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Profile: Achille C. Varzi (Columbia University)
  1. Fabio Pianesi & Achille C. Varzi, The Context-Dependency of Temporal Reference in Event Semantics.
    Temporal reference in natural language is inherently context dependent: what counts as a moment in one context may be structurally analysed in another context, and vice versa. In this note we outline a way of accounting for this phenomenon within event-based semantics.
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  2. Matthew H. Slater & Achille C. Varzi, Playing for the Same Team Again.
    The following is a transcript of what might very well have been five telephone conversa- tions between Michael Jordan and former Chicago Bulls coach Phil Jackson in early March 1995, just before the announcement of MJ’s comeback after a year spent pursu- ing a baseball career.
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  3. Achille C. Varzi, Events, Truth, and Indeterminacy.
    Some statements owe their truth (or falsity) to the way things are; others seem to owe their truth (or falsity) to the way things go. The statement (1) Lou’s hat is lovely will be true or false according to whether Lou’s hat (an object) is lovely or not. The statement (2) Lou’s lecture is boring will be true or false according to whether Lou’s lecture (an event) is boring or not. Davidson (1967) and many others have argued that this distinction (...)
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  4. Achille C. Varzi, Ontologia E Metafisica.
    Il rapporto dei filosofi analitici con la metafisica è stato per lungo tempo difficile e conflittuale. In un certo senso, il movimento analitico venne inizialmente caratterizzandosi proprio in contrapposizione alla tradizione filosofica dominante dell’Ottocento, tutta assorta nell’impresa di rispondere a Kant attraverso rielaborazioni più o meno dogmatiche dell’idealismo critico. In una Cambridge in cui Bradley e McTaggart dominavano incontrastati, Moore non esitava ad accusare di miopia le teorie metafisiche «che pretendono di fornire un’agevole strada per superare le difficoltà che ostacolano (...)
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  5. Achille C. Varzi, Riferimento, Predicazione, E Cambiamento.
    Una buona teoria semantica deve rendere conto del fatto che generalmente il significato di un’espressione complessa dipende dal significato delle parti. In particolare, il valore di verità di un enunciato composto dipende normalmente dal valore di verità degli enunciati che lo compongono e quindi, in ultima istanza, dal valore di verità di enunciati elementari, o «atomici». Tra questi il caso paradigmatico è costituito dagli enunciati in forma soggetto-predicato: (1) xèP, e, fortunatamente, le condizioni di verità di enunciati del genere appaiono (...)
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  6. Achille C. Varzi (forthcoming). The Magic of Holes. In Pina Marsico & Luca Tateo (eds.), (eds.), Ordinary Things and Their Extraordinary Meanings, Charlotte (NC),. Information Age Publishing.
    There is no doughnut without a hole, the saying goes. And that’s true. If you think you can come up with an exception, it simply wouldn’t be a doughnut. Holeless doughnuts are like extensionless color, or durationless sound—nonsense. Does it follow, then, that when we buy a doughnut we really purchase two sorts of thing—the edible stuff plus the little chunk of void in the middle? Surely we cannot just take the doughnut and leave the hole at the grocery store, (...)
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  7. Achille C. Varzi & Claudio Calosi (forthcoming). De li accidiosi che son avversi al possibile. Rivista Italiana di Filosofia Analitica Junior.
    This is a supplement to our book "Le tribolazioni del filosofare. Comedia metaphysica ne la quale si tratta de li errori & de le pene de l’Infero". It features an entirely new canto of the poem (originally thought to be lost) along with an extensive commentary. The canto covers the first ring of the circle of the Sullen, which hosts the Adverse to the Possible, and deals with several philosophical questions concerning the metaphysics of modality.
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  8. Claudio Calosi & Achille C. Varzi (2014). Back to Black. Ratio 27 (3).
    This is a brief sequel to Max Black's classic dialogue on the Identity of Indiscernibles. Interlocutor A defends the bundle theory by endorsing the (by now popular) view according to which Black's world does not contain two indiscernible spheres but rather a single, bi-located sphere. His opponent, B, objects that A cannot distinguish such a world from a world with a single, uniquely located sphere, hence that the view in question adds nothing to A's original response to Black's challenge. A (...)
