- There are no statues. Or rocks. Or chairs. Or stars. But there are microscopic objects arranged statuewise and rockwise and chairwise and starwise. Moreover, there are — in addition to microscopic objects arranged humanwise — composite human beings. Or so Trenton Merricks argues.
- The ontology of Objects and Persons is motivated, in large part, by causal considerations. One of the central ideas is that physical objects are causally non-redundant: physical objects cause things that are not wholly overdetermined by their parts. Merricks 'eliminates' statues and other inanimate composite macrophysical objects on the grounds that they would — if they existed — be at best completely causally redundant.
- Merricks defends our existence by arguing, from certain facts about mental causation, that we human beings cause things that are not already caused by our parts.
- A second strand of argument for Merricks’s overall ontology involves a variety of philosophical puzzles, puzzles that are dealt with in illuminating and often novel ways.
- Many other issues are addressed along the way, including free will, the 'reduction' of a composite object to its parts, and the ways in which identity over time can 'for practical purposes' be a matter of convention. Anyone working in metaphysics will enjoy this lucid and provocative book.
In-Page Footnotes ("Merricks (Trenton) - Objects and Persons")
Footnote 1: I seem to have obtained an “Author’s Precis” from somewhere. It is very similar to the “Cover Blurb” but (in addition to the change from third person to first person):-
I‘m not sure how significant these differences are. Anyway, the text is:-
- Omits reference to stars
- Has a reference to “human organisms” rather than “human beings”
- Has an extra sentence concerning eliminitivism of all but human organisms.
There are no statues or rocks or chairs. But there are microscopic objects arranged statuewise and rockwise and chairwise. Moreover, there are — in addition to microscopic objects arranged humanwise — composite human organisms. The ontology of Objects and Persons is motivated, in large part, by causal considerations. One of the central conclusions is that physical objects are causally non-redundant: physical objects cause things that are not wholly overdetermined by their parts. I 'eliminate' statues and other inanimate composite macrophysical objects on the grounds that they would — if they existed — be at best completely causally redundant. I defend our existence by arguing, from certain facts about mental causation, that we human beings cause things that are not already caused by our parts. A second strand of argument for the book's overall ontology involves a variety of philosophical puzzles, puzzles that are dealt with in illuminating and often novel ways. These puzzles support eliminativism regarding statues and rocks and chairs, but — I argue — do not support eliminating us human organisms. Many other issues are addressed along the way, including free will, the 'reduction' of a composite object to its parts, and the ways in which identity over time can 'for practical purposes' be a matter of convention.
Clarendon Press, Oxford, 2001
"Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Review of 'Objects and Persons' by Trenton Merricks"
Source: Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 81 (2003): 97-98
In Objects and Persons, Merricks addresses many important topics, and argues for his positions with wit and vigor. (The first sentence is “In this book I shall show that there are no books.”) Merricks critically assesses the deliverances of what he takes to be ‘folk ontology.’ Folk ontology regards books, baseballs, statues, and organisms as existing objects. Merricks argues, on the one hand, that there are no baseballs, statues or other inanimate macrophysical objects, but, on the other hand, that there are organisms. Thus, like van Inwagen, Merricks is an eliminativist about inanimate macrophysical objects, but a realist about organisms — at least about conscious organisms.
"Dorr (Cian) - Merricks on the Existence of Human Organisms"
Source: Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 67(3): 711-718
- Merricks's Overdetermination Argument against the existence of baseballs depends essentially on the following premise:
- BB: Whenever a baseball causes an event, the baseball's constituent atoms also cause that event, and the baseball is causally irrelevant to whether those atoms cause that event.
- This argument can be transformed into an argument against the existence of human organisms by replacing BB with
- HO: Whenever a human organism causes an event, the human organism's constituent atoms also cause that event, and the human organism is causally irrelevant to whether those atoms cause that event.
- Since Merricks believes in human organisms, he needs to explain why the considerations that support BB do not support HO equally well. What is the relevant disanalogy between hypothetical baseballs and hypothetical human organisms?
- Merricks's answer to this question is this: If baseballs exist, all the facts about them are metaphysically determined by the microphysical facts. By contrast, human organisms, if they exist, have some properties – including consciousness and various more specific conscious mental properties – whose instantiation is not metaphysically determined by the microphysical facts.
- In the first part of this paper, I will make some critical remarks about Merricks's argument for the thesis that consciousness is special in this way. In the second, I will express some doubts about Merricks's claim that if this thesis is true, we have no reason for believing HO. Finally, I will present a dilemma for Merricks's view about the sort of causal efficacy enjoyed by human organisms.
COMMENT: This is a review of "Merricks (Trenton) - Objects and Persons".
