Under what conditions are material objects, such as particles, parts of a whole object? This is the composition question and is a longstanding open question in philosophy. Existing attempts to specify a non-trivial restriction on composition tend to be vague and face serious counterexamples. Consequently, two extreme answers have become mainstream: composition (the forming of a whole by its parts) happens under no or all conditions. In this paper, we provide a self-contained introduction to the integrated information theory of consciousness (...) (IIT). We show that IIT specifies a non-trivial restriction on composition: composition happens when integrated information is maximized. We compare the IIT-restriction to existing proposals and argue that the IIT-restriction has significant advantages, especially in response to the problems of vagueness and counterexamples. An appendix provides an introduction to calculating parts and wholes with a simple system. (shrink)
By pooling together exhaustive analyses of certain philosophical paradoxes, we can prove a series of fascinating results regarding philosophical progress, agreement on substantive philosophical claims, knockdown arguments in philosophy, the wisdom of philosophical belief, the epistemic status of metaphysics, and the power of philosophy to refute common sense. As examples, this Element examines the Sorites Paradox, the Liar Paradox, and the Problem of the Many – although many other paradoxes can do the trick too.
Pluralists believe in the occurrence of numerically distinct spatiotemporal coincident objects. They argue that there are coincident objects that share all physical and spatiotemporal properties and relations; nevertheless, they differ in terms of modal and some other profiles. Appealing to the grounding problem according to which nothing can ground the modal differences between coincident objects, monists reject the occurrence of coincident objects. In the first part of this paper, I attempt to show that the dispute between monists and pluralists cannot (...) be settled based upon the grounding problem tout court. I argue that the grounding problem or a very similar problem is a challenge for all monists and pluralists alike if they are ontologically committed to the existence of composite objects as independent entities. In the final part, adopting the Aristotelian account of essence, I propose a solution that enables pluralists to plausibly ground modal differences between coincident objects. (shrink)
The problem of the many seems to problematize the platitude that we can think about particular things in the world. How is it that, given how very many cat-like candidates there are, we often manage to think and talk about a particular cat? I argue that this challenge stems from an under-examined assumption about the relationship between metaphysics and intentionality. I explore and develop a way of characterizing what it is to think and talk about the world, according to which (...) an abundant ontology poses no obstacle to our ability to think and talk about particular things. (shrink)
Although metaphysics has made an impressive comeback over the past half century, there are still a great many philosophers today who think it is bullshit, under numerous precisifications of ‘That’s just bullshit’ so that it’s a negative assessment and doesn’t apply to most philosophy. One encounters this attitude countless times in casual conversations, social media, and occasionally in print. Is it true?
Many philosophers are sceptical about the power of philosophy to refute commonsensical claims. They look at the famous attempts and judge them inconclusive. I prove that, even if those famous attempts are failures, there are alternative successful philosophical proofs against commonsensical claims. After presenting the proofs I briefly comment on their significance.
Manuel García Carpintero defends a form of antirealism for the explicit talk and thought both about fictional entities and scientific models: a version of StephenYablo’s figuralist brand of factionalism. He argues that, in contrast with pretense-theoretic fictionalist proposals, on his view, utterances in those discourses are straightforward assertions with straightforward truth-conditions, involving a particular kind of metaphors or figurative manner. But given that the relevant metaphors are all but “dead”, this might suggest that the view is after all realist, committed (...) to referents of some sort for singular terms in the relevant discourses. He revisits these issues from the perspective of the more recent work on them and applies his view to recent debates in semantics on the role and adequacy of supervaluationist models of indeterminacy. (shrink)
David Lewis offers two solutions to the problem of the many, one of which relies on supervaluationism and the other on the notion of “almost-identity” for the most part. In this paper, I argue that Lewis’ other metaphysical views constitute reasons to prefer his second solution to the first one. Specifically, Lewis’ theory of propositions and his counterpart theory give rise to two similar problems of the many, which I call “the problem of many propositions” and “the problem of many (...) counterparts” respectively. While both Lewis’ solutions may solve the problem of the many with respect to objects in the actual world, I argue that only his second solution can solve the problem of many propositions and the problem of many counterparts. Therefore, for anyone who accepts Lewis’ metaphysical views on propositions and counterparts, they should embrace Lewis’ second solution to the problem of the many for the reason of unification. (shrink)
There is a defeasible constraint against double counting. When I count colours, for instance, I can’t freely count both a colour and its shades. Once we properly grasp this constraint, we can solve the problem of the many. Unlike other solutions, this solution requires us to reject neither our counting judgments, nor the metaphysical principles that seemingly conflict with them. The key is recognizing that the judgments and principles are compatible due to the targeted effects of the defeasible constraint.
