In Book I of De Rerum Natura, Lucretius writes,
A property is that which not at all can be disjoined and severed from a thing without a fatal dissolution: such, weight to the rocks, heat to the fire, and flow to the wide waters, touch to corporeal things, intangibility to the viewless void. But state of slavery, pauperhood, and wealth, freedom, and war, and concord, and all else which come and go whilst Nature stands the same, we’re wont, and rightly, to call accidents.A property is something that is intrinsic to the thing such that it really is in the thing. Within the framework of my onticology I quibble with this a bit because I hold that what is really in things is powers or dispositions, not qualities or properties (the latter of which I call “local manifestations”). The weight of a rock is not in the rock itself, but is a relational property that emerges in relation to where the rock exists. This weight or local manifestation is different on the planet earth and the moon due to the different masses of these planets. Moreover, this weight or local manifestation differs with the speed at which the rock moves. Most qualities or local manifestations are, I believe, relational in this way. They are not in the things themselves, but rather emerge in and through the relations the entity entertains with other entities.
|art by Vitor Bosshard|
However, I'm not at all convinced of an ontological split between "properties" and "states" - considering the vulnerability and openness of actual object-assemblages. Object-assemblages always exist under particular conditions. And their existence is contingent upon the "cooperation" between conditions, existing affective forces and their assembled properties. Indeed, every actually existing entity persists through relations that not only augment or amplify or otherwise change its properties and capacities - it's potency - but also afford those capacities, and provides the context in which the properties of object-assemblages can be expressed in the first place. That is to say, 'thingness' is always a relational affair with coalescing properties (what i call elements) forming temporal (temporary) object-assemblages (matrices) through intensive and material-energetic processes. In my thinking "powers" or "dispositions" are animated by a collaboration between both the qualities or properties inherent in the material composition of onto-specific entities and the ever-present conditions in which they exist. So, no, properties are not in things, they are those things as they exist in relation.
In the context of Levi's example, then, I also argue that the weight of a rock is not "in the rock" itself, but instead, for me, is a compound event/actuality that emerges in relation to both the rock's constituent properties and capacities (its potencies) and its relational situation within the wider field of affective forces. Both the intrinsic properties of an object-assemblage and particular background conditions must be present for weight to occur.
But Levi continues:
Setting this aside, what is really interesting in this passage is Lucretius’s discussion of states. In effect, Lucretius observes that the social position of women, the proletariat, minorities, kings, the wealthy, is not a property of these entities, but a contingent state that can pass away or be changed.And I argue that the properties of kings and proletariats, for example, do enter into the contingent dynamics of particular states. It is the specific material, relational and historical combination of the properties of kings, weapons, energy supplies, horses, ecosystems, castles and such flowing into and augmenting or amplifying each other that generates the particular "state" of affairs of any given situation. Each object-assemblage contributes its own affective potencies and material vibrancies to the compositional character of the larger field or matrix of action in their own onto-specific ways, while simultaneously being vulnerable (capable of being changed in unexpected ways) to the emergent dynamics loosely contained within. It is this inherent dynamism of actual occasions that allows change (social or otherwise) to not only be possible, but in fact inevitable.