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  9. Roberto Casati & Achille C. Varzi, Events. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    A critical survey of the main philosophical theories about events and event talk, organized in three main sections: (i) Events and Other Categories (Events vs. Objects; Events vs. Facts; Events vs. Properties; Events vs. Times); (ii) Types of Events (Activities, Accomplishments, Achievements, and States; Static and Dynamic Events; Actions and Bodily Movements; Mental and Physical Events; Negative Events); (iii) Existence, Identity, and Indeterminacy.
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  10. Roberto Casati & Achille C. Varzi, Holes. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    A brief introduction to the main philosophical problems and theories about the nature of holes and such-like nothingnesses.
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  11. Marion Haemmerli & Achille C. Varzi (2014). Adding Convexity to Mereotopology. In Pawel Garbacz & Oliver Kutz (eds.), Formal Ontology in Information Systems. Proceedings of the Eighth International Conference. IOS Press. 65–78.
    Convexity predicates and the convex hull operator continue to play an important role in theories of spatial representation and reasoning, yet their first-order axiomatization is still a matter of controversy. In this paper, we present a new approach to adding convexity to mereotopological theory with boundary elements by specifying first-order axioms for a binary segment operator s. We show that our axioms yields a convex hull operator h that supports, not only the basic properties of convex regions, but also complex (...)
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  12. Achille C. Varzi (2014). Because. In Anne Reboul (ed.), Mind, Values, and Metaphysics. Philosophical Essays in Honor of Kevin Mulligan, Volume 1. Springer-Verlag. 253–256.
    There is a natural philosophical impulse (and, correspondingly, a great deal of pressure) to always ask for explanations, for example, explanations of why we act as we do. Kevin Mulligan has gone a very long way in disentangling the many different because’s, and the many senses of ‘because’, that tend to clutter our efforts to manage that impulse. This short dialogue is meant as a humble tribute to his work in this area.
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  13. Achille C. Varzi (2014). Counting and Countenancing. In Aaron J. Cotnoir & Donald L. M. Baxter (eds.), Composition as Identity. Oxford University Press. 47–69.
    I endorse Composition as Identity, broadly and loosely understood as the thesis that a composite whole is nothing over and above its parts, and the parts nothing over and above the whole. Thus, given an object, x, composed of n proper parts, y1, ..., yn, I feel the tension between my Quinean heart and its Lewisian counterpart. I feel the tension between my obligation to countenance n+1 things, x and the y’s, each of which is a distinct portion of reality, (...)
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  14. Achille C. Varzi (2014). Del fuoco che non brucia: risposte, riflessioni, ringraziamenti. In Elena Casetta & Valeria Giardino (eds.), Mettere a Fuoco Il Mondo. Conversazioni sulla Filosofia di Achille Varzi (Special Issue of Isonomia – Epistemologica). University of Urbino. 111–153.
    An overview of the way I picture the amorphous world we live in, built around my comments and responses to nine festschrift essays by A. Borghini (on the Fedro metaphor and the art of butchery), F. Calemi (on the predication principle and metalinguistic nominalism), C. Calosi (on the argument from mereological universalism to extensonality), E. Casetta (on the role of “monsters” in the realism/antirealism debate), V. Giardino (on inductive reasoning, spatial representation, and problem solving), P. Graziani (on mereological notation), P. (...)
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  15. Achille C. Varzi (2014). Formal Theories of Parthood. In Claudio Calosi & Pierluigi Graziani (eds.), Mereology and the Sciences: Parts and Wholes in the Contemporary Scientific Context. Springer-Verlag. 359–370.
    A compact overview of the main formal theories of parthood and of their mutual relationships, up to Classical Extensional Mereology. Written as an Appendix to the other essays included in the volume.
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  16. Achille C. Varzi (2014). Logic, Ontological Neutrality, and the Law of Non-Contradiction. In Elena Ficara (ed.), Contradictions. Logic, History, Actuality. De Gruyter. 53–80.
    Abstract. As a general theory of reasoning—and as a general theory of what holds true under every possible circumstance—logic is supposed to be ontologically neutral. It ought to have nothing to do with questions concerning what there is, or whether there is anything at all. It is for this reason that traditional Aristotelian logic, with its tacit existential presuppositions, was eventually deemed inadequate as a canon of pure logic. And it is for this reason that modern quantification theory, too, with (...)
