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internal relations

kevin mulligan

Subject Philosophy » Metaphysics

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631199991.1995.x


According to Russell all relations are external. According to a view associated with German and British idealism , all relations are internal. Against these two monisms, philosophers such as Meinong , Husserl and Moore allow for both types of relation in their ontologies. Wittgenstein , too, frequently relies on the distinction. A relation is said to be external if it need not relate the entities it does relate (Maria need not be next to Sam); if two or more entities must stand in some relation then it is said to be internal (Orange must be between yellow and red, 4 must be greater than 3). A non-modal characterization may be preferred, replacing ‘need not’ by ‘does not always’. The two examples given of internal relations relate abstract orideal entities, properties and numbers. Spatial and/or temporal points and regions are also often held to stand in internal relations to one another. Anominalist ontology ( see nominalism ) that works with tropes ( see trope ) can also allow for internal relations: this orange trope (and all tropes that exactly resemble it) must be between some yellow trope and some red trope. Johansson (1989) and Campbell (1990) describe a second type of non-external relation: if a relation supervenes on ( see supervenience ) or is dependent on the properties or tropes of two things then it is a founded or grounded relation. The relation ascribed ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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