In this paper I respond to Trenton Merricks's (2005) paper ‘Composition and Vagueness’. I argue that Merricks's paper faces the following difficulty: he claims to provide independent motivation for denying one of the premisses of the Lewis-Sider vagueness argument for unrestricted composition, but the alleged motivation he provides begs the question.
I first explore the notion of the world's being such that everything in it is a proper part. I then explore the notion of the world's being such that everything in it both is and has a proper part. Given two well recognized assumptions, I argue that both notions represent genuine metaphysical possibilities. Finally I consider, but dismiss, some possible objections.
The interpretation of Lewis?s doctrine of natural properties is difficult and controversial, especially when it comes to the bearers of natural properties. According to the prevailing reading ? the minimalist view ? perfectly natural properties pertain to the micro-physical realm and are instantiated by entities without proper parts or point-like. This paper argues that there are reasons internal to a broadly Lewisian kind of metaphysics to think that the minimalist view is fundamentally flawed and that a liberal view, according to (...) which natural properties are instantiated at several or even at all levels of reality, should be preferred. Our argument proceeds by reviewing those core principles of Lewis?s metaphysics that are most likely to constrain the size of the bearers of natural properties: the principle of Humean supervenience, the principle of recombination in modal realism, the hypothesis of gunk, and the thesis of composition as identity. (shrink)
The connection between whole and part is intimate: not only can we share the same space, but I’m incapable of leaving my parts behind; settle the nonmereological facts and you thereby settle what is a part of what; wholes don’t seem to be an additional ontological commitment over their parts. Composition as identity promises to explain this intimacy. But it threatens to make the connection too intimate, for surely the parts could have made a different whole and the whole have (...) had different parts. In this paper I attempt to offer an account of parthood that is intimate enough but not too intimate: the parts generate the whole, but they are not themselves the whole. (shrink)
Mereological realism holds that the world has a mereological structure-—i.e., a distribution of mereological properties and relations. In this paper, I defend Eleaticism about properties, according to which there are no causally inert non-logical properties. I then present an Eleatic argument for mereological anti-realism, which denies the existence of both mereological composites and mereological simples. After defending Eleaticism and mereological anti-realism, I argue that mereological anti‑realism is preferable to mereological nihilism. I then conclude by examining the thesis that composition is (...) identity and noting its consequences for the question of mereological structure. (shrink)
Endurantists have recently faced a mereological puzzle in various forms. Here I argue that, instead of presenting a genuine worry, the puzzle actually reveals a common misunderstanding about the endurantist ontology. Furthermore, through this discussion of the alleged problem and the misunderstanding which motivates it, I reveal metaphysical commitments the endurantist has that may not be widely recognized. For instance, she’s committed to interesting and perhaps controversial views about shape and location. I highlight these commitments and what they mean for (...) the endurantist. (shrink)
Constitution is the relation between something and what it is made of. Composition is the relation between something and its parts. I examine three different approaches to the relation between constitution and composition. One approach, associated with neo-Aristotelians like Mark Johnston and Kathrin Koslicki, identifies constitution with composition. A second, popular with those sympathetic to classical mereology such as Judith Thomson, defines constitution in terms of parthood. A third, advocated strongly by Lynne Baker, takes constitution to be somehow inconsistent with (...) relations of parthood. All of these approaches, I argue, face serious problems. I conclude, tentatively, that constitution and composition have nothing to do with each other. (shrink)
How can a statue and a piece of alloy be coincident at any time at which they exist and yet differ in their modal properties? I argue that this question demands an answer and that the only plausible answer is one that posits a difference in the form of the two objects.
In this paper I outline the main features of Karen Bennett’s (Australasian Journal of Philosophy 1–21, 2011) non-classical mereology, and identify its methodological costs. I argue that Bennett’s mereology cannot account for the composition of structural universals because it cannot explain the mereological difference between isomeric universals, such as being butane and being isobutane. I consider responses, which come at costs to the view.
