Composition as identity, now with all the pluralities you could want

Synthese 199 (3-4):8047-8068 (2021)


According to ‘composition as identity’, a composite object is identical to all its parts taken together. Thus, a plurality of composite objects is identical to the plurality of those objects’ parts. This has the consequence that, e.g., the bricks which compose a brick wall are identical to the atoms which compose those bricks, and hence that the plurality of bricks must include each of those atoms. This consequence of CAI is in direct conflict with the standard analysis of plural definite descriptions. According to that analysis, the denotation of ‘the bricks’ can include only bricks. It seems, then, that if CAI is true, ‘the bricks’ doesn’t denote anything; more generally, if CAI is true, there are fewer pluralities than we ordinarily think. I respond to this argument by developing an alternative analysis of plural descriptions which allows the denotation of ‘the bricks’ to include non-bricks. Thus, we can accept CAI, while still believing in all the pluralities we could want. As a bonus, my approach to plural descriptions and plural comprehension blocks recent arguments to the effect that CAI entails compositional nihilism.

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Jonathan D. Payton
Bilkent University

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Writing the Book of the World.Theodore Sider - 2011 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
Plural Predication.Thomas McKay - 2006 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
Parthood.Theodore Sider - 2007 - Philosophical Review 116 (1):51-91.

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