, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 105-117

Do Material Things Have Intrinsic Properties?

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Abstract

Possession of any actual physical property depends on the ambient conditions for its bearers, irrespective of one's particular theory of dispositions. If ‘self-sufficiency’ makes a property intrinsic, then, because of this dependence, things in the actual world cannot have an intrinsic physical resemblance to one another or to things in other possible worlds. Criteria for the self-sufficiency of intrinsic properties based on, or implying indifference to both ‘loneliness’ and ‘accompaniment’ entail that no self-sufficient property can require its bearers to be extended in space or time, yet all physical properties of concrete objects do require this. These outcomes undermine the vindication of physicalism claimed by neo-Humeans for their metaphysical project. For physical properties dependent on ambient conditions cannot supervene on intrinsic properties independent of ambient conditions: when ambient conditions change we get a change in the former without a change in the latter.