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Ideas of David M. Armstrong, by Text

[Australian, 1926 - 2014, Born in Melbourne. Pupil of John Anderson. Taught at Sydney University.]

1968 A Materialist Theory of Mind (Rev)
p.5 If pains are defined causally, and research shows that the causal role is physical, then pains are physical
     Full Idea: Armstrong and Lewis said that mental items were defined in terms of typical causes and effects; if, as seems likely, research reveals that a particular causal niche is occupied by a physical state, it follows that pain is a physical state.
     From: report of David M. Armstrong (A Materialist Theory of Mind (Rev) [1968]) by William Lycan - Introduction - Ontology p.5
     A reaction: I am not fully convinced of the first step in the argument. It sounds like the epistemology and the ontology have got muddled (as usual). We define mental states as we define electrons, in terms of observed behaviour, but what are they?
p.98 Armstrong and Lewis see functionalism as an identity of the function and its realiser
     Full Idea: The Armstrong/Lewis version of functionalism takes mental properties to be functional properties, but identifies these with what other functionalists would regard as their realisers.
     From: report of David M. Armstrong (A Materialist Theory of Mind (Rev) [1968]) by John Heil - Philosophy of Mind Ch.4
     A reaction: Heil rejects this, but I am beginning to think that this is the answer. If functions do not have an ontological life of their own (the 'ringing' of the bell), then functionalist mental states can't either. Function is not an ontological category.
p.396 A mental state without belief refutes self-intimation; a belief with no state refutes infallibility
     Full Idea: For Armstrong, introspection involves a belief, and mental states and their accompanying beliefs are 'distinct existences', so a state without belief shows states are not self-intimating, and the belief without the state shows beliefs aren't infallible.
     From: report of David M. Armstrong (A Materialist Theory of Mind (Rev) [1968]) by Sydney Shoemaker - Introspection
     A reaction: I agree with Armstrong. Introspection is a two-level activity, which animals probably can't do, and there is always the possibility of a mismatch between the two levels, so introspection is neither self-intimating nor infallibe (though incorrigible).
270-90 p.63 Armstrong suggests secondary qualities are blurred primary qualities
     Full Idea: According to D.M. Armstrong and others, when we perceive secondary qualities we are in fact perceiving primary qualities in a confused, indistinct or blurred way.
     From: report of David M. Armstrong (A Materialist Theory of Mind (Rev) [1968], 270-90) by Howard Robinson - Perception III.1
     A reaction: This is obviously an attempt to fit secondary qualities into a reductive physicalist account of the mind. Personally I favour Armstrong's project, but doubt whether this strategy is necessary. I just don't think there is anything 'primary' about redness.
6.VI p.88 To be realists about dispositions, we can only discuss them through their categorical basis
     Full Idea: It is only to the extent that we relate disposition to 'categorical basis', and difference of disposition to difference of 'categorical basis', that we can speak of dispositions. We must be Realists, not Phenomenalists, about dispositions.
     From: David M. Armstrong (A Materialist Theory of Mind (Rev) [1968], 6.VI)
     A reaction: It is Armstrong's realism which motivates this claim, because he thinks only categorical properties are real. But categorical properties seem to be passive, and the world is active.
1973 Belief Truth and Knowledge
p.336 Maybe experience is not essential to perception, but only to the causing of beliefs
     Full Idea: Armstrong has argued that experience, as normally understood, is not necessary to perception. To perceive is to acquire beliefs, through a causal process.
     From: report of David M. Armstrong (Belief Truth and Knowledge [1973]) by Roger Scruton - Modern Philosophy:introduction and survey 23.4
11.III.6 p.157 Externalism says knowledge involves a natural relation between the belief state and what makes it true
     Full Idea: Externalist accounts of non-inferential knowledge say what makes a true non-inferential belief a case of knowledge is some natural relation which holds between the belief state and the situation which makes the belief true.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Belief Truth and Knowledge [1973], 11.III.6)
     A reaction: Armstrong's concept is presumably a response to Quine's desire to 'naturalise epistemology'. Bad move, I suspect. It probably reduces knowledge to mere true belief, and hence a redundant concept.
1978 Nominalism and Realism
p.41 p.14 The problem of universals is how many particulars can all be of the same 'type'
     Full Idea: The problem of universals is the problem of how numerically different particulars can nevertheless be identical in nature, all be of the same 'type'.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Nominalism and Realism [1978], p.41), quoted by DH Mellor / A Oliver - Introduction to 'Properties' §7
     A reaction: A nice statement of the problem. As usual, the question is whether the 'sameness' is a feature of nature, or a product of human thought
1978 A Theory of Universals
p.30 Universals explain resemblance and causal power
     Full Idea: Armstrong thinks universals play two roles, namely grounding objective resemblances and grounding causal powers.
     From: report of David M. Armstrong (A Theory of Universals [1978]) by Alex Oliver - The Metaphysics of Properties 11
     A reaction: Personally I don't think universals explain anything at all. They just add another layer of confusion to a difficult problem. Oliver objects that this seems a priori, contrary to Armstrong's principle in Idea 10728.
p.44 Even if all properties are categorical, they may be denoted by dispositional predicates
     Full Idea: Armstrong says all properties are categorical, but a dispositional predicate may denote such a property; the dispositional predicate denotes the categorical property in virtue of the dispositional role it happens, contingently, to play in this world.
     From: report of David M. Armstrong (A Theory of Universals [1978]) by Alexander Bird - Nature's Metaphysics 3.1
     A reaction: I favour the fundamentality of the dispositional rather than the categorical. The world consists of powers, and we find ourselves amidst their categorical expressions. I could be persuaded otherwise, though!
p.91 Properties are universals, which are always instantiated
     Full Idea: Armstrong takes properties to be universals, and believes there are no 'uninstantiated' universals.
     From: report of David M. Armstrong (A Theory of Universals [1978]) by John Heil - From an Ontological Point of View §9.3
     A reaction: At first glance this, like many theories of universals, seems to invite Ockham's Razor. If they are always instantiated, perhaps we should perhaps just try to talk about the instantiations (i.e. tropes), and skip the universal?
p.202 If what is actual might have been impossible, we need S4 modal logic
     Full Idea: Armstrong says what is actual (namely a certain roster of universals) might have been impossible. Hence his modal logic is S4, without the 'Brouwersche Axiom'.
     From: report of David M. Armstrong (A Theory of Universals [1978]) by David Lewis - Armstrong on combinatorial possibility 'The demand'
     A reaction: So p would imply possibly-not-possibly-p.
II p.11 p.30 A thing's self-identity can't be a universal, since we can know it a priori
     Full Idea: Armstrong says that if it can be proved a priori that a thing falls under a certain universal, then there is no such universal - and hence there is no universal of a thing being identical with itself.
     From: report of David M. Armstrong (A Theory of Universals [1978], II p.11) by Alex Oliver - The Metaphysics of Properties 11
     A reaction: This is a distinctively Armstrongian view, based on his belief that universals must be instantiated, and must be discoverable a posteriori, as part of science. I'm baffled by self-identity, but I don't think this argument does the job.
p.8 p.13 It doesn't follow that because there is a predicate there must therefore exist a property
     Full Idea: I suggest that we reject the notion that just because the predicate 'red' applies to an open class of particulars, therefore there must be a property, redness.
     From: David M. Armstrong (A Theory of Universals [1978], p.8), quoted by DH Mellor / A Oliver - Introduction to 'Properties' §6
     A reaction: At last someone sensible (an Australian) rebuts that absurd idea that our ontology is entirely a feature of our language
xiii,16/17 p.147 The type-token distinction is the universal-particular distinction
     Full Idea: Armstrong conflates the type-token distinction with that between universals and particulars.
