Modal Mereology and Modal Supervenience

Philosophical Studies 159 (1):1-20 (2012)
David Lewis insists that restrictivist composition must be motivated by and occur due to some intuitive desiderata for a relation R among parts that compose wholes, and insists that a restrictivist’s relation R must be vague. Peter van Inwagen agrees. In this paper, I argue that restrictivists need not use such examples of relation R as a criterion for composition, and any restrictivist should reject a number of related mereological theses. This paper critiques Lewis and van Inwagen (and others) on their respective mereological metaphysics, and offers a Golden Mean between their two opposite extremes. I argue for a novel account of mereology I call Modal Mereology that is an alternative to Classical Mereology. A modal mereologist can be a universalist about the possible composition of wholes from parts and a restrictivist about the actual composition of wholes from parts. I argue that puzzles facing Modal Mereology (e.g., puzzles concerning Cambridge changes and the Problem of the Many, and how to demarcate the actual from the possible) are also faced in similar forms by classical universalists. On my account, restricted composition is rather motivated by and occurs due to a possible whole’s instantiating an actual type. Universalists commonly believe in such types and defend their existence from objections and puzzles. The Modal Mereological restrictivist can similarly defend the existence of such types (adding that such types are the only wholes) from similar objections and puzzles.
Keywords Mereology  Universalism  Restrictivism  Modal  Supervenience  David Lewis  Peter van Inwagen  Composition  Wholes  Parts  Problem of the Many
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DOI 10.1007/s11098-010-9681-2
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Tyler Burge (1979). Individualism and the Mental. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 4 (1):73-122.

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