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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. Andrew M. Bailey (forthcoming). Composition and the Cases. Inquiry:1-14.
    Some strange cases have gripped philosophers of mind. They have been deployed against materialism about human persons, functionalism about mentality, the possibility of artificial intelligence, and more. In this paper, I cry “foul”. It’s not hard to think that there’s something wrong with the cases. But what? My proposal: their proponents ignore questions about composition. And ignoring composition is a mistake. Indeed, materialists about human persons, functionalists about mentality, and believers in the possibility of artificial intelligence can plausibly deploy moderate (...)
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  3. Lynne Rudder Baker (2003). Review of Objects and Persons, by Trenton Merricks. [REVIEW] Australasian Journal of Philosophy 81 (4):597 – 598.
    Book Information Objects and Persons. Objects and Persons Trenton Merricks . Oxford: Clarendon Press , 2001 , pp. xii + 203 , £30 ( cloth ), £14.99 ( paper ) . By Trenton Merricks. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Pp. xii + 203. £30 (cloth:), £14.99 (paper:).
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  4. Jiri Benovsky (forthcoming). Eliminativism and Gunk. Teorema: International Journal of Philosophy.
    Eliminativism about macroscopic material objects claims that we do not need to include tables in our ontology, and that any job – practical or theoretical – they have to do can be done by 'atoms arranged tablewise'. This way of introducing eliminativism faces the worry that if there are no 'atoms', that is, if there are no simples and the world is 'gunky', there are no suitable entities to be 'arranged tablewise'. In this article, I discuss various strategies the eliminativist (...)
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  5. 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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  6. Andrew Brenner (2015). Mereological Nihilism and the Special Arrangement Question. Synthese 192 (5):1295-1314.
    Mereological nihilism is the thesis that composite objects—objects with proper parts—do not exist. Nihilists generally paraphrase talk of composite objects F into talk of there being “xs arranged F-wise” . Recently several philosophers have argued that nihilism is defective insofar as nihilists are either unable to say what they mean by such phrases as “there are xs arranged F-wise,” or that nihilists are unable to employ such phrases without incurring significant costs, perhaps even undermining one of the chief motivations for (...)
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  7. Andrew Brenner (2015). Mereological Nihilism and Theoretical Unification. Analytic Philosophy 56 (4):318-337.
    Mereological nihilism (henceforth just "nihilism") is the thesis that composition never occurs. Nihilism has often been defended on the basis of its theoretical simplicity, including its (...) ontological simplicity and its ideological simplicity (roughly, nihilism's ability to do without primitive mereological predicates). In this paper I defend nihilism on the basis of the theoretical unification conferred by nihilism, which is, roughly, nihilism's capacity to allow us to take fewer phenomena as brute and inexplicable. This represents a respect in which nihilism enjoys greater theoretical simplicity than its rivals which has not yet been explored, and which is immune to many of the objections which have been leveled against previous arguments for nihilism from nihilism's theoretical simplicity. Composition as identity might be thought to confer a similar degree of theoretical unification as nihilism. I end the paper by arguing that this is not the case. (shrink)
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  8. 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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  9. 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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  10. 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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  11. Chad Carmichael (2015). Toward a Commonsense Answer to the Special Composition Question. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 93 (3):475-490.
    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 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. Specifically, I will argue that (...)
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  12. 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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  13. Geraldine Coggins (2008). Metaphysical Nihilism. Philosophical Books 49 (3):229-237.
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  14. 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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  15. 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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  16. 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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  17. David M. Cornell (forthcoming). Taking Monism Seriously. Philosophical Studies:1-19.
    Monism is the view that there is only a single material object in existence: the world. According to this view, therefore, the ordinary objects of common sense—cats and hats, cars and stars, and so on—do not actually exist; there is only the world. Because of this, monism is routinely dismissed in the contemporary literature as being absurd and obviously false. It is simply obvious that there is a plurality of material things, thus it is simply obvious that monism is false, (...)
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  18. A. J. Cotnoir (2013). Parts as Counterparts. Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 2 (3):228-241.
    Mereological nihilists are faced with a difficult challenge: explaining ordinary talk about material objects. Popular paraphrase strategies involve plurals, arrangements of particles, or fictions. In this paper, a new paraphrase strategy is put forward that has distinct advantages over its rivals: it is compatible with gunk and emergent properties of macro-objects. The only assumption is a commitment to a liberal view of the nature of simples; the nihilist must be willing to accept the possibility of heterogeneous extended simples. The author (...)
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  19. 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.
  20. 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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  21. 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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  22. 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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  23. 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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  24. D. Efird & T. Stoneham (2005). The Subtraction Argument for Metaphysical Nihilism. Journal of Philosophy 102 (6):303 - 325.
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  25. 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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  26. R. W. Fischer (2009). Ordinary Objects. By Amy L. Thomasson. Metaphilosophy 40 (2):296-302.
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  27. Bryan Frances, Skeptical Stories: Introduction to Live Skepticism.
    The epistemological consequences of paradox are paradoxical. They can be usefully generated by telling a series of once-upon-a-time stories that make various philosophical points, starting out innocent and ending up, well, paradoxical. This is an introduction to my Live Skepticism, defended in Skepticism Comes Alive.
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  28. Bryan Frances (2016). Rationally Held ‘P, but I Fully Believe ~P and I Am Not Equivocating’. Philosophical Studies 173 (2):309-313.
