Ideas of David M. Armstrong, by Theme

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

green numbers give full details    |    back to list of philosophers    |     expand these ideas
1. Philosophy / E. Nature of Metaphysics / 5. Metaphysics beyond Science
All metaphysical discussion should be guided by a quest for truthmakers
1. Philosophy / F. Analytic Philosophy / 7. Limitations of Analysis
If you know what it is, investigation is pointless. If you don't, investigation is impossible
2. Reason / B. Laws of Thought / 6. Ockham's Razor
What matters is not how many entities we postulate, but how many kinds of entities [Mellor/Oliver]
3. Truth / B. Truthmakers / 4. Truthmaker Necessitarianism
Truth-making can't be entailment, because truthmakers are portions of reality
Armstrong says truthmakers necessitate their truth, where 'necessitate' is a primitive relation [MacBride]
3. Truth / B. Truthmakers / 6. Making Negative Truths
Negative existentials have 'totality facts' as truthmakers [Lewis]
Negative truths have as truthmakers all states of affairs relevant to the truth
The nature of arctic animals is truthmaker for the absence of penguins there
3. Truth / B. Truthmakers / 7. Making Modal Truths
One truthmaker will do for a contingent truth and for its contradictory
In mathematics, truthmakers are possible instantiations of structures
What is the truthmaker for 'it is possible that there could have been nothing'?
The truthmakers for possible unicorns are the elements in their combination
3. Truth / B. Truthmakers / 8. Making General Truths
Necessitating general truthmakers must also specify their limits
3. Truth / C. Correspondence Truth / 1. Correspondence Truth
Correspondence may be one-many or many one, as when either p or q make 'p or q' true
4. Formal Logic / D. Modal Logic ML / 3. Modal Logic Systems / g. System S4
If what is actual might have been impossible, we need S4 modal logic [Lewis]
4. Formal Logic / F. Set Theory ST / 1. Set Theory
The set theory brackets { } assert that the member is a unit
4. Formal Logic / F. Set Theory ST / 3. Types of Set / b. Empty (Null) Set
For 'there is a class with no members' we don't need the null set as truthmaker
6. Mathematics / A. Nature of Mathematics / 4. Using Numbers / a. Units
Classes have cardinalities, so their members must all be treated as units
7. Existence / C. Structure of Existence / 6. Fundamentals / d. Logical atoms
Logical atomism builds on the simple properties, but are they the only possible properties?
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 2. Reality
Some think of reality as made of things; I prefer facts or states of affairs
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 4. Naturalism
'Naturalism' says only the world of space-time exists
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 6. Fictionalism
Without modality, Armstrong falls back on fictionalism to support counterfactual laws [Bird]
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 7. Facts / b. Types of fact
Negative facts are supervenient on positive facts, suggesting they are positive facts
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 8. States of Affairs
Truthmaking needs states of affairs, to unite particulars with tropes or universals.
8. Modes of Existence / A. Relations / 4. Formal Relations / a. Types of relation
Nothing is genuinely related to itself
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 1. Nature of Properties
Properties are universals, which are always instantiated [Heil]
All instances of some property are strictly identical
Properties are contingently existing beings with multiple locations in space and time [Lewis]
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 2. Need for Properties
Without properties we would be unable to express the laws of nature
We need properties, as minimal truthmakers for the truths about objects
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 3. Types of Properties
The determinates of a determinable must be incompatible with each other
Length is a 'determinable' property, and one mile is one its 'determinates'
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 6. Categorical Properties
Even if all properties are categorical, they may be denoted by dispositional predicates [Bird]
Armstrong holds that all basic properties are categorical [Ellis]
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 10. Properties as Predicates
Whether we apply 'cold' or 'hot' to an object is quite separate from its change of temperature
To the claim that every predicate has a property, start by eliminating failure of application of predicate
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 13. Tropes / a. Nature of tropes
Tropes fall into classes, because exact similarity is symmetrical and transitive
One moderate nominalist view says that properties and relations exist, but they are particulars
If tropes are non-transferable, then they necessarily belong to their particular substance
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 13. Tropes / b. Critique of tropes
Trope theory needs extra commitments, to symmetry and non-transitivity, unless resemblance is exact
If properties and relations are particulars, there is still the problem of how to classify and group them
8. Modes of Existence / C. Powers and Dispositions / 5. Powers and Properties
Properties are not powers - they just have powers
8. Modes of Existence / C. Powers and Dispositions / 6. Dispositions / a. Dispositions
To be realists about dispositions, we can only discuss them through their categorical basis
8. Modes of Existence / C. Powers and Dispositions / 7. Against Powers
Actualism means that ontology cannot contain what is merely physically possible
Dispositions exist, but their truth-makers are actual or categorical properties
If everything is powers there is a vicious regress, as powers are defined by more powers
Powers must result in some non-powers, or there would only be potential without result
How does the power of gravity know the distance it acts over?