     From: report of David M. Armstrong (A Theory of Universals [1978], xiii,16/17) by Harold Hodes - Logicism and Ontological Commits. of Arithmetic 147 n23
     A reaction: This seems quite reasonable, even if you don’t believe in the reality of universals. I'm beginning to think we should just use the term 'general' instead of 'universal'. 'Type' also seems to correspond to 'set', with the 'token' as the 'member'.
1980 Against 'Ostrich Nominalism'
§1 p.104 Refusal to explain why different tokens are of the same type is to be an ostrich
     Full Idea: A philosophical account of a general sort is required of what it is for different tokens to be of the same type. To refuse to give such an account is to be a metaphysical ostrich.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Against 'Ostrich Nominalism' [1980], §1)
     A reaction: This defines Ostrich Nominalism (a label Armstrong aims at Quine). I certainly sympathise with Armstrong. If there is no more to a class (a type) than just having members (tokens), nothing is explain. What is natural, essential, intensional etc.?
§3 p.109 Particulars and properties are distinguishable, but too close to speak of a relation
     Full Idea: I favour the Realist view that while we can distinguish the particularity of a particular from its properties, but the two 'factors' are too intimately together to speak of a relation between them.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Against 'Ostrich Nominalism' [1980], §3)
     A reaction: Is Armstrong being a bit of an ostrich here? We could talk of part-whole relationships, or internal relations, or set membership, or coinciding objects, or bundles. We certainly ought to have a go. Armstrong approaches Quine here!
§3 p.111 Some think of reality as made of things; I prefer facts or states of affairs
     Full Idea: Some philosophers (like Devitt) think of reality as made up of things. Others, like me, think of it as made up of facts or states of affairs.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Against 'Ostrich Nominalism' [1980], §3)
     A reaction: Devitt is a follower of Quine on this. Personally I rather like 'processes'. Unanalysed things with predication (Quine) don't look promising. I currently favour things with active powers, which give rise to properties. See Shoemaker and Ellis.
1983 What is a Law of Nature?
p.15 Rather than take necessitation between universals as primitive, just make laws primitive
     Full Idea: My own view is simple: the laws of nature ought to be accepted as ontologically primitive. …They are preferable in point of familiarity to such necessitation relations between universals.
     From: comment on David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983]) by Tim Maudlin - The Metaphysics within Physics 1.4
     A reaction: I think you make natures of things primitive, and reduce laws to regularities and universals to resemblances. Job done. Natures are even more 'familiar' as primitives than laws are.
p.47 Armstrong has an unclear notion of contingent necessitation, which can't necessitate anything
     Full Idea: The two criticisms levelled against Armstrong are that it is unclear what his relation of contingent necessitation is, and that it is unclear how it is able to necessitate anything.
     From: comment on David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983]) by Alexander Bird - Nature's Metaphysics 3.1.2
     A reaction: I suppose someone has to explore the middle ground between the mere contingencies of Humean regularities and the strong necessities of scientific essentialism. The area doesn't, however, look promising.
p.56 Armstrong holds that all basic properties are categorical
     Full Idea: I am against Armstrong's strong categoricalism, that is, the thesis that all basic properties are categorical.
     From: report of David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983]) by Brian Ellis - The Metaphysics of Scientific Realism 3
     A reaction: I certainly agree with this, as I cannot see where the power would come from to get the whole thing off the ground. Armstrong depends on universals to necessitate what happens, which I find very peculiar.
p.213 Regularities are lawful if a second-order universal unites two first-order universals
     Full Idea: Armstrong's theory holds that what makes certain regularities lawful are second-order states of affairs N(F,G) in which the two ordinary first-order universals F and G are related by a certain dyadic second-order universal N.
     From: report of David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983]) by David Lewis - New work for a theory of universals 'Laws and C'
     A reaction: [see Lewis's footnote] I take the view (from Shoemaker and Ellis) that laws of nature are just plain regularities which arise from the hierarchy of natural kinds. We don't need a commitment to 'universals'.
01.1 p.4 Science depends on laws of nature to study unobserved times and spaces
     Full Idea: The scientist trying to establish the geography and history of the unobserved portion of the universe must depend upon what he takes to be the laws of the universe.
     From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 01.1)
     A reaction: This does seem to be the prime reason why we wish to invoke 'laws', but we could just as well say that we have to rely on induction. Spot patterns, then expect more of the same. Spot necessities? Mathematics is very valuable here, of course.
01.2 p.5 If you know what it is, investigation is pointless. If you don't, investigation is impossible
     Full Idea: Paradox of Analysis:if we ask what sort of thing an X is, then either we know what an X is or we do not. If we know then there is no need to ask the question. If we do not know then there is no way to begin the investigation. It's pointless or impossible
     From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 01.2)
     A reaction: [G.E. Moore is the source of this, somewhere] Plato worried that to get to know something you must already know it. Solving this requires the concept of a 'benign' circularity.
01.2 p.7 Each subject has an appropriate level of abstraction
     Full Idea: To every subject, its appropriate level of abstraction.
     From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 01.2)
     A reaction: Mathematics rises through many levels of abstraction. Economics can be very concrete or very abstract. It think it is clearer to talk of being 'general', rather than 'abstract'.
01.3 p.9 Actualism means that ontology cannot contain what is merely physically possible
     Full Idea: Actualism ...debars us from admitting into our ontology the merely possible, not only the merely logically possible, but also the merely physically possible.
     From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 01.3)
     A reaction: This is the big metaphysical question for fans (like myself) of 'powers' in nature. Armstrong declares himself an Actualist. I take it as obvious that the actual world contains powers, but how are we to characterise them?
01.3 p.9 Dispositions exist, but their truth-makers are actual or categorical properties
     Full Idea: It is not denied that statements attributing dispositions and/or powers to objects are often true. But the truth-makers or ontological ground for such statements must always be found in the actual, or categorical, properties of the objects involved.
     From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 01.3)
     A reaction: This is the big debate in the topic of powers. I love powers, but you always think there must be 'something' which has the power. Could reality entirely consist of powers? See Fetzer.
02.3 p.14 It is likely that particulars can be individuated by unique conjunctions of properties
     Full Idea: For each particular it is likely that there exists at least one individuating conjunction of properties, that is, a conjunction of properties such that the particular instantiates this conjunction and nothing else does.
     From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 02.3)
     A reaction: Armstrong commits to a famous Leibniz view, but I don't see his grounds for it. There is nothing incoherent about nature churning out perfect replicas of things, such as quarks and electrons. Would we care if two pens were perfectly identical?
02.4 p.16 Realist regularity theories of laws need universals, to pick out the same phenomena
     Full Idea: A Realistic version of a Regularity theory of laws will have to postulate universals. How else will it be possible to say that the different instances of a certain uniformity are all instances of objectively the same phenomenon?
     From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 02.4)
     A reaction: I disagree. We may (or may not) need properties, but they can be have a range. We just need stable language. We use one word 'red', even when the shade of redness varies. Non-realists presumably refer to sense-data.
02.6 p.18 A naive regularity view says if it never occurs then it is impossible
     Full Idea: It is a Humean uniformity that no race of ravens is white-feathered. Hence, if the Naive Regularity analysis of law is correct, it is a law that no race of ravens is white-feathered, that is, such a race is physically impossible. A most unwelcome result.
