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Mereological Nihilism

Edited by Virendra Tripathi (University of Nebraska, Lincoln, University of Nebraska, Omaha)
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  1. Jody Azzouni (2010). Ontology and the Word 'Exist': Uneasy Relations. Philosophia Mathematica 18 (1):74-101.
    An extensive exploration of the special properties of ‘exist’ is here undertaken. Two of several results are: Denying that `exist’ has associated with it a set of necessary and sufficient conditions has seemed to a number of philosophers to imply metaphysical nihilism . This is because it has seemed that without such conditions the target domain of `existence’ is arbitrarily open. I show this is wrong. Second, my analysis sheds light on the puzzling question of what we are asking when (...)
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  2. Einar Duenger Bohn (2014). From Hume's Dictum Via Submergence to Composition as Identity or Mereological Nihilism. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 95 (1):336-355.
    I show that a particular version of Hume's Dictum together with the falsity of Composition as Identity entails an incoherency, so either that version of Hume's Dictum is false or Composition as Identity is true. I conditionally defend the particular version of Hume's Dictum in play, and hence conditionally conclude that Composition as Identity is true. I end by suggesting an alternative way out for a persistent foe of Composition as Identity, namely mereological nihilism.
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  3. William Bynoe, How Composites Could Have Been Indispensable.
    Mereological Nihilism is the thesis that no material object has proper parts; every material object is a simple. Recent developments in plural semantics have made it possible to develop and motivate this position. In particular, some have argued that the tools of plural reference and quantification enable us to systematically paraphrase true statements apparently about composites into statements that only concern simples. Are composites really surplus to philosophical requirements? Given the resources of plural semantics, what must the world be like (...)
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  4. Lawrence Cahoone (2009). Arguments From Nothing: God and Quantum Cosmology. Zygon 44 (4):777-796.
    This essay explores a simple argument for a Ground of Being, objections to it, and limitations on it. It is nonsensical to refer to Nothing in the sense of utter absence, hence nothing can be claimed to come from Nothing. If, as it seems, the universe, or any physical ensemble containing it, is past-finite, it must be caused by an uncaused Ground. Speculative many-worlds, pocket universes and multiverses do not affect this argument, but the quantum cosmologies of Alex Vilenkin, and (...)
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  5. Ross Cameron (2008). There Are No Things That Are Musical Works. British Journal of Aesthetics 48 (3):295-314.
    Works of music do not appear to be concrete objects; but they do appear to be created by composers, and abstract objects do not seem to be the kind of things that can be created. In this paper I aim to develop an ontological position that lets us salvage the creativity intuition without either adopting an ontology of created abstracta or identifying musical works with concreta. I will argue that there are no musical works in our ontology, but nevertheless the (...)
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  6. Chad Carmichael (forthcoming). Toward a Commonsense Answer to the Special Composition Question. Australasian Journal of Philosophy.
    The special composition question is the question ‘When do some things compose something?’ The answers to this question in the literature have largely been at odds with common sense, either by allowing that any two things (no matter how apparently unrelated) compose something, or by denying the existence of most ordinary composite objects. I propose a new “series-style” answer to the special composition question that accords much more closely with common sense, and I defend this answer from van Inwagen’s objections. (...)
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  7. F. E. Close (2010). The Void. Sterling.
    What remains when you eliminate all matter? Can empty space-a void-exist? _Frank Close takes the reader on a lively and accessible tour through ancient ideas and cultural superstitions (including Aristotle, who insisted that the vacuum was impossible) to the frontiers of current scientific research. These newest discoveries tell us extraordinary things about the cosmos and may provide answers to some of our most fundamental questions: What lies outside the universe? If there was once nothing, then how did the universe begin?
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  8. Geraldine Coggins (2008). Metaphysical Nihilism. Philosophical Books 49 (3):229-237.
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  9. Geraldine Coggins (2003). World and Object: Metaphysical Nihilism and Three Accounts of Worlds. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 103 (3):353–360.
    The study of metaphysical possibility involves two central questions: (i) What are possible worlds? (ii) Is there an empty possible world? In looking at the first question we consider the different accounts of possible worlds-Lewisian realism, ersatzism, etc. In looking at the second question we consider the discussions of metaphysical nihilism, the modal ontological arguments, etc. In this paper I am drawing these two questions together in order to show how the position we hold on one of these issues affects (...)
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  10. K. C. Cole (2001). The Hole in the Universe: How Scientists Peered Over the Edge of Emptiness and Found Everything. Harcourt.