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  17. Achille C. Varzi, Mereology. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    An overview of contemporary part-whole theories, with reference to both their axiomatic developments and their philosophical underpinnings.
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  18. Achille C. Varzi (2014). Musil's Imaginary Bridge. The Monist 97 (1):30-46.
    In a calculation involving imaginary numbers, we begin with real numbers that represent concrete measures and we end up with numbers that are equally real, but in the course of the operation we find ourselves walking “as if on a bridge that stands on no piles”. How is that possible? How does that work? And what is involved in the as-if stance that this metaphor introduces so beautifully? These are questions that bother Törless deeply. And that Törless is bothered by (...)
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  19. Achille C. Varzi (2014). Realism in the Desert. In Massimo Dell’Utri, Fabio Bacchini & Stefano Caputo (eds.), Realism and Ontology without Myths. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. 16–31.
    Quine’s desert is generally contrasted with Meinong’s jungle, as a sober ontological alternative to the exuberant luxuriance that comes with the latter. Here I focus instead on the desert as a sober metaphysical alternative to the Aristotelian garden, with its tidily organized varieties of flora and fauna neatly governed by fundamental laws that reflect the essence of things and the way they can be, or the way they must be. In the desert there are no “natural joints”; all the boundaries (...)
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  20. Achille C. Varzi & Claudio Calosi (2014). Le Tribolazioni Del Filosofare. Comedia Metaphysica Ne la Quale Si Tratta de Li Errori & de le Pene de L’Infero. Laterza.
    A scholarly annotated epic poem on the pitfalls and tribulations of “good philosophizing”. Divided into twenty-eight cantos (in medieval Italian hendecasyllabic terza rima), the poem tells of an allegorical journey through the downward spiral of the philosophers’ hell, where all sorts of thinkers are punished for their faults and mistakes, in the endeavor to reach a way out of the condition of intellectual impasse in which the narrator has found himself. The affinities with Dante’s Inferno are apparent. Whereas Dante’s poem (...)
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  21. Achille C. Varzi, Boundary. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    We think of a boundary whenever we think of an entity demarcated from its surroundings. There is a boundary (a line) separating Maryland and Pennsylvania. There is a boundary (a circle) isolating the interior of a disc from its exterior. There is a boundary (a surface) enclosing the bulk of this apple. Sometimes the exact location of a boundary is unclear or otherwise controversial (as when you try to trace out the margins of Mount Everest, or even the boundary of (...)
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  22. Achille C. Varzi (2013). Cover to Cover. Current Musicology 95:177–191.
    Paul Goguen once said that art is either plagiarism or revolution. That is certainly true of music. From pop to jazz to classical music, there’s a long history of borrowing, lifting, and stealing from other composers, along with other ways of building on their artistic contributions. Here I try to put some order in the complex picture that emerges from such a history, with an eye to the criteria—if any—that underlie the complex ways in which we compare, identify, and categorize (...)
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  23. Achille C. Varzi (2013). Fictionalism in Ontology. In Carola Barbero, Maurizio Ferraris & Alberto Voltolini (eds.), From Fictionalism to Realism. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. 133–151.
    Fictionalism in ontology is a mixed bag. Here I focus on three main variants—which I label after the names of Pascal, Berkeley, and Hume—and consider their relative strengths and weaknesses. The first variant is just a version of the epistemic Wager, applied across the board. The second variant builds instead on the fact that ordinary language is not ontologically transparent; we speak with the vulgar, but deep down we think with the learned. Finally, on the Humean variant it’s the structure (...)
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  24. Achille C. Varzi (2013). Livelli di realtà e descrizioni del mondo. Giornale di Metafisica 35 (2/3).
    I articulate and the defend the following two claims: (i) it is a mistake to think that the structure of the world should mirror the structure of the theories by which we represent it, and through which we try to decipher it, simply because those theories appear to work; (ii) among the most deplorable consequences of this mistake is the widespread tendency to think that there must be a plurality of realities, or several different and irreducible levels of a stratified (...)