"Sider (Ted) - Review of Trenton Merricks' 'Objects and Persons'"
Source: Mind, 113, Number 449, January 2004, pp. 195-198(4)
- Many otherwise reasonable philosophers are impatient with ontology. These philosophers will probably have little time for "Merricks (Trenton) - Objects and Persons", which claims that while there do exist “atoms arranged statuewise”, there do not exist statues; while there do exist atoms arranged tablewise and atoms arranged chairwise, there exist no tables and chairs.
- Though I join these philosophers, at the end of the day, in rejecting Merricks’s claims, that day is long, whereas they want a quick verdict. But why? Do our impatient friends think that Merricks’s claims are contradictory, analytically false, or otherwise conceptually incoherent? They may say that the conventional meaning of “there exists a statue” is “there exist atoms arranged statuewise”, but this does not stand up to scrutiny. Someone could, of course, just decide to mean such a thing by “there exists a statue”, but then her pronouncements would be irrelevant to Merricks, who intends to be using a “legitimate and straightforward existential quantifier” to deny the existence of statues. As I see it, the challenger must assume that there are multiple equally good candidate meanings for the (unrestricted) existential quantifier, corresponding to various competing views of the ontologists. For if there is just one, “distinguished”, candidate meaning for existence, then that is what we all mean by ‘exists’, whatever our conventions are, and there would be no guarantee that the truth conditions of existence statements would track our conventions. I doubt the assumption of multiple candidate meanings can be sustained without lapsing into Carnapian relativity, but would have liked to hear more from Merricks about “legitimate and straightforward” existential quantifiers.
- Our philosopher’s impatience might instead be metaphysical, but here Merricks’s responses are powerful. Is denying the existence of statues incoherent because statues are “nothing over and above” their parts arranged statuewise? Philosophers do sometimes say such things, but reading Merricks should get them to stop. ….
- Perhaps the impatience is rather epistemic, indeed Moorean, belief in statues allegedly being maximally certain. But, as Merricks points out, it is not so clear that statues exist as opposed to atoms arranged statuewise …
- Merricks gives two arguments for eliminating statues, tables and chairs. First, a number of well-known philosophical conundrums may be avoided by renouncing those entities. This is certainly right, though of course other theories purport to dissolve those conundrums as well. The final analysis of these arguments is complex. The second argument — and the core of the book — is a novel transformation of the exclusion argument from the philosophy of mind: statues would causally overdetermine their effects since any putative effect of a statue is also an effect of its microscopic parts; such overdetermination does not occur; therefore statues do not exist.
- Merricks makes an exception to his causal overdetermination argument for human beings. In addition to atoms arranged human-wise, there also exist humans. On its face, this exception is theoretically unsatisfying, all too convenient, and even tender-hearted. But Merricks’s justification for the exception is interesting: humans have causal powers beyond the causal powers of their micro-parts. Indeed, the property consciousness, instantiated by human persons, does not even globally supervene1 on microscopic physical properties, and it conveys distinctive causal powers.
- "Merricks (Trenton) - Objects and Persons" is challenging and interesting. Its argumentation is generally direct (though there are a couple lapses, in which the dialectic becomes overly tangled). Merricks’s writing is refreshingly clear. His claims are striking and important. The book should be read.
COMMENT: See Link. Review of "Merricks (Trenton) - Objects and Persons". See also "Sider (Ted) - What’s So Bad about Overdetermination?".
"Merricks (Trenton) - Objects & Persons: Preface"
Source: Merricks - Objects and Persons, 2001, Preface
- Ontological discovery is not empirical. But ontologists do make discoveries. Empirical investigation might tell us that an object is perforated. But it won't discover that there are holes, surrounded by (or partially composing) perforated objects. Only a good argument could discover that. We can see that one thing is the same colour as another. But whether this implies the existence of a universal, present in both, must be resolved philosophically. Census-takers may count us. But only an ontologist can find out whether there is a number that numbers us.
- Ontological discovery is not empirical. But ontologists do make discoveries. Or so say believers in ontology. And I believe. If seeing were believing, then by the end of this book you would believe too. For — assuming my arguments are successful — ontological discoveries follow.
- I shall argue that there are no inanimate macrophysical objects such as statues or baseballs or rocks or stars. But my ‘eliminativism' about these objects — like (so one might argue) controversial ontological claims about holes, universals, and numbers — is consistent with the empirically established facts. This is because, as we shall see, I agree with my opponents that there are microscopica arranged in various ways, such as 'statuewise', 'baseballwise', 'rockwise', and 'starwise'.
- Chapter 1 explains eliminativism in detail and addresses challenges to its coherence. Chapter 2 raises a number of considerations that motivate eliminativism. In Chapter 3 we find that, if things like statues and baseballs existed, everything they allegedly cause would be caused by their parts; if statues and baseballs existed, they would be — at best — wholly causally redundant. This, I argue, leads to their elimination.