    Welcome to the world of cutting-edge math, physics, and neuroscience, where the search for the ultimate vacuum, the point of nothingness, ground zero of theory, has rendered the universe deep, rich, and juicy. "Modern physics has animated the void," says K. C. Cole in her entrancing journey into the heart of Nothing. Every time scientists and mathematicians think they have reached the ultimate void, new stuff appears: a black hole, an undulating string, an additional dimension of space or time, repulsive (...)
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  11. Gabriele Contessa (2014). One's a Crowd: Mereological Nihilism Without Ordinary‐Object Eliminativism. Analytic Philosophy 54 (4):199-221.
    Mereological nihilism is the thesis that there are no composite objects—i.e. objects with proper material parts. One of the main advantages of mereological nihilism is that it allows its supporters to avoid a number of notorious philosophical puzzles. However, it seems to offer this advantage only at the expense of certain widespread and deeply entrenched beliefs. In particular, it is usually assumed that mereological nihilism entails eliminativism about ordinary objects—i.e. the counterintuitive thesis that there are no such things as tables, (...)
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  12. William Lane Craig (2001). Prof. Grünbaum on the ‘Normalcy of Nothingness’ in the Leibnizian and Kalam Cosmological Arguments. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 52 (2):371-386.
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  13. Shamik Dasgupta (2009). Individuals: An Essay in Revisionary Metaphysics. [REVIEW] Philosophical Studies 145 (1):35 - 67.
    We naturally think of the material world as being populated by a large number of individuals . These are things, such as my laptop and the particles that compose it, that we describe as being propertied and related in various ways when we describe the material world around us. In this paper I argue that, fundamentally speaking at least, there are no such things as material individuals. I then propose and defend an individual-less view of the material world I call (...)
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  14. Cian Dorr (2005). What We Disagree About When We Disagree About Ontology. In Mark Eli Kalderon (ed.), Fictionalism in Metaphysics. Oxford University Press. 234--86.
    In this paper I attempt two things. First, I argue that one can coherently imagine different communities using languages structurally similar to English, but in which the meanings of the quantifiers vary, so that the answers to ontological questions, such as ‘Under what circumstances do some things compose something?’, are different. Second, I argue that nevertheless, one can make sense of the idea that of the various possible assignments of meanings to the quantifiers, one is especially fundamental, so that there (...)
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  15. Cian Dorr & Gideon Rosen (2002). Composition as a Fiction. In Richard Gale (ed.), The Blackwell Companion to Metaphysics. Blackwell. 151--174.
    Region R Question: How many objects — entities, things — are contained in R? Ignore the empty space. Our question might better be put, 'How many material objects does R contain?' Let's stipulate that A, B and C are metaphysical atoms: absolutely simple entities with no parts whatsoever besides themselves. So you don't have to worry about counting a particle's top half and bottom half as different objects. Perhaps they are 'point-particles', with no length, width or breadth. Perhaps they are (...)
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  16. D. Efird & T. Stoneham (2005). Genuine Modal Realism and the Empty World. European Journal of Analytic Philosophy 1 (1):21-37.
    We argue that genuine modal realism can be extended, rather than modified, so as to allow for the possibility of nothing concrete, a possibility we term ‘metaphysical nihilism’. The issue should be important to the genuine modal realist because, not only is metaphysical nihilism itself intuitively plausible, but also it is supported by an argument with pre-theoretically credible premises, namely, the subtraction argument. Given the soundness of the subtraction argument, we show that there are two ways that the genuine modal (...)
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  17. D. Efird & T. Stoneham (2005). The Subtraction Argument for Metaphysical Nihilism. Journal of Philosophy 102 (6):303 - 325.
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  18. David Efird (2010). The Subtraction Argument for the Possibility of Free Mass. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 80 (1):50-57.
    Could an object have only mass and no other property? In giving an affirmative answer to this question, Jonathan Schaffer (2003, pp. 136-8) proposes what he calls ‘the subtraction argument’ for ‘the possibility of free mass’. In what follows, we aim to assess the cogency of this argument in comparison with an argument of the same general form which has also been termed a subtraction argument, namely, Thomas Baldwin’s (1996) subtraction argument for metaphysical nihilism, which is the claim that there (...)
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  19. Henning Genz (1999/2001). Nothingness: The Science of Empty Space. Basic Books.
