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Parts, Wholes, and Part-Whole Relations: The Prospects of Mereotopology

Varzi, Achille C.

This is a brief overview of formal theories concerned with the study of the notions of (and the relations between) parts and wholes. The guiding idea is that we can distinguish between a theory of parthood (mereology) and a theory of wholeness (holology, which is essentially afforded by topology), and the main question examined is how these two theories can be combined to obtain a unified theory of parts and wholes. We examine various non-equivalent ways of pursuing this task, mainly with reference to its relevance to spatio-temporal reasoning. In particular, three main strategies are compared: (i) mereology and topology as two independent (though mutually related) theories; (ii) mereology as a general theory subsuming topology; (iii) topology as a general theory subsuming mereology. This is done in Sections 4 through 6. We also consider some more speculative strategies and directions for further research. First, however, we begin with some preliminary outline of mereology (Section 2) and of its natural bond with topology (Section 3).



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November 18, 2014