Mereological nihilism is the view that no objects have proper parts. Despite how counter‐intuitive it is, it is taken quite seriously, largely because it solves a number of puzzles in the metaphysics of material objects – or so its proponents claim. In this article, I show that for every puzzle that mereological nihilism solves, there is a similar puzzle that (a) it doesn’t solve, and (b) every other solution to the original puzzle does solve. Since the solutions to the new (...) puzzles apply just as well to the old puzzles, the old puzzles provide no motivation to be a mereological nihilist. (shrink)
I argue that an individual has aspects numerically identical with it and each other that nonetheless qualitatively differ from it and each other. This discernibility of identicals does not violate Leibniz's Law, however, which concerns only individuals and is silent about their aspects. They are not in its domain of quantification. To argue that there are aspects I will appeal to the internal conflicts of conscious beings. I do not mean to imply that aspects are confined to such cases, but (...) the best way to start is to recognize them experientially. We can feel the conflicts within ourselves. In doing so we can feel some of our aspects. I will try to enhance our understanding of the concept of aspect by listing and formalizing some principles for its use. After that I will argue that all sorts of individual things have aspects, not just people who are conflicted. (shrink)
I defend mereological nihilism, the view that there are no composite objects, against a challenge from ontological emergence, the view that some things have properties that are ‘something over and above’ the properties of their parts. As the nihilist does not believe in composite wholes, there is nothing in the nihilist's ontology to instantiate emergent properties – or so the challenge goes. However, I argue that some simples can collectively instantiate an emergent property, so the nihilist's ontology can in fact (...) accommodate emergent properties. Furthermore, I show that employing plural instantiation does not bloat the nihilist's ontology or ideology. (shrink)
Much recent work in metaontology challenges the so-called ‘Quinean tradition’ in metaphysics. Especially prominently, Amie Thomasson argues for a highly permissive ontology over ontologies which eliminate many entities. I am concerned with disputing not her ontological claim, but the methodology behind her rejection of eliminativism – I focus on ordinary objects. Thomasson thinks that by endorsing the Quinean criterion of ontological commitment eliminativism goes wrong; a theory eschewing quantification over a kind may nonetheless be committed to its existence. I argue (...) that, contrary to Thomasson's claims, we should retain the Quinean criterion. Her arguments show that many eliminativist positions are flawed, but their flaws lie elsewhere: the Quinean criterion is innocent. Showing why reveals the importance of pragmatism in ontology. In §1 I compare Thomasson's account and the eliminativist views to which it stands in opposition. In §2 I re-construct Thomasson's reasons for rejecting the Quinean criterion. In §3 I defend the Quinean criterion, showing that the eliminativists’ flaws are not consequences of applying the Quinean criterion, before explaining the criterion's importance when properly understood. I conclude that Thomasson, though right to criticise the methodology of ordinary-object eliminativists, is wrong to identify the Quinean criterion as the source of their mistake. (shrink)
Hylomorphism is the theory that objects are composites of form and matter. Recently it has been argued that form is structure, or the arrangement of an object's parts. This paper shows that the principle of form cannot be ontologically exhausted by structure. That is, I deny form should be understood just as the arrangement of an object's parts. I do so by showing that structure cannot play the role form is supposed to in a certain domain of objects, specifically, in (...) mereological simples. Thus, I show that Hylomorphism does not reduce to Structuralism. I also draw out some important consequences from my argument for Hylomorphism in general. (shrink)
At a 2011 meeting of the Society of Christian Philosophers, N. T. Wright offered four reasons for rejecting the existence of soul. This was surprising, as many Christian philosophers had previously taken Wright's defense of a disembodied intermediate state as a defense of a substance dualist view of the soul. In this paper, I offer responses to each of Wright's objections, demonstrating that Wright's arguments fail to undermine substance dualism. In so doing, I expose how popular arguments against dualism fail, (...) such as dualism is merely an unwarranted influence of Greek culture on Christianity, and substance dualism is merely a soul-of-the-gaps hypothesis. Moreover, I demonstrate that Wright himself has offered a powerful reason for adopting substance dualism in his previous works. In conclusion I offer a view that explains why the human soul needs a resurrected body. (shrink)
When do the folk think that mereological composition occurs? Many metaphysicians have wanted a view of composition that fits with folk intuitions, and yet there has been little agreement about what the folk intuit. We aim to put the tools of experimental philosophy to constructive use. Our studies suggest that folk mereology is teleological: people tend to intuit that composition occurs when the result serves a purpose. We thus conclude that metaphysicians should dismiss folk intuitions, as tied into a benighted (...) teleological view of nature. (shrink)
Atomism is the thesis that every object is composed of atoms. This principle is generally regimented by means of an atomicity axiom according to which every object has atomic parts. But there appears to be a sense that something is amiss with atomistic mereology. We look at three concerns, which, while importantly different, involve infinite descending chains of proper parts and have led some to question standard formalizations of atomism and composition in mereology.
