Is a whole something more than the sum of its parts? Are there things composed of the same parts? If you divide an object into parts, and divide those parts into smaller parts, will this process ever come to an end? Can something lose parts or gain new ones without ceasing to be the thing it is? Does any multitude of things (including disparate things such as you, this book, and the tail of a cat) compose a whole of some (...) sort? Questions such as these have occupied us for at least as long as philosophy has existed. They define the field that has come to be known as mereology-the study of all relations of part to whole and of part to part within a whole-and have deep and far-reaching ramifications in metaphysics as well as in logic, the foundations of mathematics, the philosophy of language, the philosophy of science, and beyond. In Mereology, A. J. Cotnoir and Achille C. Varzi have compiled decades of advanced research into a comprehensive, up-to-date, and formally rigorous picture. The early chapters cover the more classical aspects of mereology; the rest of the book deals with variants and extensions. Whether you are an established professional philosopher, an interested student, or a newcomer, inside you will find all the tools you need to join this ever-evolving field of inquiry and theorize about all things mereological. (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)
I argue that mereological nihilism fails because it cannot answer the special arrangement question: when is it true that the xs are arranged F-wise? I suggest that the answers given in the literature fail and that the obvious responses that could be made look to undermine the motivations for adopting nihilism in the first place.
According to the Weak Supplementation Principle (WSP)—a widely received principle of mereology—an object with a proper part, p , has another distinct proper part that doesn't overlap p . In a recent article in this journal, Nikk Effingham and Jon Robson employ WSP in an objection to endurantism. I defend endurantism in a way that bears on mereology in general. First, I argue that denying WSP can be motivated apart from the truth of endurantism. I then go on (...) to offer an explanation of WSP's initial appeal, argue that denying WSP fails to have untoward consequences for the rest of mereology, and show that the falsity of WSP is consistent with a primary guiding thought behind it. (shrink)
Parthood and composition are everywhere. The leg of a table is part of the table, the word "Christmas" is part of the sentence "I wish you a merry Christmas", the 13th century is part of the Middle Ages. The Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg compose Benelux, the body of a deer is composed of a huge number of cells, the Middle Ages are composed of the Early Middle Ages, High Middle Ages, and Late Middle Ages. Is there really a general theory (...) covering every instance of parthood and composition? Is classical mereology this general theory? Are its seemingly counter-intuitive features serious defects? -/- Mereology: A Philosophical Introduction addresses the multifaceted and lively philosophical debates surrounding these questions, and defends the idea that classical mereology is indeed the general and exhaustive theory of parthood and composition in the domain of concrete entities. -/- Several examples of parthood and composition, involving entities of different kinds, are scrutinised in depth. Incidentally, mereology is shown to interact in a surprising way with metaontology. Presenting a well-organized and comprehensive discussion of parthood and related notions, Mereology: A Philosophical Introduction contributes to a better understanding of a subject central to contemporary metaphysics. (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)
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)
Mereological nihilism is the thesis that composite objects—objects with proper parts—do not exist. Nihilists generally paraphrase talk of composite objects F into talk of there being “xs arranged F-wise” . Recently several philosophers have argued that nihilism is defective insofar as nihilists are either unable to say what they mean by such phrases as “there are xs arranged F-wise,” or that nihilists are unable to employ such phrases without incurring significant costs, perhaps even undermining one of the chief motivations for (...) nihilism. In this paper I defend nihilism against these objections. A key theme of the paper is this: if nihilists need to employ such phrases as “there are xs arranged F-wise,” non-nihilists will need to do so as well. Accordingly, any costs incurred by the nihilist when she employs such phrases will be shared by everyone else. What’s more, such phrases are intelligible when employed by the nihilist, as well as when they are employed by the non-nihilist, insofar as analyses of such phrases will not essentially involve mereological concepts incompatible with nihilism. (shrink)
