Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Philosophy (MA)

Degree Level





Eric Funkhouser

Committee Member

Jack Lyons

Second Committee Member

Barry Ward


Philosophy, religion and theology, Lewis, David, Metaphysics, Natural properties, Naturalness, Philosophy of language, Reference magnetism


Some ways of talking or thinking about the world are better than others. Most obviously, it is often better to say or believe true things rather than false things. Perhaps less obvious is the notion that our speech and thought ought to, or often in fact does, reflect the natural formation or structure of the world. This idea—that we ought to be carving the world at its natural joints—can be found at least as far back as Plato’s Phaedrus. More recently, we can see a related idea in the work of David Lewis. In “New Work for a Theory of Universals,” Lewis argued that there is a special set of properties—the natural properties—that carve the world at its joints. In Lewis’s sense, the notion of a natural property is a complex one: it plays a number of conceptual and explanatory roles. In this thesis, I first detail some important background on properties in general. I then shift my focus to Lewis’s natural properties and the various roles he had in mind for them. In doing so, I pay particularly close attention to the supposed connection between natural properties and the metasemantic notion of reference magnetism. I consider the question of whether there exists a unique set of properties that can play all of Lewis’s roles. I argue that there is no such set. I then conclude by arguing that there are good reasons to deny that there are natural properties in the Lewisian sense.

Included in

Metaphysics Commons