Material Objects

Edited by Noel Saenz (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign)
About this topic
Summary Material objects (basketballs, planets, buildings, tables, chairs, electrons, organisms, etc.) have proved philosophically fascinating. Though they might, at first, appear to be those kinds of objects that pose the least amount of philosophical trouble, puzzles and questions concerning their nature have proved just as interesting, and intractable, as puzzles and questions over abstract and non-existent objects. In this section, papers dealing with questions having to do with their existence, persistence, mereology, location, constitution, origin, modal features, mind-independence, grounding status, causal role, place in a quantum world and perceptibility can be found.
Key works For some key works on the existence, mereology, and constitution of material objects, see Van Inwagen 1990, Merricks 2001, Rea 1997, Thomasson 2007 and Koslicki 2008. For some key works on the persistence, location, and modal features of material objects, see Heller 1990, Sider 2001 and Hawley 2001.
Introductions For a nice introduction on the philosophical issues surrounding ordinary material objects, see Korman 2011.
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  1. Co to znaczy być transcendentalnym idealistą i empirycznym realistą jednocześnie? O statusie rzeczy w filozofii transcendentalnej.Alicja Pietras - 2020 - Ethos. Kwartalnik Instytutu Jana Pawła II 3 (33):69-89.
    The aim of the article is to present an interpretation of the Kantian concept of transcendental idealism, which would make it possible to understand the status of things from the perspective of transcendental philosophy. The main claim of the article is that Kant’s standpoint can be situated beyond metaphysical realism and idealism, or, to use contemporary terms, beyond representationalism and constructivism. The standpoint in question can thus be regarded as an inspiration to reject the Cartesian dualism of substance and to (...)
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  2. Causation According to Mario Bunge and Graham Harman.Martín Orensanz - 2021 - Mεtascience 2:online.
    Imagine a billiard table, with several red billiard balls. Suppose that one of them impacts another. It could be claimed that the first billiard ball, the cause, makes direct contact with the second one, the effect. If we had to generalize this for all things, not just billiard balls, we would say that “thing A causes thing B”. As we shall see, both Bunge and Harman reject the preceding view of causation. They would agree that the statement “thing A causes (...)
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  3. Seepage in Objects: A Primer.Niel Bezrookove - manuscript
    A critique of ontology which introduces seepage, the process of properties revealing themselves from the matrix forms of an object. What follows is the observation that these properties have their own system of relations, placed in the context of a culture of objects which engages a revealing process. An argument is presented for considering organization as the principle which allows for seepage, understood as an inherently informative and intuitive process where the organization of objects reveals some property and consequently makes (...)
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  4. Quantum Gravity and Mereology: Not So Simple.Samuel Baron & Baptiste Le Bihan - 2021 - Philosophical Quarterly.
    A number of philosophers have argued in favour of extended simples on the grounds that they are needed by fundamental physics. The arguments typically appeal to theories of quantum gravity. To date, the argument in favour of extended simples has ignored the fact that the very existence of spacetime is put under pressure by quantum gravity. We thus consider the case for extended simples in the context of different views on the existence of spacetime. We show that the case for (...)
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  5. Somewhere Together: Location, Parsimony and Multilocation.Roberto Loss - forthcoming - Erkenntnis:1-17.
    Most of the theories of location on the market appear to be ideologically parsimonious at least in the sense that they take as primitive just one locative notion and define all the other locative notions in terms of it. Recently, however, the possibility of some exotic metaphysical scenarios involving gunky mixtures and extended simple regions of space has been argued to pose a significant threat to parsimonious theories of locations. The aim of this paper is to show that a theory (...)
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  6. Being in Flux: A Post-Anthropocentric Ontology of the Self.Rein Raud - forthcoming - Cambridge, UK: Polity Books.
    Reality exists independently of human observers, but does the same apply to its structure? Realist ontologies usually assume so: according to them, the world consists of objects, these have properties and enter into relations with each other, more or less as we are accustomed to think of them. -/- Against this view, Rein Raud develops a radical process ontology that does not credit any vantage point, any scale or speed of being, any range of cognitive faculties with the privilege to (...)