Abstract creationism about fictional characters is the view that fictional characters are abstract objects that authors create. I defend this view against criticisms from Stuart Brock that hitherto have not been adequately countered. The discussion sheds light on how the number of fictional characters depends on authorial intention. I conclude also that we should change how we think intentions are connected to artifacts more generally, both abstract and concrete.
Relativity theory is often said to support something called ‘the four-dimensional view of reality’. But there are at least three different views that sometimes go by this name. One is ‘spacetime unitism’, according to which there is a spacetime manifold, and if there are such things as points of space or instants of time, these are just spacetime regions of different sorts: thus space and time are not separate manifolds. A second is the B-theory of time, according to which the (...) past, present, and future are all equally real and there is nothing metaphysically special about the present. A third is perdurantism, according to which persisting material objects are made up of different temporal parts located at different times. We sketch routes from relativity to unitism and to the B-theory. We then discuss some routes to perdurantism, via the B-theory and via unitism. (shrink)
Over the past few decades, feminist philosophy has become recognised as a philosophical sub-discipline in its own right. Among the ‘core’ areas of philosophy, metaphysics has nonetheless until relatively recently remained largely dismissive of it. Metaphysics typically investigates the basic structure of reality and its nature. It examines reality's putative building blocks and inherent structure supposedly ‘out there’ with the view to uncovering and elucidating that structure. For this task, feminist insights appear simply irrelevant. Moreover, the value-neutrality of metaphysics seems (...) prima facie incompatible with feminism's explicitly normative stance in that feminist philosophy involves advocacy: speaking on behalf of some group on political grounds. The prospects of feminist metaphysics thus look grim. Nonetheless, feminist philosophers have in recent years increasingly taken up explicitly metaphysical investigations. The basic ideas behind such investigations can be summed up as follows: feminist metaphysics is about negotiating the natural and going beyond the fundamental. In so doing, feminist investigations have expanded the scope of metaphysics. Further, feminist philosophers typically bring new methodological insights to bear on traditional ways of doing philosophy. With this in mind, the article considers the following questions: when thinking about philosophical methodology, how does feminist metaphysics fare relative to ‘mainstream’ metaphysics? More specifically, is feminism's political advocacy inconsistent with apparent objectivity that some prominent contemporary versions of metaphysics are committed to? (shrink)
Some philosophers are metaphilosophical deflationists for metasemantic reasons. These theorists take standard philosophical assertions to be defective in some manner. There are various versions of metasemantic metaphilosophical deflationism, but a trap awaits any global version of it: metasemantics itself is a part of philosophy, so in deflating philosophy these theorists have thereby deflated the foundation of their deflationism. The present article discusses this issue and the prospects for an adequate response to the trap. Contrary to most historical responses, the article (...) argues that the best response to the trap is to adopt a local but still pervasive metasemantic deflationism. Such a response might seem ad hoc, but the article argues that the human activity of philosophy isn't a natural kind, and that a heterogeneous metaphilosophy of the appropriate kind is well motivated. (shrink)
Among your closest associates is a certain human animal – a living, breathing, organism. You see it when you look in the mirror. When it is sick, you don't feel too well. Where it goes, you go. And, one thinks, where you go, it must follow. Indeed, you can make it move through sheer force of will. You bear, in short, an important and intimate relation to this, your animal. So too rest of us with our animals. Animalism says that (...) this relation is nothing short of identity. According to animalists, we do not only coincide with or constitute or inhabit or otherwise hang out with these close associates, our animals: we are them. In this article, I offer an opinionated take on what animalism might be and situate it against contemporary rivals. Then, I outline a simple case for animalism. Finally, I sketch non-standard routes for animalists to take in light of standard challenges. My goal in all of this is to open up some new avenues of animalist thinking. (shrink)
