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Permissive Conceptions of Material Objects

Edited by Daniel Z. Korman (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Australian National University)
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Summary Permissivist conceptions of material objects are those that permit a wide variety of macroscopic objects that, despite being right before our eyes, we do not ordinarily take to exist. For instance, according to universalism, for any given plurality of objects, there is an object that is the sum of those objects. Accordingly, there is a partly metal and partly fleshy object that is the sum of your nose and the Eiffel Tower. According to another form of permissivism (sometimes called “the doctrine of plenitude”), every modal profile that can be instantiated in a region consistently with the empirical facts is instantiated in that region. So for instance, when there is a car in a garage, there is also an “incar”, which is necessarily inside the garage and which will cease to exist if the car leaves the garage.  There are two primary motivations for permissivism. The first is that admitting ordinary objects but not extraordinary objects will be intolerably arbitrary. The second is that one who accepts that some pluralities but not others compose a further object will be forced to one or another untenable view about vagueness.
Key works For defenses of universalism, see Rea 1998Sider 1997, and Hudson 2001. For defenses of the doctrine of plenitude, see Sosa 1999 and Bennett 2004.
Introductions Cleve 1986; Sider 1997; Rea 1998; Korman 2010; Korman 2010.
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  1. Yuri Balashov (2007). About Stage Universalism. Philosophical Quarterly 57 (226):21–39.
    Most four-dimensionalists, including both worm and stage theorists, endorse mereological universalism, the thesis that any class of objects has a fusion. But the marriage of fourdimensionalism and universalism is unfortunate and unprofitable: it creates a recalcitrant problem for stage theory’s account of lingering properties, such as writing ‘War and Piece’ and traveling across the tennis court, which take time to be instantiated. This makes it necessary to impose a natural restriction on diachronic composition.
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  2. Karen Bennett (2004). Spatio-Temporal Coincidence and the Grounding Problem. Philosophical Studies 118 (3):339-371.
    A lot of people believe that distinct objectscan occupy precisely the same place for theentire time during which they exist. Suchpeople have to provide an answer to the`grounding problem' – they have to explain howsuch things, alike in so many ways, nonethelessmanage to fall under different sortals, or havedifferent modal properties. I argue in detailthat they cannot say that there is anything invirtue of which spatio-temporally coincidentthings have those properties. However, I alsoargue that this may not be as bad as (...)
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  3. 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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  4. Louis deRosset (forthcoming). Analyticity and Ontology. Oxford Studies in Metaphysics.
    /Analyticity theorists/, as I will call them, endorse the /doctrine of analyticity in ontology/: if some truth P analytically entails the existence of certain things, then a theory that contains P but does not claim that those things exist is no more ontologically parsimonious than a theory that also claims that they exist. Suppose, for instance, that the existence of a table in a certain location is analytically entailed by the existence and features of certain particles in that location. The (...)
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  5. Steven M. Duncan, From Private Experience to Public Language.
    After discussing the manifest inconveniences of Galilean physicalism for both science and common sense, I propose an alternate, Aristotelian ontology of material things and show how it solves the epistemological problems engendered by the New Science. Read at the annual POH Symposium in Lake Wenatchee, WA, May 2011.
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  6. Nikk Effingham, Cultural Prejudice and the Plenitude Principle.
    The Plenitude Principle is that for every filled spacetime region, there is an object that is exactly located at that region. Hawthorne motivates it on the grounds that it’s the only way to avoid cultural prejudice with regards to what material objects exist (the argument from cultural prejudice). There is a similar argument for a perdurantist-universalist theory, and the content of this paper applies mutatis mutandis to that argument as well.
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  7. Matti Eklund (2008). The Picture of Reality as an Amorphous Lump. In Theodore Sider, John Hawthorne & Dean W. Zimmerman (eds.), Contemporary Debates in Metaphysics. Blackwell Pub.. 382--96.
    (1) Abstract objects. The nominalist (as the label is used today) denies that there exist abstract objects. The platonist holds that there are abstract objects. One example is numbers. The nominalist denies that there are numbers; the platonist typically affirms it.
