, Volume 141, Issue 2, pp 175-190

The bundle theory and the substratum theory: deadly enemies or twin brothers?

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Abstract

In this paper, I explore several versions of the bundle theory and the substratum theory and compare them, with the surprising result that it seems to be true that they are equivalent (in a sense of ‘equivalent’ to be specified). In order to see whether this is correct or not, I go through several steps: first, I examine different versions of the bundle theory with tropes and compare them to the substratum theory with tropes by going through various standard objections and arguing for a tu quoque in all cases. Emphasizing the theoretical role of the substratum and of the relation of compresence, I defend the claim that these views are equivalent for all theoretical purposes. I then examine two different versions of the bundle theory with universals, and show that one of them is, here again, equivalent to the substratum theory with universals, by examining how both views face the famous objection from Identity of Indiscernibles in a completely parallel way. It is only the second, quite extreme and puzzling, version of the bundle theory with universals that is not equivalent to any other view; and the diagnosis of why this is so will show just how unpalatable the view is. Similarly, only a not-so-palatable version of the substratum theory is genuinely different from the other views; and here again it’s precisely what makes it different that makes it less appealing.