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Mereological Commitments

Varzi, Achille C.

We tend to talk about (refer to, quantify over) parts in the same way in which we talk about whole objects. Yet a part is not something to be included in an inventory of the world over and above the whole to which it belongs, and a whole is not something to be included in an inventory over and above its own parts. This paper is an attempt to clarify a way of dealing with this tension which may be labeled the Minimalist View: an element in the field of a part-whole relation is to be included in an inventory of the world if, and only if, it does not overlap any other element that is itself included in the inventory. As it turns out, a clarification of this view involves both a defense of mereological extensionality and an account of the topological distinction between detached and undetached parts (and the parallel opposition between scattered and connected wholes).

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Philosophy
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December 2, 2014