The notorious problem of the many makes it difficult to resist the conclusion that almost coincident with any ordinary object are a vast number of near-indiscernible objects. As Unger was aware in his presentation of the problem, this abundance raises a concern as to how—and even whether—we achieve singular thought about ordinary objects. This paper presents, clarifies, and defends a view which reconciles a plenitudinous conception of ordinary objects with our having singular thoughts about those objects. Indeed, this strategy has (...) independent application in the case of singular thoughts about other putatively ‘abundant’ phenomena, such as locations or lumps of matter. In essence, singular thought-vehicles need not express just one singular content. If there are many objects, one’s singular thought-vehicle may express as many thought-contents. (shrink)
The problem of the many threatens to show that, in general, there are far more ordinary objects than you might have thought. I present and motivate a solution to this problem using many-one identity. According to this solution, the many things that seem to have what it takes to be, say, a cat, are collectively identical to that single cat.
In this paper, I elaborate on the Strong Nuclear Theory (SNT) of tropes and substances, which I have defended elsewhere, using my metatheory about formal ontology and especially fundamental ontological form. According to my metatheory, for an entity to have an ontological form is for it to be a relatum of a formal ontological relation or relations jointly in an order. The full fundamental ontological form is generically identical to a simple formal ontological relation or relations jointly in an order. (...) Regarding generic identity, I follow Fabrice Correia and Alexander Skiles, who consider it a form of generalized identity as distinguished from numerical identity. The SNT states that for any trope to have the full fundamental ontological form is for it to be a strongly rigidly or generically (existentially) dependent individual simple part. Therefore, the common dichotomous set-up of asking whether tropes are fundamentally properties rather than objects or vice versa is a non-starter to me in formal ontological terms. The elaboration of the SNT also supplies me with the resources to respond to the arguments against tropes by Douglas Ehring, Robert K. Garcia and Herbert Hochberg. Finally, I argue that non-fundamentally but necessarily, every trope is a proper part of a substance and is concrete in the SNT. (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)
These PhD Dissertation published as a book is a research on Metaphysics about the problem of Multiplicity explained by its principles on the grounds of Aristotle's Metaphysics focused on substance and metaphysical thought of Aquinas. According to Aquinas the multitude of forms are the cause of multiplicity of beings. Super Boethium De Trinitate has an importan treatment of matter and form as causes of substantial identity, of substance's non-being and something else and be a this. Therefore the multiplicity of beings (...) is not explained only by virtue of the diversity of matter or by virtue of the susceptive subject. The main cause is the division of forms. (shrink)
The literature on material composition has largely ignored the composition of actions and events. I argue that this is a mistake. I present a set of individually plausible yet jointly inconsistent claims regarding the connection between quantification and existence, the composition of physical entities and the logical forms of action sentences.
Does vagueness underlie the mass/count distinction? My answer is no. I motivate this answer in two ways. First, I argue against Chierchia’s recent attempt to explain the distinction in terms of vagueness. Second, I give a more general argument that no such account will succeed.
This paper outlines a novel solution to the problem of the many and a conception of ordinary objects that implies it. The solution is that many collections of particles can simultaneously constitute a single object. The proposed conception of ordinary objects maintains that they are fundamentally subjects of change: the changes an object is able to survive explain its constitution.
