FOM: Arbitrary objects

James Robert Brown jrbrown at
Tue Jan 29 12:02:05 EST 2002

The problem with "arbitrary object" probably has more to do with "object" 
than with "arbitrary".


How many logicians are in the room?
How many electrons are in the room?
How many objects are in the room?

The first two have definite objective answers (though they may be 
impossible to determine), but the third doesn't have a definite answer.

Moral: There is no such thing as a THING (object, entity) pure and simple; 
there are only KINDS OF THINGS.

Thus,  "arbitrary logician", "arbitrary electron", "arbitrary number" are 
all legitimate, but "arbitrary object" is not.  (When we use the expression 
"arbitrary object" it is usually with reference to a domain of kinds of 
object (sets, numbers), so they are not really objects pure and simple.)

I don't know if this is a good argument, but it seems plausible.  I vaguely 
recall learning it years ago in undergraduate metaphysics.  It may come 
from Quine (who remarked somewhere: "no entity without identity"), but I 
don't know.  Finally, HF is surely right that "arbitrary" is not an 
adjective (at least not logically, though it is grammatically).

Jim Brown

James Robert Brown
Department of Philosophy
University of Toronto
Toronto    M5S 1A1
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