    Nothingness addresses one of the most puzzling problems of physics and philosophy: Does empty space have an existence independent of the matter within it? Is "empty space" really empty, or is it an ocean seething with the creation and destruction of virtual matter? With crystal-clear prose and more than 100 cleverly rendered illustrations, physicist Henning Genz takes the reader from the metaphysical speculations of the ancient Greek philosophers, through the theories of Newton and the early experiments of his contemporaries, right (...)
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  20. Cody Gilmore (2014). Building Enduring Objects Out of Spacetime. In Claudio Calosi & Pierluigi Graziani (eds.), Mereology and the Sciences. Springer. 5-34.
    Endurantism, the view that material objects are wholly present at each moment of their careers, is under threat from supersubstantivalism, the view that material objects are identical to spacetime regions. I discuss three compromise positions. They are alike in that they all take material objects to be composed of spacetime points or regions without being identical to any such point or region. They differ in whether they permit multilocation and in whether they generate cases of mereologically coincident entities.
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  21. P. Goggans (1999). How Not to Have an Ontology of Physical OBJECTS. Philosophical Studies 94 (3):295-308.
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  22. Richard Healey (1998). The Metaphysics of Emptiness "La Métaphysique de la Vacuité&Quot;. In E. Gunzig & S. Diner (eds.), Le Vide: Univers du Tout et du Rien, eds. E. Gunzig and S. Diner, Revue de l’Université de Bruxelles. Éditions Complexe, 1998. Revue de l’Université de Bruxelles. Éditions Complexe,.
    Is there a vacuum in nature? This is a question which preoccupied natural philosophers for millennia. Great thinkers including Democritus and Newton maintained the existence of a vacuum, while Aristotle, Descartes and Leibniz argued strongly that there was not, and perhaps could not be, any such thing. A casual glance at the literature of contemporary physics may leave the impression that scientific progress has produced a definitive positive answer, so that the philosophers' debates are now of only historical interest. Not (...)
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  23. John Horden (2014). Ontology in Plain English. Philosophical Quarterly 64 (255):225-242.
    In a series of papers, Eli Hirsch develops a deflationary account of certain ontological debates, specifically those regarding the composition and persistence of physical objects. He argues that these debates are merely verbal disputes between philosophers who fail to correctly express themselves in a common language. To establish the truth in plain English about these issues, Hirsch contends, we need only listen to the assertions of ordinary speakers and interpret them charitably. In this paper, I argue that Hirsch's conclusions rest (...)
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  24. Terence Horgan (1993). Review: On What There Isn't. [REVIEW] Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 53 (3):693 - 700.
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  25. K. Hossack (2000). Plurals and Complexes. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 51 (3):411-443.
    Atomism denies that complexes exist. Common-sense metaphysics may posit masses, composite individuals and sets, but atomism says there are only simples. In a singularist logic, it is difficult to make a plausible case for atomism. But we should accept plural logic, and then atomism can paraphrase away apparent reference to complexes. The paraphrases require unfamiliar plural universals, but these are of independent interest; for example, we can identify numbers and sets with plural universals. The atomist paraphrases would fail if plurals (...)
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  26. Andrew J. Jaeger (2014). A Tale of Two Parts. Res Philosophica 91 (3):1-8.
  27. C. E. M. Joad (1928). The Non-Existence of Matter. Philosophy 3 (12):495-.
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  28. Daniel Z. Korman (2013). Fundamental Quantification and the Language of the Ontology Room. Noûs 48 (4):n/a-n/a.
    Nihilism is the thesis that no composite objects exist. Some ontologists have advocated abandoning nihilism in favor of deep nihilism, the thesis that composites do not existO, where to existO is to be in the domain of the most fundamental quantifier. By shifting from an existential to an existentialO thesis, the deep nihilist seems to secure all the benefits of a composite-free ontology without running afoul of ordinary belief in the existence of composites. I argue that, while there are well-known (...)
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  29. Daniel Z. Korman (2009). Eliminativism and the Challenge From Folk Belief. Noûs 43 (2):242-264.
    Virtually everyone agrees that, even after having presented the arguments for their positions, proponents of revisionary philosophical theories are required to provide some sort of account of the conflict between their theories and what the folk believe. I examine various strategies for answering the challenge from folk belief. The examination proceeds as a case study, whose focus is eliminativism (nihilism) about ordinary material objects. I critically assess eliminativist attempts to explain folk belief by appeal to paraphrase, experience, and intuition.
