Stuff

Edited by Henry Laycock (Queen's University)
About this topic
Summary The category of stuff is notoriously vague, due in part to the unclear and ill-defined contrast between 'stuff' and 'things' . In particular, while there appears to be a loose and informal consensus within philosophy that 'stuff' is to be treated as an extremely general concrete noun - to be applied to substances like sugar, flour, dough and plutonium (but not to the extension of such nouns as 'furniture') - and to be juxtaposed to 'things', as in some of Quine's writings, there is little consensus as to the extension of 'things'. For some, 'things' should here be understood to cover, roughly, Aristotle's substances - substances in that very different sense of being discrete, concrete, organised individuals consisting of both form and matter, stuff and structure. For others, 'things' is understood more generally as 'objects' in the traditional purely logical sense - roughly, whatever counts as the value of a variable - and the question then arises of whether the initial dichotomy can be preserved, or not. It is here that the nature of the metaphysical dichotomy, if such it be, meets the semantical dichotomy of so-called mass and count nouns. Some concrete nouns that are semantically mass are, in virtue of their particular semantic character, nouns for things described collectively. Thus 'furniture' denotes not stuff but things, while other mass nouns such as 'soup' are naturally words for stuff. However, if 'things' is construed purely logically, as with Quine or Witttgenstein, then it is often argued that mass nouns too are words for things - 'quantities', 'parcels', 'portions', etc. of stuff. Stuff on such accounts is often theorised in terms of a mereology, and here again, the fields of metaphysics and semantics virtually coincide. More recently, and consequent on studies of non-singular reference and predication, the question of whether our standard 'singularist' logic is suited to the analysis of mass nouns in general, and words for stuff in particular, has been pressed. Here, the logico-semantic writings of George Boolos and Tom McKay on plurals have acquired a certain relevance, and figure in the more recent logico-metaphysical writings of Laycock on the topics of things or objects, stuff, and mass nouns. The overlap between this topic and related issues in the philosophy of language is represented in the entry on mass nouns and count nouns.
Key works Both Quine 1957, and Strawson 1959, describe an obscure category of 'stuff' or 'features' as pre-individuative or pre-particular, and as 'prior' to speaking of objects. Against this, the influential Cartwright 1965 and Cartwright 1970 attempt to show that talk of stuff is really talk of discrete objects of a special type, or quantities. Laycock 1972 maintains that stuff is better understood as a plurality of elements, and Laycock 1975 attacks Cartwright-style accounts of references to stuff as singular. Hacker 1979 provides a synoptic but probing review of work to that date, and Laycock 2006 suggest an account entirely beyond ontologies of objects, while Laycock 2010 recontructs divergent formal conceptions of the object category itself. Steen 2012 offers a synoptic treatment of the entire debate to date.
Introductions Chappell 1971
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143 found
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1 — 50 / 143
  1. A Temporal Mereology for Distinguishing Between Integral Objects and Portions of Stuff.Thomas Bittner & M. Donnelly - manuscript
    In R. Holte and A. Howe (eds.), Proceedings of the Twenty-Second AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence (AAAI-07).
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  2. How to Solve the Puzzle of Dion and Theon Without Losing Your Head.Chad Carmichael - 2020 - Mind 129 (513):205-224.
    The ancient puzzle of Dion and Theon has given rise to a surprising array of apparently implausible views. For example, in order to solve the puzzle, several philosophers have been led to deny the existence of their own feet, others have denied that objects can gain and lose parts, and large numbers of philosophers have embraced the thesis that distinct objects can occupy the same space, having all their material parts in common. In this paper, I argue for an alternative (...)
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  3. How Many there Are Isn’t.Jonah P. B. Goldwater - 2020 - Philosophia 48 (3):1037-1057.
    A world where there exists n concrete things is a count-determinate world. The orthodox view is count-determinacy is necessary; if to be is to be the value of a variable and the domain of quantification is enumerable, count-determinacy follows. Yet I argue how many there are can be indeterminate; count-indeterminacy is metaphysically possible and even likely actual. Notably, my argument includes rebuttals of Evans’ reductio of indeterminate identity and the Lewis/Sider ‘argument from vagueness’. Count-indeterminacy should therefore be recognized as another (...)
