An Essay on the Foundations of Metaphysics

By Jorge J. E. Gracia

Subjects: Metaphysics
Series: SUNY series in Philosophy
Paperback : 9780887066276, 336 pages, January 1988
Hardcover : 9780887066269, 336 pages, January 1988

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Table of contents

Prolegomena: Nomenclature and Problems
Intension of 'Individuality'
Extension of 'Individuality'
Ontological Status of Individuality
Principle of Individuation
Discernibility of Individuals
Reference to Individuals
Concluding Remarks
1. Intension of 'Individuality'
What Individuality Is Not
Individuality and Indivisibility
Individuality and Distinction
Individuality and Division
Individuality and Identity
Individuality and Impredicability
Individuality as Noninstantiability
2. Extension of 'Individuality'
Realism: Nothing that Exists Is Individual
Transcendental Realism
Immanent Realism
Appeal and Weakness of Realism
Nominalism: Everything that Exists Is Individual
Essential Nominalism
Derivative Nominalism
Appeal and Weakness of Nominalism
Eclecticism: Some Things that Exist Are Individual and Some Are Not
Bare Particular View
Characterized Particular View
Bundle View
Appeal and Weakness of Eclecticism
Extension of 'Individuality'
Preliminary Clarifications
To What Things Do Individuality and Universality Extend?
Do Individuals and Universals Exist?
3. Ontological Status of Individuality
Medieval Controversy
Contemporary Reformulation
Wrong Ontological Interpretations
Individuality as Mode
4. Principle of Individuation
Individuation of Substances
Bundle Theory of Individuation
Accidental Theories of Individuation
Essential Theories of Individuation
Extrinsic Theories of Individuation
Individuation of Features
Substance Theory of the Individuation of Features
Feature Theory of the Individuation of Features
Individuation of Other Entries
Principle of Individuation
The Problem and the Alternatives Revisited
The Existential Theory of Individuation
5. Discernibility of Individuals
Discernibility of Individual Substances
Spatio-Temporal Theory of Individual Substance Discernibility
Bundle Theory of Individual Substance Discernibility
Sui Generis Theory of Individual Substance Discernibility
Discernibility of Features
Discernibility of Features through Substance
Discernibility of Features through Features
Principle of Identity of Indiscernibles
6. Reference to Individuals: Proper Names, Definite Descriptions, and Indexicals
Proper Names
Reference View of Proper Names
Descriptivist View of Proper Names
Causal View of Proper Names
Threefold View of Proper Names
Definite Descriptions
Assessment: A Metaphysics of Individuality
Index of Authors
Index of Subjects


The author begins by distinguishing six fundamental issues on the metaphysics of individuality. He then proceeds to examine the relation among these issues and to demonstrate that ignorance of the interrelationships has caused confusion in philosophy. In spite of the intricacy of the subject matter, the discussion is always clear, the arguments explicitly evaluated, and the solutions original. In addition, Gracia has assembled an array of historical and contemporary information, from Plato to Strawson, that is unavailable elsewhere.

Jorge J. E. Gracia is Professor of Philosophy at SUNY Buffalo.


"Gracia has a greater command of both the literature and the intricacies of the problem than any living philosopher. He leads the reader step by step through the vast terrain of the topic without being side-tracked. This is not only a knowledgeable book, but a well-crafted one. " — Jude Dougherty, The Catholic University of America