One of the central questions of material-object metaphysics is which highly visible objects there are right before our eyes. Daniel Z. Korman defends a conservative view, according to which our ordinary, natural judgments about which objects there are are more or less correct. He begins with an overview of the arguments that have led people away from the conservative view, into revisionary views according to which there are far more objects than we ordinarily take there to be or far fewer. (...) Korman criticizes a variety of compatibilist strategies, according to which these revisionary views are actually compatible with our ordinary beliefs. He goes on to respond to debunking arguments; objections that the conservative's verdicts about which objects that are and aren't are objectionably arbitrary; the argument from vagueness; the overdetermination argument; the argument from material constitution; and the problem of the many. (shrink)
In David Lewis’s famous ‘Many, but Almost One’, he argues that when objects of the same kind share most of their parts, they can be counted as one. I argue that mereological overlap does not do the trick. A better candidate is overlap in function. Although mereological overlap often goes hand-in-hand with functional overlap, a functional approach is more accurate in cases in which mereology and function are teased apart. A functional approach also solves a version of the problem of (...) the many that Lewis thought was immune to the Almost-One solution. (shrink)
The central objection to the constitution view is the too many thinkers problem - if the animal that constitutes you thinks and you are not it, then there are two thinkers within the region you occupy. Lynne Rudder Baker claims that the animal thinks only derivatively, in virtue of constituting the person that thinks nonderivatively, and this leads to a solution to the too many thinkers problem. This paper offers two objections to Baker’s solution. First, the idea of derivative/ nonderivative (...) properties faces a dilemma unacceptable to constitutionalists: either the too many thinkers problem is reinstated or the constitution view is undermined by the idea itself. Further, Baker should concede that the person thinks in virtue of brain functions. This implies, contra Baker’s claim, that the person thinks derivatively and the animal thinks nonderivatively. The paper also considers a way in which Baker might respond to the two objections. (shrink)
Consider a cat on a mat. On the one hand, there seems to be just one cat, but on the other there seem to be many things with as good a claim as anything in the vicinity to being a cat. Hence, the problem of the many. In his ‘Many, but Almost One,’ David Lewis offered two solutions. According to the first, only one of the many is indeed a cat, although it is indeterminate exactly which one. According to the (...) second, the many are all cats, but they are almost identical to each other, and hence they are almost one. For Lewis, the two solutions do not compete with each other but are mutually complementary, as each one can assist the other. This paper has two aims: to give some reasons against the first of these two solutions, but then to defend the second as a self-standing solution from Lewis’s considerations to the contrary. (shrink)
Can we solve the Problem of the Many, and give a general account of the indeterminacy in definite descriptions that give rise to it, by appealing to metaphysically indeterminate entities? I argue that we cannot. I identify a feature common to the relevant class of definite descriptions, and derive a contradiction from the claim that each such description is satisfied by a metaphysically indeterminate entity.