This volume is the first systematic and thorough attempt to investigate the relation and the possible applications of mereology to contemporary science. It gathers contributions from leading scholars in the field and covers a wide range of scientific theories and practices such as physics, mathematics, chemistry, biology, computer science and engineering. Throughout the volume, a variety of foundational issues are investigated both from the formal and the empirical point of view. The first section looks at the topic as it (...) applies to physics. The section addresses questions of persistence and composition within quantum and relativistic physics and concludes by scrutinizing the possibility to capture continuity of motion as described by our best physical theories within gunky space times. The second part tackles mathematics and shows how to provide a foundation for point-free geometry of space switching to fuzzy-logic. The relation between mereological sums and set-theoretic suprema is investigated and issues about different mereological perspectives such as classical and natural Mereology are thoroughly discussed. The third section in the volume looks at natural science. Several questions from biology, medicine and chemistry are investigated. From the perspective of biology, there is an attempt to provide axioms for inferring statements about part hood between two biological entities from statements about their spatial relation. From the perspective of chemistry, it is argued that classical mereological frameworks are not adequate to capture the practices of chemistry in that they consider neither temporal nor modal parameters. The final part introduces computer science and engineering. A new formal mereological framework in which an indeterminate relation of part hood is taken as a primitive notion is constructed and then applied to a wide variety of disciplines from robotics to knowledge engineering. A formal framework for discrete mereotopology and its applications is developed and finally, the importance of mereology for the relatively new science of domain engineering is also discussed. (shrink)
Mereological nihilism is the thesis that composition never occurs. Sider has defended nihilism on the basis of its relative ideological simplicity. In this paper I develop the argument from ideological simplicity, and defend it from some recent objections. Along the way I discuss the best way to formulate nihilism, what it means for a theory to exhibit lesser or greater degrees of ideological simplicity, the relationship between the parthood relation and the identity relation, and the notion that we should judge (...) the ideological simplicity of competing theories on the basis of the kinds of ideological commitments required by those theories. (shrink)
Mereological principles are sometimes used to support general claims about the structure and arrangement of objects in the world. I focus initially on one such mereological principle, the weak supplementation principle (WSP). It is not obvious that (WSP) is prescribed by ordinary thinking about parthood. Further, (WSP) is not needed for a fairly strong formal characterization of the part–whole relation. For these reasons, some arguments relying on (WSP) might be countered by simply denying (WSP). I argue more generally that there (...) is no reason to assume that one core mereology functions as a common basis for all plausible metaphysical theories. (shrink)
This paper explores the mereology of structural universals, using the structural richness of a non-classical mereology without unique fusions. The paper focuses on a problem posed by David Lewis, who using the example of methane, and assuming classical mereology, argues against any purely mereological theory of structural universals. The problem is that being a methane molecule would have to contain being a hydrogen atom four times over, but mereology does not have the concept of the same (...) part occurring several times. This paper takes up the challenge by providing mereological analysis of three operations sufficient for a theory of structural universals: Reflexive binding, i.e. identifying two of the places of a universal; Existential binding, i.e. the language-independent correlate of an existential quantification; and Conjunction. (shrink)
Mereological nihilists hold that composition never occurs, so that nothing is ever a proper part of anything else. Substance dualists generally hold that we are each identical with an immaterial soul. In this paper, I argue that every popular objection to substance dualism has a parallel objection to composition. This thesis has some interesting implications. First, many of those who reject composition, but accept substance dualism, or who reject substance dualism and accept composition, have some explaining to do. Secondly, one (...) popular objection to mereological nihilism, one which contends that mereological nihilism is objectionable insofar as it is incompatible with the existence of people, is untenable. (shrink)
Paul (Noûs 36:578–596, 2002; Noûs 40:623–659, 2006, The Handbook of Mereology, forthcoming) has argued for a bundle theory of objects that analyzes the bundling relation between properties and objects in terms of parthood relations. In this paper I argue that any mereological bundle theory with the explanatory power of Paul’s theory will entail the principle of the identity of indiscernibles (PII). This is problematic, since similar bundle theories seem to fall to Max Black’s two sphere counterexample to (PII). I (...) argue, however, that a fully developed mereological bundle theory provides a new way of interpreting Black’s two sphere universe that dispels the counterexample. I argue that this solution to Black’s puzzle is superior to other solutions on offer, and consequently that mereological bundle theory is an attractive ontological strategy for friends of (PII). (shrink)
A team of leading philosophers presents original work on theories of parthood and location. Topics covered include how we ought to axiomatise our mereology; whether we can reduce mereological relations to identity or to locative relations; whether Mereological Essentialism is true; and what mereology and propositions can tell us about one another.
