File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_2001/bhaskar.0106, message 19

Subject: BHA: Reply to Mark A. Foster
Date: Sun, 17 Jun 2001 18:06:41 +0200


> Thanks for your comment. Let me expand on what I wrote before. 
> Nominalism, in my view, is not incompatible with essentialism either. The difference is that, in > ontological realism (such as Platonism and Thomism), particulars of a given species are all 
> believed to share the same essence (ideal form). In ontological nominalism, each particular 
> has its own essence.
> Now, assuming the real dimension to be a kind of universal essence would be incompatible > with nominalism. However, assuming the real dimension to be a set of laws and hidden 
> structures which make the appearance of individual essences possible would not be 
> incompatible with nominalism.

This seem to be the position that Wilfrid Sellars holds = metaphysical realism and nominalism. But I don't understand what this got to do with real essences. It seems that you make these concepts equivalent: real = essence. But I think that you can be a realist about something without believing in essentialism. A property F is an essential property of an object x (of natural kind N) iff x could not exist (as natural kind N) and lack F. This is weaker than a stronger concept of essentialism that don't connect essences directly with natural kinds.

If the nominalist accepts individual essences then it seems that s/he must accept the property of having an essence, which entails universals (i.e. it is not the case that all entities are particulars).

> In any event, as I read Bhaskar, he proposed the "actual" dimension (i.e., events) as a way of > distinguishing between the real (laws) and the empirical (individual experiences of events), 
> not as a refutation of ontological nominalism.

Maybe you are right. You could argue that the distinction real - actal is not meant to establish essentialism. But again, Bhaskar is committed to what Brian Ellis calls dispositional essentialism. Dispositional Essentialism is the thesis that the essential properties of things are dispositions (i.e. causal powers, liabilities, propensities). Now, Bhaskar identifies the real with generative mechanisms, and generative mechanisms seems to be dispositions. But if science is possible then these dispositions cannot be particular. There must be some real similarity between them. Bhaskar must then be comitted to some sort of universals among dispositions (natural kinds of processes as Ellis calls them). Conclusion: If the distinction between the real and the actual is as powerful as Bhaskar believes it to be then the distinction must entail essentialism, not just among things but also processes and properties.

Best Regards,

Ronny S. Myhre

> However, I would appreciate the clarifications of those who may be more familiar with Bhaskar's arguments than myself. Since I am fairly new to CR, that shouldn't be too difficult to do. ;-)
> Mark A. Foster, Ph.D.
> "Sacred cows make the best hamburger" 
> -- Mark Twain and Abbie Hoffman
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