As anyone who has flown out of a cloud knows, the boundaries of a cloud are a lot less sharp up close than they can appear on the ground. Even when it seems clearly true that there is one, sharply bounded, cloud up there, really there are thousands of water droplets that are neither determinately part of the cloud, nor determinately outside it. Consider any object that consists of the core of the cloud, plus an arbitrary selection of these droplets. (...) It will look like a cloud, and circumstances permitting rain like a cloud, and generally has as good a claim to be a cloud as any other object in that part of the sky. But we cannot say every such object is a cloud, else there would be millions of clouds where it seemed like there was one. And what holds for clouds holds for anything whose boundaries look less clear the closer you look at it. And that includes just about every kind of object we normally think about, including humans. Although this seems to be a merely technical puzzle, even a triviality, a surprising range of proposed solutions has emerged, many of them mutually inconsistent. It is not even settled whether a solution should come from metaphysics, or from philosophy of language, or from logic. Here we survey the options, and provide several links to the many topics related to the Problem. (shrink)
Unger has recently argued that if you are the only thinking and experiencing subject in your chair, then you are not a material object. This leads Unger to endorse a version of Substance Dualism according to which we are immaterial souls. This paper argues that this is an overreaction. We argue that the specifically Dualist elements of Unger’s view play no role in his response to the problem; only the view’s structure is required, and that is available to Unger’s opponents. (...) We outline one such non-Dualist view, suggest how to resolve the dispute, respond to some objections, and argue that ours is but one of many views that survive Unger’s challenge. All these views are incompatible with microphysicalism. So Unger’s discussion does contain an insight: if you are the only conscious subject in your chair, then microphsyicalism is false. Unger’s mistake was to infer Substance Dualism from this; for microphysicalism is not the only alternative to Dualism. (shrink)
The article introduces a special issue of the journal _Metaphysica_ on vagueness and ontology. The conventional view has it that all vagueness is semantic or representational. Russell, Dummett, Evans and Lewis, inter alia, have argued that the notion of “ontic” or “metaphysical” vagueness is not even intelligible. In recent years, a growing minority of philosophers have tried to make sense of the notion and have spelled it out in various ways. The article gives an overview and relates the idea of (...) ontic vagueness to the unquestioned phenomenon of fuzzy spatiotemporal boundaries and to the associated “problem of the many”. It briefly discusses the question of whether ontic vagueness can be spelled out in terms of “vague identity”, emphasizes the often neglected role of the difference between sortal and non-sortal ontologies and suggests a deflationary answer to the ill-conceived question of whether the “ultimate source” of vagueness lies either in language or in the world. (shrink)
According to Principles of Sufficient Reason, every truth (in some relevant group) has an explanation. One of the most popular defenses of Principles of Sufficient Reason has been the presupposition of reason defense, which takes endorsement of the defended PSR to play a crucial role in our theory selection. According to recent presentations of this defense, our method of theory selection often depends on the assumption that, if a given proposition is true, then it has an explanation, and this will (...) only be justified if we think this holds for all propositions in the relevant group. I argue that this argument fails even when restricted to contingent propositions, and even if we grant that there is no non-arbitrary way to divide true propositions that have explanations from those that lack them. Further, we can give an alternate explanation of what justifies our selecting theories on the basis of explanatory features: the crucial role is not played by an endorsement of a PSR, but rather by our belief that, prima facie, we should prefer theories that exemplify explanatory power to greater degrees than their rivals. This guides our theory selection in a manner similar to ontological parsimony and theoretical simplicity. Unlike a PSR, our belief about explanatory power gives us a prima facie guiding principle, which provides justification in the cases where we think we have it, and not in the cases where we think we don't. (shrink)
We articulate a view of natural kinds as complex universals. We do not attempt to argue for the existence of universals. Instead, we argue that, given the existence of universals, and of natural kinds, the latter can be understood in terms of the former, and that this provides a rich, flexible framework within which to discuss issues of indeterminacy, essentialism, induction, and reduction. Along the way, we develop a 'problem of the many' for universals.
An encyclopedia entry which covers various revisionary conceptions of which macroscopic objects there are, and the puzzles and arguments that motivate these conceptions: sorites arguments, the argument from vagueness, the puzzles of material constitution, arguments against indeterminate identity, arguments from arbitrariness, debunking arguments, the overdetermination argument, and the problem of the many.