     From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 02.6)
     A reaction: Chapters 2-4 of Armstrong are a storming attack on the regularity view of laws of nature, and this idea is particularly nice. Laws must refer to what could happen, not what happens to happen.
02.7 p.21 Newton's First Law refers to bodies not acted upon by a force, but there may be no such body
     Full Idea: Newton's First Law of Motion tells us what happens to a body which is not acted upon by a force. Yet it may be that the antecedent of the law is never instantiated. It may be that every body that there is, is acted upon by some force.
     From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 02.7)
04.2 p.40 A good reason for something (the smoke) is not an explanation of it (the fire)
     Full Idea: A good reason for P is not necessarily an explanation of P. The presence of smoke is a good reason for thinking that fire is present. But it is not an explanation of the presence of fire.
     From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 04.2)
     A reaction: This may be an equivocation on 'the reason for'. Smoke is a reason for thinking there is a fire, but no one would propose it as a reason for the fire. If the reason for the fire was arson, that would seem to explain it as well.
04.3 p.42 The raven paradox has three disjuncts, confirmed by confirming any one of them
     Full Idea: We could rewrite the generalisation as For all x, ((x is a raven and x is black) v (x is not a raven and x is black) v (x is not a raven and x is not black)). Instances of any one of the three disjuncts will do as confirmation.
     From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 04.3)
     A reaction: A nice clarification.
04.5 p.58 Unlike 'green', the 'grue' predicate involves a time and a change
     Full Idea: The predicate 'grue' involves essential reference to a particular time, which 'green' does not. Also on the 'grue' hypothesis a change occurs in emeralds in a way that change does not occur on the 'green' hypothesis.
     From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 04.5)
     A reaction: I'm inclined to think that comparing 'grue' with 'green' is a category mistake. 'Grue' is a behaviour. Armstrong says this is no objection, because Goodman's argument is purely formal.
05.4 p.73 Best explanations explain the most by means of the least
     Full Idea: The best explanation explains the most by means of the least. Explanation unifies.
     From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 05.4)
     A reaction: To get unification, you need to cite the diversity of what is explained, and not the mere quantity. The force of gravity unifies because it applies to such a diversity of things.
06.2 p.82 Past, present and future must be equally real if universals are instantiated
     Full Idea: Past, present and future I take to be all and equally real. A universal need not be instantiated now.
     From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 06.2)
     A reaction: This is the price you must pay for saying that you only believe in universals which are instantiated.
06.2 p.82 Universals are just the repeatable features of a world
     Full Idea: Universals can be brought into the spatio-temporal world, becoming simply the repeatable features of that world.
     From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 06.2)
     A reaction: I wish Armstrong wouldn't use the word 'universal', which has so much historical baggage. The world obviously has repeatable features, but does that mean that our ontology must include things called 'features'? Hm.
06.2 p.83 All instances of some property are strictly identical
     Full Idea: A property something which is strictly identical, strictly the same, in all its different instances.
     From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 06.2)
     A reaction: Some is gravitation one property, or an infinity of properties, for each of its values? What is the same between objects of different mass. I sort of believe in all the masses, but I'm not sure what 'mass' is. Abstraction, say I.
06.2 p.83 The identity of a thing with itself can be ruled out as a pseudo-property
     Full Idea: There is reason to rule out as pseudo-properties such things as the identity of a thing with itself.
     From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 06.2)
     A reaction: Good on you, David.
06.3 p.85 The laws of nature link properties with properties
     Full Idea: There is an utterly natural idea that the laws of nature link properties with properties.
     From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 06.3)
     A reaction: Put it this way: given that properties are expressions of invariant powers, the interaction of two properties will (ceteris paribus) be invariant, and laws are just invariances in natural behaviour.
06.4 p.90 A universe couldn't consist of mere laws
     Full Idea: A universe could hardly consist of laws and nothing else.
     From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 06.4)
     A reaction: Hm. Discuss. How does a universe come into existence, if there are no laws to guide its creation?
06.7 p.99 Science suggests that the predicate 'grue' is not a genuine single universal
     Full Idea: It is plausible to say, on the basis of total science, that 'grue' is a predicate to which no genuine, that is, unitary, universal corresponds.
     From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 06.7)
06.7 p.102 To explain observations by a regular law is to explain the observations by the observations
     Full Idea: Given the Regularity theory, the explanatory element seems to vanish. For to say that all the observed Fs are Gs because all the Fs are Gs involves explaining the observations in terms of themselves.
     From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 06.7)
     A reaction: This point cries out, it is so obvious (once spotted). Tigers are ferocious because all tigers are ferocious (see?).
06.7 p.104 Induction aims at 'all Fs', but abduction aims at hidden or theoretical entities
     Full Idea: Many philosophers of science have distinguished between 'simple induction' - the argument from observed Fs to all Fs - and the argument to hidden or theoretical entities (Peirce's 'abduction').
     From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 06.7)
     A reaction: 'Abduction' is (roughly) the same is inference to the best explanation, of which I am a great fan.
08.3 p.123 If everything is powers there is a vicious regress, as powers are defined by more powers
     Full Idea: I believe reducing all universals to powers is involved in vicious regress. The power is what it is by the sort of actualisations it gives rise to in suitable sorts of circumstances. But they themselves can be nothing but powers...
     From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 08.3)
     A reaction: [compressed wording] I don't see this problem. Anything postulated as fundamental is going to be baffling. Why are categorical properties superior to powers? Postulate basic powers (or basic empowered stuff), then build up.
10.3 p.144 Negative facts are supervenient on positive facts, suggesting they are positive facts
     Full Idea: Negative facts appear to be supervenient upon the positive facts, which suggests that they are nothing more than the positive facts.
     From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 10.3)
10.4 p.147 Absences might be effects, but surely not causes?
     Full Idea: Lacks and absences could perhaps by thought of as effects, but we ought to be deeply reluctant to think of them as causes.
     From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 10.4)
     A reaction: Odd. So we allow that they exist (as effects), but then deny that they have any causal powers?
10.4 p.148 Oaken conditional laws, Iron universal laws, and Steel necessary laws
     Full Idea: Three degress of law: 1) 'Oaken laws' where all Fs that aren't Hs are Gs; 2) 'Iron' laws where all Fs are Gs; and 3) 'Steel' laws where all Fs must be Gs.
     From: report of David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 10.4) by PG - Db (ideas)
     A reaction: [My summary of Armstrong's distinction] One response is to say that all laws are actually Oaken - see Mumfor and Mumford/Lill Anjum. It's all ceteris paribus.
10.7 p.156 Nothing is genuinely related to itself
     Full Idea: I believe that nothing is genuinely related to itself.
     From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 10.7)
11 p.15 We can't deduce the phenomena from the One
     Full Idea: No serious and principled deduction of the phenomena from the One has ever been given, or looks likely to be given.
     From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 11)
     A reaction: This seems to pick out the best reason why hardly anybody (apart from Jonathan Schaffer) takes the One seriously.
11.2 p.163 The necessary/contingent distinction may need to recognise possibilities as real
     Full Idea: It may be that the necessary/contingent distinction is tied to a metaphysics which recognises possibility as a real something wider than actuality.
     From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 11.2)
     A reaction: Armstrong responds by trying to give an account of possibility in terms of 'combinations' from actuality. I think powers offer a much better strategy.
7 p.112 Universals are abstractions from states of affairs
     Full Idea: Universals are abstractions from states of affairs.
     From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 7)
     A reaction: I'm getting confused about Armstrong's commitments. He bases his whole theory on the existence of universals (repeatable features), but now says those are 'abstracted' from something else. Abstracted by us?
p.83-4 p.92 Universals are abstractions from their particular instances
     Full Idea: Armstrong takes universals generally, and structural universals along with the rest, to be abstractions from their particular instances.