This article has two goals: a historical and a speculative one. The historical goal is to offer a coherent account of Spinoza’s view on mereological composition. The speculative goal is to show that Spinoza’s substance monism is distinct from versions of monism that are currently defended in metaphysics and that it deserves the attention of contemporary metaphysicians. Regarding the second goal, two versions of monism are currently defended and discussed in contemporary metaphysics: existence monism according to which there actually exists (...) exactly one concrete entity; and priority monism that is famously defended by Jonathan Schaffer and according to which there exists exactly one fundamental concrete being, the cosmos, and several derivative concrete beings that are the parts of the cosmos. In this article, I argue that substance monism is neither an existence nor a priority monism because, while Spinoza’s monist is committed to the existence of a unique fundamental individual—the substance—and to the existence of several derivative individuals—the bodies or modes of extension—, Spinoza denies that the substance is mereologically complex. Regarding the first goal, the paper solves several interpretative puzzles by arguing that Spinoza distinguishes between three kinds of composition and that his talk of composition between the substance and its modes is by his own light not to be interpreted as literally true. (shrink)
In this review essay, I examine the central tenets of sociologist Dave Elder-Vass’s recent contribution to social ontology, as put forth in his book The Causal Power of Social Structures: Emergence, Structure and Agency. Elder-Vass takes issue with ontological individualists and maintains that social structures exist and have causal powers in their own right. I argue that he fails to establish his main theses: he shows neither that social structures have causal powers “in their own right” (in any sense of (...) this expression) nor that they exist. (shrink)
I analyze the relations of constituency or ``being in'' that connect different ontological items in the Tractatus logico-philosophicus by Wittgenstein. A state of affairs is constituted by atoms, atoms are in a state of affairs. Atoms are also in an atomic fact. Moreover, the world is the totality of facts, thus it is in some sense made of facts. Many other kinds of Tractarian notions -- such as molecular facts, logical space, reality -- seem to be involved in constituency relations. (...) How should these relations be conceived? And how is it possible to formalize them in a convincing way? I draw a comparison between two ways of conceiving and formalizing these relations: through sets and through mereological sums. The comparison shows that the conceptual machinery of set theory is apter to conceive and formalize Tractarian constituency notions than the mereological one. (shrink)
Mereological entities often seem to violate ‘ordinary’ ideas of what a concrete object can be like, behaving more like sets than like Aristotelian substances. However, the mereological notions of ‘part’, ‘composition’, and ‘sum’ or ‘fusion’ appear to find concrete realisation in the actual semantics of mass nouns. Quine notes that ‘any sum of parts which are water is water’; and the wine from a single barrel can be distributed around the globe without affecting its identity. Is there here, as some (...) have claimed, a ‘natural’ or ‘innocent’ form of mereology? The claim rests on the assumption that what a mass noun such as ‘wine’ denotes – the wine from a single barrel , for example – is indeed a unit of a special type, the sum or fusion of its many ‘parts’. The assumption is, however, open to question on semantic grounds. (shrink)
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 (...) are human bodies, but still no brains, atoms, rocks, tables, or stars. Although it’s pleasant to have so many crazy-sounding views around, I think it would also be nice to have a commonsense option available. The aim of this paper is to offer such an option. The approach I offer begins by considering a mereological question other than the standard one that has been the focus of most discussions in the literature. I try to show that the road to mereological sanity begins with giving the most straightforward and commonsensical answer to this other question, and then extending that answer to further questions about the mereology of physical objects. On the approach I am recommending, it turns out that all of the mereological properties and relations of physical objects are determined by their spatial properties and relations. (shrink)
Suppose that a material object is gunky: all of its parts are located in space, and each of its parts has a proper part. Does it follow from this hypothesis that the space in which that object resides must itself be gunky? I argue that it does not. There is room for gunky objects in a space that decomposes without remainder into mereological simples.
This paper argues for an ontological distinction between two kinds of universals, 'kinds of tropes' such as 'wisdom' and properties such as 'the property of being wise'. It argues that the distinction is parallel to that between two kinds of collections, pluralities such as 'the students' and collective objects such as 'the class'. The paper argues for the priortity of distributive readings with pluralities on the basis of predicates of extent or shape, such 'large' or 'long'.