In this paper I develop a novel response to the exclusion problem. I argue that the nature of the events in the causally complete physical domain raises the “problem of many causes”: there will typically be countless simultaneous low-level physical events in that domain that are causally sufficient for any given high-level physical event. This shows that even reductive physicalists must admit that the version of the exclusion principle used to pose the exclusion problem against non-reductive physicalism is too strong. (...) The burden is on proponents of the exclusion problem to provide a reason to think that any qualifications placed on the exclusion principle will solve the problem of many causes while ruling out causation by irreducible mental events. (shrink)
Unger’s Problem of the Many seems to show that the familiar macroscopic world is much stranger than it appears. From plausible theses about the boundaries of or- dinary objects, Unger drew the conclusion that wherever there seems to be just one cat, cloud, table, human, or thinker, really there are many millions; and likewise for any other familiar kind of individual. In Lewis’s hands, this puzzle was subtly altered by an appeal to vagueness or indeterminacy about the the boundaries of (...) ordinary objects. This thesis examines the relation between these puzzles, and also to the phenomenon of vagueness. Chapter 1 begins by distinguishing Unger’s puzzle of too many candidates from Lewis’s puzzle of borderline, or vague, candidates. We show that, contra Unger, the question of whether this is a genuine, as opposed to merely apparent, distinction cannot be settled without investigation into the nature of vagueness. Chapter 2 begins this investigation by developing a broadly supervaluationist account of vague- ness that is immune to the standard objections. This account is applied to Unger’s and Lewis’s puzzles in chapters 3 and 4. Chapter 3 shows that, despite its popularity, Lewis’s own approach to the puzzles is unsatisfactory: it does not so much solve the puzzle, as prevent us from expressing them; it cannot be extended to objects that self-refer; it is committed to objectionable theses about temporal and modal metaphysics and semantics. Chapter 4 develops a conception of ordinary objects that emphasises the role of identity conditions and change, and uses it to resolve both Problems of the Many. This allows us to diagnose the source of the puzzles: an overemphasis on mereology in contemporary material ontology. (shrink)
Philosophical questions concerning parts and wholes have received a tremendous amount of the attention of contemporary analytic metaphysicians. In what follows, I discuss some of the central questions. The questions to be discussed are: how general is parthood? Are there different kinds of parthood or ways to be a part? Can two things be composed of the same parts? When does composition occur? Can material objects gain or lose parts? What is the logical form of the parthood relation enjoyed by (...) material objects? (shrink)
In §2-4, I survey three extant ways of making sense of indeterminate truth and find each of them wanting. All the later sections of the paper are concerned with showing that the most promising way of making sense of indeterminate truth is via either a theory of truthmaker gaps or via a theory of truthmaking gaps. The first intimations of a truthmaker–truthmaking gap theory of indeterminacy are to be found in Quine (1981). In §5, we see how Quine proposes to (...) solve Unger’s problem of the many via positing the possibility of groundless truth. In §6, I elaborate the truthmaker gap model of indeterminacy first sketched by Sorensen (2001, ch.11) and use it to give a reductive analysis of indeterminate truth. In §7, I briefly assess what kind of formal framework can best express the possibility of truthmaker gaps. In §8, I contrast what I dub ‘the ordinary conception of worldly indeterminacy’ with Williamson’s conception of worldly indeterminacy. In §9, I show how one can distinguish linguistic from worldly indeterminacy on a truthmaker gap conception. In §10, I briefly sketch the relationship between truthmaker gaps and ignorance. In §11, I assess whether a truthmaker gap conception of vagueness is really just a form of epistemicism. In §12, I propose that truthmaker gaps can yield a plausible model of (semantic) presupposition failure. In §13, in response to the worry that a truthmaker gap conception of indeterminacy is both parochial and controversial—since it commits us to an implausibly strong theory of truthmaking—I set forth a truthmaking gap conception of indeterminacy. In §14, I answer the worry that groundless truths, of whatever species, are just unacceptably queer. A key part of this answer is that a truthmaker–truthmaking gap model of indeterminacy turns out to be considerably less queer than any model of indeterminacy which gives up on Tarski’s T-schema for truth (and cognate schemas). (shrink)
Kilimanjaro is a paradigmatic mountain, if any is. Consider atom Sparky, which is neither determinately part of Kilimanjaro nor determinately not part of it. Let Kilimanjaro(+) be the body of land constituted, in the way mountains are constituted by their constituent atoms, by the atoms that make up Kilimanjaro together with Sparky, and Kilimanjaro(–) the one constituted by those other than Sparky. On the one hand, there seems to be just one mountain in the vicinity of Kilimanjaro. On the other (...) hand, both Kilimanjaro(+) and Kilimanjaro(–)—and indeed many other similar things—seem to have an equal claim to be a mountain: all of them exhibit the grounds for something being a mountain—like being an elevation of the earth’s surface rising abruptly and to a large height from the surrounding level,1 or whathaveyou—; and there seems to be nothing in the vicinity with a better claim. Hence, the problem of the many. (shrink)
Peter Unger's 'problem of the many' has elicited many responses over the past quarter of a century. Here I present a new problem of the many. This new problem, I claim, is resistant to the solutions cunently on offer for Unger's problem.