     From: report of David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], p.83-4) by David Lewis - Against Structural Universals 'The pictorial'
     A reaction: To me, 'abstracted' implies a process of human psychology, a way of thinking about the instances. I don't see how there can be an 'abstracted' relation which is a part of the external world. That makes his laws of nature human creations.
1986 The Nature of Possibility
p.118 The best version of reductionist actualism around is Armstrong's combinatorial account
     Full Idea: Armstrong's combinatorial theory of possibility is perhaps the most sophisticated and best worked out reductionist version of actualism to date.
     From: report of David M. Armstrong (The Nature of Possibility [1986]) by Stephen Read - Thinking About Logic Ch.4
1989 A Combinatorial Theory of Possibility
p.198 All possibilities are recombinations of properties in the actual world
     Full Idea: Armstrong's thesis is that recombination gives all the possibilities there are. There is no 'outer sphere' of possibilities wherein are found new and different universals alien to the actual world. No extra fundamental properties of fundamental particles.
     From: report of David M. Armstrong (A Combinatorial Theory of Possibility [1989]) by David Lewis - Armstrong on combinatorial possibility 'Combinatorialism'
     A reaction: I can't grasp what Armstrong's basis would be for such a claim. I surmise that current fundamental particles can only have the properties they currently have, but I can't see the impossibility of new stuff with new properties.
p.205 Negative existentials have 'totality facts' as truthmakers
     Full Idea: Armstrong offers 'totality facts' (complete states of affairs) as truthmakers for negative existentials, and for negated predications.
     From: report of David M. Armstrong (A Combinatorial Theory of Possibility [1989]) by David Lewis - Armstrong on combinatorial possibility 'The demand'
1992 Pref to new 'Materialist Theory'
p.xiv p.-10 Causal Functionalism says mental states are apt for producing behaviour
     Full Idea: I speak of my view as the Causal version of functionalism, which asserts that mental states are states apt for the production of certain ranges of behaviour and, in some cases, apt for being produced by certain ranges of stimuli.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Pref to new 'Materialist Theory' [1992], p.xiv)
     A reaction: This effectively makes a mental state a place in a flowdiagram (and hence the mind is software). It says nothing about what qualities the mental states have which make them apt for this role. Full explanations need more than the function.
p.xiv p.-10 One mental role might be filled by a variety of physical types
     Full Idea: If the mental is just that which plays a causal role then there is the possibility, which may even be an empirical possibility, that the causal role of tokens of the same mental type should be filled by tokens of significantly different physical types.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Pref to new 'Materialist Theory' [1992], p.xiv)
     A reaction: This allows for multiple realisability in a physicalist framework. Fear has the same role in all animals, but may be realised in physically different ways. I go further, and say that two mental states could differ, while playing the same role.
p.xvi p.-8 The identity of mental states with physical properties is contingent, because the laws of nature are contingent
     Full Idea: Granted the contingency of the laws of nature, the identification of dispositions with their categorical bases can be contingent only.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Pref to new 'Materialist Theory' [1992], p.xvi)
     A reaction: Personally I am not willing to grant the contingency of the laws of nature, but I suppose Armstrong is right about identity if he is right about laws. Presumably an identity could happen to be invariant across possible worlds, without being necessary.
p.xvi p.-8 Behaviourism is false, but mind is definable as the cause of behaviour
     Full Idea: Behaviourism is false, but one is not far from the truth if one defines the mind as the cause of behaviour.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Pref to new 'Materialist Theory' [1992], p.xvi)
     A reaction: As Putnam says, if you cut all the efferent (outgoing) nerves, you would have a mind with no behaviour at all. I would say my mind is full of stuff that never affects my behaviour. However, influencing behaviour is certainly the main function of a mind.
p.xvii p.-7 The manifestations of a disposition need never actually exist
     Full Idea: The manifestations of a disposition have the particularly mysterious property (metaphysically speaking) that they need not exist - which makes them rather like intentional objects.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Pref to new 'Materialist Theory' [1992], p.xvii)
     A reaction: His example is a brittle glass which never shatters. This problem seems to require the mention of conditional and counterfactual statements in the description of the actual world, which rather increases the workload for philosophers.
p.xvii p.-7 Consciousness and experience of qualities are not the same
     Full Idea: Consciousness and experience of qualities are often run together - a serious mistake, I think.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Pref to new 'Materialist Theory' [1992], p.xvii)
     A reaction: A difficult claim to evaluate. Can we experience redness without being conscious of it? Could there be consciousness (e.g. of concepts) which didn't involve any qualities? I suspect that qualities are more basic than intentionality or consciousness.
p.xviii p.-6 A causal theory of mentality would be improved by a teleological element
     Full Idea: I now think, following Lycan, that my Causal theory of mentality would be strengthened (perhaps eliminating some potential counter-examples) by the addition of a teleological element.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Pref to new 'Materialist Theory' [1992], p.xviii)
     A reaction: For Lycan, see Idea 6533. Armstrong has begun to realise that merely specifying the causal role of a mental state is too thin as an explanation. Teleology widens the notion of function. I also want to know about the properties that make it possible.
p.xxii p.-2 Secondary qualities are microscopic primary qualities of physical things
     Full Idea: I argue for the direct identification of the secondary qualities with microscopic primary qualities of physical things.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Pref to new 'Materialist Theory' [1992], p.xxii)
     A reaction: This sounds a bit like the eliminativism which Armstrong rejects. This seems in danger of mixing questions about the nature of mental events with questions about the nature of externally perceived objects.
1992 Properties
p.22 What matters is not how many entities we postulate, but how many kinds of entities
     Full Idea: Armstrong argues that what matters is not how few entities we postulate (quantitative economy), but how few kinds of entities (qualitative economy).
     From: report of David M. Armstrong (Properties [1992]) by DH Mellor / A Oliver - Introduction to 'Properties' §9
     A reaction: Is this what Ockham meant? Armstrong is claiming that the notion of a 'property' is needed to identify kinds. See also Idea 7038.
§1 p.161 Whether we apply 'cold' or 'hot' to an object is quite separate from its change of temperature
     Full Idea: Evading properties by means of predicates is implausible when things change. If a cold thing becomes hot, first 'cold' applies, and then 'hot', but what have predicates to do with the temperature of an object?
     From: David M. Armstrong (Properties [1992], §1)
     A reaction: A clear illustration of why properties are part of nature, not just part of language. But some applications of predicates are more arbitrary than this (ugly, cool)
§1 p.161 In most sets there is no property common to all the members
     Full Idea: Most sets are uninteresting because they are utterly heterogeneous, that is, the members have nothing in common. For most sets there is no common property F, such that the set is the set of all the Fs.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Properties [1992], §1)
     A reaction: One might link the interesting sets together by resemblance, without invoking the actual existence of an item F which all the members carry (like freemasons' briefcases). Personally I am only really interested in 'natural' sets.
§1 p.161 Deniers of properties and relations rely on either predicates or on classes
     Full Idea: The great deniers of properties and relations are of two sorts: those who put their faith in predicates and those who appeal to sets (classes).
     From: David M. Armstrong (Properties [1992], §1)
     A reaction: This ignores the Quine view, which is strictly for ostriches. Put like this, properties and relations seem undeniable. Predicates are too numerous (gerrymandering) or too few (colour shades). Classes can have arbitrary members.