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  25. Achille C. Varzi (2013). Undetached Parts and Disconnected Wholes. In Christer Svennerlind, Jan Almäng & Rögnvaldur Ingthorsson (eds.), Johanssonian Investigations. Essays in Honour of Ingvar Johansson on His Seventieth Birthday. Ontos Verlag. 696–708.
    I offer a diagnosis of the parallelism between the Doctrine of Potential Parts and the Doctrine of Potential Wholes and briefly examine its bearing on Johansson’s account of the Tibbles-Tib Problem.
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  26. Achille C. Varzi (2012). The Naming of Facts. Analysis 72 (2):322-323.
    The naming of facts is a difficult matter / it isn’t just one of your holiday games..." A versification of a disturbing philosophical tribulation, after T. S. Eliot’s ‘The Naming of Cats’.
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  27. Achille C. Varzi (2011). Boundaries, Conventions, and Realism. In Michael O'Rourke, Joseph K. Campbell & Matthew H. Slater (eds.), Carving Nature at Its Joints: Natural Kinds in Metaphysics and Science. Mit Press. 129–153.
    Are there any bona fide boundaries, i.e., boundaries that carve at the joints? Or is any boundary —hence any object—the result of a fiat articulation reflecting our cognitive biases and our so-cial practices and conventions? Does the choice between these two options amount to a choice between realism and wholesome relativism?
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  28. Achille C. Varzi (2011). On Doing Ontology Without Metaphysics. Philosophical Perspectives 25 (1):407-423.
    According to a certain familiar way of dividing up the business of philosophy, ontology is concerned with the question of what entities exist (a task that is often identified with that of drafting a “complete inventory” of the universe) whereas metaphysics seeks to explain, of those entities, what they are (i.e., to specify the “ultimate nature” of the items included in the inventory). This distinction carries with it a natural thought, namely, that ontology is in some way prior to metaphysics. (...)
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  29. Achille C. Varzi (2011). The Plan of a Square. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 41 (5):137-144.
    An imaginary report of Square’s plans for a journey aimed to find out whether the topology of Flatland is sphere-like or torus-like, intended as a trubute to Hans Herzberger’s uncompromising philosophical style, courage, and passion.
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  30. Achille C. Varzi (2010). Il mondo messo a fuoco. Storie di allucinazioni e miopie filosofiche. Laterza.
    At the beginning, all there is is world. It’s not all alike: here is mama, there is cold, over there—noise. Soon we begin to distinguish and to recognize: more mama, more cold, more noise! Yet initially these things appear to be all of a type. Each is, in Quine’s words, just a history of sporadic encounter, a mere portion of all there is. Only with time does this fluid totality in which we are immersed begin to take shape: sensations recur; (...)
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  31. Achille C. Varzi (2010). Kripke: modalità e verità. In Andrea Borghini (ed.), (ed.), Il genio compreso. La filosofia di Saul Kripke. Carocci Editore. 21–76, 186–191.
    An introduction to Kripke’s semantics for propositional and quantified modal logic (with special reference to its historical development from the original 1959 version to the extended versions of 1963 and 1965) and to his theory of truth.
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  32. Achille C. Varzi (2010). On the Boundary Between Material and Formal Ontology. In Barry Smith, Riichiro Mizoguchi & Sumio Nakagawa (eds.), Interdisciplinary Ontology, Vol. 3: Proceedings of the Third Interdisciplinary Ontology Meeting. Keio University Press. 3–8.
    There are two main ways, philosophically, of characterizing the business of ontology. On one account, made popular by Quine, ontology is concerned with the material question of what there is. On the other, which made its way into our times through Brentano and his pupils, ontology is concerned with the task of laying bare the formal structure of all there is, whatever it is. My question, here, is whether one can pursue one sort of theory without also engaging in the (...)
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  33. Achille C. Varzi (2009). On the Interplay Between Logic and Metaphysics. Linguistic and Philosophical Investigations 8:13-36.
    On the one hand, logic has (or ought to have) nothing to do with metaphysics; it ought to have nothing to do with questions concerning what there is, or whether there is anything at all. On the other hand, metaphysics can hardly get off the ground without the help of logical analysis; to be is to be a truth-maker, and the search for truth-makers requires that we lay open the logical structure of our language. So something’s gotta give: either logical (...)
