, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 1-18

First online:

Relational Order and Onto-Thematic Roles

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States of affairs involving a non-symmetric relation such as loving are said to have a relational order, something that distinguishes, for instance, Romeo’s loving Juliet from Juliet’s loving Romeo. Relational order can be properly understood by appealing to o-roles, i.e., ontological counterparts of what linguists call thematic roles, e.g., agent, patient, instrument, and the like. This move allows us to meet the appropriate desiderata for a theory of relational order. In contrast, the main theories that try to do without o-roles, proposed by philosophers such as Russell, Hochberg, and Fine, are in trouble with one or another of these desiderata. After discussing some alternatives, it is proposed that o-roles are best viewed as very generic properties characterizable as ways in which objects jointly exemplify a relation. This makes for exemplification relations understood as complex entities having o-roles as building blocks.