§1 p.161 Change of temperature in objects is quite independent of the predicates 'hot' and 'cold'
     Full Idea: To appreciate the implausibility of the predicate view, consider where a thing's properties change. 'Hot' becomes applicable when 'cold' ceases to, ..but the change in the object would have occurred if the predicates had never existed.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Properties [1992], §1)
     A reaction: They keep involving secondary qualities! Armstrong is taking a strongly realist view (fine by me), but anti-realists can ignore his argument. I take predicate nominalism to be a non-starter.
§1 p.163 Resemblances must be in certain 'respects', and they seem awfully like properties
     Full Idea: If a resembles b, in general, they resemble in certain respects, and fail to resemble in other respects. But respects are uncomfortably close to properties, which the Resemblance theory proposes to do without.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Properties [1992], §1)
     A reaction: This is a good objection. I think it is plausible to build a metaphysics around the idea of respects, and drop properties. Shall we just talk of 'respects' for categorising, and 'powers' for causation and explanation? Respects only exist in comparisons.
§1 p.164 Predicates need ontological correlates to ensure that they apply
     Full Idea: Must there not be something quite specific about the thing which allows, indeed ensures, that predicates like 'underneath' and 'hot' apply? The predicates require ontological correlates.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Properties [1992], §1)
     A reaction: An interesting proposal, that in addition to making use of predicates, we should 'ensure that they apply'. Sounds verificationist. Obvious problem cases would be speculative, controversial or metaphorical predicates. "He's beneath contempt".
§1 p.164 There must be some explanation of why certain predicates are applicable to certain objects
     Full Idea: When we have said that predicates apply to objects, we have surely not said enough. The situation cries out for an explanation. Must there not be something specific about the things which allows, indeed ensures, that these predicates apply?
     From: David M. Armstrong (Properties [1992], §1)
     A reaction: A nice challenge to any philosopher who places too much emphasis on language. A random and arbitrary (nominalist?) language simply wouldn't work. Nature has joints.
§1 p.165 To the claim that every predicate has a property, start by eliminating failure of application of predicate
     Full Idea: Upholders of properties have been inclined to postulate a distinct property corresponding to each distinct predicate. We could start by eliminating all those properties where the predicate fails to apply, is not true, of anything.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Properties [1992], §1)
     A reaction: This would leave billions of conjunctional, disjunctional and gerrymandered properties where the predicate applies very well. We are all 'on the same planet as New York'. Am I allowed to say that I 'wish' that a was F? He aims for 'sparse' properties.
§1 p.166 We want to know what constituents of objects are grounds for the application of predicates
     Full Idea: The properties that are of ontological interest are those constituents of objects, of particulars, which serve as the ground in the objects for the application of predicates.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Properties [1992], §1)
     A reaction: Good. This is a reversal of the predicate nominalist approach, and is a much healthier attitude to the relationship between ontology and language. Value judgements will be an interesting case. Does this allow us to invent new predicates?
§2 p.168 Tropes fall into classes, because exact similarity is symmetrical and transitive
     Full Idea: Exact similarity is a symmetrical and transitive relation. (Less than exact similarity is not transitive, even for tropes). So the relation of exact similarity is an equivalence relation, partitioning the field of tropes into equivalence classes.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Properties [1992], §2)
     A reaction: Armstrong goes on the explore the difficulties for trope theory of less than exact similarity, which is a very good line of discussion. Unfortunately it is a huge problem for everyone, apart from the austere nominalist.
§2 p.171 Universals are required to give a satisfactory account of the laws of nature
     Full Idea: A reason why I reject trope theory is that universals are required to give a satisfactory account of the laws of nature.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Properties [1992], §2)
     A reaction: This is the key thought in Armstrong's defence of universals. Issues about universals may well be decided on such large playing fields. I think he is probably wrong, and I will gradually explain why. Watch this space as the story unfolds...
§2 p.171 Trope theory needs extra commitments, to symmetry and non-transitivity, unless resemblance is exact
     Full Idea: Trope theory needs extra ontological baggage, the Axioms of Resemblance. There is a principle of symmetry, and there is the failure of transitivity - except in the special case of exact resemblance.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Properties [1992], §2)
     A reaction: [see text for fuller detail] Is it appropriate to describe such axioms as 'ontological' baggage? Interesting, though I suspect that any account of properties and predicates will have a similar baggage of commitments.
§2 p.171 Regularities theories are poor on causal connections, counterfactuals and probability
     Full Idea: Regularity theories make laws molecular, with no inner causal connections; also, only some cosmic regularities are manifestations of laws; molecular states can't sustain counterfactuals; and probabilistic laws are hard to accommodate.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Properties [1992], §2)
     A reaction: [very compressed] A helpful catalogue of difficulties. The first difficulty is the biggest one - that regularity theories have nothing to say about why there is a regularity. They offer descriptions instead of explanations.
§2 p.171 The introduction of sparse properties avoids the regularity theory's problem with 'grue'
     Full Idea: Regularity theories of laws face the grue problem. That, I think, can only be got over by introducing properties, sparse properties, into one's ontology.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Properties [1992], §2)
     A reaction: The problem is, roughly, that regularities have to be described in language, which is too arbitrary in character. Armstrong rightly tries to break the rigid link to language. See his Idea 8536, which puts reality before language.
1 p.164 Essences might support Resemblance Nominalism, but they are too coarse and ill-defined
     Full Idea: A sophisticated Resemblance theory can appeal to the natures of the resembling things, from which the resemblances flow. The natures are suitably internal, but are as coarse as the things themselves (and perhaps are the things themselves).
     From: David M. Armstrong (Properties [1992], 1)
     A reaction: Note that this is essentialism as an underpinning for Resemblance Nominalism. His objection is that he just can't believe in essences, because they are too 'coarse' - which I take to mean that we cannot distinguish the boundaries of an essence.
1 p.165 Without properties we would be unable to express the laws of nature
     Full Idea: The ontological correlates of true law-statements must involve properties. How else can one pick our the uniformities which the law-statements entail?
     From: David M. Armstrong (Properties [1992], 1)
     A reaction: I'm unconvinced about the 'laws', but I have to admit that it is hard to know how to describe the relevant bits of nature without some family of concepts covered by the word 'property'. I'm in favour of taking some of the family into care, though.
1995 Universals
p.503 p.503 'Mereological Nominalism' sees whiteness as a huge white object consisting of all the white things
     Full Idea: Mereological Nominalism views a property as the omnitemporal whole or aggregate of all the things said to have the property, so whiteness is a huge white object whose parts are all the white things.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Universals [1995], p.503)
     A reaction: A charming proposal, in which bizarre and beautiful unities thread themselves across the universe, but white objects may also be soft and warm.
p.503 p.503 'Mereological Nominalism' may work for whiteness, but it doesn't seem to work for squareness
     Full Idea: Mereological Nominalism has some plausibility for a case like whiteness, but breaks down completely for other universals, such as squareness.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Universals [1995], p.503)
     A reaction: A delightful request that you attempt a hopeless feat of imagination, by seeing all squares as parts of one supreme square. A nice objection.
p.503 p.503 'Class Nominalism' may explain properties if we stick to 'natural' sets, and ignore random ones
     Full Idea: Class Nominalism can be defended (by Quinton) against the problem of random sets (with nothing in common), by giving an account of properties in terms of 'natural' classes, where 'natural' comes in degrees, but is fundamental and unanalysable.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Universals [1995], p.503)
     A reaction: This still seems to beg the question, because you still have to decide whether two things have anything 'naturally' in common before you assign them to a set.
