The Varieties of Instantiation

Journal of the American Philosophical Association 7 (3):417-437 (2021)
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Working with the assumption that properties depend for their instantiation on substances, I argue against a unitary analysis of instantiation. On the standard view, a property is instantiated just in case there is a substance that serves as the bearer of the property. But this view cannot make sense of how properties that are mind-dependent depend for their instantiation on minds. I consider two classes of properties that philosophers often take to be mind-dependent: sensible qualities like color and bodily sensations like itches. Given that the mind is never itself literally red or itchy, we cannot explain the instantiation of these qualities as a matter of their having a mental bearer. Appealing to insights from Berkeley, I defend a view on which a property can be instantiated not in virtue of having a bearer—mental or material—but rather in virtue of being the object of a conscious act of perception. In the second half of the paper, I suggest that the best account of sensible qualities and bodily sensations ultimately makes use of both varieties of instantiation.

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Umrao Sethi
Brandeis University


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