Mereological nihilism (henceforth just "nihilism") is the thesis that composition never occurs. Nihilism has often been defended on the basis of its theoretical simplicity, including its ontological simplicity and its ideological simplicity (roughly, nihilism's ability to do without primitive mereological predicates). In this paper I defend nihilism on the basis of the theoretical unification conferred by nihilism, which is, roughly, nihilism's capacity to allow us to take fewer phenomena as brute and inexplicable. This represents a respect in which nihilism enjoys (...) greater theoretical simplicity than its rivals which has not yet been explored, and which is immune to many of the objections which have been leveled against previous arguments for nihilism from nihilism's theoretical simplicity. Composition as identity might be thought to confer a similar degree of theoretical unification as nihilism. I end the paper by arguing that this is not the case. (shrink)
Nihilism is the thesis that no composite objects exist. Some ontologists have advocated abandoning nihilism in favor of deep nihilism, the thesis that composites do not existO, where to existO is to be in the domain of the most fundamental quantifier. By shifting from an existential to an existentialO thesis, the deep nihilist seems to secure all the benefits of a composite-free ontology without running afoul of ordinary belief in the existence of composites. I argue that, while there are well-known (...) reasons for accepting nihilism, there appears to be no reason at all to accept deep nihilism. In particular, deep nihilism draws no support either from the usual arguments for nihilism or from considerations of parsimony. (shrink)
Mereological nihilism is the thesis that there are no composite objects—i.e. objects with proper material parts. One of the main advantages of mereological nihilism is that it allows its supporters to avoid a number of notorious philosophical puzzles. However, it seems to offer this advantage only at the expense of certain widespread and deeply entrenched beliefs. In particular, it is usually assumed that mereological nihilism entails eliminativism about ordinary objects—i.e. the counterintuitive thesis that there are no such things as tables, (...) apples, cats, and the like. In this paper, I argue that this assumption is false—mereological nihilists do not need to be eliminativists about tables, apples, or cats. Non-eliminativist nihilists claim that all it takes for there to be a cat is that there are simples arranged cat-wise. More specifically, non-eliminative nihilists argue that expressions such as ‘the cat’ in sentences such as ‘The cat is on the mat’ do not refer to composite objects but only to simples arranged cat-wise and compare this metaphysical discovery to the scientific discovery that ‘water’ refers to dihydrogen oxide. Non-eliminative nihilism, I argue, is not only a coherent position, but it is preferable to its more popular, eliminativist counterpart, as it enjoys the key benefits of nihilism without incurring the prohibitive costs of eliminativism. Moreover, unlike conciliatory strategies adopted by eliminative nihilists, non-eliminative nihilism allow its supporters to account not only for how we can assert something true by saying ‘The cat is on the mat’ but also for how we can believe something true by believing that the cat is on the mat. (shrink)
The neuroscience revolution has led many scientists to posit “expansive” or “thinking” brains that instantiate rich psychological properties. As a result, some scientists now even claim you are identical to such a brain. However, Eric Olson has offered new arguments that thinking brains cannot exist due to their intuitively “abominable” implications. After situating the commitment to thinking brains in the wider scientific discussions in which they are posited, I then critically assess Olson's arguments against such entities. Although highlighting an important (...) insight, I show that Olson's objections to the existence of thinking brains fail and that a wider discussion engaging our new empirical findings is actually required in order to resolve the deeper issues. (shrink)
Can institutional objects be identified with physical objects that have been ascribed status functions, as advocated by John Searle in The Construction of Social Reality (1995)? The paper argues that the prospects of this identification hinge on how objects persist – i.e., whether they endure, perdure or exdure through time. This important connection between reductive identification and mode of persistence has been largely ignored in the literature on social ontology thus far.
