Universalism and Classes

Dialectica 65 (3):451-472 (2011)
Abstract
Universalism (the thesis that distinct objects always compose a further object) has come under much scrutiny in recent years. What has been largely ignored is its role in the metaphysics of classes. Not only does universalism provide ways to deal with classes in a metaphysically pleasing fashion, its success on these grounds has been offered as a motivation for believing it. This paper argues that such treatments of classes can be achieved without universalism, examining theories from Goodman and Quine, Armstrong and Lewis. In the case of each theory, universalism is drafted in to ensure that there are enough material objects to play a particular role. I argue that, for each theory, there's a better theory that ditches universalism and instead uses an alternative principle of composition demanding that the unrestricted composition of entities other than material objects (respectively: regions, states of affairs and singletons) play that role instead. I conclude that (1) non-universalists can consider accepting such theories of classes and (2) we should ignore any alleged motivation for universalism on the basis of dealing with classes
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