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Stuff, Universals, and Things: some themes from metaphysics Open Access


Other title
Law of the Excluded Middle LEM
Law of Non-Contradiction LNC
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Islam, Shaheen
Supervisor and department
Morton, Adam (Philosophy)
Examining committee member and department
Gillon, Brendan (Linguistics, McGill University)
Morton, Adam (Philosophy)
Linsky, Bernard (Philosophy)
Rueger, Alexander (Philosophy)
Newman, John (Linguistics)
Department of Philosophy

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
The problem which spurred this thesis has three components. First, there are entities which we may call stuff – alluded to by uncountable nouns; these entities seem to have a duality for behaving like both (i) an object or a discrete middle size substance – which are supposed to be non-repetitive and independent, and as well as (ii) a concept or a universal – which are repetitive but dependent (on some independent substances). Second, a dichotomy persists between the two aspects of the duality: what is non-repeatable cannot be repeatable and, conversely what is repeatable cannot be non-repeatable. Third, there is a background of how we conventionally do logic, and our present trend of doing – or rather, doing away with – metaphysics. The thesis then came up with four chapters. Chapter 1 deals with the question – how can, or how do we deal with stuff predication following the conventional guidelines? – where by stuff predication I mean any predication involving stuff. I also tried there to find out some clues from Frege’s works. Chapter 2 dives into some related issues pertaining to language, grammar and the notion of constitution. Chapter 3 examines critically two types of theories or views (one of them has been recently championed by Michael Dummett and P.F. Strawson; the other by David Armstrong) arguing how repetitive entities differ from the non-repetitive ones. My counter argument is that those arguments are either fallacious or not even complete. Chapter 4 takes an Aristotelian perspective following the lead of E.J. Lowe. The thesis has a pessimistic tone at the end: the conventional method is quite inadequate as it misses some subtleties pertaining to stuff, nor could Lowe’s Aristotle take us too far. Nevertheless, one cannot – I hope – miss some deeper insights glimpsing into this work. Particularly, Chapter 3 opens up some new venues to think about: our thoughts about our own arguments and proofs may need some revamping.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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