- So much for what there is not. The next three chapters deal with what there is, focusing primarily on us human organisms. Chapter 4 argues that we have ‘non-redundant' causal powers — we can cause things not causally overdetermined by our proper parts — and that this keeps us from being eliminated by the arguments of Chapter 3. Chapter 5 shows why Chapter 2's considerations do not motivate eliminating us.
- Chapter 4's arguments work only if some conscious mental states are causally efficacious. So Chapter 6 blocks a serious argument for mental epiphenomenalism. That chapter also argues, among other things, that incompatibilists about free will should endorse the claim that we have non-redundant causal powers of the sort defended in Chapter 4. At least, incompatibilists should endorse this if they believe that we are human organisms who act freely.
- The seventh and final chapter argues that, though both believe falsely, someone who believes in statues (and baseballs and rocks and the rest) is better off than someone who believes in unicorns.
- My ontology is, more or less, in the tradition of those (arguably Aristotle's, obviously van Inwagen's) that endorse organisms and eliminate inanimate composite objects. But only more or less. For while I deny the existence of inanimate macroscopica — statues, baseballs, rocks, stars, etc. — their problem is not that they are inanimate. Their problem is, among other things, that were they to exist, their causal powers would be at best redundant. (Thus it makes no real difference to my ontology if there happen to be some exotic inanimate macroscopica, just so long as they have non-redundant causal powers.) And I defend our existence — not on the grounds that we are alive — but on the grounds that, among other things, we have non-redundant causal powers. I am happy to eliminate any alleged organisms that, if theyexisted, would at most cause only what their parts overdetermine.
- I wrote most of this book during the academic year 1999/2000, while enjoying a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities and a leave from Virginia Commonwealth University. I am grateful to the NEH and to VCU for their generosity.
- Close ancestors of two short arguments in Chapter 1, and of an argument in Chapter 4, have already been published. They can be found1 in ‘Composition as Identity, Mereological Essentialism, and Counterpart Theory', '"No Statues"', and ‘Against the Doctrine of Microphysical Supervenience2'. The first two articles appeared in the Australasian Journal of Philosophy, the third in Mind. I presented other arguments from this book at the University of Virginia (1999), the Eastern Division APA Symposium on Ontology (1999), and Notre Dame's awkwardly named but smoothly run Mighty Midwestern Metaphysical Mayhem IV (1999).
- I received a great deal of help on this book. I here offer my thanks to the many who made suggestions, raised objections, and responded to my questions. Thanks also go to Randy Carter, Tamar Gendler, John Hawthorne, Mark Heller, Jaegwon Kim, Al Plantinga, Thomas Williams, and Dean Zimmerman. They gave careful attention to extensive stretches of one or another draft of this book. And I am especially grateful to the following who provided valuable comments on (in some cases multiple drafts of) the entire manuscript: Mike Bergmann, Jonathan Lowe, Gene Mills, Mark Murphy, Eric Olson, Mike Rea, Alan Sidelle, and Ted Sider.
In-Page Footnotes ("Merricks (Trenton) - Objects & Persons: Preface")
Footnote 1: See
… "Merricks (Trenton) - Composition as Identity, Mereological Essentialism, and Counterpart Theory",
… "Merricks (Trenton) - No Statues", and
… "Merricks (Trenton) - Against the Doctrine of Microphysical Supervenience".
"Merricks (Trenton) - Explaining Eliminativism"
Source: Merricks - Objects and Persons, 2001, Chapter 1
Folk ontology includes statues. Eliminativism denies that statues exist but says that there are atoms arranged statuewise. In this chapter, I explain eliminativism and define 'arranged statuewise'. I also argue that eliminativism is neither obviously false nor contradictory. In presenting this argument, I consider, among other things, 'reductionism' and composition as identity.
- Eliminitivism: The Basic Idea
- Eliminitivism: Not as Bad as you might Think
- The Linguistic Charge of Contradiction
- The Metaphysical Charge of Contradiction
- Conclusion: Many disputed metaphysical theses are, if true at all, necessarily true. To establish that such a thesis is possibly true just is to establish that it is actually true. Thus establishing that a disputed metaphysical thesis is possibly true cannot be a prerequisite for presenting arguments for that thesis. Nevertheless, we should ask the metaphysician, before she presents her arguments, what thesis she purports to defend. After all, if we don’t know what thesis she is defending, we cannot possibly judge whether her arguments adequately support it.
I have not tried to establish that eliminativism is possibly true. But I have tried to explain what eliminitivism is. I have explained the eliminitivist’s thesis that there are atoms arranged statuewise but no statues. And I have countered two versions of the charge that the first half of that thesis contradicts the second. This should be enough to get us started. We should now understand eliminitivism well enough to follow and evaluate arguments for its truth.