It is well-known that the entangled quantum state of a composite object cannot be reduced to the states of its parts. This quantum holism provides a peculiar challenge to formulate an appropriate mereological model: When a system is in an entangled state, which objects are there on the micro and macro level, and which of the objects carries which properties? This paper chooses a modeling approach to answer these questions: It proceeds from a systematic overview of consistent mereological models for (...) entangled systems and discusses which of them is compatible with the quantum mechanical evidence (where quantum states are understood realistically). It reveals that entangled quantum systems neither describe undivided wholes nor objects that stand in irreducible relations. The appropriate model assumes that the entangled property is an irreducible non-relational plural property carried collectively by the micro objects, while there is no macro object. In this sense, quantum holism is an instance of property holism, not of object holism. (shrink)
Classical mereology (CM) is usually taken to be formulated in a tenseless language, and is therefore associated with a four-dimensionalist metaphysics. This paper presents three ways one might integrate the core idea of flat plenitude, i.e., that every suitable condition or property has exactly one mereological fusion, with a tensed logical setting. All require a revised notion of mereological fusion. The candidates differ over how they conceive parthood to interact with existence in time, which connects to the distinction between (...) endurance and perdurance. Similar issues arise for the integration of mereology with modality, and much of our discussion applies to this project as well. (shrink)
Classical mereology is a formal theory of the part-whole relation, essentially involving a notion of mereological fusion, or sum. There are various different definitions of fusion in the literature, and various axiomatizations for classical mereology. Though the equivalence of the definitions of fusion is provable from axiom sets, the definitions are not logically equivalent, and, hence, are not inter-changeable when laying down the axioms. We examine the relations between the main definitions of fusion and correct some technical errors (...) in prominent discussions of the axiomatization of mereology. We show the equivalence of four different ways to axiomatize classical mereology, using three different notions of fusion. We also clarify the connection between classical mereology and complete Boolean algebra by giving two "neutral" axiom sets which can be supplemented by one or the other of two simple axioms to yield the full theories; one of these uses a notion of "strong complement" that helps explicate the connections between the theories. (shrink)
Core principles of mereology have been questioned by appealing to time travel scenarios. This paper questions the methodology of employing time travel scenarios to argue against mereology. We show some time travel scenarios are structurally equivalent to more standard ones not involving time travel; and that the three main theories about persistence through time can each solve both the time travel scenario as well as the structurally similar classical scenario. Time travel scenarios that are not similar to more (...) standard arguments are instead problematic because they are open to different, incompatible interpretations. We conclude that compared to the classical arguments against mereological principles, time travel scenarios do not add anything new. (shrink)
When do several objects compose a further object? The last twenty years have seen a great deal of discussion of this question. According to the most popular view on the market, there is a physical object composed of your brain and Jeremy Bentham’s body. According to the second-most popular view on the market, there are no such objects as human brains or human bodies, and there are also no atoms, rocks, tables, or stars. And according to the third-ranked view, there (...) are human bodies, but still no brains, atoms, rocks, tables, or stars. Although it’s pleasant to have so many crazy-sounding views around, I think it would also be nice to have a commonsense option available. The aim of this paper is to offer such an option. The approach I offer begins by considering a mereological question other than the standard one that has been the focus of most discussions in the literature. I try to show that the road to mereological sanity begins with giving the most straightforward and commonsensical answer to this other question, and then extending that answer to further questions about the mereology of physical objects. On the approach I am recommending, it turns out that all of the mereological properties and relations of physical objects are determined by their spatial properties and relations. (shrink)
Part One of this paper is a case against classical mereology and for Heyting mereology. This case proceeds by first undermining the appeal of classical mereology and then showing how it fails to cohere with our intuitions about a measure of quantity. Part Two shows how Heyting mereology provides an account of sets and classes without resort to any nonmereological primitive.
Mereological nihilism is the view that there are no composite objects; everything in existence is mereologically simple. The view is subject to a number of difficulties, one of which concerns what I call the problem of emergence. Very briefly, the problem is that nihilism seems to be incompatible with emergent properties; it seems to rule out their very possibility. This is a problem because there are good independent reasons to believe that emergent properties are possible. This paper provides a solution (...) to the problem. I will show that nihilism and emergence are perfectly compatible, providing one accepts a novel understanding of how objects can instantiate properties: what I call irreducibly collective instantiation. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
This paper offers a critical reconstruction of the motivations that led to the development of mereology as we know it today, along with a brief description of some problems that define current research in the field.