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  8. Matti Eklund (2006). Neo-Fregean Ontology. Philosophical Perspectives 20 (1):95–121.
    Neo-Fregeanism in the philosophy of mathematics consists of two main parts: the logicist thesis, that mathematics (or at least branches thereof, like arithmetic) all but reduce to logic, and the platonist thesis, that there are abstract, mathematical objects. I will here focus on the ontological thesis, platonism. Neo-Fregeanism has been widely discussed in recent years. Mostly the discussion has focused on issues specific to mathematics. I will here single out for special attention the view on ontology which underlies the neo-Fregeans’ (...)
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  9. Kit Fine (2008). Coincidence and Form. Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 82 (1):101-118.
    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.
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  10. Kit Fine (1999). Things and Their Parts. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 23 (1):61–74.
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  11. John Hawthorne (2006). Metaphysical Essays. Oxford University Press.
    John Hawthorne is widely regarded as one of the finest philosophers working today. He is perhaps best known for his contributions to metaphysics, and this volume collects his most notable papers in this field. Hawthorne offers original treatments of fundamental topics in philosophy, including identity, ontology, vagueness, and causation. Six of the essays appear here for the first time, and there is a valuable introduction to guide the reader through the selection.
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  12. Eli Hirsch (2005). Physical-Object Ontology, Verbal Disputes, and Common Sense. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 70 (1):67–97.
    Two main claims are defended in this paper: first, that typical disputes in the literature about the ontology of physical objects are merely verbal; second, that the proper way to resolve these disputes is by appealing to common sense or ordinary language. A verbal dispute is characterized not in terms of private idiolects, but in terms of different linguistic communities representing different positions. If we imagine a community that makes Chisholm's mereological essentialist assertions, and another community that makes Lewis's four-dimensionalist (...)
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  13. Eli Hirsch (2004). Comments on Theodore Sider's Four Dimensionalism. [REVIEW] Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 68 (3):658–664.
  14. Paul Hovda (2013). Tensed Mereology. Journal of Philosophical Logic 42 (2):241-283.
    Classical mereology (CM) is usually taken to be formulated in a tenseless language, and is therefore associated with a four-dimensionalist metaphysics. This paper presents three ways one might integrate the core idea of flat plenitude, i.e., that every suitable condition or property has exactly one mereological fusion, with a tensed logical setting. All require a revised notion of mereological fusion. The candidates differ over how they conceive parthood to interact with existence in time, which connects to the distinction between endurance (...)
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  15. Mark Jago (forthcoming). Essence and the Grounding Problem. In , Reality Making. Oxford University Press.
    Pluralists about coincident entities say that distinct entities may be spatially coincident throughout their entire existence. The most pressing issue they face is the grounding problem. They say that coincident entities may differ in their persistence conditions and in the sortals they fall under. But how can they differ in these ways, given that they share all their microphysical properties? What grounds those differences, if not their microphysical properties? Do those differences depend only on the way we conceptualise those objects? (...)
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  16. Mark Johnston (2006). Hylomorphism. Journal of Philosophy 103 (12):652-698.
  17. Daniel Z. Korman (2014). The Vagueness Argument Against Abstract Artifacts. Philosophical Studies 167 (1):57-71.
  18. Daniel Z. Korman (2014). Debunking Perceptual Beliefs About Ordinary Objects. Philosophers' Imprint 14 (13).
    Debunking arguments are arguments that aim to undermine some range of beliefs by showing that those beliefs are not appropriately connected to their subject matter. Arguments of this sort rear their heads in a wide variety of domains, threatening beliefs about morality, mathematics, logic, color, and the existence of God. Perceptual beliefs about ordinary objects, however, are widely thought to be invulnerable to such arguments. I will show that this is a mistake. I articulate a debunking argument that purports to (...)
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  19. 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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  20. Daniel Z. Korman (2011). Ordinary Objects. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    An encyclopedia entry which covers various revisionary conceptions of which macroscopic objects there are, and the puzzles and arguments that motivate these conceptions: sorites arguments, the argument from vagueness, the puzzles of material constitution, arguments against indeterminate identity, arguments from arbitrariness, debunking arguments, the overdetermination argument, and the problem of the many.