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  7. What Is Metascientific Ontology?François Maurice - 2021 - Mεtascience 2:online.
    Metascientific ontology differs from philosophical ontologies in its objectives, objects and methods. By an examination of the ontological theories of Mario Bunge, we will show their main objective is a unified representation of the world as known through the sciences, that their objects of study are scientific concepts, and that their methods do not differ from those that one expects to find in any rational activity. Metascientific ontology is therefore not transcendent because it does not seek to represent non-concrete objects (...)
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  8. Petri Thomae Quaestiones de esse intelligibili.Petrus Thomae & Garrett Smith (eds.) - 2015 - Leuven, Belgium: Leuven University Press.
    First critical edition of Petrus Thomae’s theory of non-causal dependence. This work of Scotist metaphysics is an investigation into the ultimate constitution of things. In the course of this treatise, Petrus Thomae examines whether the essences of things ultimately depend on being thought of by God for their very intelligibility or whether they have it of themselves. Defending in detail the second option, Peter argues that creatures exist independently of the divine intellect in the divine essence. They enjoy real, eternal (...)
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  9. Qu'est-ce que l'ontologie métascientifique?François Maurice - 2021 - Mεtascience 2:prépublication.
    L’ontologie métascientifique se distingue des ontologies philosophiques par ses objectifs, ses objets et ses méthodes. Par un examen des théories ontologiques de Mario Bunge, nous montrerons que leur principal objectif est l’élaboration d’une représentation unifiée du monde tel que connu via les sciences, que leurs objets d’étude sont les concepts scientifiques, et que leurs méthodes ne diffèrent pas de celles qu’on s’attend à trouver dans toute activité rationnelle. L’ontologie métascientifique n’est donc pas transcendante parce qu’elle ne cherche pas à représenter (...)
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  10. Bunge and Harman on the General Theory of Objects.Martìn Orensanz - 2021 - Mεtascience 2:online.
    Although there are significative differences between the philosophies of Mario Bunge and Graham Harman, there are also some fundamental similarities. One of the core features that they have in common is that both of them claim that it is possible to develop a general theory of objects. The former believes that the theory in question is logical-mathematical, while the latter suggests that it is on-tological. Regardless, they agree that all objects have to be considered, no mat-ter if they are real (...)
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  11. What is an Extended Simple Region?Zachary Goodsell, Michael Duncan & Kristie Miller - 2020 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 101 (3):649-659.
    The notion of an extended simple region (henceforth ESR) has recently been marshalled in the service of arguments for a variety of conclusions. Exactly how to understand the idea of extendedness as it applies to simple regions, however, has been largely ignored, or, perhaps better, assumed. In this paper we first (§1) outline what we take to be the standard way that philosophers are thinking about extendedness, namely as an intrinsic property of regions. We then introduce an alternative picture (§2), (...)
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  12. Fleeting Things and Permanent Stuff: A Priorean Project in Real Time.Paul Needham - 1997 - In Uwe Scheffler and Max Urchs Jan Faye (ed.), Perspectives on Time. Dordrecht, Nederländerna: pp. 119-141.
    Prior left us with a problem which he stated in the following way: ‘Very roughly, it would seem that countable “things” are made or grow from bits of stuff, or from other countable “things”, that are already there. The precise logic of this process hasn’t been worked out yet, and until it has been, it seems likely that any tensed predicate logic can only be provisional in character.’ Although I disagree with much of the philosophy of time underlying Priorean tense (...)
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  13. L'artivisme d'Anish Kapoor : une poietique du détournement ?Frédéric Lefrançois - 2019 - Recherches En Esthétique 24 (Art et détournement):173-188.
    Can provocative sculptural aesthetics alter our perception of history? This article focuses on the sensational effect caused by the 2015 exhibition of Anish Kapoor's monumental Dirty Corner in Versailles. Does the reception of such contextual art rely on the ability to collate different aesthetic experiences on the artwork's surface? The Indo-British sculptor's divisive use of ethics has opposed the supporters of a vision of art based on the quest for the sublime to those who opt for an artistic adventure pulling (...)
