The Metaphysics of Relations

November 28, 2020
The Metaphysics of Relations

This volume presents thirteen original essays which explore bothtraditional and contemporary aspects of the metaphysics ofrelations. It is uncontroversial that there are true relationalpredications-'Abelard loves Eloise', 'Simmias is taller thanSocrates', 'smoking causes cancer', and so forth.More controversial is whether any true relational predicationshave irreducibly relational truthmakers. Do any of the statementsabove involve their subjects jointly instantiating polyadicproperties, or can we explain their truths solely in terms ofmonadic, non-relational properties of the relata? According to atradition dating back to Plato and Aristotle, and continued bymedieval philosophers, polyadic properties are metaphysicallydubious. In non-symmetric relations such as the amatory relation, aproperty would have to inhere in two things at once-lover andbeloved-but characterise each differently, and this puzzled theancients. More recent work on non-symmetric relations highlightsdifficulties with their directionality.Such problems offer clear motivation for attempting to reducerelations to monadic properties. By contrast, ontic structuralrealists hold that the nature of physical reality is exhausted bythe relational structure expressed in the equations of fundamentalphysics. On this view, there must be some irreducible relations,for its fundamental ontology is purely relational.The Metaphysics of Relations draws together the work ofa team of leading metaphysicians, to address topics as diverse asancient and medieval reasons for scepticism about polyadicproperties; recent attempts to reduce causal and spatiotemporalrelations; recent work on the directionality of relationalproperties; powers ontologies and their associated problems;whether the most promising interpretations of quantum mechanicsposit a fundamentally relational world; and whether the very ideaof such a world is coherent. From those who question whether thereare relational properties at all, to those who hold they are afundamental part of reality, this book covers a broad spectrum ofpositions on the nature and ontological status of relations, fromantiquity to the present day.