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  4. Constitution and Dependence.David Mark Kovacs - 2020 - Journal of Philosophy 117 (3):150-177.
    Constitution is the relation that holds between an object and what it is made of: statues are constituted by the lumps of matter they coincide with; flags, one may think, are constituted by colored pieces of cloth; and perhaps human persons are constituted by biological organisms. Constitution is often thought to be a.
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  5. Evoluciones Metafísicas.María Guadalupe Llanes, Miguel Cabrera Machado & Edgar Blanco-Carrero (eds.) - 2020 - Caracas: Rivero Blanco Editores.
    El libro engloba una serie de artículos acerca de la Filosofía del Proceso, tratando de responder a varias preguntas fundamentales: ¿sigue vigente la noción de sustancia para dar cuenta de la realidad? ¿Qué significa que la realidad es procesual, si es que acaso es así? Otro hilo conductor proviene del diálogo con Whitehead. Se incluyen enfoques que abarcan diferentes épocas históricas, desde la antiguedad, la época medieval, hasta las posturas más recientes.
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  6. Anaxagoras, the Thoroughgoing Infinitist: The Relation Between His Teachings on Multitude and on Heterogeneity.Miloš Arsenijević, Saša Popović & Miloš Vuletić - 2019 - European Journal of Analytic Philosophy 15 (1):35-70.
    In the analysis of Anaxagoras’ physics in view of the relation between his teachings on multitude and heterogeneity, two central questions emerge: 1) How can the structure of the universe considered purely mereo-topologically help us explain that at the first cosmic stage no qualitative difference is manifest in spite of the fact that the entire qualitative heterogeneity is supposedly already present there? 2) How can heterogeneity become manifest at the second stage, resulting from the noûs intervention, if according to fragment (...)
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  7. An Alternative Model for Understanding Anaxagoras’ Mixture.David Torrijos-Castrillejo - 2019 - Philosophisches Jahrbuch 126:7-26.
    For Anaxagoras, both before the beginning of the world and in the present, “all is together” and “everything is in everything.” Various modern interpretations abound regarding the identity of this “mixture.” It has been explained as an aggregation of particles or as a continuous “fusion” of different sorts of ingredients. However—even though they are not usually recognized as a distinct group—there are a number of other scholars who, without seemingly knowing each other, have offered a different interpreta- tion: Anaxagoras’ mixture (...)
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  8. Form, Matter, Substance.Kathrin Koslicki - 2018 - Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
    In _Form, Matter, Substance_, Kathrin Koslicki defends a hylomorphic analysis of concrete particular objects (e.g., living organisms). The Aristotelian doctrine of hylomorphism holds that those entities that fall under it are compounds of matter (hulē) and form (morphē or eidos). Koslicki argues that a hylomorphic analysis of concrete particular objects is well-equipped to compete with alternative approaches when measured against a wide range of criteria of success. A successful application of the doctrine of hylomorphism to the special case of concrete (...)
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  9. The Logic of Mass Expressions.David Nicolas - 2018 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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  10. Clouds and Blood. More on Vagueness and the Mass/Count Distinction.Gennaro Chierchia - 2017 - Synthese 194 (7):2523-2538.
    A vagueness-based approach to the mass/count distinction was developed in Chierchia. Liebesman argues against Chierchia’s proposal developing four arguments against it. He furthermore tries to make a case that regardless of the details of C’s proposal no vagueness-based account of the distinction is viable. In this paper I show that Liebesman’s arguments against C don’t go through and that a line of investigation on the mass count contrast in terms of vagueness is not only viable but also perhaps a source (...)
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  11. Existence and Strong Uncountability.Jonah Goldwater - 2017 - Acta Analytica 32 (3):321-331.
