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6/12/2017 2:04 pm  #1

Metaphysical Relations and Perception

There are truths like;

'Dennis is taller than Syuzi,'
'Red is closer to orange and farther from blue,' (it is a property of red/higher order property)
'The hot coffee is dissimilar/distinct from the cold cola,'
'The iPad is 2-meters away from the laptop,'
'The painting resembles John,'
'The world caused Dennis to cry,'
'Dennis is writing this post after having a drink.'

These are arguably relational truths, in the sense that there is some entity, x, which relates the two relata, and it is in virtue of those things that these propositions are made true. But to simply state that would be to beg the question, because the very existence of such relations are dubious to some. So to take this topic very slowly, here is Brower's interpretation of St. Albert the Great, although the interpretation of him might seem dubious, the main point has some force:

"The point that is being made here is, I think, fairly intuitive. Suppose the following are set before you: a cup of hot, black coffee and a container of cold, white cream. Clearly you can, if you wish, single out the coffee and attend to some of its properties, such as its specific colour and temperature. The same is true of the cream: you can see its whiteness and feel its coldness. But what about the relations (such as similarity and dissimilarity) that hold between the coffee and cream? Can you plausibly be said to perceive them by virtue of your senses? Presumably such relations cannot literally be said to exist between the coffee and cream—that is, in the place bounded by their bodies. But, then, where can they be said to exist, and by what mode of consciousness are they given? (Brower 2001)'

Although not all relations seem to be reducible (e.g. spatial and temporal relations), it seems to me that most of the relations that we perceive are totally reducible to their relata, in the sense that they are internal to them, and thus need nothing more than truthmakers for themselves to account for truths like 'Red is closer to orange, and farther from blue.' But in this, are we either saying (i) that these relations aren't real, or (ii) that the relations are real, but reducible to the relata? 

So here are a few questions:

(1) How do we determine which relations are real, and ones which aren't? 
(2) What do we mean by saying that a relation isn't real?


Brower, Jefferey. ‘Relations without Polyadic Properties: Albert the Great on the Nature and Ontological Status of Relations’, Archiv fur Geschichte der Philosophie 83, p. 225–57.

Last edited by Dennis (6/12/2017 4:37 pm)


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