The Metaphysics of Degrees

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Degree‐sentences, i.e. sentences that seem to refer to things that allow of degrees, are widely used both inside and outside of philosophy, even though the metaphysics of degrees is much of an untrodden field. This paper aims to fill this lacuna by addressing the following four questions: [A] Is there some one thing, such that it is degree sensitive? [B] Are there things x, y, and z that stand in a certain relation to each other, viz. the relation that x has more y than z? [C] In those cases in which degree sentences do not refer to phenomena that are degree sensitive, what is responsible for their prima facie seeming to do so? [D] If there are degree sensitive things, to which ontological categories do they belong? We answer each of these questions by arguing that there are, metaphysically speaking, different phenomena that degree sentences refer to: some refer to determinates that emanate from a certain determinable, others to tokens that are instantiations of a certain type, and yet others to what we call ‘complex, resultant properties that are constituted by stereotypical properties’. Finally, we show the relevance of our answers by applying them to the notions of freedom and belief.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-65
Number of pages19
JournalEuropean Journal of Philosophy
Issue number1
Early online date4 Nov 2016
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018


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