    On the standard view for something to exist is for one thing to exist: in slogan form, to be is to be countable. E.J. Lowe argues something can exist without being countable as one, however. His primary example is homogenous “stuff,” i.e., qualitatively uniform and infinitely divisible matter. Lacking nonarbitrary boundaries and being everywhere the same, homogenous stuff lacks a principle of individuation that would yield countably distinct constituents. So, for Lowe, homogenous stuff is strongly uncountable. Olson rejects Lowe’s view (...)
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  12. The Right Stuff.Ned Markosian - 2015 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 93 (4):665-687.
    This paper argues for including stuff in one's ontology. The distinction between things and stuff is first clarified, and then three different ontologies of the physical universe are spelled out: a pure thing ontology, a pure stuff ontology, and a mixed ontology of both things and stuff. Eleven different reasons for including stuff in one's ontology are given. Then five objections to positing stuff are considered and rejected.
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  13. Aquinas's Ontology of the Material World: Change, Hylomorphism, and Material Objects.Jeffrey E. Brower - 2014 - Oxford University Press.
    Jeffrey E. Brower presents and explains the hylomorphic conception of the material world developed by Thomas Aquinas, according to which material objects are composed of both matter and form. In addition to presenting and explaining Aquinas's views, Brower seeks wherever possible to bring them into dialogue with the best recent literature on related topics. Along the way, he highlights the contribution that Aquinas's views make to a host of contemporary metaphysical debates, including the nature of change, composition, material constitution, the (...)
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  14. Qu'est-ce qu'une fondue ? [What is a fondue?].Alain de Libera & Olivier Massin - 2014 - In Massin Olivier & Meylan Anne (eds.), Aristote chez les Helvètes. Ithaque.
    We review the history of the philosophy of fondue since Aristotle so as to arrive at the formulation of the paradox of Swiss fondue. Either the wine and the cheese cease to exist (Buridan), but then the fondue is not really a mixture of wine and cheese. Or the wine and the cheese continue to exist. If they do, then either they continue to exist in different places (the chemists), but then a fondue can never be perfectly homogenous (it is (...)
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  15. L'étoffe du sensible [Sensible Stuffs].Olivier Massin - 2014 - In J.-M. Chevalier & B. Gaultier (eds.), Connaître, Questions d'épistémologie contemporaine. Paris, France: Ithaque. pp. 201-230.
    The proper sensible criterion of sensory individuation holds that senses are individuated by the special kind of sensibles on which they exclusively bear about (colors for sight, sounds for hearing, etc.). H. P. Grice objected to the proper sensibles criterion that it cannot account for the phenomenal difference between feeling and seeing shapes or other common sensibles. That paper advances a novel answer to Grice's objection. Admittedly, the upholder of the proper sensible criterion must bind the proper sensibles –i.e. colors– (...)
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  16. Gur, Ghur, Guhr or Bur? The Quest for a Metalliferous Prime Matter in Early Modern Times.Ana Maria Alfonso-Goldfarb & Marcia H. M. Ferraz - 2013 - British Journal for the History of Science 46 (1):23-37.
    It has been traditionally held that the idea of a prime matter of metals was abandoned in the eighteenth century, especially after the failure of Hermann Boerhaave to find it in mercury. However, documents tell a different story: the search for the metalliferous principle, in the form of an odd substance known as Gur, Guhr, Ghur or Bur, was very much alive in the 1700s. This was a project that involved Boerhaave himself, as is shown by his correspondence with J.B. (...)
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  17. Review: Frank Arntzenius: Space, Time, and Stuff. [REVIEW]David John Baker - 2013 - Philosophical Explorations.
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  18. Stuff Versus Individuals.Lucía Lewowicz & Olimpia Lombardi - 2013 - Foundations of Chemistry 15 (1):65-77.
    The general question to be considered in this paper points to the nature of the world described by chemistry: what is macro-chemical ontology like? In particular, we want to identify the ontological categories that underlie chemical discourse and chemical practice. This is not an easy task, because modern Western metaphysics was strongly modeled by theoretical physics. For this reason, we attempt to answer our question by contrasting macro-chemical ontology with the mainstream ontology of physics and of traditional metaphysics. In particular, (...)
