Hume's "bundle of properties" theory

#1
Magical Realist Offline
"Bundle theory, originated by the 18th century Scottish philosopher David Hume, is the ontological theory about objecthood in which an object consists only of a collection (bundle) of properties, relations or tropes.

According to bundle theory, an object consists of its properties and nothing more; thus, there cannot be an object without properties and one cannot conceive of such an object. For example, when we think of an apple, we think of its properties: redness, roundness, being a type of fruit, etc. There is nothing above and beyond these properties; the apple is nothing more than the collection of its properties. In particular, there is no substance in which the properties are inherent.

The difficulty in conceiving of or describing an object without also conceiving of or describing its properties is a common justification for bundle theory, especially among current philosophers in the Anglo-American tradition.

The inability to comprehend any aspect of the thing other than its properties implies, this argument maintains, that one cannot conceive of a bare particular (a substance without properties), an implication that directly opposes substance theory. The conceptual difficulty of bare particulars was illustrated by John Locke when he described a substance by itself, apart from its properties, as "something, I know not what. [...] The idea then we have, to which we give the general name substance, being nothing but the supposed, but unknown, support of those qualities we find existing, which we imagine cannot subsist sine re substante, without something to support them, we call that support substantia; which, according to the true import of the word, is, in plain English, standing under or upholding."

Whether a relation of an object is one of its properties may complicate such an argument. However, the argument concludes that the conceptual challenge of bare particulars leaves a bundle of properties and nothing more as the only possible conception of an object, thus justifying bundle theory."---- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bundle_theory
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#2
C C Offline

D. Hume used the term "bundle" in this sense, also referring to the personal identity, in his main work: "I may venture to affirm of the rest of mankind, that they are nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions, which succeed each other with inconceivable rapidity, and are in a perpetual flux and movement".


And from thence comes the label, added by future readers, of "panphenomenalism". The below is actually a kind of unfolding "block universe" constituted of phenomenal properties/events rather than those "rational objects" of abstract, scientific description (i.e., "physical").

Panphenomenalism: David Hume (1711-1776) formulated the theory of Panphenomenalism. He denied the existence of all ultimate reality (metaphysical reality), accepting as valid data only those things experienced as sense impressions; in other words, he asserted that existence is limited to phenomena, which are objects, not of reason, but of experience. By rejecting the idea of cause and soul as substances, he eliminated the entire problem of interaction. Hume concluded that events depend upon merely repetitious or sequential activities; that nothing in the universe is ever created, or caused to act, by anything else; and that reality consists only of a series of phenomena appearing in a temporal order. --Ideas of the Great Philosophers; pages 107-108; by William S. Sahakian (1966)


Russellian Monism is akin to the above, or was inspired by it like the 19th-century scientists referenced in the quotes further down.

Note that for Hume, "phenomenal properties" (impressions) are prior in rank to "mind" and their constitution as a human identity. Considered apart from that role in the consciousness of organisms, phenomenal properties would be ontological (and fundamental) rather than mental, psychological, subjective, etc. An adjective like "onto-phenomenological" would emphasize such or help make the distinction of existing prior to recruitment by a brain for its special purposes.

Thus, Hume's panphenomenalism is not actually panpsychism. Due to the etymological "psyche" word-unit in the latter suggesting cognitive abilities being associated with matter in general. Philosophers need to cleanup their language to prevent misunderstandings like that.

Edward S. Reed: Matter for Huxley was just what it was for Mach or Hertz: a set of phenomenal observations made by scientists. It is thus remarkable but true that the most reviled "materialists" of the 1880s--Huxley, Tyndall, and Clifford--were all phenomenalists of sort or another and not materialists at all.

The positivist impulse gave new life to a variety of panphenomenalism, one whose adherents were surprisingly uncritical about the analysis of those allegedly basic mental phenomena, sensations. Thus, thinkers as different in outlook and interests as Huxley and Mach, Taine and Spencer, Wundt and Lewes all agreed that the basic "data" on which all science was to built were sensations.
--From Soul to Mind: The Emergence of Psychology, from Erasmus Darwin to William James; p.161 by Edward S. Reed (1997)]

Edward S. Reed: [Thomas H.] Huxley, like all the other scientists in the group -- and like almost all scientists in Europe or America at the that time -- was not a materialist, despite his belief in the progress of mechanistic physiology. He argued in two directions: one from the external phenomena of science (say, the data of physiology) and the other from introspective phenomena (for example, our belief in free will). He was inclined to believe that most (or all) introspectively revealed phenomena would prove to be caused by externally revealed ones. But in any event he was a phenomenalist, arguing that what is real is phenomena. If the soul (or the unconscious) is not real, it is because it is not part of the phenomenal world.

This panphenomenalism was widely labeled positivism when it was propounded by scientists. In the loosely defined meandering of the term, positivism dominated the European intellectual scene from approximately 1870 to 1890. Yet that type of positivism is inherently unstable when applied to psychology. The externalist (physiological) analysis of behavior and mind attributes all psychological states to antecedent causes. Introspective analysis reveals both intuitions of freedom and the appearance of autonomous psychological states. The two seem irreconcilable.
--same source as last, pages 121 to 122


Those phenomenalists, or their critics, or both, departed from Hume's original conception that phenomenal properties were prior in rank to mind -- similar to how the latter is considered today to emerge from non-mental matter. We make the error of classifying "qualia" (or their primitive precursors) as mental rather than ontological. Such manifestations would be the way that matter exists independent of our artificial mathematical or technical representations ("objects of reason"). Phenomenal properties should only acquire mental classification when they're recruited by the brain to construct our subjective mental experiences.

The other alternative, of phenomenal properties being magically conjured or summoned (brute emergence) by neural processes performing the correct "dance"... That is dualism, or obscured dualism. The latter should not be considered compatible with physicalism. That's the real point here -- that an explanation outputted by a particular metaphysics or methodological approach should at least be consistent with its own dogma, rather than ludicrously conflict with it.

Physicalism via its very meaning is supposed to keep the mystical, supernatural, whatever, out -- not indulge in it. Matter having an intrinsic way that it exists beyond artificial, abstract human symbols is simply commonsense, if _X_ truly believes in an objective or people-independent world.
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#3
Magical Realist Offline
I can't imagine a property or a quale existing without it referring to or being about some given existent. An existent which, while being revealed and defined by the property, (redness of the apple, roundness of the apple, etc) stands beyond it in a hidden and in-itself state.I call that state generally Being, as what is temporally revealed or expressed by the phenomenal qualities of our experience. Perhaps in Kant's sense of the noumenal, but also borrowing from Heidegger as the manifestedness of Dasien or Being there. Whatever happens is a revelation of Being, always in the process of coming out of concealedness and into the light. The phenomenal unveils the presence of Being, an otherness partially held back and mysterious in its infinite transcendence.
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