Mereological nihilism says that there do not exist (in the fundamental sense) any objects with proper parts. A reason to accept it is that we can thereby eliminate 'part' from fundamental ideology. Many purported reasons to reject it - based on common sense, perception, and the possibility of gunk, for example - are weak. A more powerful reason is that composite objects seem needed for spacetime physics; but sets suffice instead.
I argue that from a very weak recombination principle and plausible assumptions about the nature of parthood and location it follows that it's possible that the mereological structure of the material world and that of spacetime fail to correspond to one another in very radical ways. I defend, moreover, that rejecting the possibility of such failures of correspondence leaves us with a choice of equally radical alternatives. I also discuss a few ways in which their possibility is relevant to (...) various debates in metaphysics. (shrink)
There will be a few themes. One to get us going: expansion versus contraction. About an object, o, and the region, R, of space(time) in which o is exactly located,1 we may ask: i) must there exist expansions of o: objects in filled superregions2 of R? ii) must there exist contractions of o: objects in filled subregions of..
This chapter argues that from a particularly weak recombination principle and plausible assumptions about the nature of parthood and location, it follows that it is possible that the mereological structure of the material world and that of space-time fail to correspond to one another in very radical ways. The chapter suggests, moreover, that rejecting the possibility of such failures of correspondence leaves us with a choice of no less unappealing alternatives. It also discusses a few ways in which their (...) possibility is relevant to various important debates in metaphysics. (shrink)
Is part of a perfectly natural, or fundamental, relation? Philosophers have been hesitant to take a stand on this issue. One reason for this hesitancy is the worry that, if parthood is perfectly natural, then the perfectly natural properties and relations are not suitably “independent” of one another. In this paper, I argue that parthood is a perfectly natural relation. In so doing, I argue that this “independence” worry is unfounded. I conclude by noting some consequences of the (...) naturalness of parthood. (shrink)
According to a well known, yet controversial metaphysical thesis, Composition is Identity. Recently, Kris McDaniel has articulated and defended a related—and arguably more controversial—thesis, one he calls Parthood is Identity. Roughly the view has it that a whole is, strictly and literally, identical to each of its parts considered individually. At first sight, the view seems rather implausible. However, McDaniel’s formulation and defense are worthy of a serious discussion. In this paper I put forth such a discussion. The result (...) is what we should have expected all along: PI is not only implausible, but arguably false. (shrink)
I focus on three mereological principles: the Extensionality of Parthood (EP), the Uniqueness of Composition (UC), and the Extensionality of Composition (EC). These principles are not equivalent. Nonetheless, they are closely related (and often equated) as they all reflect the basic nominalistic dictum, No difference without a difference maker. And each one of them—individually or collectively—has been challenged on philosophical grounds. In the first part I argue that such challenges do not quite threaten EP insofar as they are either (...) self-defeating or unsupported. In the second part I argue that they hardly undermine the tenability of EC and UC as well. (shrink)
What is a temporal part? Most accounts explain it in terms of timeless parthood: a thing's having a part without temporal qualification. Some find this hard to understand, and thus find the view that persisting things have temporal parts--fourdimensionalism--unintelligible. T. Sider offers to help by defining temporal parthood in terms of a thing's having a part at a time. I argue that no such account can capture the notion of a temporal part that figures in orthodox four-dimensionalism: temporal (...) parts must be timeless parts. This enables us to state four-dimensionalism more clearly. (shrink)
It is plausible that the universe exists: a thing such that absolutely everything is a part of it. It is also plausible that singular, structured propositions exist: propositions that literally have individuals as parts. Furthermore, it is plausible that for each thing, there is a singular, structured proposition that has it as a part. Finally, it is plausible that parthood is a partial ordering: reflexive, transitive, and anti-symmetric. These plausible claims cannot all be correct. We canvass some costs of (...) denying each claim and conclude that parthood is not a partial ordering. Provided that the relevant entities exist, parthood is not anti-symmetric and proper parthood is neither asymmetric nor transitive. (shrink)
There are three families of solutions to the traditional Amputation Paradox: Eliminativism, Contingent Identity Theories, and Theories of Coincident Entities. Theories of Coincident Entities challenge our common understanding of the relation between identity and parthood, since they accept that two things can be mereologically coincident without being identical. The contemporary discussion of the Amputation Paradox tends to mention only one theory of Coincident Entities, namely the Constitution View, which violates the mereological principle of Extensionality. But in fact, there is (...) another theory, namely the Unique Part View, which violates another mereological principle. In this paper, I argue that the contemporary focus on the Constitution View is unmotivated, at least when we are confronted with the Amputation Paradox, and that a balanced comparison of the two views should favour the Unique Part View. (shrink)
