Towards a neo-aristotelian mereology

Dialectica 61 (1):127–159 (2007)
Abstract
This paper provides a detailed examination of Kit Fine’s sizeable contribution to the development of a neo-Aristotelian alternative to standard mereology; I focus especially on the theory of ‘rigid’ and ‘variable embodiments’, as defended in Fine 1999. Section 2 briefly describes the system I call ‘standard mereology’. Section 3 lays out some of the main principles and consequences of Aristotle’s own mereology, in order to be able to compare Fine’s system with its historical precursor. Section 4 gives an exposition of Fine’s theory of embodiments and goes on to isolate a number of potential concerns to which this account gives rise. In particular, I argue that (i) Fine’s theory threatens to proliferate primitive sui generis relations of parthood and composition, whose characteristics must be stipulatively imposed on them, relative to particular domains; (ii) given its ‘superabundance’ of objects, Fine’s system far outstrips the (arguably) already inflated ontological commitments of standard mereology; and (iii) there is a legitimate question as to why we should consider Fine’s primitive and sui generis relations of parthood and composition to be genuinely mereological at all, given their formal profile. These three objections lead me to conclude that we ought to explore other avenues that preserve the highly desirable, hylomorphic, features of Fine’s mereology, while avoiding its methodological and ontological excesses.
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