Franz Brentano’s ‘philosophy of mind’ still means, as far as most philosophers are concerned, no more than a peculiarly influential account of intentionality. In fact, in his Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint, Brentano has provided an account of mental phenomena which ranks with any to be found in the literature of philosophy. It differs as much from the conceptcentered Kantian approaches to ‘reason’ or ‘understanding’ as from more recent approaches, centered on the language used to report or to express ’propositional (...) attitudes’, in being an ontology of mind, concerned with the description of the entities which are involved in mental experience and of the relations between them. With the posthumous publication of a series of lectures given in Vienna in 1890-1911 we now possess a clear account of the ontology, and of the methods, underlying Brentano’s numerous and subtle descriptions of mental phenomena, at least at one highly fruitful stage in his career. What follows is a detailed exposition of this work, together with a brief critical coda. (shrink)
When do the folk think that mereological composition occurs? Many metaphysicians have wanted a view of composition that fits with folk intuitions, and yet there has been little agreement about what the folk intuit. We aim to put the tools of experimental philosophy to constructive use. Our studies suggest that folk mereology is teleological: people tend to intuit that composition occurs when the result serves a purpose. We thus conclude that metaphysicians should dismiss folk intuitions, as tied into a benighted (...) teleological view of nature. (shrink)
Naive mereology studies ordinary conceptions of part and whole. Parts, unlike portions, have objective boundaries and many things, such as dances and sermons have temporal parts. In order to deal with Mark Heller's claim that temporal parts "are ontologically no more or less basic than the wholes that they compose," we retell the story of Laplace's Genius, here named "Swifty." Although Swifty processes lots of information very quickly, his conceptual repertoire need not extend beyond fundamental physics. So we attempt to (...) follow Swifty's progress in the acquisition of ordinary concepts such as 'table'. (Puzzles of precision and intrusion appear along the way.) Swifty has to understand what tables are before understanding what temporal portions of tables are. This is one reason for regarding tables as ontologically prior to table portions. intrusion appear along the way.). (shrink)
General Process Theory (GPT) is a new (non-Whiteheadian) process ontology. According to GPT the domains of scientific inquiry and everyday practice consist of configurations of ‘goings-on’ or ‘dynamics’ that can be technically defined as concrete, dynamic, non-particular individuals called general processes. The paper offers a brief introduction to GPT in order to provide ontological foundations for research programs such as interactivism that centrally rely on the notions of ‘process,’ ‘interaction,’ and ‘emergence.’ I begin with an analysis of our common sense (...) concept of activities, which plays a crucial heuristic role in the development of the notion of a general process. General processes are not individuated in terms of their location but in terms of ‘what they do,’ i.e., in terms of their dynamic relationships in the basic sense of one process being part of another. The formal framework of GPT is thus an extensional mereology, albeit a non-classical theory with a non-transitive part-relation. After a brief sketch of basic notions and strategies of the GPT-framework I show how the latter may be applied to distinguish between causal, mechanistic, functional, self-maintaining, and recursively self-maintaining interactions, all of which involve ‘emergent phenomena’ in various senses of the term. (shrink)
In the process of arguing against all theories of extended material objects made up of simples, Dean Zimmerman has recently argued against the compossibility of continuous closed and continuous open material objects. But it is surely undeniable that point-like material objects are possible; plausible principles of recombination and the principle of unrestricted composition then lead to the possibility Zimmerman rejects. Fortunately, Zimmerman's arguments (inspired by Brentano's remarks on the concept of contact) can be resisted: what appear to be implausible modal (...) consequences of the compossibility of open and closed continuous material objects turn out to be merely the results of a decision to use `material object' in a certain way. (shrink)
We take as our starting point a thesis to the effect that, at least for true judgments of many varieties, there are parts of reality which make such judgments are true. We argue that two distinct components are involved in this truthmaker relation. On the one hand is the relation of necessitation, which holds between an object x and a judgment p when the existence of x entails the truth of p. On the other hand is the dual notion of (...) projection, which holds between a judgment p and an object x when the truth of p entails the existence of x. A truthmaker for a judgment p is then a necessitator for p which satisfies the further constraint that it is part of p’s projection. We offer a formal theory of the truthmaker relation thus defined, exploiting ontological tools of basic mereology and the theory of dependence. We then apply the theory to a range of problems connected with generic expressions, ellipsis, vagueness, and indexical and perceptual judgments. (shrink)
Some would conceive philosophy as being divided into Analytic and Continental. This, as John Searle points out, is rather like conceiving America as being divided into Business and Kansas. Searle’s wise saying has not, as yet, received the theoretical attention it deserves. In both cases we have a certain domain, which is conceived as being divided into two parts, one defined in spatial terms, the other defined in terms of objects, practices or features widely spread through some spatial area.