    One of Moore’s paradoxical sentence types is ‘P, but I believe ~P’. Mooreans have assumed that all tokens of that sentence type are absurd in some way: epistemically, pragmatically, semantically, or assertively. And then they proceed to debate what the absurdity really is. I argue that if one has the appropriate philosophical views, then one can rationally assert tokens of that sentence type, and one can be epistemically reasonable in the corresponding compound belief as well.
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  29. 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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  30. Cody Gilmore (2015). Personal Identity, Consciousness, and Joints in Nature. Journal of Ethics 19 (3-4):443-466.
    Many philosophers have thought that the problem of personal identity over time is not metaphysically deep. Perhaps the debate between the rival theories is somehow empty or is a ‘merely verbal dispute’. Perhaps questions about personal identity are ‘nonsubstantive’ and fit more for conceptual analysis and close attention to usage than for theorizing in the style of serious metaphysics, theorizing guided by considerations of systematicity, parsimony, explanatory power, and aiming for knowledge about the objective structure of the world. (...)
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  31. 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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  32. P. Goggans (1999). How Not to Have an Ontology of Physical OBJECTS. Philosophical Studies 94 (3):295-308.
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  33. D. L. Goswick (2012). Familiar Objects and Their Shadows, by Crawford Elder. Mind 121 (481):176-181.
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  34. Ghislain Guigon (2012). Geraldine Coggins, Could There Have Been Nothing? Against Metaphysical Nihilism. Prolegomena 11 (2):299-303.
    This paper is a review of Geralding Coggins's book on metaphysical nihilism: Could There Have Been Nothing?
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  35. Richard Healey (1998). The Metaphysics of Emptiness "La Métaphysique de la Vacuité". 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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  36. Eli Hirsch (2010). Quantifier Variance and Realism: Essays in Metaontology. Oxford University Press.
    A sense of unity -- Basic objects : a reply to Xu -- Objectivity without objects -- The vagueness of identity -- Quantifier variance and realism -- Against revisionary ontology -- Comments on Theodore Sider's four dimensionalism -- Sosa's existential relativism -- Physical-object ontology, verbal disputes, and common sense -- Ontological arguments : interpretive charity and quantifier variance -- Language, ontology, and structure -- Ontology and alternative languages.
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  37. 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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  38. Terence Horgan (1993). Review: On What There Isn't. [REVIEW] Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 53 (3):693 - 700.
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  39. 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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  40. Andrew J. Jaeger (2014). A Tale of Two Parts. Res Philosophica 91 (3):477-484.
    Joshua Spencer has recently used the problem of spatial intrinsics in conjunction with the possibility of extended atomic regions of space to argue against the possibility of extended heterogeneous simples. In part 1, I explain Spencer’s argument against the possibility of heterogeneous simples. In part 2, I argue that if his argument is sound, then a parody argument can be constructed showing that heterogeneous composite objects are also impossible. In part 3, I provide an objection to my parody argument. I (...)
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  41. C. E. M. Joad (1928). The Non-Existence of Matter. Philosophy 3 (12):495-.
    It is probably true to say that the majority of philosophers have considered the universe to be mental. If the universe is really mental, it follows that matter cannot be quite real, and many philosophers have in fact brought forward cogent reasons for regarding matter as in some sense illusory. Those who hold this view are called Idealists. Idealism has historically assumed a number of different forms, between some of which there is little in common, but all forms of Idealism (...)
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  42. Daniel Z. Korman (2015). Fundamental Quantification and the Language of the Ontology Room. Noûs 49 (2):298-321.
    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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  43. 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 about ordinary material objects. I critically assess eliminativist attempts to explain folk belief by appeal to paraphrase, experience, and intuition.
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  44. 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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  45. Baptiste Le Bihan (forthcoming). Super-Relationism: Combining Eliminativism About Objects and Relationism About Spacetime. Philosophical Studies:1-22.
    I will introduce and motivate eliminativist super-relationism. This is the conjunction of relationism about spacetime and eliminativism about material objects. According to the view, the universe is a big collection of spatio-temporal relations and natural properties, and no substance (material or spatio-temporal) exists in it. The view is original since eliminativism about material objects, when understood as including not only ordinary objects like tables or chairs but also physical particles, is generally taken to imply substantivalism about spacetime: if properties are (...)
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  46. Baptiste Le Bihan (2015). No Physical Particles for a Dispositional Monist? Philosophical Papers 44 (2):207-232.
    A dispositional monist believes that all properties are essentially causal. Recently, an overdetermination argument has been proposed by Trenton Merricks to support nihilism about ordinary objects. I argue that this argument can be extended to target both nihilism about ordinary objects and nihilism about physical particles when dispositional monism is assumed. It implies that a philosopher who both endorses dispositional monism and takes seriously the overdetermination argument should not believe in the existence of physical particles. I end (...)
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  47. Baptiste Le Bihan (2013). Why a Gunk World is Compatible with Nihilism About Objects. Studia Philosophica Estonica 6 (1):1-14.
    Ted Sider argues that nihilism about objects is incompatible with the metaphysical possibility of gunk and takes this point to show that nihilism is flawed. I shall describe one kind of nihilism able to answer this objection. I believe that most of the things we usually encounter do not exist. That is, I take talk of macroscopic objects and macroscopic properties to refer to sets of fundamental properties, which are invoked as a matter of linguistic convention. This view is a (...)
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  48. 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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  49. E. J. Lowe (2002). Metaphysical Nihilism and the Subtraction Argument. Analysis 62 (273):62–73.
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  50. 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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