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  21. Daniel Z. Korman (2010). Strange Kinds, Familiar Kinds, and the Charge of Arbitrariness. Oxford Studies in Metaphysics:119-144.
    Particularists in material-object metaphysics hold that our intuitive judgments about which kinds of things there are and are not are largely correct. One common argument against particularism is the argument from arbitrariness, which turns on the claim that there is no ontologically significant difference between certain of the familiar kinds that we intuitively judge to exist (snowballs, islands, statues, solar systems) and certain of the strange kinds that we intuitively judge not to exist (snowdiscalls, incars, gollyswoggles, the fusion of the (...)
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  22. Daniel Z. Korman (2010). The Argument From Vagueness. Philosophy Compass 5 (10):891-901.
    A presentation of the Lewis-Sider argument from vagueness for unrestricted composition and possible responses.
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  23. Daniel Z. Korman (2007). Unrestricted Composition and Restricted Quantification. Philosophical Studies 140 (3):319-334.
    Many of those who accept the universalist thesis that mereological composition is unrestricted also maintain that the folk typically restrict their quantifiers in such a way as to exclude strange fusions when they say things that appear to conflict with universalism. Despite its prima facie implausibility, there are powerful arguments for universalism. By contrast, there is remarkably little evidence for the thesis that strange fusions are excluded from the ordinary domain of quantification. Furthermore, this reconciliatory strategy seems hopeless when applied (...)
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  24. Daniel Z. Korman (2007). The Naive Conception of Material Objects: A Defense. Dissertation, University of Texas at Austin
    Chapter 1: “Ordinary Objects and the Argument from Strange Concepts.” Chapter 2: “Restricted Composition Without Sharp Cut-Offs.” Chapter 3: “Three Solutions to the Grounding Problem for Coincident Objects.” Chapter 4: “Ordinary Objects Without Overdetermination.” Chapter 5: “Eliminativism and the Challenge from Folk Belief.” Chapter 6: “Unrestricted Composition and Restricted Quantification.”.
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  25. E. J. Lowe (2007). Review of John Hawthorne, Metaphysical Essays. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2007 (1).
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  26. E. J. Lowe (2005). Vagueness and Endurance. Analysis 65 (286):104–112.
  27. Theodore Sider (1997). Four-Dimensionalism. Philosophical Review 106 (2):197-231.
    Persistence through time is like extension through space. A road has spatial parts in the subregions of the region of space it occupies; likewise, an object that exists in time has temporal parts in the various subregions of the total region of time it occupies. This view — known variously as four dimensionalism, the doctrine of temporal parts, and the theory that objects “perdure” — is opposed to “three dimensionalism”, the doctrine that things “endure”, or are “wholly present”.1 I will (...)
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  28. Ernest Sosa (1999). Existential Relativity. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 23 (1):132–143.
  29. Ernest Sosa (1993). Putnam's Pragmatic Realism. Journal of Philosophy 60 (12):605-626.
  30. Ernest Sosa (1987). Subjects Among Other Things. Philosophical Perspectives 1:155-187.
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  31. Amie L. Thomasson (2007). Ordinary Objects. Oxford University Press.
    Arguments that ordinary inanimate objects such as tables and chairs, sticks and stones, simply do not exist have become increasingly common and increasingly prominent. Some are based on demands for parsimony or for a non-arbitrary answer to the special composition question; others arise from prohibitions against causal redundancy, ontological vagueness, or co-location; and others still come from worries that a common sense ontology would be a rival to a scientific one. Until now, little has been done to address these arguments (...)
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  32. Nathan Wildman (2012). Familiar Objects and Their Shadows. By Crawford L. Elder. (Cambridge UP, 2011. Pp. Xi + 210. Price £50.00, $85.00 H/B.). [REVIEW] Philosophical Quarterly 62 (246):195-197.
  33. Stephen Yablo (1987). Identity, Essence, and Indiscernibility. Journal of Philosophy 84 (6):293-314.
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