Property (philosophy)

As property (Latin:. Attributum, proprietas, qualitas; engl property; double propriété ) commonly referred to what a person, an object, a concept or an ( other ) property is to own. It is sometimes under property even one belonging to the essence of a person or thing understood feature ( essential property ).

Furthermore, this item is generally a realized feature, function, attribute, or a quality that is a class of objects, processes, relations, events, an act of a person or group of people together and distinguishes them from others understood. In computer science, a property referred to in many object- oriented languages, an attribute of a class. In terms of physical and chemical properties of substances, the term is used in the sense of material property.

Property in Linguistics

In linguistics

  • An adjective ( adjective) a part of speech. It refers to nouns or verbs, and is ( in German ) either attributive between article and noun ( the fast car) or predicative ( The car is fast) or adverbial as a circumstance determination ( The car drives fast) used. ;
  • A property name: a noun that is formed from adjectives or participles which a property or a state call (example: Beauty - beautiful; wickedness - bad );
  • A property within the meaning of the sentence definition a grammatical predicate (in the modern, wide sense ), which is connected to a grammatical object, while " a quality, a relation, a state, a process that an action or be something else " can.

Property in philosophy

What is a property that depends on the specific ontology and epistemology.


As examples of more modern definitions of the term property can cite the following:

  • "I call the terms under which falls an object, its properties, so that" Φ is to be a property of Γ " is just another phrase for " Γ falls within the definition of Φ '. [...] Instead of saying " 2 is a positive number, " and "2 is an integer " and "2 is smaller than 10 ", we can say " 2 is a positive integer less than 10 " as well. Here is a positive integer number appear to be to be an integer, less than 10 to be as properties of the object 2, but at the same time as positive features of the concept less than 10 " ( Gottlob Frege )
  • " It is to be understood in a very broad sense [ the term property ], including what may, no matter whether true or false always sensibly be said about any individual. He stands not only for qualitative but also for quantitative, relational, spatio-temporal and other properties. " (Rudolf Carnap )


Classical positions on the nature of properties

  • Platonism or realism of universals: properties are independent realities, where some have individual things.
  • The extensional particularism, as he was represented in the recent past about by Willard Van Orman Quine: properties are ultimately to be identified with classes of individuals.
  • Anti- Realistic positions such as those of Nelson Goodman: There are no ( natural ) properties.
  • Causal positions ( Sydney Shoemaker ): The properties are determined by their respective causal role.


Property than what can be said from another, is in contrast to what can not be said from another. This is called classical (first) substance, modern individual and the neutral object. Whether this idea is only linguistically conditioned or real, is in dispute. David Hume, for example, believed that he could do without a carrier. According to him, things are just mere bundle of features.

The terms " property " and " attribute" are often used interchangeably. If we make differences, one accented differently: first features are the " linguistic structures that relate to properties " be. On the other hand, Gottlob Frege distinguishes properties of objects on the characteristics of terms:

"Among properties that are predicated of a concept, of course, I do not understand the characteristics that make up the term. These are qualities of things that fall under the concept, not the term. So is " perpendicular " not a property of the term " right triangle "; but the proposition that there is no rectangular, linear, equilateral triangle, says a property of the term " rectangular, linear, equilateral triangle 'of; this is settled, the number zero. "

According to Frege, a concept can have properties. It is therefore necessary to distinguish between the characteristics and the properties of a term. Prominent application of this distinction is the concept of existence. For Frege, the existence is the property of a concept, not to be empty. However, properties of concepts are also relations to other concepts, their inclusion and exclusion, their composition and decomposition, their consistency or consistency


The divisions of the properties depend on in the underlying theory of property and its ontological commitments.

Traditionally, properties divided into essential and accidental properties. Essential properties of an object are features that must be in the object, if it exists. For example, the property " livingness " of an animal is an essential property. For epistemologies that assume the existence of such key features, these are the primary focus of knowledge. Terminologically there is great diversity: instead of accidental properties is also called insignificant, contingent properties or accidents. In the current philosophical debate, there is no unanimity about which properties are essential properties. The division into essential and accidental properties has far-reaching consequences for a variety of philosophical issues. Traditionally called " attribute" is an essential property, the terms " property " and " attribute" but are now mostly used as synonyms.

For the empiricist philosophy of the 17th century, the distinction between primary and secondary properties of importance, as it was represented by John Locke. After George Berkeley all properties are considered secondary, which he justified by the fact that the properties would arise as a result of the subjective perception and sensation in consciousness. As the primary were "objective" properties of size and shape, as secondary properties such as color and flavor. Whether this distinction is meaningful depends on the underlying epistemology.

Properties are compared as a single-digit logical predicates in the logic relations (relations). No fundamental difference for the modern logic is: the classic features correspond to predicates, the relations are introduce more -place predicates, the relational properties expressed.

It is sometimes of empirical properties as " real qualities of an object ... which can be determined by methods such as observation, measurement, etc. " spoken and delimited by these logical properties and subjective valuations.

Whether it is useful to distinguish between complex and simple properties, is controversial.


In Master Eckhardt we find the expression within the meaning of peculiarity as a translation of Latin proprietas. Peculiarities of the object are non- essential features which are characteristic of an object. For example, the ability comes to the people and only the people laugh among all living things.

Property, predication and classification

As the definition of Frege shows you can win the notion of property from the notion of (logical) predicate or predication: Property is that which can be predicated of something. So does Otto is great. Otto has the feature of size or the individual Otto falls under the concept of the size or the predicate ' size ' is predicated of the individual Otto ( predicted ) are.

The property is the " determination of an object, which identifies these as belonging to a class of objects ." In the simple predicate logic " give predicates characteristics or intentions of that help then further objects, etc. are grouped into classes." This allows A primary distinction, individually things and processes in its universal context or in classes for purposes of explanation and listing. the properties result from the nature of the object and the nature of the interaction with other objects.

Classification of objects

The observed equality of two or more objects with respect to a property says nothing with regard to the equality or inequality of these objects in other properties (see also identity). Objects with one or more of the same properties ( ie the essential characteristics that allow a determination or differentiation ) can be united with corresponding object classes. In this theory, three cases must be distinguished:

Because according to many positions every thing has infinitely many properties, is almost always the third, difficult case in question.

Problems in the knowledge of properties

In the process of understanding the subject of knowledge must act on the object of knowledge ( that is, as a necessary condition of sensuous cognition ). The objects are combined on the basis of common properties theoretically classes. Individual representatives of these classes are practically observed, with them being experimented under appropriate conditions. In theory, the imputed for each class education idealizations are maintained, still partially clarified. The recognized in this way properties are therefore not necessarily identical to those of objects outside the corresponding knowledge situation. It is still generally believed that man can determine the properties of objects relatively safe.

Property concept in psychology

And behavioral tendencies (English Habit ) defined in personality psychology and differential psychology, the term in the strict sense property is used only for broader and temporally stable dispositions (English: Trait, see also personality trait ) and states (State English). For all of the properties as characteristics of a person's concept of psychic trait is common.