The premise of biological modularity is an ontological claim that appears to come out of practice. We understand that the biological world is modular because we can manipulate different parts of organisms in ways that would only work if there were discrete parts that were interchangeable. This is the foundation of the BioBrick assembly method widely used in synthetic biology. It is one of a number of methods that allows practitioners to construct and reconstruct biological pathways and devices using DNA (...) libraries of standardized parts with known functions. In this paper, we investigate how the practice of synthetic biology reconfigures biological understanding of the key concepts of modularity and evolvability. We illustrate how this practice approach takes engineering knowledge and uses it to try to understand biological organization by showing how the construction of functional parts and processes can be used in synthetic experimental evolution. We introduce a new approach within synthetic biology that uses the premise of a parts-based ontology together with that of organismal self-organization to optimize orthogonal metabolic pathways in E. coli. We then use this and other examples to help characterize semisynthetic categories of modularity, parthood, and evolvability within the discipline. (shrink)
According to some views of reality, some objects are fundamental and other objects depend for their existence upon these fundamental objects. In this article, I argue that we have reason to reject these views.
Despite having faced severe criticism in the past, mereological approaches to group ontology, which argue that groups are wholes and that groups members are parts, have recently managed a comeback. Authors such as Katherine Ritchie and Paul Sheehy have applied neo-Aristotelian mereology to groups, and Katherine Hawley has defended mereological approaches against the standard objections in the literature. The present paper develops the mereological approaches to group ontology further and proposes an analysis of group membership as parthood plus further (...) restrictions. While all mereological accounts agree that group members are parts of the group, it has become clear that this analysis is insufficient. I discuss three proposals to develop the mereological analysis of group membership and then put forward a combined solution to the puzzle. According to my proposal, the members of a reading group are agents who are part of the group and have been designated to contribute to the group. (shrink)
Defenders of the subset view of realization have claimed that we can resolve well-known worries about mental-physical causal overdetermination by holding that mental properties are subset realized by physical properties, that instances of subset realized properties are parts of physical realizers, and that part-whole overdetermination is unproblematic. I challenge the claim that the overdetermination generated by the subset view can be legitimated by appealing to more mundane part-whole overdetermination. I conclude that the subset view does not provide a unique solution (...) to overdetermination worries. (shrink)
The pivotal role of the relation part-of in the description of living organisms is widely acknowledged. Organisms are open systems, which means that in contradistinction to mechanical artifacts they are characterized by a continuous flow and exchange of matter. A closer analysis of the spatial relations in biological organisms reveals that the decision as to whether a given particular is part-of a second particular or whether it is only contained-in the second particular is often controversial. We here propose a rule-based (...) approach which allows us to decide on the basis of well-defined criteria which of the two relations holds between two anatomical objects, given that one spatially includes the other. We discuss the advantages and limitations of this approach, using concrete examples from human anatomy. (shrink)
Consider the things that exist—the entities—and let us suppose they are mereologically structured, that is, some are parts of others. The project of ontology within the bounds of bare mereology use this structure to say which of these entities belong to various ontological kinds, such as properties and particulars. My purpose in this paper is to defend the most radical section of the project, the mereological theory of the exemplification of universals. Along the way I help myself to several hypotheses: (...) the existence of merely possible worlds; that particulars have thisnesses; and that mereology is far from classical. Moreover, the way I characterize instantiation might be judged too complicated to be plausible. At the end of the paper, I reply to these objections based on complexity. (shrink)
That parthood is a transitive relation is among the most basic principles of classical mereology. Alas, it is also very controversial. In a recent paper, Ingvar Johansson has put forward a novel diagnosis of the problem, along with a corresponding solution. The diagnosis is on the right track, I argue, but the solution is misleading. And once the pieces are properly put together, we end up with a reinforcement of the standard defense of transitivity on behalf of classical mereology.