What sort of thing, fundamentally, are you and I? For convenience, I use the term persimal to refer to the kind of thing we are, whatever that kind turns out to be. Accordingly, the question is, what are persimals? One possible answer is that persimalhood consists in being a human animal, but many theorists, including Derek Parfit and Jeff McMahan, not to mention John Locke, reject this idea in favor of a radically different view, according to which persimalhood consists in (...) having certain sorts of mental or psychological features. In this essay, I try to show that the animalist approach is defensible as against the mentalist approach. I also suggest that animalists have a plausible story to tell about cases such as brain transplantation and dicephaly that might appear to support the mentalist approach. (shrink)
Conjoined twinning is said to show that the number of human people—the number of us—can differ from the number of human organisms, and hence that we are not organisms. The paper shows that these arguments either assume the point at issue, rely on dubious and undefended assumptions, or add nothing to more familiar arguments for the same conclusion.
The relationship of minds, bodies, and persons has been a central topic of debate in Western philosophy and theology. This article reviews the ongoing debates about the relationship and nature of bodies, minds, and persons among contemporary Christian analytic philosophers and theologians. The first two parts present some general theological constraints for philosophical theories of persons and describe the basic concepts used (substance, property, supervenience, and physicalism). The views themselves fall into three broad categories. Dualists think that persons are either (...) identical with or partly constituted by non-physical souls. On this view, there are immaterial substances and properties. Hylomorphists maintain that persons are composites of bodies and the souls that inform them. Finally, physicalists claim that there are no immaterial parts to persons. Instead, persons are composed of bodies and brains; the mental properties they have supervene on physical properties. (shrink)
Philosophers often aim to demonstrate that the things we ordinarily think and say can be reconciled with our considered beliefs about the world. To this end, many philosophers try to paraphrase ordinary language claims by finding equivalent sentences that are less misleading. For instance, though we know that there is no British family that is the average one, we want to say that the average British family has 1.8 children, and we might do that by paraphrasing this claim as: there (...) are nearly twice as many British children as British families. This article aims to introduce and distinguish different paraphrase strategies, sketch their role in metaphysical debates and highlight some crucial questions that proponents of such strategies face. (shrink)
In this paper I assume that we have some intuitive knowledge—i.e. beliefs that amount to knowledge because they are based on intuitions. The question I take up is this: given that some intuition makes a belief based on it amount to knowledge, in virtue of what does it do so? We can ask a similar question about perception. That is: given that some perception makes a belief based on it amount to knowledge, in virtue of what does it do so? (...) A natural idea about perception is that a perception makes a belief amount to knowledge in part by making you sensorily aware of the concrete objects it is about. The analogous idea about intuition is that an intuition makes a belief amount to knowledge in part by making you intellectually aware of the abstract objects it is about. I expand both ideas into fuller accounts of perceptual and intuitive knowledge, explain the main challenge to this sort of account of intuitive knowledge (i.e. the challenge of making sense of intellectual awareness), and develop a response to it. (shrink)
Mereological nihilists are faced with a difficult challenge: explaining ordinary talk about material objects. Popular paraphrase strategies involve plurals, arrangements of particles, or fictions. In this paper, a new paraphrase strategy is put forward that has distinct advantages over its rivals: it is compatible with gunk and emergent properties of macro-objects. The only assumption is a commitment to a liberal view of the nature of simples; the nihilist must be willing to accept the possibility of heterogeneous extended simples. The author (...) suggests reinterpreting the parthood and composition relations as modal. According to this paraphrase, composition is a kind of counterpart relation. The author shows that one can accept that mereological nihilism is metaphysically necessary, while endorsing all the claims of classical mereology. As a result, the nihilists are in exactly the same position as the classical mereologist when it comes to explaining talk about ordinary objects, but without the additional ontology. (shrink)
