacing it with a single fundamental category of intrinsic characters or qualities. We may describe the qualities as qualitative charactersor as modes, perhaps on the model of Aristotelian qualitative (nonsubstantial) kinds, and I will use the term “properties” interchangeably with “qualities”. The qualities are repeatable and reasonably sparse, although, as I discuss in section 2.6, there are empirical reasons that may suggest, depending on one’s preferred fundamental physical theory, that they include irreducibly intensive qualities. There are no uninstantiated qualities. I also assume that the fundamental qualitative natures are intrinsic, although physics may ultimately suggest that some of them are extrinsic. On my view, matter, concrete objects, abstract objects, and perhaps even spacetime are constructed from mereological fusions of qualities, so the world is simply a vast mixture of qualities, including polyadic properties (i.e., relations). This means that everything there is, including concrete objects like persons or stars, is a quality, a qualitative fusion, or a portion of the extended qualitative fusion that is the worldwhole. I call my view mereological bundle theory.

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L. A. Paul
Yale University


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