David Lewis famously takes mereology “to be perfectly understood, unproblematic, and certain” (1991, 75). It is central to his thought, appearing in his discussions of set theory, modality, vagueness, structural universals, and elsewhere. He held views not only about how composition works and when it occurs, but also about the role of mereology in philosophy. In this essay, I will proceed by articulating four theses that Lewis holds about composition. (I would call them the four U’s, if only ‘unguilty’ were (...) a word!) Three of them are familiar; Lewis himself explicitly articulates and relies upon them. The fourth remains implicit, but it is nonetheless important. Here they are: Composition is unique —the same things cannot have two different fusions. Composition is unrestricted —any two things whatsoever have a fusion. (shrink)
Dualists think that not all the facts are physical facts. They think that there are facts about phenomenal consciousness that cannot be explained in purely physical terms—facts about what it’s like to see red, what it’s like to feel sandpaper, what it’s like to run 10 miles when it’s 15° F out, and so on. These phenomenal facts are genuine ‘extras’, not fixed by the physical facts and the physical laws. To use the standard metaphor: even after God settled the (...) physical facts and laws, he had more work to do to put the phenomenal facts in place. Some dualists think that the additional work involves the creation of a special kind of nonphysical substance. More common these days are dualists who think that the additional work merely involves the creation and positioning of special nonphysical properties, and that is the only form of dualism that I will be explicitly concerned with here. The property dualist’s claim is that phenomenal properties, or at least protophenomenal properties, are among the basic furniture of the world. (shrink)
I argue that it is intuitive and useful to think about composition in the light of the familiar functionalist distinction between role and occupant. This involves factoring the standard notion of parthood into two related notions: being a parthood slot and occupying a parthood slot. One thing is part of another just in case it fills one of that thing's parthood slots. This move opens room to rethink mereology in various ways, and, in particular, to see the mereological structure of (...) a composite as potentially outreaching the individual entities that are its parts. I sketch one formal system that allows things to have individual entities as parts multiple times over. This is particularly useful to David Armstrong, given Lewis's charge that his structural universals must do exactly that. I close by reflecting upon the nature and point of formal mereology. (shrink)
Recently much has been made of the grounding relation, and of the idea that it is intimately tied to fundamentality. If A grounds B, then A is more fundamental than B (though not vice versa ), and A is ungrounded if and only if it is fundamental full stop—absolutely fundamental. But here is a puzzle: is grounding itself absolutely fundamental?
A variety of relations widely invoked by philosophers—composition, constitution, realization, micro-basing, emergence, and many others—are species of what I call ‘building relations’. I argue that they are conceptually intertwined, articulate what it takes for a relation to count as a building relation, and argue that—contra appearances—it is an open possibility that these relations are all determinates of a common determinable, or even that there is really only one building relation.
Oxford Studies in Metaphysics is the forum for the best new work in this flourishing field. OSM offers a broad view of the subject, featuring not only the traditionally central topics such as existence, identity, modality, time, and causation, but also the rich clusters of metaphysical questions in neighbouring fields, such as philosophy of mind and philosophy of science. Besides independent essays, volumes will often contain a critical essay on a recent book, or a symposium that allows participants to respond (...) to one another's criticisms and questions. Anyone who wants to know what's happening in metaphysics can start here. (shrink)
The paper is an extended discussion of what I call the ‘dismissive attitude’ towards metaphysical questions. It has three parts. In the first part, I distinguish three quite different versions of dismissivism. I also argue that there is little reason to think that any of these positions is correct about the discipline of metaphysics as a whole; it is entirely possible that some metaphysical disputes should be dismissed and others should not be. Doing metametaphysics properly requires doing metaphysics first. I (...) then put two particular disputes on the table to be examined in the rest of the paper: the dispute over whether composite objects exist, and the dispute about whether distinct objects can be colocated. In the second part of the paper, I argue against the claim that these disputes are purely verbal disputes. In the third part of the paper, I present a new version of dismissivism, and argue that it is probably the correct view about the two disputes in question. They are not verbal disputes, and the discussion about them to date has not remotely been a waste of time. At this stage, however, our evidence has run out. I argue that neither side of either dispute is simpler than the other, and that the same objections in fact arise against both sides. (For example, the compositional nihilist does not in fact escape the problem of the many, and the one-thinger does not in fact escape the grounding problem.). (shrink)
This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom... —Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol.