Mereological nihilism is the philosophical position that there are no items that have parts. If there are no items with parts then the only items that exist are partless fundamental particles, such as the true atoms (also called philosophical atoms) theorized to exist by some ancient philosophers, some contemporary physicists, and some contemporary philosophers. With several novel arguments I show that mereological nihilism is the correct theory of reality. I will also discuss strong similarities that mereological nihilism has with empirical (...) results in quantum physics. And I will discuss how mereological nihilism vindicates a few other theories, such as a very specific theory of philosophical atomism, which I will call quantum abstract atomism. I will show that mereological nihilism also is an interpretation of quantum mechanics that avoids the problems of other interpretations, such as the widely known, metaphysically generated, quantum paradoxes of quantum physics, which ironically are typically accepted as facts about reality. I will also show why it is very surprising that mereological nihilism is not a widely held theory, and not the premier theory in philosophy. (shrink)
This article motivates and develops a reductive account of the structure of certain physical quantities in terms of their mereology. That is, I argue that quantitative relations like "longer than" or "3.6-times the volume of" can be analyzed in terms of necessary constraints those quantities put on the mereological structure of their instances. The resulting account, I argue, is able to capture the intuition that these quantitative relations are intrinsic to the physical systems they’re called upon to describe and (...) explain. (shrink)
The body is made up of parts. This basic assumption is central in most neuroscientific studies of bodily sensation, body representation and motor action. Yet, the assumption has rarely been considered explicitly. We may indeed ask how the body is internally segmented and how body parts can be defined. That is, how can we sketch the mereology of the body? Here we distinguish between a somatosensory mereology and a motor mereology.
It is often assumed that indeterminacy in mereological relations—in particular, indeterminacy in which collections of objects have fusions—leads immediately to indeterminacy in what objects there are in the world. This assumption is generally taken as a reason for rejecting mereological vagueness. The purpose of this paper is to examine the link between mereological vagueness and existential vagueness. I hope to show that the connection between the two forms of vagueness is not nearly so clear-cut as has been supposed.
Mulliken proposed an Aufbauprinzip for the molecules on the basis of molecular spectroscopy while establishing, point by point, his concept of molecular orbit. It is the concept of electronic state which becomes the lever for his attribution of electronic configurations to a molecule. In 1932, the concept of orbit was transmuted into that of the molecular orbital to integrate the probabilistic approach of Born and to achieve quantitative accuracy. On the basis of the quantum works of Hund, Wigner, Lennard-Jones and (...) group theory, he suggested the fragment method to establish the characteristics of molecular orbital for polyatomic molecules. These developments make it possible to bring elements of thought on the relation between a molecular whole and its parts . An operational realism combined with the second law of thermodynamics can pave the way for interesting tracks in the mereological study of chemical systems. (shrink)
Mereology is the logic of part—whole concepts as they are used in many different contexts. The old chemical metaphysics of atoms and molecules seems to fit classical mereology very well. However, when functional attributes are added to part specifications and quantum mechanical considerations are also added, the rules of classical mereology are breached in chemical discourses. A set theoretical alternative mereology is also found wanting. Molecular orbital theory requires a metaphysics of affordances that also stands outside (...) classical mereology. (shrink)
This study has two goals: first, to show that Avicenna’s account of being and thing significantly influenced Aquinas’s doctrine of the primary notions; second, to establish the value of adopting a mereological construal of these primary notions in the metaphysics of Avicenna and Aquinas. I begin with an explication of the mereological construal of the primary notions that casts these notions in terms of wholes and parts. Being and thing refer to the same entitative whole and have the same extension, (...) but they are distinct in intension according to the different entitative parts they signify. Existence and essence constitute the two most fundamental entitative parts of every entitative whole. Being is taken to mean that which has existence, and thing signifies that which has essence. I then show how this mereological construal of the primary notions clarifies a number of texts in Avicenna and Aquinas. Finally, I address a few arguments against employing this mereological interpretation of the primary notions. (shrink)