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  14. What Is Conservatism?Louis deRosset - 2020 - Analysis 80 (3):514-533.
    In Objects: Nothing Out of the Ordinary, Daniel Z. Korman defends a view he calls conservatism. Conservatives hold that there are ordinary objects, but no extraordinary objects. But Korman never explicitly characterizes what would qualify an object as ordinary in the relevant sense. We have some paradigm cases of ordinary objects, including tables, dogs, and trees; and we have some paradigm cases of extraordinary objects of sorts familiar from the philosophical literature. Here I attempt to fill this gap, surveying a (...)
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  15. Fiat Boundaries: How to Fictionally Carve Nature at its Joints.Nicola Piras - 2020 - Philosophical Inquiries 8 (2):85-106.
    Boundaries are the outermost parts of objects, with a twofold function: dividing objects from their environment and allowing objects to touch each other. The task of this paper is to classify and describe the human dependent boundaries, i.e., the so-called fiat boundaries, on the basis of the seminal work by Smith and Varzi. Roughly, a fiat boundary is a marker of discontinuity between two or more objects which relies on a human function assignment, usually called ‘fiat act’. In what follow (...)
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  16. Quantum Considerations in the Metaphysics of Levels.Ryan Miller - 2024? - Dissertation, Université de Genève
    Amie Thomasson challenges advocates of layered conceptions of reality to explain “how layers are distinguished” and “what holds them together” by “examining the world” (2014). One strategy for answering such questions is mereological, treating inter-layer relations as parthood relations, where layers exist whenever composition does, and the number of layers will be equivalent to the number of answers to Peter Van Inwagen’s Special Composition Question, while answers to his General Composition Question explain what holds the layers together (1987). Various answers (...)
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  17. Do We See Facts?Alfredo Vernazzani - 2020 - Mind and Language.
    Philosophers of perception frequently assume that we see actual states of affairs, or facts. Call this claim factualism. In his book, William Fish suggests that factualism is supported by phenomenological observation as well as by experimental studies on multiple object tracking and dynamic feature-object integration. In this paper, I examine the alleged evidence for factualism, focusing mainly on object detection and tracking. I argue that there is no scientific evidence for factualism. This conclusion has implications for studies on the phenomenology (...)
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  18. Materiality, Parthood, and Possibility.Samuele Iaquinto & Giuliano Torrengo - forthcoming - Erkenntnis:1-7.
    This paper offers an argument in favour of a Lewisian version of concretism that maintains both the principle of material inheritance (according to which, if all the parts of an object x are material, then x is material) and the materiality-modality link (that is, the principle that, for every x, if x is material, then x is possible).
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  19. Ontological Nihilism.Jason Turner - 2011 - Oxford Studies in Metaphysics 6:3-54.
    Ontological nihilism is the radical-sounding thesis that there is nothing at all. This chapter first discusses how the most plausible forms of this thesis aim to be slightly less radical than they sound and what they will have to do in order to succeed in their less radical ambitions. In particular, they will have to paraphrase sentences of best science into ontologically innocent counterparts. The chapter then points out the defects in two less plausible strategies, before going on to argue (...)
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  20. Levels of Ontology and Natural Language: The Case of the Ontology of Parts and Wholes.Friederike Moltmann - forthcoming - In James Miller (ed.), The Language of Ontology. Oxford University Press.
    It is common in contemporary metaphysics to distinguish two levels of ontology: the ontology of ordinary objects and the ontology of fundamental reality. This papers argues that natural language reflects not only the ontology of ordinary objects, but also a language-driven ontology, which is involved in the mass-count distinction and part-structure-sensitive semantic selection, as well as perhaps the light ontology of pleonastic entities. The paper recasts my older theory of situated part structures without situations, making use of a primitive notion (...)
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  21. Bundle Theory and the Identity of Indiscernibles.Philip Swenson & Bradley Rettler - 2019 - Res Philosophica 96 (4):495-508.
    A and B continue their conversation concerning the Identity of Indiscernibles. Both are aware of recent critiques of the principle that haven’t received replies; B summarizes those critiques, and A offers the replies that are due. B then raises a new worry.