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  34. Achille C. Varzi (2009). Universalism entails Extensionalism. Analysis 69 (4):599-604.
    I argue that Universalism (the thesis that mereological composition is unrestricted) entails Extensionalism (the thesis that sameness of composition is sufficient for identity) as long as the parthood relation is transitive and satisfies the Weak Supplementation principle (to the effect that whenever a thing has a proper part, it has another part disjoint from the first).
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  35. Achille C. Varzi (2009). Vagueness, Logic, and Ontology. In Darragh Byrne & Max Kölbel (eds.), Arguing About Language. Routledge. 135-154.
    Remember the story of the most-most? It’s the story of that club in New York where people are the most of every type. There is the hairiest bald man and the baldest hairy man; the shortest giant and the tallest dwarf; the smartest idiot and the stupidest wise man. They are all there, including honest thieves and crippled acrobats. On Saturday night they have a party, eat, drink, dance. Then they have a contest. “And if you can tell the hairiest (...)
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  36. Roberto Casati & Achille C. Varzi (2008). Event Concepts. In Thomas F. Shipley & Jeff Zacks (eds.), Understanding Events: From Perception to Action. Oxford University Press. 31–54.
    Events are center stage in several fields of psychological research. There is a long tradition in the study of event perception, event recognition, event memory, event conceptualization and segmentation. There are studies devoted to the description of events in language and to their representation in the brain. There are also metapsychological studies aimed at assessing the nature of mental events or the grounding of intentional action. Outside psychology, the notion of an event plays a prominent role in various areas of (...)
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  37. Roberto Casati & Achille C. Varzi (2008). Voti e altri buchi elettorali. Rivista di Estetica 48 (37):169-194.
    A philosophical dialogue on the functioning, the limits, and the paradoxes of our electoral practices, dealing with such basic questions as: What is a vote? How do we count votes? And do votes really count?
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  38. Elena Casetta & Achille C. Varzi (2008). Nomi in crisi di identità. Rivista di Estetica 48 (38):143-156.
    An exchange of letters among proper names and natural-kind terms, dealing with various identity and individuation problems (rigid designation, use-mention ambiguities, translation) from their point of view.
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  39. Jamie P. Tappenden, Achille C. Varzi & William E. Seager (eds.) (2008/2011). Truth and Values: Essays for Hans Herzberger. University of Calgary Press.
    A selection of essays dedicated to Hans Herzberger with affection and gratitude for both his profound work and his lasting example. Contributors: I. Levi (on whether and how a rational agent should be seen as a maximizer of some cognitive value), C. Normore (on medieval accounts of logical validity), J. P. Tappenden (on the local influences on Frege's doctrines), A. Urquhart (on the inexpressible), A. C. Varzi (on dimensionality and the sense of possibility), and S. Yablo (on content and carvings, (...)
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  40. Achille C. Varzi (2008). Che cos’è un derivato? Appunti per una ricerca tutta da fare. In Alberto Berrini (ed.), Le crisi finanziarie e il “Derivatus paradoxus”. Editrice Monti. 143–171.
    This is a sequel to my paper "Il denaro è un’opera d’arte", focusing on the metaphysics of those peculiar social objects that play an increasingly central role in the financial world—derivatives. On the analysis I offer, they appear to run afoul of Searle’s theory of social objects (or of the theory outlined in my earlier paper), and I put forward some suggestions on where to look for the necessary adjustments.
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  41. Achille C. Varzi (2008). Il catalogo universale. In Roberto Finzi & Paolo Zellini (eds.), Forme della ragione. CLUEB. 91–113.
    There are more things between heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy, says Hamlet. Right. But there are also philosophies that have dreamt of things that are neither here nor there, as Goodman says. There is a danger of suffering from ontological myopia just as there is a danger of suffering from ontological allucination. This paper is about some basic strategies that are available to (or have been elaborated by) philosophers to steer clear of both dangers in (...)
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  42. Achille C. Varzi (2008). Mondo-versioni e versioni del mondo. In Nelson Goodman, Vedere e costruire il mondo. Laterza. 7-24.
