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bundle theory

james van cleve

Subject Philosophy » Metaphysics

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631199991.1995.x


The view that an individual thing is nothing more than a bundle of properties. It is opposed to the view that an individual thing is a substance or substratum . Berkeley voices preference for a bundle theory over a substance theory (at least in the case of unthinking things) in the following passage: In this proposition ‘a die is hard, extended, and square,’ [some] will have it that the word ‘die’ denotes a subject or substance distinct from the hardness, extension, and figure which are predicated of it, and in which they exist. This I cannot comprehend; to me a die seems to be nothing distinct from those things which are termed its modes or accidents. ( Principles of Human Knowledge , para. 49) Bundle theories are often motivated by the fear that a substance would be (in Locke 's phrase) ‘something I know not what’, or worse yet, a bare something, devoid of features (see bare particular ). The fear is misplaced, however, since from the fact that a substance is something distinct from its properties, it does not follow that it does not have any properties; nor does it follow that its nature cannot be known. In the discussion that follows, it will be assumed that a bundle of properties is a set of properties, but what is said should hold equally well if a bundle is any other sort of complex entity (e.g. a whole) of which properties are the sole constituents. If a thing ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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