8. Modes of Existence / D. Universals / 1. Universals
Particulars and properties are distinguishable, but too close to speak of a relation
Universals are just the repeatable features of a world
Should we decide which universals exist a priori (through words), or a posteriori (through science)?
8. Modes of Existence / D. Universals / 2. Need for Universals
The problem of universals is how many particulars can all be of the same 'type'
Universals explain resemblance and causal power [Oliver]
Realist regularity theories of laws need universals, to pick out the same phenomena
Universals are required to give a satisfactory account of the laws of nature
8. Modes of Existence / D. Universals / 3. Instantiated Universals
Universals are abstractions from their particular instances [Lewis]
Past, present and future must be equally real if universals are instantiated
Universals are abstractions from states of affairs
8. Modes of Existence / D. Universals / 4. Uninstantiated Universals
It is claimed that some universals are not exemplified by any particular, so must exist separately
8. Modes of Existence / D. Universals / 6. Platonic Forms / c. Self-predication
Most thinkers now reject self-predication (whiteness is NOT white) so there is no Third Man problem
8. Modes of Existence / E. Nominalism / 1. Nominalism / a. Nominalism
Refusal to explain why different tokens are of the same type is to be an ostrich
8. Modes of Existence / E. Nominalism / 1. Nominalism / c. Nominalism about abstracta
Deniers of properties and relations rely on either predicates or on classes
8. Modes of Existence / E. Nominalism / 2. Resemblance Nominalism
Resemblances must be in certain 'respects', and they seem awfully like properties
'Resemblance Nominalism' says properties are resemblances between classes of particulars
'Resemblance Nominalism' finds that in practice the construction of resemblance classes is hard
8. Modes of Existence / E. Nominalism / 3. Predicate Nominalism
It doesn't follow that because there is a predicate there must therefore exist a property
Change of temperature in objects is quite independent of the predicates 'hot' and 'cold'
We want to know what constituents of objects are grounds for the application of predicates
'Predicate Nominalism' says that a 'universal' property is just a predicate applied to lots of things
8. Modes of Existence / E. Nominalism / 4. Concept Nominalism
'Concept Nominalism' says a 'universal' property is just a mental concept applied to lots of things
Concept and predicate nominalism miss out some predicates, and may be viciously regressive
8. Modes of Existence / E. Nominalism / 5. Class Nominalism
In most sets there is no property common to all the members
'Class Nominalism' says that properties or kinds are merely membership of a set (e.g. of white things)
'Class Nominalism' may explain properties if we stick to 'natural' sets, and ignore random ones
'Class Nominalism' cannot explain co-extensive properties, or sets with random members
The class of similar things is much too big a truthmaker for the feature of a particular
8. Modes of Existence / E. Nominalism / 6. Mereological Nominalism
'Mereological Nominalism' sees whiteness as a huge white object consisting of all the white things
'Mereological Nominalism' may work for whiteness, but it doesn't seem to work for squareness
9. Objects / A. Existence of Objects / 5. Individuation / b. Individuation by properties
It is likely that particulars can be individuated by unique conjunctions of properties
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 15. Against Essentialism
Essences might support Resemblance Nominalism, but they are too coarse and ill-defined
9. Objects / F. Identity among Objects / 1. Concept of Identity
When entities contain entities, or overlap with them, there is 'partial' identity
9. Objects / F. Identity among Objects / 4. Type Identity
The type-token distinction is the universal-particular distinction [Hodes]
9. Objects / F. Identity among Objects / 5. Self-Identity
A thing's self-identity can't be a universal, since we can know it a priori [Oliver]
The identity of a thing with itself can be ruled out as a pseudo-property
10. Modality / B. Possibility / 1. Possibility
All possibilities are recombinations of properties in the actual world [Lewis]
10. Modality / B. Possibility / 5. Contingency
The necessary/contingent distinction may need to recognise possibilities as real
10. Modality / C. Sources of Modality / 1. Sources of Necessity
The truth-maker for a truth must necessitate that truth
10. Modality / E. Possible worlds / 1. Possible Worlds / d. Possible worlds actualism
The best version of reductionist actualism around is Armstrong's combinatorial account [Read]
10. Modality / E. Possible worlds / 1. Possible Worlds / e. Against possible worlds
Possible worlds don't fix necessities; intrinsic necessities imply the extension in worlds
12. Knowledge Sources / B. Perception / 2. Qualities in Perception / d. Secondary qualities
Armstrong suggests secondary qualities are blurred primary qualities [Robinson,H]
Secondary qualities are microscopic primary qualities of physical things
12. Knowledge Sources / B. Perception / 7. Causal Perception
Maybe experience is not essential to perception, but only to the causing of beliefs [Scruton]
13. Knowledge Criteria / C. External Justification / 1. External Justification