p.503 p.503 'Class Nominalism' says that properties or kinds are merely membership of a set (e.g. of white things)
     Full Idea: Class Nominalists substitute classes or sets for properties or kinds, so that being white is just being a member of the set of white things; relations are treated as ordered sets.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Universals [1995], p.503)
     A reaction: This immediately seems wrong, because it invites the question of why something is a member of a set (unless membership is arbitrary and whimsical - which it usually isn't).
p.503 p.503 'Class Nominalism' cannot explain co-extensive properties, or sets with random members
     Full Idea: Class Nominalism cannot explain co-extensive properties (which qualify the same things), and also a random (non-natural) set has particulars with nothing in common, thus failing to capture an essential feature of a general property.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Universals [1995], p.503)
     A reaction: These objections strike me as conclusive, since we can assign things to a set quite arbitrarily, so membership of a set may signify no shared property at all (except, say, 'owned by me', which is hardly a property).
p.503 p.503 'Predicate Nominalism' says that a 'universal' property is just a predicate applied to lots of things
     Full Idea: For a Predicate Nominalist different things have the same property, or belong to the same kind, if the same predicates applies to, or is 'true of', the different things.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Universals [1995], p.503)
     A reaction: This immediately strikes me as unlikely, because I think the action is at the proposition level, not the sentence level. And why do some predicates seem to be synonymous?
p.503 p.503 Concept and predicate nominalism miss out some predicates, and may be viciously regressive
     Full Idea: The standard objections to Predicate and Concept Nominalism are that some properties have no predicates or concepts, and that predicates and concepts seem to be types rather than particulars, and it is types the theory is seeking to analyse.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Universals [1995], p.503)
     A reaction: The claim that some properties have no concepts is devastating if true, but may not be. The regress problem is likely to occur in any explanation of universals, I suspect.
p.503 p.503 'Resemblance Nominalism' says properties are resemblances between classes of particulars
     Full Idea: Resemblance Nominalists say that to have a property is to be a member of a class which is part of a network of resemblance relations with other classes of particulars. ..'Resemblance' is taken to be a primitive notion, though one that admits of degrees.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Universals [1995], p.503)
     A reaction: Intuition suggests that this proposal has good prospects, as properties are neither identical, nor just particulars, but have a lot in common, which 'resemblance' captures. Hume saw resemblance as a 'primitive' process.
p.503 p.503 'Concept Nominalism' says a 'universal' property is just a mental concept applied to lots of things
     Full Idea: Concept Nominalism says different things have the same property, or belong to the same kind, if the same concept in the mind is applied to different things.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Universals [1995], p.503)
     A reaction: This is more appealing than Predicate Nominalism, and may be right. Our perception of the 'properties' of a thing may be entirely dictated by human interests, not by nature.
p.503 p.503 'Resemblance Nominalism' finds that in practice the construction of resemblance classes is hard
     Full Idea: It is difficult for Resemblance Nominalists to construct their interconnected classes in practice.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Universals [1995], p.503)
     A reaction: Given the complexity of the world this is hardly surprising, but it doesn't seem insuperable for the theory. It is hard to decide whether an object is white, or hot, whatever your theory of universals.
p.504 p.504 If properties and relations are particulars, there is still the problem of how to classify and group them
     Full Idea: The view that properties exist, but are particulars rather than universals, is still left with the problem of classification. On what basis do we declare that different things have the same property?
     From: David M. Armstrong (Universals [1995], p.504)
     A reaction: This seems like a fairly crucial objection. The original problem was how we manage to classify things (group them into sets), and it looks as if this theory leaves the problem untouched.
p.504 p.504 It is claimed that some universals are not exemplified by any particular, so must exist separately
     Full Idea: There are some who claim that there can be uninstantiated universals, which are not exemplified by any particular, past, present or future; this would certainly imply that those universals have a Platonic transcendent existence outside time and space.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Universals [1995], p.504)
     A reaction: Presumably this is potentially circular or defeasible, because one can deny the universal simply because there is no particular.
p.504 p.504 One moderate nominalist view says that properties and relations exist, but they are particulars
     Full Idea: There is a 'moderate' nominalism (found in G.F.Stout, for example) which says that properties and relations do exist, but that they are particulars rather than universals.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Universals [1995], p.504)
     A reaction: Both this view and the 'mereological' view seem to be ducking the problem. If you have two red particulars and a green one, how do we manage to spot the odd one out?
p.505 p.505 Should we decide which universals exist a priori (through words), or a posteriori (through science)?
     Full Idea: Should we decide what universals exist a priori (probably on semantic grounds, identifying them with the meanings of general words), or a posteriori (looking to our best general theories about nature to give revisable conjectures about universals)?
     From: David M. Armstrong (Universals [1995], p.505)
     A reaction: Nice question for a realist. Although the problem is first perceived in the use of language, if we think universals are a real feature of nature, we should pursue them scientifically, say I.
1995 Universals and Particulars
p.506 p.506 Most thinkers now reject self-predication (whiteness is NOT white) so there is no Third Man problem
     Full Idea: Modern upholders of universals generally reject self-predication; humanity is not a man, whiteness is not a white thing. This means that the Third Man argument does not constitute a difficulty.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Universals and Particulars [1995], p.506)
     A reaction: This certainly seems right, and is relevant to the modern problem of the content of thought. The idea of a tree does not need to be tree-like.
1997 A World of States of Affairs
p.169 In recent writings, Armstrong makes a direct identification of necessitation with causation
     Full Idea: In recent writings, Armstrong makes a direct identification of necessitation with causation.
     From: report of David M. Armstrong (A World of States of Affairs [1997]) by Stathis Psillos - Causation and Explanation §6.3.3
     A reaction: Obviously logical necessity is not causal, but as a proposal for simplifying accounts of necessity in nature, this is wonderfully simple and appealing. Is his proposal an elevation of causation, or a degradation of necessity?
p.220 Properties are contingently existing beings with multiple locations in space and time
     Full Idea: Armstrong has a distinctive conception of (fundamental) properties as contingently existing beings with multiple locations in space and time.
     From: report of David M. Armstrong (A World of States of Affairs [1997]) by David Lewis - A world of truthmakers? p.220
     A reaction: Armstrong tries to get a naturalistically founded platonism (which he claims is Aristotelian), but the idea that one thing can be multiply located strikes me as daft (especially if the number of its locations increases or decreases).
49-51 p.96 Without modality, Armstrong falls back on fictionalism to support counterfactual laws
     Full Idea: Armstrong has difficulty explaining how laws entail regularities. There is no real modality in the basic components of the world, but he wants to support counterfactuals. His official position is a kind of fictionalism.
     From: comment on David M. Armstrong (A World of States of Affairs [1997], 49-51) by Alexander Bird - Nature's Metaphysics 4.4.4
     A reaction: Armstrong seems to be up against the basic problems that laws won't explain anything if they are merely regularities (assuming they are not decrees of a supernatural force).
p.115 p.23 The truth-maker for a truth must necessitate that truth
     Full Idea: The truth-maker for a truth must necessitate that truth.
     From: David M. Armstrong (A World of States of Affairs [1997], p.115), quoted by Pascal Engel - Truth Ch.1
     A reaction: Armstrong's 'truth-make principle'. It seems to be a necessity which is neither natural nor analytic, making it metaphysically necessary. Or is it part of the definition of truth?
p.129 p.22 Correspondence may be one-many or many one, as when either p or q make 'p or q' true
     Full Idea: In Armstrong's version of the correspondence theory, the truth-making relation is not one-one, but one-many or many-one. Thus 'p or q' has two truth makers, p and q.