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  19. Space, Time, and Stuff, by Arntzenius Frank: Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012, Pp. Viii + 288, £30.Andrew Turner - 2013 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 91 (4):827-827.
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  20. Francesco Piccolomini on Prime Matter and Extension.Guy Claessens - 2012 - Vivarium 50 (2):225-244.
    This paper examines the view held by Francesco Piccolomini (1523-1607) on the relation between prime matter and extension. In his discussion of prime matter in the Libri ad scientiam de natura attinentes Piccolomini develops a theory of prime matter that incorporates crucial elements of the viewpoint adhered to by the Neoplatonist Simplicius. The originality of Piccolomini’s undertaking is highlighted by contrasting it with the ideas found in Jacopo Zabarella’s De rebus naturalibus . The case of Piccolomini shows that, in order (...)
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  21. Mass Terms.Brendan S. Gillon - 2012 - Philosophy Compass 7 (10):712-730.
    English common nouns, like nouns in many other languages, can be distinguished into count nouns and mass nouns. This article sets out the basic morpho‐syntactic and semantic facts pertaining to these two classes of English nouns. In addition, it summarizes and critically discusses the various theories of the semantics of such nouns.
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  22. The Metaphysics of Mass Expressions.Mark Steen - 2012 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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  23. The Matter of Events.Thomas Crowther - 2011 - Review of Metaphysics 65 (1):3- 39.
    A distinction has often been drawn between processes and accomplishments; between, say, *walking* and *walking to the shops*. But it has proved difficult to explain the nature of this distinction in a satisfying way. This paper offers an explanation of the nature of this distinction that is suggested by the idea that there is an ontologically significant correspondence between temporal and spatial notions. A number of writers, such as Alexander Mourelatos (1978) and Barry Taylor (1985), have argued that the spatial (...)
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  24. Familiar Objects and Their Shadows.Crawford L. Elder - 2011 - Cambridge University Press.
    Most contemporary metaphysicians are sceptical about the reality of familiar objects such as dogs and trees, people and desks, cells and stars. They prefer an ontology of the spatially tiny or temporally tiny. Tiny microparticles 'dog-wise arranged' explain the appearance, they say, that there are dogs; microparticles obeying microphysics collectively cause anything that a baseball appears to cause; temporal stages collectively sustain the illusion of enduring objects that persist across changes. Crawford L. Elder argues that all such attempts to 'explain (...)
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  25. Count Nouns - Mass Nouns, Neat Nouns - Mess Nouns.Fred Landman - 2011 - The Baltic International Yearbook of Cognition, Logic and Communication 6:12.
    In this paper I propose and formalize a theory of the mass-count distinction in which the denotations of count nouns are built from non-overlapping generators, while the denotations of mass nouns are built from overlapping generators. Counting is counting of generators, and it will follow that counting is only correct on count denotations.I will show that the theory allows two kinds of mass nouns: mess mass nouns with denotations built from overlapping minimal generators, and neat mass nouns with denotations built (...)
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  26. Mass Nouns and Plurals.Peter Lasersohn - 2011 - In Claudia Maienborn, Klaus von Heusinger & Paul Portner (eds.), Semantics: An International Handbook of Natural Language Meaning. De Gruyter Mouton. pp. 2.
    Survey of issues pertaining to the semantics of mass and plural nouns.
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  27. Any Sum of Parts Which Are Water is Water.Henry Laycock - 2011 - Humana Mente 4 (19):41-55.
    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 (...)
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  28. More Problems for MaxCon: Contingent Particularity and Stuff-Thing Coincidence.Mark Steen - 2011 - Acta Analytica 26 (2):135-154.
    Ned Markosian argues (Australasian Journal of Philosophy 76:213-228, 1998a; Australasian Journal of Philosophy 82:332-340, 2004a, The Monist 87:405-428, 2004b) that simples are ‘maximally continuous’ entities. This leads him to conclude that there could be non-particular ‘stuff’ in addition to things. I first show how an ensuing debate on this issue McDaniel (Australasian Journal of Philosophy 81(2):265-275, 2003); Markosian (Australasian Journal of Philosophy 82:332-340, 2004a) ended in deadlock. I attempt to break the deadlock. Markosian’s view entails stuff-thing coincidence, which I show (...)