I think that there is an awful lot wrong with the exclusion problem. So, it seems, does just about everybody else. But of course everyone disagrees about exactly _what_ is wrong with it, and I think there is more to be said about that. So I propose to say a few more words about why the exclusion problem is not really a problem after all—at least, not for the nonreductive physicalist. The genuine _dualist_ is still in trouble. Indeed, one of (...) my main points will be that the nonreductive physicalist is in a rather different position vis à vis the exclusion problem than the dualist is. Properly understanding nonreductive physicalism—and clearly recognizing that it is, after all, a form of _physicalism_—goes a long way toward solving the exclusion problem. (shrink)
Concerns about ‘mental causation’ are concerns about how it is possible for mental states to cause anything to happen. How does what we believe, want, see, feel, hope, or dread manage to cause us to act? Certain positions on the mind-body problem—including some forms of physicalism—make such causation look highly problematic. This entry sketches several of the main reasons to worry, and raises some questions for further investigation.
Bernard Linsky and Edward Zalta have recently proposed a new form of actualism. I characterize the general form of their view and the motivations behind it. I argue that it is not quite new – it bears interesting similarities to Alvin Plantinga’s view – and that it definitely isn’t actualist.
Case 1: Perhaps the phenomenal facts—facts about what it’s like to see red, or to taste freshly made pesto—do not supervene with metaphysical necessity on the physical facts and physical laws. This might be because the connections between the physical and the phenomenal are entirely unprincipled. Alternatively, it might be because whatever psychophysical laws do govern those connections are contingent. Either way, the claim is that there are metaphysically possible worlds that are just like the actual world in terms of (...) what physical laws hold, and in terms of the distribution of physical properties, but which are phenomenally different from the actual world. In some such worlds, different phenomenal facts obtain. In other such worlds, no phenomenal properties are instantiated at all. Call the latter sort of world a ‘phenomenal zombie world’, or, for short, just a ‘zombie world’. (shrink)
Actualists routinely characterize their view by means of the slogan, “Everything is actual.” They say that there aren’t any things that exist but do not actually exist—there aren’t any “mere possibilia.” If there are any things that deserve the label ‘possible world’, they are just actually existing entities of some kind—maximally consistent sets of sentences, or maximal uninstantiated properties, or maximal possible states of affairs, or something along those lines. Possibilists, in contrast, do think that there are mere possibilia, that (...) there are things that are not actual. They think that more exists than what actually exists. All I have done so far, though, is rephrase the slogan in various ways. To say that everything is actual is precisely to say that there are no things that do not actually exist, which is precisely to say that there are no mere possibilia, and which is also precisely to say that we cannot sep- arately quantify over what exists and what is actual. These claims all amount to the same thing. But what is that, exactly? What on earth does it mean to say that everything is actual, that there are no mere possibilia, and so on? What does the actualist slogan really come to? I think the literature is far from clear on this point, and that people work themselves into unnecessary muddles because of it. Indeed, certain confusions that I shall discuss in the first half of this article seem to be on the rise. It is high time to lay out the issues and the choice points as clearly as possible. There are two primary choices to be made; there are two axes along which versions of actualism can vary. One choice has to do with how to treat claims about things that merely could exist. The other choice has to do with the modal status of the view and of how we should think about the “actual” in actualism. I make no claim that the positions I will eventually endorse are star- tlingly new. I think that most people will agree with the decisions I make at both choice points and will in fact find some bits of this essay obvious. But not everyone agrees with my decisions, and it has been my experience that people differ remarkably about which bits they find obvious—a fact I find rather telling. My goal, then, is to show that the two axes are there and to clarify the consequences of the choices. (shrink)
Two versions of global supervenience have recently been distinguished from each other. I introduce a third version, which is more likely what people had in mind all along. However, I argue that one of the three versions is equivalent to strong supervenience in every sense that matters, and that neither of the other two versions counts as a genuine determination relation. I conclude that global supervenience has little metaphysically distinctive value.
A lot of people believe that distinct objectscan occupy precisely the same place for theentire time during which they exist. Suchpeople have to provide an answer to the`grounding problem' – they have to explain howsuch things, alike in so many ways, nonethelessmanage to fall under different sortals, or havedifferent modal properties. I argue in detailthat they cannot say that there is anything invirtue of which spatio-temporally coincidentthings have those properties. However, I alsoargue that this may not be as bad as (...) it looks,and that there is a way to make sense of theclaim that such properties are primitive. (shrink)
The basic form of the exclusion problem is by now very, very familiar. 2 Start with the claim that the physical realm is causally complete: every physical thing that happens has a sufficient physical cause. Add in the claim that the mental and the physical are distinct. Toss in some claims about overdetermination, give it a stir, and voilá—suddenly it looks as though the mental never causes anything, at least nothing physical. As it is often put, the physical does all (...) the work, and there is nothing left for the mental to do. (shrink)