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  22. From Lot's Wife to a Pillar of Salt: Evidence That Physical Object is a Sortal Concept.Fei Xu - 1997 - Mind and Language 12 (3-4):365-392.
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  23. El conservadurismo realista acerca de la composición de Daniel Korman.Ezequiel Zerbudis - 2018 - Cuadernos de Filosofía 36:33-53.
    In this paper I first present Dan Korman’s (2015) recent defence of a conservative view as regards the existence and composition of material objects, and then go on to criticize some of his arguments. I will focus on two related issues: on the one hand, I argue that his defense of that kind of view by making use of what he calls “arguments from counterexamples” has some metaontological presuppositions that are indeed unacceptable for someone defending the revisionist views he opposes; (...)
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  24. Frames and the Ontology of Particular Objects.David Hommen - 2018 - Dialectica 72 (3):385-409.
    The theory of frames has recently been proposed as a universal format for knowledge representation in language, cognition and science. Frames represent categories as well as individual objects and events in terms of recursive attribute-value structures. In this paper, we would like to explore the potential ontological commitments of frame-based knowledge representations, with particular emphasis on the ontological status of the possessors of quality attributes in individual object frames. While not strictly incompatible with nominalistic, bundle- or substratum-theoretic approaches to the (...)
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  25. From Potency to Act: Hyloenergeism.Jeremy W. Skrzypek - forthcoming - Synthese:1-26.
    Many contemporary proponents of hylomorphism endorse a version of hylomorphism according to which the form of a material object is a certain kind of complex relation or structure. Structural approaches to form, however, seem not to capture form’s traditional role as the guarantor of diachronic identity, since more “dynamically complex” material objects, such as living organisms, seem to undergo, and survive, various structural changes over the course of their existence. As a result, some contemporary hylomorphists have looked to alternative, non-structural (...)
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  26. Sympathy for the Scientist: Re-Calibrating a Heideggerian Critique of Metaphysics.Jonathan Morgan - manuscript
    This paper attempts to develop an ethico-aesthetic framework for enriching one's life and ethical outlook. Drawing primarily from Nietzsche, Foucault, and Heidegger, an argument is made that Heidegger's understanding of this issue was mistaken. The ontological crisis of modernity is not the overt influence of mathematics as a worldview over poetics and more traditionally aesthetic approaches. It is the rampant mis-and over-application of abstraction within one's view of the world while denying the material realities of life as we live it. (...)
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  27. Easy Ontology, Application Conditions and Infinite Regress.Andrew Brenner - 2018 - Analysis 78 (4):605-614.
    In a number of recent publications Thomasson has defended a deflationary approach to ontological disputes, according to which ontological disputes are relatively easy to settle, by either conceptual analysis, or conceptual analysis in conjunction with empirical investigation. Thomasson’s “easy” approach to ontology is intended to derail many prominent ontological disputes. In this paper I present an objection to Thomasson’s approach to ontology. Thomasson’s approach to existence assertions means that she is committed to the view that application conditions associated with any (...)
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  28. Toward Companion Objects.Anna Mudde - 2018 - PhaenEx 12 (2):59-80.
    In this paper, I take up Graham Harman’s critique of the philosophy of access as well as his proposed non-anthropocentric ontology, and I ask what it would be like for human beings to live or practice such a proposal. Drawing on Harman’s thinking about prehension, but shifting focus towards work in critical phenomenology and feminist science studies, I argue for the importance of human prehensive self-awareness within non-anthropocentric ontological practices, an awareness that emerges phenomenologically and in practice. Extending both Donna (...)
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  29. Structures as Relations.Michele Paolini Paoletti - 2018 - Synthese:1-20.
    I shall explore in this article the hypothesis that structures are relations between the components of complex entities. After having introduced hylomorphism, its major advantages and the major views of the nature of structures, I shall introduce the distinctions between external and internal relations and the one between symmetrical and non-symmetrical relations. I shall also describe the theory of non-symmetrical relations that I accept, i.e., the O-Roles theory, as most structures seem to be external and non-symmetrical relations. Later on, I (...)