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  29. Perilous Stuff.John Baxter - 2010 - Renascence 62 (2):89-115.
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  30. Mass Nouns, Vagueness and Semantic Variation.Gennaro Chierchia - 2010 - Synthese 174 (1):99 - 149.
    The mass/count distinction attracts a lot of attention among cognitive scientists, possibly because it involves in fundamental ways the relation between language (i.e. grammar), thought (i.e. extralinguistic conceptual systems) and reality (i.e. the physical world). In the present paper, I explore the view that the mass/count distinction is a matter of vagueness. While every noun/concept may in a sense be vague, mass nouns/concepts are vague in a way that systematically impairs their use in counting. This idea has never been systematically (...)
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  31. Count Nouns - Mass Nouns, Neat Nouns - Mess Nouns.Fred Landman - 2010 - The Baltic International Yearbook of Cognition, Logic and Communication 6 (1).
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  32. Transient Things and Permanent Stuff.Paul Needham - 2010 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 88 (1):147 – 166.
    A view of individuals as constituted of quantities of matter, both understood as continuants enduring over time, is elaborated in some detail. Constitution is a three-place relation which can't be collapsed to identity because of the place-holder for a time and because individuals and quantities of matter have such a radically different character. Individuals are transient entities with limited lifetimes, whereas quantities are permanent existents undergoing change in physical and chemical properties from time to time. Coincidence, considered as a matter (...)
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  33. Towards a Semantics for Mass Expressions Derived From Gradable Expressions.David Nicolas - 2010 - Recherches Linguistiques de Vincennes 39:163-198.
    What semantics should we attribute to mass expressions like "wisdom" and "love", which are derived from gradable expressions? We first examine how these expressions are used, then how they are interpreted in their various uses. We then propose a model to account for these data, in which derived mass nouns denote instances of properties.
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  34. Aristotle on Pure and Simple Stuff.Tiberiu Popa - 2010 - Rhizai. A Journal for Ancient Philosophy and Science:29-61.
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  35. Who Thinks That a Piece of Furniture Refers to a Broken Couch? Count-Mass Constructions and Individuation in English and Spanish.Maria D. Sera & Whitney Goodrich - 2010 - Cognitive Linguistics 21 (3).
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  36. The Mereological Constancy of Masses.Charlie Tanksley - 2010 - Philosophical Quarterly 60 (239):343-354.
    It is controversial whether masses (what mass nouns refer to) exist. But on the assumption that they do, here are two uncontroversial facts about them: first, they satisfy a fusion principle which takes any set of masses of kind K and yields a mass fusion of kind K; secondly, a mass must have all and only the same parts at every time at which it exists. These two theses are usually built into the concept 'mass'. I argue that the latter (...)
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  37. The Ontology of Products.Massimiliano Vignolo - 2010 - Metaphysica 11 (1):1-16.
    We speak of products in two senses: in one, we speak of types of products, in the other we speak of the particular objects that are instances of those types. I argue that types of products have the same ontological status as that of material stuffs, like water and gold, which have a non-particular level of existence. I also argue that the relationship between types of products and their instances is logically similar to the relation of constitution, which holds between, (...)
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  38. Summation Relations and Portions of Stuff.Maureen Donnelly & Thomas Bittner - 2009 - Philosophical Studies 143 (2):167 - 185.
    According to the prevalent 'sum view' of stuffs, each portion of stuff is a mereological sum of its subportions. The purpose of this paper is to re-examine the sum view in the light of a modal temporal mereology which distinguishes between different varieties of summation relations. While admitting David Barnett's recent counter-example to the sum view, we show that there is nonetheless an important sense in which all portions of stuff are sums of their subportions. We use our summation relations (...)
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  39. A Piece of Cheese, a Grain ofSand:-The Semantics of Mass Nouns and Unitizers.Cliff Goddard - 2009 - In Francis Jeffry Pelletier (ed.), Kinds, Things, and Stuff: Mass Terms and Generics. Oup Usa. pp. 132.
