what is physical property?


Physical bodies have a property called mass for example. But I dont understand what a property is and where it comes from.

In: 2

What if instead of “property” we call it an “attribute” or “characteristic”?

My car has a property called color and it’s blue.

It is a way of describing some aspect of that thing in reference to something else.

Say we have a thing in front of us, and we want to understand how it works. We want to see what it has in common with other things like it, and how it is different from other things. We also want to know how it behaves.

So we come up with “properties”; ways to describe different things about it. Like its “colour” or its “mass” or its “electric charge.” These are categories of labels that we can apply to things, ideally based on things that we can measure objectively, and ideally these are things that affect how the thing behaves.

And then we start grouping things with similar properties together, to make it easier to understand them and work with them.

TL; DR: a property is an instantiation of the relationship between two objects that we understand and describe as “exhibits.” We say that “physical bodies have mass” because physical bodies exhibit massiveness.

You should look into the discipline within philosophy called ontology to understand more in depth. From the ontological perspective, a property represents the relationship between any two objects that we understand as one bearing, exhibiting, having, or displaying the other. In your example, we consider the two objects “physical objects” and “mass.” We can say that the property-object of mass (in that we are treating the object as a property) is massiveness. As a rule, and to help you think of other examples, in English words that end in -ness are usually objects being used as properties.

Because physical bodies bear/exhibit/have/display massiveness, we say that massiveness is a property of physical bodies. For any two metaphysical objects, you can arrange this relationship in the general sense and form a predicate statement. When this predicate is true, the object has the property.

Extending your example, consider the concept of a memory. We could arrange the relationship between memories and mass, but we all know that memories don’t bear/exhibit/have/display massiveness (at least not in the physical sense). So we say that memories lack that property.

To illustrate how this can be generalized between any two objects, and to show how properties can be grouped together and broken down, consider bowling balls. We can make up the property here of “bowling ball-ness” and we say that “bowling balls exhibit bowling ball-ness.” Most other objects don’t exhibit bowling ball-ness, though some might. Consider a cartoon in which someone rolls a coconut at a flock of flamingos all standing on one leg and knocks them over. In this case, the cartoon coconut certainly exhibits some of the characteristics of bowling ball-ness, and in its use there we might have claim that it exhibits that property. But in that it is not, in itself, a bowling ball, and we have established by construction that bowling ball-ness is the property object of a bowling ball strictly, we would need to further break down the characteristics that have been grouped together that point to the fundamental identity of a bowling ball. The coconut is round (exhibits roundness), has the ability to roll (exhibits “rollingness”), is used to knock things down (exhibits “knock things down-ness”) and so on. We can see that all of those properties have been rolled up into the property that we called “bowling ball-ness.”

We can start to see how the identity of an object is nothing more than the specific accumulation of its properties. Properties are the fundamental building blocks that we use to define and articulate the nature of objects in our reality.

Hope this helps!