Modes of Referring and the Problem of Universals: An Essay in Metaphysics

By D. S. Shwayder | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
PROPERTIES

1. Common uses of common terms . -- Philosophers do not always sufficiently appreciate that common terms, including most adjectives, common nouns, and a variety of other substantival expressions, systematically take on several uses, and that this is no accident. Common terms are, in the first place, used to distinguish or characterize objects, as when we state that or inquire whether the book is red, or the animal is a dog. They are, in the second place, used to refer to objects in order to say something about those objects, as when we say "Red is brighter than brown," or "The dog was domesticated before 3000 B.C." The use of an unmodified adjectival form to refer to the associated characteristic is rare, and in English is confined mostly to colors; the occurrence of this special case is possibly explained by the fact (if it is a fact) that most color adjectives were originally names for kinds of things or substances. Another queer kind of transfer of an unmodified adjectival form is exemplified by names for musical tones (e.g., "C#"). Usually we mark a referring use with a special form (e.g., "the square"), or an affix ("-hood," "-ness;" "-ty"). These all have their own force. "Rednes," by the way, is not the form we want for referring to the color red. We might speak of "the redness of her cheeks," but would never say "Redness is brighter than brownness" It seems that "-ness" marks a reference to a quality as manifested in a particular instance, found when we wish to speak abstractly about the color of a particular colored thing; "redness" does not mean "the color red" but "the red quality of." When we wish to refer to the universal simpliciter -- and that is the use I have in mind -- it seems better to employ the original adjectival form.1 However that may be, these special forms and affixes can occur meaningfully only in connection with a word that is presumed to have the other use. In the third place, common terms are used in adjunction with quantifiers or applicatives, as in "Some (all, each, every, a, the, any, . . .) book(s) is (are) red" I entitle this last the class-determining use. It does not seem too gross an oversimplification to say that common terms so used may determine a class of objects, a class which may be variously involved and presupposed when we make statements or ask questions of certain sorts.

I stress that these three kinds of use regularly given for common

____________________
1
For confirmation see Manley Thompson, "Abstract Terms", Phil. Rev., 1959.

-72-

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Modes of Referring and the Problem of Universals: An Essay in Metaphysics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Contents ix
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter I - Prolegomena to the Theory Of Referring 5
  • Chapter II - Modes of Referring 37
  • Chapter III - Properties 72
  • Chapter IV - The Natural Numbers 116
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