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Tropes


Herbert Hochberg


Pages 579 - 585



Traditionally known as ‘individual accidents’ and called by various names – ‘quality moments’ (Segelberg, 1999), ‘perfect particulars’ (Bergmann, 1967 – quality instances, taken as particulars – particular to the specific objects they qualify – and hence not shared by diverse ‘ordinary’ objects, have increasingly come to be called ‘tropes’ (Williams, 1953). As entities, tropes appeal to philosophers for a variety of reasons. Supposedly they (1) allow for a uniform ontology recognising only one basic kind of entity, particulars that are spatiotemporal entities, as opposed to a ‘realist’ ontology that acknowledges universals and often facts, as well as particulars; (2) allow one to take an ordinary object like a red cross, to use Meinong’s example, as a complex entity composed of tropes which are construed as parts of the complex object. Taking tropes (a color trope, a shape trope) as parts of the red cross, one purportedly does not face the need for, or the problems posed by, an ‘instantiation’ relation. This, in turn, (3) allows one to avoid the notorious ‘Bradley’s regress (regresses) and mysterious ‘substrata’ in the analysis of ordinary particulars, since the latter can be taken to be ‘bundles’ of tropes, and not analysed in terms of an underlying substratum that instantiates universal properties (though some trope theorists follow the latter path). Tropes also (4) allow one to reject relations between objects by reintroducing foundational tropes (as internal to or constituents of an object), thus supposedly avoiding further problems posed by the exemplification of relations in relational facts. If Mary loves Pierre, a particular trope, an instance of loving Pierre, is taken to inhere in Mary, without any need for the relation loves being instantiated by Mary and Pierre.




1Department of Philosophy, University of Texas at Austin



1 Bergmann, G., (1967), Realism: A Critique of Brentano and Meinong, Madison.

2 Campbell, K., (1990), Abstract Particulars, Oxford.

3 Maurin, A. S., (2004), If Tropes, Amsterdam.

4 Meinong, A., (1983), On Assumptions, 2nd ed., (trans. J. Heanue), Berkeley.

5 Moore, G. E., (1900-01), “Identity,” Proceedings of The Aristotelian Society, 1.

6 Mulligan, K.;, (1998), “Relations – Through Thick and Thin”, Erkenntnis 48: 2-3.

7 Russell, B., (1911), “On the Relations of Universals and Particulars”, in Logic and Knowledge: Essays 1901-1950, (ed. R. Marsh), 1956, London.

8 Ramsey, F. P., (1931), “Universals”, in The Foundations of Mathematics, (ed. R. Braithwaite), London.

9 Segelberg, I., (1999), Three Essays in Phenomenology and Ontology, (trans. H. Hochberg; S. Ringström Hochberg), Stockholm.

10 Stout, G. F., (1923), “Are the Characteristics of Things Universal or Particular?”, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, suppl. vol. III.

11 William, D. C., (1953), “The Elements of Being,” Review of Metaphysics 7 3-18: 171-192

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