Bundle theory takes objects to be bundles of properties. Some bundle theorists take objects to be bundles of instantiated universals, and some take objects to be bundles of tropes. Tropes are instances of properties: some take instantiated universals to be tropes, while others deny the existence of universals and take tropes to be ontologically fundamental. Historically, the bundling relation has been taken to be a primitive relation, not analyzable in terms of or ontologically reducible to some other relation, and has (...) been variously characterized as, e.g., “compresence,” “concurrence,” or “consubstantiation.” Bertrand Russell (1940) defends compresence of universals, and Hector-Neri Castañeda (1974) defends consubstantiation of universals. John Bacon (1995) defends concurrent tropes and Keith Campbell (1990) defends compresent tropes. Jonathan Schaffer (2001) bucks this trend, endorsing compresence understood as co-location in spacetime, but this brings with it undesireable consequences such as the impossibility of distinguishing between objects (such as electrons or other microentities) with the same location. Mereological bundle theory improves upon traditional bundle theory by taking the primitive relation of bundling to be the more familiar relation of fusing or composing, such that objects are fusions of properties or fusions of property instances. Hence, mereological bundle theorists endorse a property mereology: a mereology where properties or property instances can be parts of objects. An advantage of the approach derives from the fact that standard mereologies take composition to be primitive or define it using a different primitive mereological notion (such as primitive parthood). Thus, taking the basic primitive of bundle theory to be composition can reduce the need for.. (shrink)
According to commonsense, some collections of objects compose wholes, and others do not. However, philosophers have found serious difficulties with attempts to preserve this thesis, and especially with attempts to preserve the existence of just those composite objects recognized by commonsense. In this paper, I defend a classical solution to this problem: "it is the mind that maketh each thing to be one" (Berkeley, Siris, sect. 356). According to this view, which I call 'mereological idealism,' it is when a plurality (...) is united in thought under a concept that a unified whole comes to exist. After explaining the view in more detail, I show how it escapes three standard arguments against commonsense views of composition. (shrink)
According to Lewis, mereology is the general and exhaustive theory of ontological composition, and every contingent feature of the world supervenes upon some fundamental properties instantiated by minimal entities. A profound analogy can be drawn between these two basic contentions of his metaphysics, namely that both can be intended as a denial of emergentism. In this essay, we study the relationships between Humean supervenience and two philosophical spin-offs of mereological monism: the possibility of gunk and the thesis of composition (...) as identity. In a gunky scenario, there are no atoms and, thus, some criteria alternative to mereological atomicity must be introduced in order to identify the bearers of fundamental properties; this introduction creates a precedent, which renders the restriction of the additional criteria to gunky scenarios arbitrary. On the other hand, composition as identity either extends the principle of indiscernibility of identicals to composition or is forced to replace indiscernibility with a surrogate; both alternatives lead to the postulation of a symmetric kind of supervenience which, in contrast to Humean supervenience, does not countenance a privileged level. Both gunk and composition as identity, thus, display a tension with Humean supervenience. (shrink)
This paper defends Mereological Universalism(the thesis that, for any set S of disjoint objects, there is an object that the members of S compose. Universalism is unpalatable to many philosophers because it entails that if there are such things as my left tennis shoe, W. V. Quine, and the Taj Mahal, then there is another object that those three things compose. This paper presents and criticizes Peter van Inwagen's argument against Universalism and then presents a new argument in favor of (...) Universalism. It turns out that the most reasonable way to resist the argument for Universalism is to deny the existence of artifacts; thus, if we believe in artifacts, we have no real choice other than to embrace Universalism. (shrink)
This chapter takes a close look at the thought that mereological relations on material objects mirror, and are mirrored by, parallel mereological relations on their exact locations. This hypothesis is made more precise by means of a battery of principles from which more substantive consequences are derived. Mereological harmony turns out to entail, for example, that atomistic space is an inhospitable environment for material gunk or that Whiteheadian space is not a hospitable environment for unextended material atoms.