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  30. Kathrin Koslicki (2005). On the Substantive Nature of Disagreements in Ontology. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 71 (1):85–151.
    This paper concerns a fundamental dispute in ontology between the “Foundational Ontologist”, who believes that there is only one correct way of characterizing what there is, and the ontological “Skeptic”, who believes that there are viable alternative characterizations of what there is. I examine in detail an intriguing recent proposal in Dorr (2005), which promises to yield (i) a way of interpreting the Skeptic by means of a counterfactual semantics; and (ii) a way of converting the Skeptic to a position (...)
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  31. David Liggins (2008). Nihilism Without Self-Contradiction. Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 62 (62):177-196.
    in Robin Le Poidevin (ed.) Being: Developments in Contemporary Metaphysics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Peter van Inwagen claims that there are no tables or chairs. He also claims that sentences such as ‘There are chairs here’, which seem to imply their existence, are often true. This combination of views opens van Inwagen to a charge of self-contradiction. I explain the charge, and van Inwagen’s response to it, which involves the claim that sentences like ‘There are tables’ shift their truth-conditions between (...)
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  32. E. J. Lowe (2002). Metaphysical Nihilism and the Subtraction Argument. Analysis 62 (273):62–73.
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  33. Ned Markosian (forthcoming). A Spatial Approach to Mereology. In Shieva Keinschmidt (ed.), Mereology and Location. Oxford University Press.
    When do several objects compose a further object? The last twenty years have seen a great deal of discussion of this question. According to the most popular view on the market, there is a physical object composed of your brain and Jeremy Bentham’s body. According to the second-most popular view on the market, there are no such objects as human brains or human bodies, and there are also no atoms, rocks, tables, or stars. And according to the third-ranked view, there (...)
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  34. Ned Markosian (1998). Brutal Composition. Philosophical Studies 92 (3):211-249.
    According to standard, pre-philosophical intuitions, there are many composite objects in the physical universe. There is, for example, my bicycle, which is composed of various parts - wheels, handlebars, molecules, atoms, etc. Recently, a growing body of philosophical literature has concerned itself with questions about the nature of composition.1 The main question that has been raised about composition is, roughly, this: Under what circumstances do some things compose, or add up to, or form, a single object? It turns out that (...)
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  35. Kris McDaniel (2010). Being and Almost Nothingness. Noûs 44 (4):628-649.
    I am attracted to ontological pluralism, the doctrine that some things exist in a different way than other things.1 For the ontological pluralist, there is more to learn about an object’s existential status than merely whether it is or is not: there is still the question of how that entity exists. By contrast, according to the ontological monist, either something is or it isn’t, and that’s all there is say about a thing’s existential status. We appear to be to be (...)
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  36. Trenton Merricks (2000). No Statues. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 78 (1):47 – 52.
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  37. Peter Mulder (2010). On the Alleged Non-Existence of Orbitals. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B 41 (2):178-182.
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  38. John O'Leary-Hawthorne & Andrew Cortens (1995). Towards Ontological Nihilism. Philosophical Studies 79 (2):143 - 165.
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  39. Eric Olson, Critical Notice.
    For a long time philosophers thought material objects were unproblematic. Or nearly so. There may have been a problem about what a material object is: a substance, a bundle of tropes, a compound of substratum and universals, a collection of sense-data, or what have you. But once that was settled there were supposed to be no further metaphysical problems about material objects. This illusion has now largely been dispelled. No one can get a Ph.D. in philosophy nowadays without encountering the (...)
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  40. Gonzalo Rodriguez-Pereyra (2004). Modal Realism and Metaphysical Nihilism. Mind 113 (452):683-704.
    In this paper I argue that Modal Realism, the thesis that there exist non-actual possible individuals and worlds, can be made compatible with Metaphysical Nihilism, the thesis that it is possible that nothing concrete exists. Modal Realism as developed by Lewis rules out the possibility of a world where nothing concrete exists and so conflicts with Metaphysical Nihilism. In the paper I argue that Modal Realism can be modified so as to be compatible with Metaphysical Nihilism. Such a modification makes (...)
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  41. Gonzalo Rodriguez-Pereyra (2002). Metaphysical Nihilism Defended: Reply to Lowe and Paseau. Analysis 62 (2):172–180.
