The problem of the many, many composition questions, and naive mereology

Noûs 27 (2):219-228 (1993)
Naive mereology studies ordinary, common-sense beliefs about part and whole. Some of the speculations in this article on naive mereology do not bear directly on Peter van Inwagen's "Material Beings". The other topics, (1) and (2), both do. (1) Here is an example of Peter Unger's "Problem of the Many". How can a table be a collection of atoms when many collections of atoms have equally strong claims to be that table? Van Inwagen invokes fuzzy sets to solve this problem. I claim that an alternative treatment of vagueness, supervaluations over many-value valuations, provides a better solution. (2) The Special Composition Question asks how parts compose a whole. One who rejects van Inwagen's answer in terms of constituting a life need not provide some alternative answer. Even if all answers to the Special Question fail, there are a multitude of less general composition questions that are not so difficult.
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DOI 10.2307/2215757
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