Of Chisholm’s many signal contributions to analytic metaphysics, perhaps the most important is his treatment of boundaries, a category of entity that has been neglected, to say the least, in the history of ontology. We can gain some preliminary idea of the sorts of problems which the Chisholmian ontology of boundaries is designed to solve, if we consider the following Zeno-inspired thought-experiment.
The paper is a contribution to formal ontology. It seeks to use topological means in order to derive ontological laws pertaining to the boundaries and interiors of wholes, to relations of contact and connectedness, to the concepts of surface, point, neighbourhood, and so on. The basis of the theory is mereology, the formal theory of part and whole, a theory which is shown to have a number of advantages, for ontological purposes, over standard treatments of topology in set-theoretic terms. One (...) central goal of the paper is to provide a rigorous formulation of Brentano's thesis to the effect that a boundary can exist as a matter of necessity only as part of a whole of higher dimension which it is the boundary of. It concludes with a brief survey of current applications of mereotopology in areas such as natural-language analysis, geographic information systems, machine vision, naive physics, and database and knowledge engineering. (shrink)
The concept of niche (setting, context, habitat, environment) has been little studied by ontologists, in spite of its wide application in a variety of disciplines from evolutionary biology to economics. What follows is a first formal theory of this concept, a theory of the relations between objects and their niches. The theory builds upon existing work on mereology, topology, and the theory of spatial location as tools of formal ontology. It will be illustrated above all by means of simple biological (...) examples, but the concept of niche should be understood as being, like concepts such as part, boundary, and location, a structural concept that is applicable in principle to a wide range of different domains. (shrink)
The general composition question asks “what are the necessary and jointly sufficient conditions any xs and any y must satisfy in order for it to be true that those xs compose that y?” Although this question has received little attention, there is an interesting and theoretically fruitful answer. Namely, strong composition as identity (SCAI): necessarily, for any xs and any y, those xs compose y iff those xs are identical to y. SCAI is theoretically fruitful because if it is true, (...) then there is an answer to one of the most difficult and intractable questions of mereology (The Simple Question). In this paper, I introduce the identity account of simplicity and argue that if SCAI is true then this identity account of simplicity is as well. I consider an objection to the identity account of simplicity. Ultimately, I find this objection unsuccessful. (shrink)
A material simple is a material object that has no proper parts. Some philosophers have argued for the possibility of extended simples. Some have even argued for the possibility of heterogeneous simples or simples that have intrinsic variations across their surfaces. There is a puzzle, though, that is meant to show that extended, heterogeneous simples are impossible. Although several plausible responses have been given to this puzzle, I wish to reopen the case against extended, heterogeneous simples. In this paper, I (...) briefly canvass responses to this puzzle which may be made in defense of extended, heterogeneous simples. I then present a new version of this puzzle which targets simples that occupy atomic yet extended regions of space. It seems that none of the traditional responses can be used to successfully save this particular kind of extended simple from the new puzzle. I also consider some non-traditional defenses of heterogeneous extended simples and argue that they too are unsuccessful. Finally, I will argue that a substantial case can be made against the possibility of extended heterogeneous simples of any kind. (shrink)
It is plausible that the universe exists: a thing such that absolutely everything is a part of it. It is also plausible that singular, structured propositions exist: propositions that literally have individuals as parts. Furthermore, it is plausible that for each thing, there is a singular, structured proposition that has it as a part. Finally, it is plausible that parthood is a partial ordering: reflexive, transitive, and anti-symmetric. These plausible claims cannot all be correct. We canvass some costs of denying (...) each claim and conclude that parthood is not a partial ordering. Provided that the relevant entities exist, parthood is not anti-symmetric and proper parthood is neither asymmetric nor transitive. (shrink)
Many philosophers think not. Many philosophers, in fact, seem to suppose that anyone who raises the question whether mereological sums can change their parts displays thereby a failure to grasp an essential feature of the concept “mereological sum.” It is hard to point to an indisputable example of this in print,[i] but it is a thesis I hear put forward very frequently in conversation (sometimes it is put forward in the form of an incredulous stare after I have said something (...) that implies that mereological sums can change their parts). (shrink)
A set of parameters for classifying composition operations is introduced. These parameters determine whether a composition operation is 1) universal, 2) determinate, 3) whether there is a difference between possible and actual compositions, 4) whether there can be singleton compositions, 5) whether they give rise to a hierarchy, and 6) whether components of compositions can be repeated. Philosophical implications of these parameters (in particular in relation to set theory) and mereology are discussed.