Restricted Composition
Markosian (Ned)
Source: Sider (Ted), Hawthorne (John) & Zimmerman (Dean), Eds. - Contemporary Debates in Metaphysics
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction

  1. Consider two quarks: one near the tip of your nose, the other near the center of Alpha Centauri. Here's a question about these two subatomic particles: Is there an object that has these two quarks as its parts and that has no other parts? According to one view of the matter (a view endorsed, surprisingly, by a great many contemporary philosophers), the answer to this question is "yes." But according to commonsense, the answer to this question is really "no."
  2. Here's a more general question. Under what circumstances do two or more objects compose a further object? According to one view of the matter (again, a view endorsed by a large number of contemporary philosophers), the answer to this question is that for any group of objects, no matter how disparate or spatially separated, there is an object composed of the members of that group. On this view, there are no restrictions on when "composition" occurs. If there are some objects, on this view, then there is automatically another object composed of those objects. But according to commonsense, it's not the case that for any group of objects, there is automatically an additional object composed of the members of that group. That is, according to commonsense, composition is restricted.
  3. This chapter explores this commonsense view, together with its rival (the view that composition is unrestricted). It will be seen that, although the idea of restricting composition is intuitively very appealing, it proves to be more difficult than one might have thought to come up with a plausible proposal regarding just how composition is to be restricted. But I hope to show that, in the final analysis, it's better to accept the difficulties that go with restricting composition than it is to avoid them by leaving composition unrestricted.

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