    Some reflections on Nelson Goodman’s ontological pluralism (as emerging from his Ways of Worldmaking) and its influence on contemporary philosophy, taking the querelle with Quine in the columns of The New York Review of Books as a starting point.
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  43. Achille C. Varzi (2008). Patterns, Rules, and Inferences. In Jonathan E. Adler & Lance J. Rips (eds.), Reasoning: Studies of Human Inference and its Foundations. Cambridge University Press. 282-290.
    The “Game of the Rule” is easy enough: I give you the beginning of a sequence of numbers (say) and you have to figure out how the sequence continues, to uncover the rule by means of which the sequence is generated. The game depends on two obvious constraints, namely (1) that the initial segment uniquely identify the sequence, and (2) that the sequence be non-random. As it turns out, neither constraint can fully be met, among other reasons because the relevant (...)
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  44. Achille C. Varzi (2008). The Extensionality of Parthood and Composition. Philosophical Quarterly 58 (1):108–133.
    I focus on three mereological principles: the Extensionality of Parthood (EP), the Uniqueness of Composition (UC), and the Extensionality of Composition (EC). These principles are not equivalent. Nonetheless, they are closely related (and often equated) as they all reflect the basic nominalistic dictum, No difference without a difference maker. And each one of them—individually or collectively—has been challenged on philosophical grounds. In the first part I argue that such challenges do not quite threaten EP insofar as they are either self-defeating (...)
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  45. Achille C. Varzi (2008). Vaghezza e ontologia. In Maurizio Ferraris (ed.), Storia dell’ontologia. Bompiani. 672–698.
    On the opposition between de re and de dicto conceptions of vagueness, with special reference to their bearing on the tasks of ontology.
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  46. Roberto Casati & Achille C. Varzi (2007). Foreword to ''Lesser Kinds''. The Monist 90 (3):331-332.
    This issue of The Monist is devoted to the metaphysics of lesser kinds, which is to say those kinds of entity that are not generally recognized as occupying a prominent position in the categorial structure of the world. Why bother? We offer two sorts of reason. The first is methodological. In mathematics, it is common practice to study certain functions (for instance) by considering limit cases: What if x = 0? What if x is larger than any assigned value? Physics, (...)
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  47. Matthew H. Slater & Achille C. Varzi (2007). Playing for the Same Team Again. In Jerry L. Walls & Gregory Bassham (eds.), Basketball and Philosophy. Thinking Outside the Paint. University of Kentucky Press. 220–234.
    How many championships have the Lakers won? Fourteen, if one counts those won in Minneapolis; nine, otherwise. Which is the correct answer? Is it even obvious that there is a correct answer? One is tempted to identify a team with its players. But teams, like ordinary objects, seem to survive gradual turnover of their parts. Suppose players from the Lakers are gradually replaced, one by one, over the years. We have the intuition that the team persists through this change, even (...)
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  48. Achille C. Varzi (2007). Confini. Dove finisce una cosa e inizia un’altra. In Andrea Bottani & Richard Davies (eds.), Ontologie regionali. Mimesis. 209–222.
    Ci imbattiamo in un confine ogni volta che pensiamo a un’entità demarcata rispetto a ciò che la circonda. C’è un confine (una superficie) che delimita l’interno di una sfera dal suo esterno; c’è un confine (una frontiera) che separa il Maryland dalla Pennsylvania. Talvolta la collocazione esatta di un confine non è chiara o è in qualche modo controversa (come quando si cerchi di tracciare i limiti del monte Everest, o il confine del nostro corpo). Talaltra il confine non corrisponde (...)
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  49. Achille C. Varzi (2007). Che cosa ci facciamo qui? In Sandro Montalto (ed.), Umberto Eco: l’uomo che sapeva troppo. Edizioni ETS. 253–256.
    A short dialogue around the question of whether the thoughts expressed by the characters of an historical novel belong to the characters or to the author.
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  50. Achille C. Varzi (2007). Congiunzione e contraddizione. In Francesco Altea & Francesco Berto (eds.), Scenari dell’impossibile. La contraddizione nel pensiero contemporaneo. Il Poligrafo. 63–86.
    Italian translation of "Conjunction and Contradiction" (2004), by Francesco Berto.
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