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  40. The Stoics on Matter and Prime Matter : Corporealism and Theimprint of Plato's Timaeus.Jean-Baptiste Gourinat - 2009 - In Ricardo Salles (ed.), God and Cosmos in Stoicism. Oxford University Press. pp. 46--70.
  41. Kinds, Things, and Stuff: Mass Terms and Generics.Francis Jeffry Pelletier (ed.) - 2009 - Oxford University Press USA.
    A generic statement is a type of generalization that is made by asserting that a "kind" has a certain property. For example we might hear that marshmallows are sweet. Here, we are talking about the "kind" marshmallow and assert that individual instances of this kind have the property of being sweet. Almost all of our common sense knowledge about the everyday world is put in terms of generic statements. What can make these generic sentences be true even when there are (...)
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  42. Stuff.Kristie Miller - 2009 - American Philosophical Quarterly 46 (1):1 - 18.
    Linguistically, we distinguish between thing terms and stuff terms, where, roughly, "thing" is a count noun, and "stuff" is a mass noun. Syntactically, "thing" functions as a singular referring term, that is, a term that refers to a single "entity" and hence takes "a" and "every" and is subject to pluralization, while "stuff" functions as a plural referring term, that is, it refers to a plurality of "entities" and hence takes "some" and is not subject to pluralization. There exists a (...)
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  43. Mereological Essentialism, Composition, and Stuff: A Reply to Kristie Miller.David Nicolas - 2009 - Erkenntnis 71 (3):425-429.
    In ‘Essential stuff' (2008) and ‘Stuff' (2009), Kristie Miller argues that two generally accepted theses, often formulated as follows, are incompatible: - (Temporal) mereological essentialism for stuff (or matter), the thesis that any portion of stuff has the same parts at every time it exists. - Stuff composition, the thesis that for any two portions of stuff, there exists a portion of stuff that is their mereological sum (or fusion). She does this by considering competing hypotheses about stuff, trying to (...)
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  44. A Synchronic Justification for Aristotle's Commitment to Prime Matter.Margaret Scharle - 2009 - Phronesis 54 (4-5):326-345.
    The current debate over Aristotle's commitment to prime matter is centered on diachronic considerations found in his theory of substantial change. I argue that an appeal to this theory is not required in order to establish his commitment to the existence of prime matter. By drawing on Physics II.1's conception of what it is for an element to have a nature - that is, to have an inner source of movement and rest - I introduce a synchronic justification for the (...)
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  45. Count Nouns, Sortal Concepts, and the Nature ofEarly Words.Fei Xu - 2009 - In Francis Jeffry Pelletier (ed.), Kinds, Things, and Stuff: Mass Terms and Generics. Oup Usa. pp. 191.
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  46. Concept Formation and Language Development: Count Nouns and Object Kinds.Fei Xu - 2009 - In Gareth Gaskell (ed.), Oxford Handbook of Psycholinguistics. Oxford University Press.
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  47. The Stuff of Thought.Joško Žanić - 2009 - Croatian Journal of Philosophy 9 (1):135-140.
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  48. Against Universal Mereological Composition.Crawford Elder - 2008 - Dialectica 62 (4):433-454.
    This paper opposes universal mereological composition (UMC). Sider defends it: unless UMC were true, he says, it could be indeterminate how many objects there are in the world. I argue that there is no general connection between how widely composition occurs and how many objects there are in the world. Sider fails to support UMC. I further argue that we should disbelieve in UMC objects. Existing objections against them say that they are radically unlike Aristotelian substances. True, but there is (...)
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  49. Strange Stuff Indeed.Jamie Horder - 2008 - Think 6 (17-18):205-209.
    Jamie Horder reviews The Stuff of Thought (London: Allen Lane, 2007) by Steven Pinker.
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  50. Words Without Objects: Semantics, Ontology, and Logic for Non‐Singularity ‐ By Henry Laycock. [REVIEW]Stephen K. Mcleod - 2008 - Philosophical Books 49 (3):270-272.
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