Mereological entities often seem to violate ‘ordinary’ ideas of what a concrete object can be like, behaving more like sets than like Aristotelian substances. However, the mereological notions of ‘part’, ‘composition’, and ‘sum’ or ‘fusion’ appear to find concrete realisation in the actual semantics of mass nouns. Quine notes that ‘any sum of parts which are water is water’; and the wine from a single barrel can be distributed around the globe without affecting its identity. Is there here, as some (...) have claimed, a ‘natural’ or ‘innocent’ form of mereology? The claim rests on the assumption that what a mass noun such as ‘wine’ denotes – the wine from a single barrel , for example – is indeed a unit of a special type, the sum or fusion of its many ‘parts’. The assumption is, however, open to question on semantic grounds. (shrink)
In The Principles of Mathematics, Russell writes: Whatever may be an object of thought, or may occur in any true or false proposition, or can be counted as one, I call a term. This, then, is the widest word in the philosophical vocabulary. I shall use as synonymous with it the words unit, individual and entity. The first two emphasize the fact that every term is one, while the third is derived from the fact that every term has being, i.e. (...) is in some sense. A man, a moment, a number, a class, a relation, a chimera, or anything else that can be mentioned, is sure to be a term'. Now in this remark, a certain extremely general, topic-neutral use of ‘object’ is singled out, a use in which the expression is treated as equivalent to (equally neutral) uses of ‘term’, ‘entity’, ‘unit’, ‘individual’, and ‘thing’. In addition, a claim is made to the effect that the content of the expression, with its emphasis on one, is such as to be adequate to comprehend the sum-total of existence, to include whatever there may be. The paper addresses the question of what this claim means, and whether it might be true. (shrink)
I offer a synoptic account of some chief parameters of language and its relationship to communication and to thought, distinguishing in the process between semantical and pragmatic dimensions of utterance.
So-called mass nouns, however precisely they are defined, are in any case a subset of non-count nouns. Count nouns are either singular or plural; to be non-count is hence to be neither singular nor plural. This is not, as such, a metaphysically significant contrast: 'pieces of furniture' is plural whereas 'furniture' itself is non-count. This contrast is simply between 'the many / few' and 'the much / little' - between counting and measuring. However not all non-count nouns are, like 'furniture', (...) semantically atomic - 'wine' and 'water' are not. And here there are serious difficulties in the assignment of a range of values for variables, in a formal representation of quantified sentences involving such non-atomic non-count nouns. (shrink)
A picture of the world as chiefly one of discrete objects, distributed in space and time, has sometimes seemed compelling. It is however one of two main targets of this work; for it is seriously incomplete. The picture leaves no space for stuff like air and water. With discrete objects, we may always ask "how many?," but with stuff the question has to be "how much?" Within philosophy, stuff of certain basic kinds is central to the ancient pre-Socratic world-view; but (...) it also constitutes the field of modern chemistry and is a major factor in ecology. Philosophers these days are unlikely to deny that stuff exists. But they are very likely to deny that it is ("ultimately") to be contrasted with things, and it is on this account that logic and semantics figure largely in the framework of the book. Elementary logic is a logic which takes values for its variables; and these values are precisely distinct individuals or things. Existence is then symbolized in just such terms; and this, it is proposed, creates a pressure for "reducing" stuff to things. Non-singular expressions, which include words for stuff, "mass" nouns, and also plural nouns, are "explicated" as semantically singular. Here then is the second target of the work, only the first chapter of which is here included. The posit that both mass and plural nouns name special categories of objects (set-theoretical "collections" of objects in the one case, mereological "parcels" or "portions" of stuff in the other) represents the imposition of an alien logic upon both the many and the much. (shrink)
A picture of the world as chiefly one of discrete objects, distributed in space and time, has sometimes seemed compelling. It is however one of the main targets of Henry Laycock's book; for it is seriously incomplete. The picture, he argues, leaves no space for "stuff" like air and water. With discrete objects, we may always ask "how many?," but with stuff the question has to be "how much?" Laycock's fascinating exploration also addresses key logical and linguistic questions about the (...) way we categorize the many and the much. (shrink)
I present a high-level account of the semantical distinction between count nouns and non-count nouns (concrete non-count nouns sometimes being dubbed 'mass nouns'). The basic idea is that count nouns are semantically either singular (one-one semantic correlation) or plural (one-many semantic correlation) and non-count nouns (one-much semantic correlation) are neither.
Marx''s account of capitalist exploitation is undermined by inter-related confusions surrounding the notion of labour power. These confusions relate to [i] what labour power is, [ii] what happens to labour power in the labour market, and [iii] what the epistemic status of labour power is (the issue of appearance and reality). The central theses of the paper are [a] that property ownership is the wrong model for understanding the exploitation of labour, and [b] that the concept of exploitation is linked (...) more fruitfully to a conception of distributive injustice than to Marx''s theory of surplus value. (shrink)
The concept of matter is not, I urge, reducible to the concept of an object. This is to be distingusihed from the counterintuitive Aristotelian claim that matter depends for its existence on objects which it constitutes.
"Capital is moved as much and as little by the degradation and final depopulation of the human race, as by the probable fall of the earth into the sun. Apres moi le deluge! is the watchword of every capitalist and of every capitalist nation" (Marx, CAPITAL Vol 1, 380-381).
"Matter" may be defined, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, as "The substance, or the substances collectively, out of which a physical object is made or of which it consists". And while the O.E.D. is not the ultimate authority on words, nor is it, I believe, far wrong in this particular case. The definition is, as I shall argue in this paper, in substantial harmony with a tradition of some antiquity, according to which material objects do not constitute a somehow (...) 'fundamental category' for ontology; and it is in conflict with a more contemporary view which maintains precisely that they do. (shrink)
The views of Quine and Strawson on the significance of 'mass terms' are rehearsed, and the metaphysical status of substances, in the chemist's sense, is considered. It is urged that the ontological dichotomy of particulars and universals is not adequate to accommodate such substances, which are in a sense to be explicated concrete but non-particular.