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  30. The Paradox of Decrease and Dependent Parts.Alex Moran - 2018 - Ratio 31 (3):273-284.
    This paper is concerned with the paradox of decrease. Its aim is to defend the answer to this puzzle that was propounded by its originator, namely, the Stoic philosopher Chrysippus. The main trouble with this answer to the paradox is that it has the seemingly problematic implication that a material thing could perish due merely to extrinsic change. It follows that in order to defend Chrysippus’ answer to the paradox, one has to explain how it could be that Theon is (...)
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  31. Macroscopic Objects: An Exercise in Duhemian Ontology.Paul Needham - 1996 - Philosophy of Science 63 (2):205-224.
    Aristotelian ideas are presented in a favorable light in Duhem's historical works surveying the history of the notion of chemical combination (1902) and the development of mechanics (1903). The importance Duhem was later to ascribe to Aristotelian ideas as reflected in the weight he attached to medieval science is well known. But the Aristotelian influence on his own mature philosophical perspective, and more particularly on his concern for logical coherence and the development of his ontological views, is not generally acknowledged. (...)
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  32. Ideas, Persons, and Objects in the History of Ideas.Bennett Gilbert - 2019 - Journal of the Philosophy of History 13 (2):141-162.
    The history of ideas is most prominently understood as a highly specialized group of methods for the study of abstract ideas, with both diachronic and synchronic aspects. While theorizing the field has focused on the methods of study, defining the object of study – ideas – has been neglected. But the development of the theories behind material culture studies poses a sharp challenge to these narrow approaches. It both challenges the integrity of the notion of abstract ideas and also offers (...)
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  33. Object.Bradley Rettler & Andrew M. Bailey - 2017 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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  34. Epistemicism, Distribution, and the Argument From Vagueness.Ofra Magidor - 2018 - Noûs 52 (1):144-170.
    This paper consists of two parts. The first concerns the logic of vagueness. The second concerns a prominent debate in metaphysics. One of the most widely accepted principles governing the ‘definitely’ operator is the principle of Distribution: if ‘p’ and ‘if p then q’ are both definite, then so is ‘q’. I argue however, that epistemicists about vagueness should reject this principle. The discussion also helps to shed light on the elusive question of what, on this framework, it takes for (...)
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  35. What Is the Essence of an Essence? Comparing Afro-Relational and Western-Individualist Ontologies.Thaddeus Metz - 2018 - Synthesis Philosophica 65 (1):209-224.
    The dominant view amongst contemporary Western philosophers about the essence of a natu­ ral object is that it is constituted by its intrinsic properties. The ontological approach salient in the African philosophical tradition, in contrast, accounts for a thing’s essence by appeal to its relational properties. The Afro­relational ontology is under­developed, with the primary aim of this article being to help rectify that weakness. Specifically, this article’s aims are: to articulate an African approach to understanding the essence of a concrete, (...)
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  36. Three Concerns for Structural Hylomorphism.Jeremy Skrzypek - 2017 - Analytic Philosophy 58 (4):360-408.
    Many contemporary proponents of hylomorphism, the view that at least some material objects are comprised of both matter and form, endorse a version of hylomorphism according to which the form of a material object is a certain complex relation or structure. In this paper, I introduce three sorts of concerns for this “structural” approach. First, I argue that, in countenancing an abundance of overlapping yet numerically distinct material objects, “structural hylomorphists” are committed to a certain sort of systematic causal overdetermination. (...)
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  37. Critical Notice: Thomas Sattig’s The Double Lives of Objects: An Essay in the Metaphysics of the Ordinary World, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.Simon J. Evnine - 2018 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 48 (1):142-157.
    This critical notice describes some of Thomas Sattig’s book The Double Lives of Objects: An Essay in the Metaphysics of the Ordinary World and raises several critical issues about it.
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  38. Henri Poincaré, ciência e materialismo: o papel das hipóteses na oscilação entre atomismo e continuísmo.Andre Carli Philot & Antonio A. P. Videira - 2013 - Kairos: Revista de Filosofia and Ciência 7:167-186.
