Research Article

What is a Negative Property?

Sam Baron c1, Richard Copley-Colthearta1 c11, Raamy Majeed c1 and Kristie Miller c1

a1 University of Sydney


This paper seeks to differentiate negative properties from positive properties, with the aim of providing the groundwork for further discussion about whether there is anything that corresponds to either of these notions. We differentiate negative and positive properties in terms of their functional role, before drawing out the metaphysical implications of proceeding in this fashion. We show that if the difference between negative and positive properties tabled here is correct, then negative properties are metaphysically contentious entities, entities that many philosophers will be unwilling to countenance.

Sam Baron is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Sydney. He specialises in metaphysics and the philosophy of mathematics, and has contributed to Synthese, Ratio, and Southern Journal of Philosophy.

Richard Copley-Coltheart studied philosophy at the University of Michigan and at the University of Sydney, where he undertook his doctoral studies.

Raamy Majeed is Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Sydney. His research interests are primarily in the philosophy of mind and aesthetics. He has contributed to Philosophical Studies.

Kristie Miller is an ARC Senior Australian Research Fellow at the University of Sydney. She specialises in metaphysics, especially philosophy of time, persistence and composition and has contributed to (among others): Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Philosophical Studies, Philosophical Quarterly, and The Monist.


1   This paper is dedicated to the memory of Richard Copley-Coltheart (1964–2000). Richard was born and grew up in Sydney, Australia. His PhD thesis, which he was writing at the time of his death, examined the logical and metaphysical notions of identity. Central to his analysis was a discussion of negative states of affairs. His final conclusion was that identity statements posit negative facts about the world and he was developing a system of formal logic to demonstrate the consistency of his thesis. Richard's passing was a loss for Australian philosophy and he is sorely missed by all who knew him.