Mereology and modality

In Shieva Kleinschmidt (ed.), Mereology and Location. Oxford University Press. pp. 33-56 (2014)
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Abstract

Do mereological fusions have their parts necessarily? None of the axioms of non-modal formulations of classical mereology appear to speak directly to this question. And yet a great many philosophers who take the part-whole relation to be governed by classical mereology seem to assume that they do. In addition to this, many philosophers who make allowance for the part-whole relation to obtain merely contingently between a part and a mereological fusion tend to depart from non-modal formulations of classical mereology at least when it comes to the axiom of Unique Fusion, which states that no two different mereological fusions ever fuse exactly the same objects. This is no coincidence. There are reasons of principle why one’s adherence to classical mereology should exert some pull towards the view that mereological fusions have their parts necessarily. There is, however, no direct route from the combination of classical mereology and propositional modal logic to the hypothesis that the part-whole relation obtains necessarily between a part and a mereological fusion. In order to bridge between a modal formulation of classical mereology and the hypothesis that fusions have their parts necessarily, one needs to strengthen the axiom of Unrestricted Fusion in a way that is agreeable to many philosophers on both sides of the debate.

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Gabriel Uzquiano
University of Southern California

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