A plausible desideratum for an account of the nature of objects, at, and across time, is that it accommodate the phenomenon of vagueness without locating vagueness in the world. A series of arguments have attempted to show that while universalist perdurantism – which combines a perdurantist account of persistence with an unrestricted mereological account of composition – meets this desideratum, endurantist accounts do not. If endurantists reject unrestricted composition then they must hold that vagueness is ontological. But if they embrace (...) unrestricted composition they are faced with the problem of the many, and cannot plausibly accommodate vagueness. This paper disambiguates two related sub-problems of the problem of the many, and argues that universalist perdurantism is not superior to universalist endurantism with respect to either of these. (shrink)
It is argued that, given certain reasonable premises, an infinite number of qualitatively identical but numerically distinct minds exist per functioning brain. The three main premises are (1) mental properties supervene on brain properties; (2) the universe is composed of particles with nonzero extension; and (3) each particle is composed of continuum-many point-sized bits of particle-stuff, and these points of particle-stuff persist through time.
If one believes that vagueness is an exclusively representational phenomenon, one faces the problem of the many. In the vicinity of Kilimanjaro, there are many many ‘mountain candidates’ all, apparently, with more-or-less equal claim to be mountains. David Lewis has defended a radical claim: that all the billions of mountain candidates are mountains. This paper argues that the supervaluationist about vagueness should adopt Lewis’ proposal, on pain of losing their best explanation of the seductiveness of the sorites.
Dion is a full-bodied man. Theon is that part of him which consists of all of him except his left foot. What becomes of Dion and Theon when Dion’s left foot is amputated? In Burke 1994, employing the doctrine of sortal essentialism, I defended a surprising position last defended by Chrysippus: that Dion survives while the seemingly unscathed Theon perishes. This paper defends that position against objections by Stone, Carter, Olson, and others. Most notably, it offers a novel, conservative solution (...) to the many-thinkers problem, a solution that enables us to accept the existence of brain-containing person-parts while denying that those person-parts are thinking, conscious beings. (shrink)
It is hard to see why the head and other brain-containing parts of a person are not themselves persons, or at least thinking, conscious beings. Some theorists have sought to reconcile us to the existence of thinking person-parts. Others have sought to avoid them but have relied on radical theories at odds with the metaphysic implicit in ordinary ways of thinking. This paper offers a novel, conservative solution, one on which the heads and other brain-containing parts of persons do exist (...) but are neither persons, thinkers, nor conscious beings. A much briefer statement of the solution is found in section 5 of Burke 2004. (shrink)
Being conscious is intrinsic. Suppose P, a conscious human being, “shrinks” by losing an atom from her left index finger. Suppose that at the very first instant at which P has lost that atom, the atoms that then compose her remain just as they were immediately before “the loss.” This implies—assuming MS for reductio—that, just as those atoms compose a conscious object after the loss, so they composed a conscious object before the loss. Name that latter object ‘the atom-complement’.
