To exist and to count: A note on the minimalist view

Dialectica 63 (3):343-356 (2009)
Abstract
Sometimes mereologists have problems with counting. We often don't want to count the parts of maximally connected objects as full-fledged objects themselves, and we don't want to count discontinuous objects as parts of further, full-fledged objects. But whatever one takes "full-fledged object" to mean, the axioms and theorems of classical, extensional mereology commit us to the existence both of parts and of wholes – all on a par, included in the domain of quantification – and this makes mereology look counterintuitive to various philosophers. In recent years, a proposal has been advanced to solve the tension between mereology and familiar ways of counting objects, under the label of Minimalist View . The Minimalist View may be summarized in the slogan: "Count x as an object iff it does not overlap with any y you have already counted as an object". The motto seems prima facie very promising but, we shall argue, when one looks at it more closely, it is not. On the contrary, the Minimalist View involves an ambiguity that can be solved in quite different directions. We argue that one resolution of the ambiguity makes it incompatible with mereology. This way, the Minimalist View can lend no support to mereology at all. We suggest that the Minimalist View can become compatible with mereology once its ambiguity is solved by interpreting it in what we call an epistemic or conceptual fashion: whereas mereology has full metaphysical import, the Minimalist View may account for our ways of selecting "conceptually salient" entities. But even once it is so disambiguated, it is doubtful that the Minimalist View can help to make mereology more palatable, for it cannot make it any more compatible with commonsensical ways of counting objects.
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References found in this work BETA
Gottlob Frege (1953/1968). The Foundations of Arithmetic. Evanston, Ill.,Northwestern University Press.
Peter Inwagen (2002). The Number of Things. Philosophical Issues 12 (1):176-196.
Peter Van Inwagen (1998). Meta-Ontology. Erkenntnis 48 (2/3):233 - 250.

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Citations of this work BETA
Francesco Berto (2008). Adynaton and Material Exclusion. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 86 (2):165 – 190.
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