     From: David M. Armstrong (A World of States of Affairs [1997], p.129), quoted by Pascal Engel - Truth Ch.1
     A reaction: Interesting. Armstrong deals in universals. He also cites many swans as truth-makers for 'there is a least one black swan'. Not correspondence as we know it, Jim.
2001 Two Problems for Essentialism
p.170 p.170 How can essences generate the right powers to vary with distance between objects?
     Full Idea: In Newtonian physics the distance between two objects determines the attractive forces between them, but then the objects will have to be sensitive to the distance, in order to 'know' what forces to generate; but distance isn't a causal power.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Two Problems for Essentialism [2001], p.170)
     A reaction: Ellis replies that he is not troubled, because he believes in essential properties which are separate from their causal roles. Indeed, how else could you explain their causal roles? Still, distance must be mentioned when explaining gravity.
2004 Truth and Truthmakers
02.3 p.5 Truth-making can't be entailment, because truthmakers are portions of reality
     Full Idea: Truth-making cannot be any form of entailment. Both terms of an entailment relation must be propositions, but the truth-making term of the truth-making relation is a portion of reality, and, in general at least, portions of reality are not propositions.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Truth and Truthmakers [2004], 02.3)
     A reaction: Along with Idea 18466, that seems to firmly demolish the idea that truth-making is a logical entailment.
02.3 p.7 Armstrong says truthmakers necessitate their truth, where 'necessitate' is a primitive relation
     Full Idea: In a bold manouevre Armstrong posited a metaphysically primitive relation of necessitation, and then defined truth-makers in terms of this bridging relation, as a thing that necessitates something being true.
     From: report of David M. Armstrong (Truth and Truthmakers [2004], 02.3) by Fraser MacBride - Truthmakers 1.2
     A reaction: [Not sure of page reference] Spelled out so clearly by MacBride, this sounds dubious. How many truths are necessitated by the City of London? Do truthmakers necessitate the existence of their truths? MacBride says it's a circular theory.
02.3.2 p.9 For all being, there is a potential proposition which expresses its existence and nature
     Full Idea: The thesis of 'expressibility' says that for all being, there is a proposition (perhaps one never formulated by any mind at any time) that truly renders the existence and nature of this being.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Truth and Truthmakers [2004], 02.3.2)
     A reaction: [He credits Stephen Read 2000:68-9 for this] Armstrong accepts this, but I deny it. I can't make any sense of this vast plethora of propositions, each exactly expressing some minute nuance of the infinity complexity of all being.
02.6 p.12 A realm of abstract propositions is causally inert, so has no explanatory value
     Full Idea: We could not stand in any causal or nomic relation to a realm of propositions over and above the space-time world, it is unclear that such a postulation is of any explanatory value.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Truth and Truthmakers [2004], 02.6)
     A reaction: I agree, and I like Armstrong's appeal to explanation as a criterion for whether we should make an ontological commitment here. I am baffled by anyone who thinks reality is crammed full of unarticulated propositions. Only a philosopher....
04.2 p.40 The class of similar things is much too big a truthmaker for the feature of a particular
     Full Idea: For a Class Nominalist 'the class of all 4-kilo objects' is the truthmaker for the truth that the particular has just that mass. Yet this looks far too big! Would not the object still be four kilos even if the other members of the class had never existed?
     From: David M. Armstrong (Truth and Truthmakers [2004], 04.2)
     A reaction: This seems so obvious to me as to be hardly worth saying. To identify redness with the class of red entities just seems crazy. Why do they belong in that class? Armstrong is illustrating the value of the truthmaker idea in philosophy.
04.2 p.41 We need properties, as minimal truthmakers for the truths about objects
     Full Idea: The 'thing itself' seems not be a minimal truthmaker for the thing having its particular mass. ...The thing has a great many other properties. ...It seems entirely reasonable to postulate that the object has properties that are objectively there.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Truth and Truthmakers [2004], 04.2)
     A reaction: This is Armstrong using the truthmaker principle to argue for the existence of properties (as instantiated universals). I like truthmakers, but truths do not have enough precision in their parts for us to read off reality from them.
04.3 p.46 If tropes are non-transferable, then they necessarily belong to their particular substance
     Full Idea: 'Non-transferable' theories of tropes hold that the mass is of this stone by necessity. It is an identity condition for the property. Every property then becomes an essential property.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Truth and Truthmakers [2004], 04.3)
     A reaction: [He cites Martin and Heil for this view] It is hard to see in this proposal how the trope is in any way separate from its substance, and hence it seems a bit of a vacuous theory. (The other theories of properties aren't much cop either).
04.5 p.49 Truthmaking needs states of affairs, to unite particulars with tropes or universals.
     Full Idea: There must exist states of affairs as truthmakers, to get us beyond 'loose and separate' entities. ...They can be bundles of tropes, or trope-with-particular, or bundles of universals ('compresence'), or instantiations. They are an addition to ontology.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Truth and Truthmakers [2004], 04.5)
     A reaction: Armstrong is the great champion of states of affairs. They seem rather vague to me, and disconcertingly timeless.
05.1 p.53 General truths are a type of negative truth, saying there are no more ravens than black ones
     Full Idea: General truths are a species of negative truth, 'no more' truths, asserting that there are no more men than the mortal ones, no more ravens than the black ones.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Truth and Truthmakers [2004], 05.1)
     A reaction: He goes on to distinguish between 'absences' and 'limits' in this area.
05.2 p.58 Negative truths have as truthmakers all states of affairs relevant to the truth
     Full Idea: Postulate a higher-order state of affairs, of all the states of affairs in which Theaetetus is involved. Is this not a good candidate for a truthmaker for the negative truth that 'Theaetetus is not flying'?
     From: David M. Armstrong (Truth and Truthmakers [2004], 05.2)
     A reaction: It certainly seems extravagant to need the whole universe to make true 'there are no lions in this room'. But for 'there are no unicorns' it is not clear which states of affairs unicorns are involved. (Armstrong is aware of this).
05.2.1 p.62 Length is a 'determinable' property, and one mile is one its 'determinates'
     Full Idea: Length is a 'determinable' property; being some particular length, such as a mile, is one of its 'determinates'.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Truth and Truthmakers [2004], 05.2.1)
     A reaction: The seem to be 'type' and 'token' properties, except that this other vocabulary indicates the link between them.
05.2.1 p.62 The determinates of a determinable must be incompatible with each other
     Full Idea: A set of determinates under the one determinable are incompatible by definition. If an object is not one mile in length, then its actual length will be incompatible with being one mile in length.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Truth and Truthmakers [2004], 05.2.1)
     A reaction: This is a much better general version of the standard example 'if it is red it can't be green'. Armstrong uses it to give a more precise account of incompatibility. Useful.
05.2.3 p.66 Negative causations supervene on positive causations plus their laws?
     Full Idea: Is it not very plausible that negative causations supervene on the positive causations together with the laws that govern the positive causations?
     From: David M. Armstrong (Truth and Truthmakers [2004], 05.2.3)
     A reaction: This obviously has a naturalistic appeal, since all causation can then be based on the actual world.
06.1 p.68 Necessitating general truthmakers must also specify their limits
     Full Idea: The mereological sum of what happens to be all the men does not necessitate that it is all the men. So if truthmaking involves necessitation, then this object cannot be the complete truthmaker for .
     From: David M. Armstrong (Truth and Truthmakers [2004], 06.1)
     A reaction: [He invokes Russell has his source] His point is that the truthmaker needs a further fact, beyond the men, which specifies that this is all of them. But only if truthmakers necessitate their truths (as Armstrong claims). I'm sympathetic to both claims.