Recently four different papers have suggested that the supervaluational solution to the Problem of the Many is flawed. Stephen Schiffer (1998, 2000a, 2000b) has argued that the theory cannot account for reports of speech involving vague singular terms. Vann McGee and Brian McLaughlin (2000) say that theory cannot, yet, account for vague singular beliefs. Neil McKinnon (2002) has argued that we cannot provide a plausible theory of when precisifications are acceptable, which the supervaluational theory needs. And Roy Sorensen (2000) argues (...) that supervaluationism is inconsistent with a directly referential theory of names. McGee and McLaughlin see the problem they raise as a cause for further research, but the other authors all take the problems they raise to provide sufficient reasons to jettison supervaluationism. I will argue that none of these problems provide such a reason, though the arguments are valuable critiques. In many cases, we must make some adjustments to the supervaluational theory to meet the posed challenges. The goal of this paper is to make those adjustments, and meet the challenges. (shrink)
Over the last two or three decades, puzzles concerning vagueness, identity, and material constitution have led an increasing number of ontologists to “eliminate” at least some of the objects of folk ontology. In the book here reviewed, Trenton Merricks proposes to eliminate any and all material objects that lack nonredundant causal powers. The objects found lacking include statues, baseballs, planets, and all other inanimate macroscopica, including the masses and conjunctive objects favored by some other eliminativists. The objects found to possess (...) the requisite powers include human persons, who are taken to be human organisms, other conscious organisms, such as dogs and dolphins, and the microscopica of which organisms are composed. Merricks doesn’t assume that there are physical simples. But he does assume that there is at least one level of microscopica, and he uses ‘atoms’ as a convenient term for the microscopica of some unspecified level. As regards organisms that lack consciousness, Merricks is agnostic. (shrink)
Time passes, and the inexorability of its passing has deep emotional significance. One of the main themes of this thesis involves an investigation into the metaphysical nature of the passage of time. What sort of metaphysical account of passage should be given? And do our emotional responses to temporal passage have metaphysical implications? The other main theme of the thesis is the issue of the metaphysics of persistence. When a thing is present at more than one time, what is the (...) metaphysical underpinning of its persistence? Some subsidiary issues, which are nevertheless important in their own right, are also discussed. There are interesting connections between the issues of persistence and these further issues, which include the nature of vagueness, and the distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic properties. (shrink)
Supervaluational treatments of vagueness are currently quite popular among those who regard vagueness as a thoroughly semantic phenomenon. Peter Unger's 'problem of the many' may be regarded as arising from the vagueness of our ordinary physical-object terms, so it is not surprising that supervaluational solutions to Unger's problem have been offered. I argue that supervaluations do not afford an adequate solution to the problem of the many. Moreover, the considerations I raise against the supervaluational solution tell also against the solution (...) to the problem of the many which is suggested by adherents of the epistemic theory of vagueness. (shrink)
[First paragraph] For a long time philosophers thought material objects were unproblematic. Or nearly so. There may have been a problem about what a material object is: a substance, a bundle of tropes, a compound of substratum and universals, a collection of sense-data, or what have you. But once that was settled there were supposed to be no further metaphysical problems about material objects. This illusion has now largely been dispelled. No one can get a Ph.D. in philosophy nowadays without (...) encountering the puzzles of the ship of Theseus, the statue and the lump, the cat and its tail complement', amoebic fission, and others. These problems are especially pressing on the assumption that we ourselves are material objects. (shrink)
Although the predominant view is that vagueness is due to our language being imprecise, the alternative idea that objects themselves do not have determinate borders has received an occasional hearing. But what has failed to be appreciated is how this idea can avoid a puzzle Peter Unger named “The Problem of the Many.”[i].
Objects and Persons presents an original theory about what kinds of things exist. Trenton Merricks argues that there are no non-living inanimate macrophysical objects -- no statues or rocks or chairs or stars -- because they would have no causal role over and above the causal role of their microphysical parts. Humans do exist: we have non-redundant causal powers. Along the way, Merricks has interesting things to say about mental causation, free will, and various philosophical puzzles. Anyone working in metaphysics (...) will enjoy this lucid and provocative book. (shrink)