The crooked path from vagueness to four-dimensionalism

Philosophical Studies 114 (1-2):107 - 134 (2003)
Abstract
The main goal of Sider’s book, Four-Dimensionalism: An Ontology of Persistence and Time, is to show why his version of four- dimensionalism, the stage-theory, on balance, should be preferred over its main competitors: it is, in his view, the theory which presents the best unified treatment of a wide range of central metaphysical puzzles; the theory which has, on balance, “the most important advantages and the least serious drawbacks” (ibid., p. 140). I argue in this paper that, when we add up all the evidence for and against the stage-theory, a different assessment of the dialectical situation recommends itself. As it turns out, everything depends on the argument from vagueness, the dialectical fulcrum of Sider’s book. If it were not for the argument from vagueness (so I suggest in outline in Section 2 of this paper), the situation would be relatively even-handed between the three-dimensionalist and the four-dimensionalist. But the argument from vagueness (as I show in more detail in Section 3) suffers from a crucial, and arguably fatal, weakness: no independent, non-question-begging justification has been provided for its most controversial premise, the non-vagueness of mereological composition.
Keywords Four dimensionalism  Three dimensionalism  Endurance  Perdurance  Stage theory  Argument from vagueness  Mereology  Unrestricted mereological composition
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