The Moon and Sixpence: a Defense of Mereological Universalism
Van Cleve (James)
Source: Sider (Ted), Hawthorne (John) & Zimmerman (Dean), Eds. - Contemporary Debates in Metaphysics
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Abstract

  1. The thesis I am called upon to defend is this: given any collection of objects, no matter how disparate or widely scattered, there is a further object composed of them all. For example, there is an object composed of my left tennis shoe and the lace that is threaded through its eyelets - so far, perhaps, no surprise.
  2. But there are all of the following objects as well:
    → the object composed of the lace threaded through my left shoe and the lace threaded through my right shoe;
    → the object composed of the Eiffel Tower and the tip of my nose;
    → the object composed of the moon and the six pennies scattered across my desktop.
    For any objects a through z, whatever and wherever they may be, there is an object having those objects as its parts.
  3. This thesis goes by several names:
    → conjunctivism (Roderick Chisholm),
    → unrestricted composition (David Lewis), and
    → mereological universalism (Peter Van Inwagen).
  4. It is often thought to fly in the face of common sense, but it has won the allegiance of several philosophers, and it is a standard element in the formal theory of part and whole as it was developed in the twentieth century.
  5. In what follows I shall explain why I believe it to be true.

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  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2019
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)



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