Essential properties and coinciding objects

Common sense believes in objects which, if real, routinely lose component parts or particles. Statues get chipped, people undergo haircuts and amputations, and ships have planks replaced. Sometimes philosophers argue that in addition to these objects, there are others which could not possibly lose any of their parts or particles, nor have new ones added to them--objects which could not possibly have been bigger or smaller, at any time, than how they actually were.1 (Sometimes the restriction on size is argued independently of the restriction on switches of parts.2) If these other objects are real at all, they are alarmingly abundant. Exactly where the statue sits, there sits a parcel or piece of clay which would cease to be itself, and hence cease to exist, were even so small a part as the statue's nose removed.3 In exactly the place where the recently reconditioned ship is found, there is a mass of wood which never contained, and never could contain, any particles of wood--or bits of wood-stuff--other than those it now has.4 Moreover, since masses of matter (or "aggregates") can continue to exist even if divided into separate parts, while parcels cannot, the abundance is two-fold: where every parcel is found, there is also a mass.5 But how can there be room for all these additional objects if, at any time, two different objects cannot occupy exactly the same place? Or, worse, if even some of these additional objects are real, how can room remain for familiar objects? Recent treatments of this ancient puzzle have urged that we retain both "the principle of one object to a place" and the other ontological assumptions which make that principle seem to force a choice between affirming the reality of familiar objects, and that of the strangely brittle intruders.6 But all the recent treatments have left standing the reality of at least some of these brittle objects.7 By doing so they have passed up what is, perhaps, the simplest and safest response to the ancient puzzle..
Keywords Analytic Philosophy  Contemporary Philosophy  Philosophy of Mind
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ISBN(s) 0031-8205  
DOI 10.2307/2653511
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