06.2 p.76 The nature of arctic animals is truthmaker for the absence of penguins there
     Full Idea: Each of the arctic animals is by its nature different from a penguin, so this general state of affairs seems truthmaker enough for this negative existential. Similarly, the totality of all birds eliminates the phoenix.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Truth and Truthmakers [2004], 06.2)
     A reaction: Why is it 'animals' in one case, and 'birds' in the other? What if there was no life in arctic? Would the snow then do the job? This doesn't seem to work.
07.2 p.84 One truthmaker will do for a contingent truth and for its contradictory
     Full Idea: It seems reasonable to say that a truthmaker for a contingent truth is also a truthmaker for the truth that the contradictory of that truth is possible.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Truth and Truthmakers [2004], 07.2)
     A reaction: The truthmaker will have to be not only some fact, but also the additional fact that it is contingent, in order to generate the possibility of the contradictory.
07.3 p.89 Logical atomism builds on the simple properties, but are they the only possible properties?
     Full Idea: One of the assumptions of logical atomism is that all structural properties, all complex properties, are composed of simple properties and relations. ...But does the totality of the simple properties consist of the only possible simple properties?
     From: David M. Armstrong (Truth and Truthmakers [2004], 07.3)
     A reaction: This refers to what Lewis calls 'alien' properties - possible properties that cannot even be constructed from actual properties. Armstrong's question is about the truthmakers for such things. A bit speculative...
07.4 p.90 What is the truthmaker for 'it is possible that there could have been nothing'?
     Full Idea: It is possible that there could have been nothing. ...What would be its truthmaker?
     From: David M. Armstrong (Truth and Truthmakers [2004], 07.4)
     A reaction: I suppose the truthmaker here is the whole of reality, with its dispositions and contingencies. But that won't do for 'possibly there might never have been anything'. In such a case there wouldn't be any truths.
07.5 p.91 The truthmakers for possible unicorns are the elements in their combination
     Full Idea: The obvious minimal truthmaker for the truth that 'it is possible that a unicorn exists' is combinatorial. The elements of the combination are all that is needed.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Truth and Truthmakers [2004], 07.5)
     A reaction: This seems to imply that there are no possibilities which are not combinations of what currently exists.
08.1 p.95 Possible worlds don't fix necessities; intrinsic necessities imply the extension in worlds
     Full Idea: It seems natural and plausible to say that it is the fact that a necessary truth is itself necessary that determines its truth in all possible worlds. This intension determines its extension across possible worlds.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Truth and Truthmakers [2004], 08.1)
     A reaction: Well said. To me (but not to Armstrong) this implies essentialism, that the necessity arises from the intrinsic natures of the things involved. The whole Lewisian approach of explaining things by mapping them strikes me as wrong.
08.5 p.103 When entities contain entities, or overlap with them, there is 'partial' identity
     Full Idea: There is 'partial identity' where one entity contains another with something to spare, or else where entities overlap each other. ...Extensive quantities, such as length and mass, are the particularly plausible cases.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Truth and Truthmakers [2004], 08.5)
     A reaction: This looks like a very useful concept which deserves wider use. It will help discussions of rivers, statues, intersecting roads etc.
08.7 p.107 All metaphysical discussion should be guided by a quest for truthmakers
     Full Idea: My plea, whatever conclusions are drawn, is to control the metaphysical discussion by continual reference to suggested truthmakers.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Truth and Truthmakers [2004], 08.7)
     A reaction: ...And my plea is to control metaethical discussion by continual reference to value-makers. In general, this is the approach which will deliver a unified account of the world. Truthmakers are the ideal restraint on extravagant metaphysics.
09.1 p.112 'Naturalism' says only the world of space-time exists
     Full Idea: I define 'naturalism' as the hypothesis that the world of space-time is all that there is.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Truth and Truthmakers [2004], 09.1)
     A reaction: This is helpful, because it doesn't mention the nature of the physical matter contained in space-time, leaving theories like panpsychism as possible naturalistic theories. Galen Strawson, for example.
09.1 p.114 For 'there is a class with no members' we don't need the null set as truthmaker
     Full Idea: The null class is useful in formal set theory, but I hope that does not require that there be a thing called the null class which is truthmaker for the strange proposition .
     From: David M. Armstrong (Truth and Truthmakers [2004], 09.1)
     A reaction: It is not quite clear why it doesn't, but then it is not quite clear to philosophers what the status of the null set is, in comparison with sets that have members.
09.1 p.114 Classes have cardinalities, so their members must all be treated as units
     Full Idea: Classes, because they have a particular cardinality, are essentially a certain number of ones, things that, within the particular class, are each taken as a unit.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Truth and Truthmakers [2004], 09.1)
     A reaction: [Singletons are exceptions] So units are basic to set theory, which is the foundations of technical analytic philosophy (as well as, for many, of mathematics). If you can't treat something as a unit, it won't go into set theory. Vagueness...
09.3 p.117 In mathematics, truthmakers are possible instantiations of structures
     Full Idea: A mathematical entity exists if and only if it is possible that there be instantiations of that structure. This transforms the question of truthmakers for the existence of mathematical entities into a question of truthmakers for certain possibilities.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Truth and Truthmakers [2004], 09.3)
     A reaction: This modal approach to structuralism [for which he endorses Hellman 1989] opens up a modal approach to other truthmakers, which places dispositions at the centre of physical truthmaking. No sets of Meinongian objects?
09.5 p.122 The set theory brackets { } assert that the member is a unit
     Full Idea: The idea is that braces { } attribute to an entity the place-holding, or perhaps determinable, property of unithood.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Truth and Truthmakers [2004], 09.5)
     A reaction: I like this. There is Socrates himself, then there is my concept , and then there is the singleton {Socrates}. Those braces must add something to the concept. You can't add braces to Socrates himself.
10.4 p.139 Powers must result in some non-powers, or there would only be potential without result
     Full Idea: Powers must surely issue in manifestations that are something more than just powers. A world where potency never issued in act, but only in more potency, would be one where one travelled without ever having the possibility of arriving.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Truth and Truthmakers [2004], 10.4)
     A reaction: Tricky. The picture I favour is that the distinction between powers and categorical properties is a misunderstanding. What is fundamental is active and powerful categoricals.
10.4 p.140 How does the power of gravity know the distance it acts over?
     Full Idea: If masses are powers, the forces generated between two particulars have to vary inversely with the square of their distance apart. Have not the masses got to 'know' at what distance they are from each other, to exert the right amount of force?
     From: David M. Armstrong (Truth and Truthmakers [2004], 10.4)
     A reaction: This seems like a good warning against a simplistic account of powers doing all the work, but I suspect that more sophisticated physics would offer the fan of powers a solution here. The power is to 'spread' the force around.
10.4 p.141 Properties are not powers - they just have powers
     Full Idea: Properties are not powers. But properties have powers. They bestow powers.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Truth and Truthmakers [2004], 10.4)
     A reaction: I think this is the wrong way round. In this view, powers become extremely vague things, ranging from the fine-grained to the hugely broad. It seems to me that powers are precise and real, but properties are the vague unhelpful things.
11 p.148 The pure present moment is too brief to be experienced
     Full Idea: The metaphysical present will be a strict instant, or, if time is not infinitely divisible, the present will be a minimum granule of duration. But strict instants or minimal granules of duration, if these exist, cannot be experienced.
     From: David M. Armstrong (Truth and Truthmakers [2004], 11)
     A reaction: He points out that this is ironic, since Presentism lies on the basic experience of the present.