    This article was produced as an introduction to a Portuguese translation of an article by Henri Poincaré titled "The new conceptions of matter". The aim of this introduction was to shortly summarize Poincaré's scientific and philosophical production, to approach the circumstances on which the text was originally presented and, finally, to analyze the relationship - or the lack of it - that Poincaré establishes between science and materialism.
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  39. Debunking Arguments in Metaethics and Metaphysics.Daniel Z. Korman - 2019 - In Alvin Goldman & Brian McLaughlin (eds.), Metaphysics and Cognitive Science. Oxford University Press. pp. 337-363.
    Evolutionary debunking arguments abound, but it is widely assumed that they do not arise for our perceptual beliefs about midsized objects, insofar as the adaptive value of our object beliefs cannot be explained without reference to the objects themselves. I argue that this is a mistake. Just as with moral beliefs, the adaptive value of our object beliefs can be explained without assuming that the beliefs are accurate. I then explore the prospects for other sorts of vindications of our object (...)
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  40. Almost‐Ontology: Why Epistemicism Cannot Help Us Avoid Unrestricted Composition or Diachronic Plenitude.İrem Kurtsal Steen - 2014 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 95 (1):130-139.
    That any filled location of spacetime contains a persisting thing has been defended based on the ‘argument from vagueness.’ It is often assumed that since the epistemicist account of vagueness blocks the argument from vagueness it facilitates a conservative ontology without gerrymandered objects. It doesn't. The epistemic vagueness of ordinary object predicates such as ‘bicycle’ requires that objects that can be described as almost‐but‐not‐quite‐bicycle exist even though they fall outside the predicate's sharp extension. Since the predicates that begin with ‘almost’ (...)
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  41. Hylemorphism and the Recent Views of the Constitution of Matter.William H. Kane - 1935 - Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 11:61.
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  42. The Location of Physical Objects.Olaf Stapledon - 1929 - Journal of Philosophical Studies 4 (13):64-75.
    Common sense holds that a physical object is confined to a definite region of space, and that it endures through a definite period of time. It scatters effects through other regions and periods, but it is the cause of those effects, and is just where it is and not everywhere. Physically its existence may entail other objects, but logically it entails nothing whatever beyond the limits of a certain volume.
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  43. The Parts and the Whole: Collapse Theories and Systems with Identical Constituents.GianCarlo Ghirardi - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 44 (1):40-47.
    The very formal structure of quantum mechanics implies the loss of individuality of physical systems and it requires to look at the Universe as an unbroken whole. The main reason for which, within such a theory, one must renounce to a clear identification of the parts and the whole is the superposition principle which stays at the basis of the theory. It implies, as well known, the phenomenon of entanglement which, in the most extreme case, entails that the constituents of (...)
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  44. Naturoids: From Representations to Concrete Realizations.Massimo Negrotti - 2004 - Pragmatics and Cognition 12 (1):37-56.
    It is a commonplace to maintain that technology will never be able to reproduce a natural object in full detail. Nevertheless, if one tries to rigorously demonstrate the methodological foundation on which such an assumption is based, one finds a number of interesting problems to clarify. This paper attempts to provide a general framework for the understanding of naturoids, arguing that every naturoid — and the cognitive model upon which it is based — is the result of a reduction in (...)
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  45. Comment on Lowe.Crispin Wright - 1984 - Analysis 44 (4):183.
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  46. Constatations sur la composition de la 4e bucolique de Virgile.Jean-G. Préaux - 1963 - Revue Belge de Philologie Et D’Histoire 41 (1):63-79.
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  47. Aquinas on the Essential Composition of Objects.Uwe Meixner - unknown
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  48. Atoms and the ‘Analogy of Nature’: Newton's Third Rule of Philosophizing.J. E. McGuire - 1970 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 1 (1):3-58.
  49. Composition and Constitution: Heidegger’s Hammer.David R. Cerbone - 1999 - Philosophical Topics 27 (2):309-329.
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  50. Composition.A. L. Peck - 1928 - The Classical Review 42 (1):3-5.
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