    I believe in metaphysical nihilism, the thesis that there could have been no concrete objects, because I believe in a version of the subtraction argument, the subtraction argument*, that proves it. But both Jonathan Lowe (2002) and Alexander Paseau (2002) express doubts about the subtraction argument*. Paseau thinks the argument is invalid, and Lowe argues that invoking concrete* objects is unnecessary. Furthermore Lowe attempts to rebut my objections (Rodriguez-Pereyra 2000) to his anti-nihilist argument (Lowe 1998). In this paper I defend (...)
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  42. Gonzalo Rodriguez-Pereyra (2000). Lowe's Argument Against Nihilism. Analysis 60 (4):335–340.
    By nihilism I shall understand the thesis that it is metaphysically possible that there are no concrete objects. I think there is a version of an argu- ment, the subtraction argument, which proves nihilism nicely (see Baldwin 1996 and Rodriguez-Pereyra 1997). But E. J. Lowe, who is no nihilist, has a very interesting argument purporting to show that concrete objects exist necessarily (Lowe 1996, 1998). In this paper I shall defend nihilism from Lowe’s argument.
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  43. R. Routley (1970). Non-Existence Does Not Exist. Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic 11 (3):289-320.
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  44. E. S. & H. Zinkernagel (2002). The Quantum Vacuum and the Cosmological Constant Problem. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B 33 (4):663-705.
    The cosmological constant problem arises at the intersection between general relativity and quantum field theory, and is regarded as a fundamental problem in modern physics. In this paper, we describe the historical and conceptual origin of the cosmological constant problem which is intimately connected to the vacuum concept in quantum field theory. We critically discuss how the problem rests on the notion of physically real vacuum energy, and which relations between general relativity and quantum field theory are assumed in order (...)
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  45. Simon Saunders & Harvey R. Brown (eds.) (1991). The Philosophy of Vacuum. Oxford University Press.
    The vacuum is fast emerging as the central structure of modern physics. This collection brings together philosophically-minded specialists who engage these issues in the context of classical gravity, quantum electrodynamics, and the grand unification program. The vacuum emerges as the synthesis of concepts of space, time, and matter; in the context of relativity and the quantum this new synthesis represents a structure of the most intricate and novel complexity. This book is a work in modern metaphysics, in which the concepts (...)
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  46. Jonathan Schaffer (2007). From Nihilism to Monism. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 85 (2):175 – 191.
    Mereological nihilism is the view that all concrete objects are simple. Existence monism is the view that the only concrete object is one big simple: the world. I will argue that nihilism culminates in monism. The nihilist demands the simplest sufficient ontology, and the monist delivers it.
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  47. Alan Sidelle (2002). Is There a True Metaphysics of Material Objects? Philosophical Issues 12 (1):118-145.
    I argue (1) that metaphysical views of material objects should be understood as 'packages', rather than individual claims, where the other parts of the package include how the theory addresses 'recalcitant data' (such as - the denier of artifacts has to account, somehow, for the seeming truth of 'there are three pencils on my table'), and (2) that when the packages meet certain general desiderata - which all of the currently competing views *can* meet - there is nothing in the (...)
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  48. Theodore Sider (2013). Against Parthood. Oxford Studies in Metaphysics 8:237–293.
    Mereological nihilism says that there do not exist (in the fundamental sense) any objects with proper parts. A reason to accept it is that we can thereby eliminate 'part' from fundamental ideology. Many purported reasons to reject it - based on common sense, perception, and the possibility of gunk, for example - are weak. A more powerful reason is that composite objects seem needed for spacetime physics; but sets suffice instead.
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  49. Theodore Sider (1993). Van Inwagen and the Possibility of Gunk. Analysis 53 (4):285 - 289.
    We often speak of an object being composed of various other objects. We say that the deck is composed of the cards, that a road is the sum total of its sections, that a house is composed of its walls, ceilings, floors, doors, etc. Suppose we have some material objects. Here is a philosophical question: what conditions must obtain for those objects to compose something? In his recent book Material Beings, Peter van Inwagen addresses this question, which he calls the (...)
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  50. Paul Silva Jr (2013). Ordinary Objects and Series-Style Answers to the Special Composition Question. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 94 (1):69-88.
    The special composition question asks, roughly, under what conditions composition occurs. The common sense view is that composition only occurs among some things and that all and only ‘ordinary objects’ exist. Peter van Inwagen has marshaled a devastating argument against this view. The common sense view appears to commit one to giving what van Inwagen calls a ‘series-style answer’ to the special composition question, but van Inwagen argues that series-style answers are impossible because they are inconsistent with the transitivity of (...)
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