Structural properties are properties something has in virtue of its mereological structure in that they are properties whose instantiation by a particular involves the parts of the particular being propertied and related in the appropriate way. Most of the literature on structural properties has focused on problems that arise from the pairing of two assumptions: (1) structural properties are universals and (2) structural properties are, in some sense, composed of the properties they involve. Chief among these difficulties is David Lewis’ (...) claim that the conjunction of (1) and (2) require non-unique composition and hence entail the denial of the extensionality of parthood: butane, as well as methane, is composed of the universals carbon, hydrogen and bonded, yet they are distinct properties. This is the extensionality problem. In this paper I discuss a different problem for the conjunction of (1) and (2) and propose a single solution to both problems. First, in section two, I introduce the idea of multiple decomposition and suggest that at least some structural properties are multiply decomposable. In section three, I introduce the “problem of multiple decompositions.” This problem arises when it seems possible for a structural property to be composed of some xs and some ys even when the xs ≠ ys. Finally, in section four I show how both problems admit of a single solution by focusing on the parthood relation that holds between structural properties and their constituents. While the solution I propose is theoretically costly, I argue that this cost should be paid to retain both (1) and (2). (shrink)
David Lewis famously argued against structural universals since they allegedly required what he called a composition “sui generis” that differed from standard mereological com¬position. In this paper it is shown that, although traditional Boolean mereology does not describe parthood and composition in its full generality, a better and more comprehensive theory is provided by the foundational theory of categories. In this category-theoretical framework a theory of structural universals can be formulated that overcomes the conceptual difficulties that Lewis and his (...) followers regarded as unsurmountable. As a concrete example of structural universals groups are considered in some detail. (shrink)
In “Extensionality of Parthood and Composition,”1 Achille Varzi mounts a spirited defense of the extensionality of parthood, or ‘EP’. According to EP, if x and y are composite objects with all the same proper parts then x = y.2 A number of philosophers, he notes, have objected that EP is false on the grounds that, for example, a statue and lump of clay (or a tinkertoy house and the wood from which it is made, in Varzi’s example) are (...) distinct yet share all their proper parts. A number of considerations — for example, that a statue and lump of clay have different persistence conditions — are commonly raised to support this non-extensionalist conclusion. Varzi maintains, on the other hand, that this case and others like it do not support non-extensionalism. However, there are reasons to doubt the cogency of his argument. In outline, Varzi’s argument runs as follows. Suppose that (i) α and β are (say) a statue and a lump, respectively,3 and also suppose that (ii) α = β. ∗This is a draft and so unsuitable for citation in any form. Any comments or suggestions are welcome and can be emailed to me at email@example.com. Check back periodically for newer versions. 1Varzi 2008 2Varzi 2008, p. 108. 3To avoid complications, let’s assume throughout that they have the same lifespan. Naturally, we should suppose they are co-located. (shrink)
In the following work we propose to incorporate the main feature of quantum mechanics, i.e., the concept of indiscernibility. To achieve this goal, first we present two models of set theories: a quasi-set theory and a non-antisymmetric mereology. Next, we show how specific objects of QST—m-atoms—can be defined within NAM. Finally, we introduce a concept of a parthood of indiscernibles and discuss its features in respect to standard notions of indiscernibles and within NAM.
This paper offers an argument in favour of a Lewisian version of concretism that maintains both the principle of material inheritance (according to which, if all the parts of an object x are material, then x is material) and the materiality-modality link (that is, the principle that, for every x, if x is material, then x is possible).
This paper contains a formal theory of functional parthood. Since the relation of functional parthood is defined here by means of the notion of design, the theory of functional parthood turns out to be a theory of design. The formal theory of design I defend here is a result of introducing a number of constraints that are to express the rational aspects of designing practice. The ontological background for the theory is provided by a conception of states (...) of affairs. The theory is accompanied with a formal model. I prove that the theory is sound and complete with respect to this model. (shrink)
This paper presents three claims concerning boundaries, dependence and parthood. The claims are intuitively plausible, but cannot, at face value, all be true on pain of contradiction. Each of the three claims is shown to be more plausible than its converse and some solutions to the puzzle are presented.