Multilocation and Minimal Mereology do not mix well. It has been pointed out that Three-Dimensionalism, which can be construed as multilocation-friendly, runs into trouble with Weak Supplementation. But in fact, regardless of one’s theory of persistence, if someone posits the possibility of any one of several kinds of multilocation, he or she will not be able to maintain the necessity of any of the three axioms of Minimal Mereology: the Transitivity of Proper Parthood, the Asymmetry of Proper Parthood, (...) and Weak Supplementation. In fact, positing even the mere conceivability of cases involving multilocation will require the denial of the analyticity of Minimal Mereology. In response to this, some have claimed that we ought to relativise parthood, either to one region or to two. Unfortunately, if we replace the axioms of Minimal Mereology with region-relativised counterparts, we will not be able to capture the intuitions that supported the original axioms. The only adequate solution, I maintain, is to restrict multilocation to a domain outside the scope of the rules we intuitively take to govern the parthood relation. For those who take Minimal Mereology to be necessary and universal, that will mean relinquishing the possibility of multilocation. (shrink)
We study the question of how to decompose Hilbert space into a preferred tensor-product factorization without any pre-existing structure other than a Hamiltonian operator, in particular the case of a bipartite decomposition into "system" and "environment." Such a decomposition can be defined by looking for subsystems that exhibit quasi-classical behavior. The correct decomposition is one in which pointer states of the system are relatively robust against environmental monitoring (their entanglement with the environment does not continually and dramatically increase) and remain (...) localized around approximately-classical trajectories. We present an in-principle algorithm for finding such a decomposition by minimizing a combination of entanglement growth and internal spreading of the system. Both of these properties are related to locality in different ways. This formalism could be relevant to the emergence of spacetime from quantum entanglement. (shrink)
In this paper, we argue that time travel is problematic for the endurantist. For it appears to be possible, given time travel, to construct a wall out of a single time travelling brick. This commits the endurantist to one of the following: (a) the wall is composed of the time travelling brick many times over; (b) the wall does not in fact exist at all; (c) the wall is identical to the brick. We argue that each of these options is (...) unsatisfactory. (shrink)
This paper takes a close look at the thought that mereological relations on material objects mirror, and are mirrored by, parallel mereological relations on their exact locations. This hypothesis is made more precise by means of a battery of principles from which more substantive consequences are derived. Mereological harmony turns out to entail, for example, that atomistic space is an inhospitable environment for material gunk or that Whiteheadian space is not a hospitable environment for unextended material atoms.
In this paper I offer an argument against one important version of panentheism, that is, mereological panentheism. Although panentheism has proven difficult to define, I provide a working definition of the view, and proceed to argue that given this way of thinking about the doctrine, mereological accounts of panentheism have serious theological drawbacks. I then explore some of these theological drawbacks. In a concluding section I give some reasons for thinking that the classical theistic alternative to panentheism is preferable, all (...) things considered. (shrink)
Many philosophers think not. Many philosophers, in fact, seem to suppose that anyone who raises the question whether mereological sums can change their parts displays thereby a failure to grasp an essential feature of the concept “mereological sum.” It is hard to point to an indisputable example of this in print,[i] but it is a thesis I hear put forward very frequently in conversation (sometimes it is put forward in the form of an incredulous stare after I have said something (...) that implies that mereological sums can change their parts). (shrink)
This paper presents and defends an account of the coincidence of biological organisms with mereological sums of their material components. That is, an organism and the sum of its material components are distinct material objects existing in the same place at the same time. Instead of relying on historical or modal differences to show how such coincident entities are distinct, this paper argues that there is a class of physiological properties of biological organisms that their coincident mereological sums do not (...) have. The account answers some of the most pressing objections to coincidence, for example the so-called grounding problem , that material coincidence seems to require that coinciding objects have modal differences that do not supervene on any other properties. (shrink)
The relative merits of standard mereology have received quite a bit of attention in recent years from metaphysicians concerned with the part/whole properties of material objects. A question that has not been pursued to the same degree, however, is what sort of semantic repercussions a commitment to mereological sums in the standard sense might have in particular on the predicted behavior of singular terms and our practices of using such terms to refer to objects. The apparent mismatch between our (...) actual referential practices and the persistence conditions attributed to material objects by the supporters of standard mereology puts these philosophers, other things being equal, at a disadvantage compared to those whose ontology matches more closely the observed behavior of singular terms, as they are commonly used in ordinary discourse. To alleviate this problem, David Lewis leans heavily on his distinction between natural and non-natural properties. I argue in this paper that Lewis’ already heavily burdened natural/non-natural distinction among properties is not enough to avoid Quinean indeterminacy for singular terms. Those who are in the business of giving an analysis of constructions involving full-fledged predication, as opposed to the mere spatial overlap of denotations, will thus want to go in for an ontology that places more stringent structural constraints on the referents of singular terms than would be supplied by standard mereology. (shrink)