Externalism says knowledge involves a natural relation between the belief state and what makes it true
14. Science / C. Induction / 3. Limits of Induction
Induction aims at 'all Fs', but abduction aims at hidden or theoretical entities
14. Science / C. Induction / 5. Paradoxes of Induction / a. Grue problem
Science suggests that the predicate 'grue' is not a genuine single universal
Unlike 'green', the 'grue' predicate involves a time and a change
14. Science / C. Induction / 5. Paradoxes of Induction / b. Raven paradox
The raven paradox has three disjuncts, confirmed by confirming any one of them
14. Science / D. Explanation / 2. Types of Explanation / a. Types of explanation
A good reason for something (the smoke) is not an explanation of it (the fire)
14. Science / D. Explanation / 2. Types of Explanation / e. Lawlike explanations
To explain observations by a regular law is to explain the observations by the observations
14. Science / D. Explanation / 3. Best Explanation / a. Best explanation
Best explanations explain the most by means of the least
15. Nature of Minds / B. Features of Minds / 1. Consciousness / b. Essence of consciousness
Consciousness and experience of qualities are not the same
15. Nature of Minds / C. Capacities of Minds / 5. Generalisation by mind
General truths are a type of negative truth, saying there are no more ravens than black ones
16. Persons / C. Self-Awareness / 1. Introspection
A mental state without belief refutes self-intimation; a belief with no state refutes infallibility [Shoemaker]
17. Mind and Body / B. Behaviourism / 1. Behaviourism
Behaviourism is false, but mind is definable as the cause of behaviour
17. Mind and Body / B. Behaviourism / 2. Potential Behaviour
The manifestations of a disposition need never actually exist
17. Mind and Body / C. Functionalism / 4. Causal Functionalism
If pains are defined causally, and research shows that the causal role is physical, then pains are physical [Lycan]
Armstrong and Lewis see functionalism as an identity of the function and its realiser [Heil]
Causal Functionalism says mental states are apt for producing behaviour
17. Mind and Body / C. Functionalism / 5. Teleological Functionalism
A causal theory of mentality would be improved by a teleological element
17. Mind and Body / E. Mind as Physical / 1. Physical Mind
The identity of mental states with physical properties is contingent, because the laws of nature are contingent
17. Mind and Body / E. Mind as Physical / 7. Anti-Physicalism / b. Multiple realisability
One mental role might be filled by a variety of physical types
18. Thought / E. Abstraction / 1. Abstract Thought
Each subject has an appropriate level of abstraction
19. Language / C. Assigning Meanings / 3. Predicates
Predicates need ontological correlates to ensure that they apply
There must be some explanation of why certain predicates are applicable to certain objects
19. Language / D. Propositions / 2. Abstract Propositions / a. Propositions as sense
For all being, there is a potential proposition which expresses its existence and nature
A realm of abstract propositions is causally inert, so has no explanatory value
26. Natural Theory / A. Speculations on Nature / 6. Early Matter Theories / e. The One
We can't deduce the phenomena from the One
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 2. Types of cause
Absences might be effects, but surely not causes?
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 4. Naturalised causation
Negative causations supervene on positive causations plus their laws?
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 9. General Causation / d. Causal necessity
In recent writings, Armstrong makes a direct identification of necessitation with causation [Psillos]
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 1. Laws of Nature
Science depends on laws of nature to study unobserved times and spaces
A universe couldn't consist of mere laws
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 2. Types of Laws
Oaken conditional laws, Iron universal laws, and Steel necessary laws [PG]
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 3. Laws and Generalities
Newton's First Law refers to bodies not acted upon by a force, but there may be no such body
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 4. Regularities / a. Regularity theory
Regularities are lawful if a second-order universal unites two first-order universals [Lewis]
A naive regularity view says if it never occurs then it is impossible
The introduction of sparse properties avoids the regularity theory's problem with 'grue'
Regularities theories are poor on causal connections, counterfactuals and probability
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 5. Laws from Universals
The laws of nature link properties with properties
Rather than take necessitation between universals as primitive, just make laws primitive [Maudlin]
Armstrong has an unclear notion of contingent necessitation, which can't necessitate anything [Bird]
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 8. Scientific Essentialism / e. Anti scientific essentialism
How can essences generate the right powers to vary with distance between objects?
27. Natural Reality / D. Time / 3. Parts of Time / e. Present moment
The pure present moment is too brief to be experienced