This paper presents a semantic analysis of indirect speech reports. The analysis aims to explain a combination of two phenomena. Firstly, there are true utterances of sentences of the form α said that φ which are used to report an utterance u of a sentence wherein φ’s content is not u’s content. This implies that in uttering a single sentence, one can say several things. Secondly, when the complements of these reports (and indeed, these reports themselves) are placed in conjunctions, (...) the conjunctions are typically infelicitous. I argue that this combination of phenomena can be explained if speech reports report (perhaps contingent) parts of the contents of the sentences reported. (shrink)
This is a work in analytic metaphysics, which addresses a cluster of interrelated issues at the interface of mereology and persistence over time. In particular, it outlines a defence of a version of Endurance Theory according to which every enduring object is either a mereological simple or a mere sum of mereological simples. It includes, among other things, a proposal of a new way of framing the debate between Endurance Theory and Four-Dimensionalism, a defence of Endurance Theory over Four-Dimensionalism, arguments (...) against the existence of compound substances, and a defence of a traditional metaphysical atomism according to which all objects are ultimately made up of microscopic simples. (shrink)
This dissertation investigates the metaphysics of human body parts; particularly, the epistemic conditions under which something can be said to be a “body part of” some particular human being. In this dissertation I draw on the hylomorphism of Aristotle and John Duns Scotus to argue that a necessary and sufficient condition on human bodily parthood is an object’s functioning for the sake of the whole human being and the maintenance of her biological life. I argue that, on this view (...) of bodily parthood, at least some prostheses or artificial organs are truly body parts of the human beings in whom they operate. I defend this view in reference to both Aristotelian and Scotistic hylomorphism, as well as answering objections raised by some contemporary views of bodily parthood as merely conventional. I argue that this has important implications for medical ethics, including potentially restricting medical interventions in end-of-life care and heightening the legal ramification of damage done to prostheses. I argue that investigation into the metaphysical questions surrounding body parts and their composition can illuminate hitherto underappreciated dimensions of ethical questions in medicine. (shrink)
This article explores process mereology, the theory of part-whole relations. I compare and contrast the mereology of Theodore Sider with that of Alfred North Whitehead, broadly favoring the latter’s approach for allowing us to take seriously an evolutionary structure in metaphysics.
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)
The paper address the question of whether quantum mechanics (QM) favors Priority Monism, the view according to which the Universe is the only fundamental object. It develops formal frameworks to frame rigorously the question of fundamental mereology and its answers, namely (Priority) Pluralism and Monism. It then reconstructs the quantum mechanical argument in favor of the latter and provides a detailed and thorough criticism of it that sheds furthermore new light on the relation between parthood, composition and fundamentality in (...) QM. (shrink)
Inter-level mechanistic explanations in the sciences have long been a focus of philosophical interest, but attention has recently turned to the compositional character of these explanations which work by explaining higher level entities, whether processes, individuals or properties, using the lower level entities they take to compose them. However, we still have no theoretical account of the constitution or parthood relations between individuals deployed in such explanations, nor any accounts of multiple constitution. My primary focus in this paper is (...) to outline a positive account of the constitution/part-whole relations between individuals posited in inter-level mechanistic explanations that takes constituents in the sciences to be ‘working parts’. Using this account, I then go on to illuminate the nature, and varieties, of multiple constitution that we find in the sciences and provide a starting theoretical framework for multiple constitution as well. (shrink)
The mereological predicate ‘is part of’ can be used to define the predicate ‘is identical with’. I argue that this entails that mereological theories can be ideologically simpler than nihilistic theories that do not use the notion of parthood—contrary to what has been argued by Ted Sider. Moreover, if one accepts an extensional mereology, there are good philosophical reasons apart from ideological simplicity to give a mereological definition of identity.
The transitivity of the relation of part to whole is often questioned. But it is among the most basic principles of mereology. In this paper we present a general solution to the problem of transitivity of parthood which may be satisfactory for both its advocates and its opponents. We will show that even without the transitivity of parthood one can define—basic in mereology—the notion of being a mereological sum of some objects. We formulate several proposals of general approaches (...) to the concept of being a part of a whole, none of which contains any existential assumptions. By adding the transitivity of parthood we obtain an axiomatization of “existentially neutral” mereology. (shrink)
When some objects are the parts of another object, they compose that object and that object is composite. This article is intended as an introduction to the central questions about composition and a highly selective overview of various answers to those questions. In §1, we review some formal features of parthood that are important for understanding the nature of composition. In §2, we consider some answers to the question: which pluralities of objects together compose something? As we will see, (...) the dominant answers are all of them and none of them. In §§3-4, we examine one of the main arguments that has driven philosophers to these extreme answers: the argument from vagueness. In §5, we turn to the question of whether composition is unique: is it sometimes the case that some things compose more than one thing? Finally, in §6, we turn from the question of which composites exist to the question of which composites exist fundamentally. (shrink)