Some Christian materialists have argued for the possibility of resurrection given that persons are constituted by bodies, and constitution is not identity. Baker's constitutionist view claims superiority over animalist alternatives but offers only circular accounts of both personal identity over time and personhood. Corcoran's alternative approaches these questions differently but makes use of Zimmerman's ‘Falling Elevator Model’ of resurrection, which is rendered incoherent by its reliance on contingent identity. A recent constitutionist revision of this model succeeds only in exchanging incoherence (...) for absurdity. Despite difficulties for such resurrection accounts, the idea of constitution as a sui generis relation remains attractive among philosophers and Christian materialists in particular. However, Wasserman's deflationary view combines with problems such as extensionality, indiscernibility and the explosion of reality to provide reason to worry that constitution might be just identity after all. If so, then the metaphysics of constitution cannot provide a convenient route between animalism and immaterialism when explaining the possibility of resurrection. (shrink)
A number of claims are closely connected with, though logically distinct from, animalism. One is that organisms cease to exist when they die. Two others concern the relation of the brain, or the brainstem, to animal life. One of these holds that the brainstem is necessary for life?more precisely, that (say) my cat's brainstem is necessary for my cat's life to continue. The other is that it is sufficient for life?more precisely, that so long as (say) my cat's brainstem continues (...) to function, so too does my cat. I argue against these claims. (shrink)
It is commonly assumed that facts would be complex entities made out of particulars and universals. This thesis, which I call Compositionalism, holds that parthood may be construed broadly enough so that the relation that holds between a fact and the entities it ‘ties’ together counts as a kind of parthood. I argue firstly that Compositionalism is incompatible with the possibility of certain kinds of fact and universal, and, secondly, that such facts and universals are possible. I conclude that Compositionalism (...) is false. What all these kinds of fact and universal have in common is a violation of supplementation principles governing any relation that may be intelligibly regarded as a kind of parthood. Although my arguments apply to Compositionalism generally, I focus on recent work by David Armstrong, who is a prominent and explicit Compositionalist. (shrink)
In "Does Four-Dimensionalism Explain Coincidence" Mark Moyer argues that there is no reason to prefer the four-dimensionalist (or perdurantist) explanation of coincidence to the three-dimensionalist (or endurantist) explanation. I argue that Moyer's formulations of perdurantism and endurantism lead him to overlook the perdurantist's advantage. A more satisfactory formulation of these views reveals a puzzle of coincidence that Moyer does not consider, and the perdurantist's treatment of this puzzle is clearly preferable.
Friends of states of affairs and structural universals appeal to a relation, structure-making, that is allegedly a kind of composition relation: structure-making ?builds? facts out of particulars and universals, and ?builds? structural universals out of unstructured universals. D. M. Armstrong, an eminent champion of structures, endorses two interesting theses concerning composition. First, that structure-making is a composition relation. Second, that it is not the only (fundamental) composition relation: Armstrong also believes in a mode of composition that he calls mereological, and (...) which he takes to be the only kind of composition recognized by his philosophical adversaries, such as David Lewis. Armstrong, accordingly, is a kind of pluralist about compositional relations: there is more than one way to make wholes from parts. In this paper, I critically evaluate Armstrong's compositional pluralism. (shrink)
It is argued that those who accept the psychological criterion of personal identity, such as Parfit and Shoemaker, should accept what I call the 'series' view of a person, according to which a person is a unified aggregate of mental events and states. As well as defending this view against objections, I argue that it allows the psychological theorist to avoid the two lives objection which the 'animalist' theorists have raised against it, an objection which causes great difficulties for the (...) conception of a person that most psychological theorists favour, the constitution view. It is also argued that the series view allows that people can body swap and teleport, which the constitution view—which takes a person to be a physical object (but a distinct physical object from the human being)—has great trouble with. (shrink)
Three-dimensionalists , sometimes referred to as endurantists, think that objects persist through time by being “wholly present” at every time they exist. But what is it for something to be wholly present at a time? It is surprisingly difficult to say. The threedimensionalist is free, of course, to take ‘is wholly present at’ as one of her theory’s primitives, but this is problematic for at least one reason: some philosophers claim not to understand her primitive. Clearly the three-dimensionalist would be (...) better off if she could state her theory in terms accessible to all. We think she can. What is needed is a definition of ‘is wholly present at’ that all can understand. in this paper, we offer one. (shrink)
