Undetached Parts and Disconnected Wholes

The Doctrine of Potential Parts (DPP) says that undetached parts, i.e., proper parts that are connected to other parts of the same whole, are not actual entities. They are merely potential entities, entities that do not exist but would exist if they were detached from the rest. They are just aspects of the whole to which they belong, ways in which the whole could be broken down, and talk of such parts is really just talk about the modal properties of the whole. DPP is rooted in some writings of Aristotle and Aquinas and has received considerable attention, in one form or other, also among contemporary philosophers, including Ingvar Johansson (2006a, 2008). Here I offer a reconstruction of this doctrine and present an argument to illustrate its hidden kinship with another, parallel but independent doctrine—the Doctrine of Potential Wholes(DPW). According to this second doctrine, disconnected wholes too, i.e., wholes that are not in one piece, count as merely potential entities, entities that do not exist though they would exist if their parts were suitably conjoined. I offer a diagnosis of the parallelism and briefly examine its bearing on Johansson’s views concerning the possibility of mereological change in the spirit of a common-sense metaphysics
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