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Weaving: An Analysis of the Constitution of Objects.

SWINDLER, J. K. Weaving: An Analysis of the Constitution of Objects. Savage, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 1991. xv + 197 pp. $33.00--The fundamental thesis of this book is the following: "The first principle of ontology is that existence is property possession. Nothing is bare of properties and no properties are unattached. Properties (including relations), the universals they instantiate, and the individuals into which they are woven are all there is" (p. 121). Swindler puts forward this ontology in the first third of the book. Like Roderick Chisholm, who has distinguished between occurring and nonoccurring states of affairs, Swindler distinguishes between instantiated and uninstantiated universals. For Chisholm, the nonoccurring states of affairs exist; and for Swindler the uninstantiated universals exist. In other words, they are both explicit Platonists. The description of Swindler as a moderate realist must be understood in this light. He describes Aristotle as a "conceptualist," not a realist, for whom the universal "appears only in intellectu" (p. 75). Swindler's realism is to be understood as moderate by comparison with the "ultra realism" of Anselm and David Lewis, whose ontologies include "implicit reduction of the individual to the general" (p. 44). The book, therefore, describes and participates in an argument among contemporary Platonists in the philosophy of language.

Platonisms are usually characterized by dualism as well as by existing universals. In Swindler's ontology, "property possession (existence) discloses an inherent, internal duality in each thing. On the one hand there is the thing itself; on the other are its properties" (p. 28). This is not a dualism of substances, however, because a thing itself cannot exist without properties, nor can properties exist apart from a thing itself which has them. But even this seems odd. How can a thing's properties not be viewed as part of the thing itself? To this reviewer it seems much better to say that properties are part of a thing itself, but that univocal universal terms are not the only terms that can be truthfully applied to a thing itself. Terms such as "particular," "individual," and "exists" can also be truthfully applied. Indeed, it seems they can be applied to all parts of the thing itself, including its properties.

Swindler uses the ontology he has developed in Part 1 to address two sets of problems in Parts 2 and 3. In Part 2 the problems center around "Frege's Paradox": "the failure of substitutivity of coreferencial singular terms salva veritate." In Part 3 they center around "Parmenides' Paradox," including such ancient puzzles as "reference to non-existent objects" (p. 91).

A standard example of Parmenides' Paradox is the statement, "The planet Vulcan does not exist." The paradox here is that "the planet Vulcan" appears not to have a reference, which in turn appears to argue that the statement is either meaningless or false; but astronomers and others would regard this statement as meaningful and true. In his effort to solve this paradox, Swindler reviews the solutions offered by Russell, Quine, Strawson, Searle, Donnellan, Kripke, Putnam, Frege, Meinong, Butchvarov, and others. In the end Swindler rejects all these positions in favor of one he takes from Plato's Sophist. But nowhere in this section does Swindler discuss the work of the later Wittgenstein or the kinds of solutions that work appears to make available. In particular, if meaning is defined as use in a language game rather than as reference to an object, then "the planet Vulcan does not exist" can be seen as meaningful but false. This contradicts Swindler's claim that "referring expressions without referents . . . can be meaningful only if they invoke uninstantiated universals" (p. 141)--where such universals have existence apart from human knowers.

In his much longer discussion of Frege's Paradox, Swindler entertains standard problems about the substitutivity of coreferential terms in intentional and modal contexts. Here, as throughout, his review of alternative positions is conducted at high speed, and unexamined assumptions accumulate at a rate that many readers will find frustrating. At the very least Swindler has set up these issues in a way that invites comment and participation from many philosophical directions.
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Author:Russman, Thomas A.
Publication:The Review of Metaphysics
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 1, 1992
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