In this paper I outline an alternative to hermeneutic fictionalism, an alternative I call indifferentism, with the same advantages as hermeneutic fictionalism with respect to ontological issues but avoiding some of the problems that face fictionalism. The difference between indifferentism and fictionalism is this. The fictionalist about ordinary utterances of a sentence S holds, with more orthodox views, that the speaker in some sense commits herself to the truth of S. It is only that for the fictionalist this is truth (...) in the relevant fiction. According to the indifferentist, by contrast, we are simply non-committal – or indifferent – with respect to some aspects of what is literally said in our assertive utterances. (shrink)
This paper concerns a fundamental dispute in ontology between the “Foundational Ontologist”, who believes that there is only one correct way of characterizing what there is, and the ontological “Skeptic”, who believes that there are viable alternative characterizations of what there is. I examine in detail an intriguing recent proposal in Dorr (2005), which promises to yield (i) a way of interpreting the Skeptic by means of a counterfactual semantics; and (ii) a way of converting the Skeptic to a position (...) within Foundational Ontology, viz., that of Nihilism (according to which nothing composes anything and the world consists of mereological simples); this alleged conversion crucially turns on a novel notion of “metaphysical analyticity”. I argue that both components of Dorr’s proposal are problematic in central ways: as a result, the Foundational Ontologist gains an indirect argument against the coherence of the Skeptic’s position; and the non-Nihilist Foundational Ontologist may feel confirmed in his doubts towards the Nihilist outlook. (shrink)
Descriptive metaphysics investigates our naïve ontology as this is articulated in the content of our perception or of our pre-reflective thought about the world. But is access to such content reliable? Sceptics about the standard modes of access (introspection, or language-driven intuitions) may think that investigations in descriptive metaphysics can be aided by the controlled findings of cognitive science. Cognitive scientists have studied a promising range of representational advantages, that is, ways in which cognition favours one type of entity over (...) another. The notion of representational advantage is investigated and some scepticism is expressed as to its appropriateness for use in descriptive metaphysics. (shrink)
Don Marquis has argued that abortion is immoral because it deprives the fetus of a "future like ours." But Marquis's argument fails by incorrectly assuming that a zygote and the late-term fetus with which it is physically continuous are numerically identical. In fact, the identity of a prebirth human (PBH) across gestation is indeterminate, such that it is determinately morally permissible to destroy an early-term PBH and determinately immoral to destroy a late-term PBH. Beginning at some indeterminate point during gestation (...) and ending at some indeterminate point later in gestation, destroying a PBH is neither determinately morally permissible nor determinately immoral. (shrink)
Let thin properties be properties shared by coincident entities, e.g., a person and her body, and thick properties ones that are not shared. Thick properties entail sortal properties, e.g., being a person, and the associated persistence conditions. On the first account of realization defined here, the realized property and its realizers will belong to the same individual. This restricts the physical realizers of mental properties, which are thick, to thick physical properties. We also need a sense in which mental properties (...) can be realized in thin physical properties shared by a person and her body. Defining this in turn requires defining a sense in which the instantiations of sortal properties and of thick properties are realized in micro-structural states of affairs. A fourth notion of realization is needed to allow for the possibility of coincident entities that share a sortal property, e.g., coincident persons. (shrink)
The intimate relationship between X and Y consists in the existence of (metaphysically) necessary truths correlating their occurrences/existences/instantiations. E would be in some sense “overdetermined” if caused by both X and Y.2 Some philosophers say this would be bad, that this cannot or does not happen, that we should construct theories ruling it out, at least in certain cases.3 But why? Given the necessary truths correlating objects and their parts, objects and events concerning those objects, physical and supervenient mental properties, (...) and so on, X and Y do both seem to be causes of E. Should we say that a baseball.. (shrink)