- Entities of many kinds, not just material things, have been credited with parts. Armstrong , for example, has taken propositions and properties to be parts of their conjunctions, sets to be parts of sets that include them, and geographical regions and events to be parts of regions and events that contain them. The justification for bringing all these diverse relations under a single ‘part–whole’ concept is that they share all or most of the formal features articulated in mereology .
- But the concept has also prompted an ontological thesis that has been expressed in various ways: that wholes are ‘no ontological addition’ to their parts ; that to list both a whole and its parts is ‘double counting’; and that there is ‘no more’ to a whole than its parts: for example, that there is no more to a conjunction than the conjuncts that are its parts, and whose truth or falsity determines whether it is true or false.
- For brevity, I shall express the thesis in the last of these ways, as the claim that entities with parts are ‘nothing but’ those parts.
- Material things aren’t the only kind of entities that have been credited with parts. David Armstrong (1978: 36), for example, has taken propositions and properties to be parts of their conjunctions, sets to be parts of sets that include them, and events and geographical regions to be parts of events and regions that contain them. The justification for bringing all these diverse relations under a single ‘part–whole’ concept is that they share all or most of the formal features articulated in mereology (Simons 1987). But the concept has also been credited with ontological implications, which may be expressed by saying that wholes are no ontological addition to their parts (by which I mean their proper parts, i.e. parts that aren’t identical to what they’re parts of) or that to list wholes and their parts is double counting, or that there’s no more to a whole than its parts: for example, that there’s no more to a conjunction (i.e. to its truth conditions) than the conjuncts that are its parts and whose truth or falsity determines whether it’s true or false. For brevity, I’ll express this rather vague thesis in the last of these ways, as the claim that entities with parts are nothing but those parts.
- The first thing to be said about this nothing-but thesis is that, to be worth discussing, it mustn’t just mean that wholes are the mereological sums of their parts: for since that’s just what the term ‘sums’ means in mereology, that’s a tautology. Just what a non-trivial reading of the nothing-but thesis amounts to is a good question, whose answer may well vary from case to case. Here, however, I’m only concerned with things, by which I’ll mean material things, including us (or at least our bodies): if a material thing has parts, how must it be related to them for a non-trivial nothing-but thesis to be true of it, and are such things in fact so related? And to avoid contentious questions about whether things have temporal parts, and to allow their non-temporal parts to change over time, I’ll only consider a thing’s relations to the spatial parts it has at any one time, a temporal proviso that from now on I’ll mostly take as read.
- I also have an earlier version delivered at the Birkbeck Philosophy Society, 15 Jan 2008.
- The published version makes no mention of this edition, but the text is very similar.
- Taken from PhilPapers / PhilPeople.
- This was taken from the version delivered to the Birkbeck Philosophy Society on 15 Jan 2008. I couldn’t be bothered to replace it when I acquired the published paper. The two texts are very similar.
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