"Merricks (Trenton) - Considerations in Favour of Eliminativism"
Source: Merricks - Objects and Persons, 2001, Chapter 2
Further clarifies eliminativism, and further demonstrates its intelligibility, by showing eliminativism's novel and interesting solutions to a number of philosophical puzzles. The arguments of this chapter also support the truth of eliminativism. The arguments touch on a variety of topics, including vagueness and the 'Sorites1 Game,' worries about co-location and constitution, and the way a thinker (such as a person) is related to her brain.
- The Water in the Pool
- The Sorites2 Game
- The Statue and the Lump
- Brains and Thinkers
- One could respond to the Sorites3 Game by embracing metaphysical vagueness. Or one could avoid commitment to co-location by endorsing mereological essentialism and the claim that exactly one object – a mereologically invariant one – is composed of atoms arranged statuewise-lumpwise. And so on. Moreover, eliminativism itself is a striking thesis. Thus it is far from obvious, one might object, that eliminativism is a more plausible response to the cases presented in this chapter than are any of its rivals.
- In partial response to this objection, I could note that if one rejects substance dualism and perdurance, but thinks persons persist for any appreciable duration, then presumably one must reject mereological essentialism. And if one thinks metaphysical vagueness solves nothing because all the original problems reappear in the form of higher-order vagueness, one won't see in it a response to the Sorites4 Game. And I could argue that eliminativism handles all of the above cases, which no other single view does, at least no other view that doesn't have problems eliminativism avoids. And so on. And on. And on.
- I have, of course, noted non-eliminativist ways to respond to the puzzles considered above. And I have raised some concerns with some of these other responses. But I shall not attempt to say everything that can be said for and against every possible ontology, even when such ontologies bear on the considerations raised in this chapter. For my primary aim has not been to demonstrate that eliminativism is far superior to any possible rival. It has rather been to show what eliminativism can do, emphasizing that its ability to do these things is a mark in its favour.
- Moreover, its ability to do these things shows that eliminativism makes sense. Thus this chapter should have banished completely any residue of suspicion, not purged in the first chapter, that eliminativism is contradictory or incoherent or trivially false. For in so far as we understand the eliminativist's solutions to the puzzles suggested above – solutions requiring, for example, atoms arranged statuewise but no statues and atoms arranged brainwise but no brains – we understand eliminativism.
- Eliminativism's coherence is established. Now the most significant threat to arguments for eliminativism is the reaction that, because eliminativism is so counter-intuitive, any such argument (if valid) should be taken to show that one of its premises – even if they are all initially compelling – must be false. This threat stems from the overwhelming feeling of obviousness attached to the claim that statues and brains exist.
- I hope that the arguments in this chapter have changed how you feel about eliminativism. I hope the arguments of this chapter have made the claim that statues exist – in addition to atoms arranged statuewise – seem somewhat less overwhelmingly obvious than it might have initially seemed. I hope I have, at the very least, weakened the conviction that eliminativism is false.
- With this in mind, just try to imagine a world like ours except that, while there are atoms arranged statuewise in that world, there are no statues. Just try to imagine a world in which the correct responses to the puzzles I have considered in this chapter are the responses I have defended, responses predicated on eliminating the problematic objects. Such a world would seem to us just like the actual world. No amount of looking around could distinguish that imagined world from ours. But in that world the truth dissolves many philosophical puzzles: the puzzles are shown to have rested on a mistake.
- Now ask yourself: is it overwhelmingly obvious that this imagined world isn't the actual one? Is it so obvious that no argument could convince you otherwise? The last two chapters have been successful if, though you still deny eliminativism, you grant that its denial is not overwhelmingly obvious, not so far beyond the pale as to invert automatically arguments for eliminativism into arguments for the falsity of some of their own premisses.
"Merricks (Trenton) - Epiphenomenalism and Eliminativism"
Source: Merricks - Objects and Persons, 2001, Chapter 3
I argue that anything a baseball causes - if baseballs exist - is also caused by the baseball's atoms working in concert. Moreover, a baseball is 'causally irrelevant' to what its atoms cause. These two claims imply that baseballs, if they existed, would be at best mere overdeterminers of whatever they cause. From this we can draw two conclusions. First, our perceptual reasons for believing in baseballs are no good and whether baseballs exist, just like whether arbitrary sums exist, can be decided only by philosophical argument. Second, there aren't any baseballs. For, we should resist causal overdetermination and assume, unless forced to do otherwise, that effects are not systematically causally overdetermined. Baseballs would systematically causally overdetermine the effects of their constituent atoms. And so, the bias against systematic causal overdetermination gives a positive reason - in addition to those of Ch. 2 - to deny that baseballs exist.
- The Causal Principle
- Atomic Causation
- Causal Overdetermination
- The Moral of the Overdetermination Argument
- I suspect that those now convinced that there are no non-living macrophysical objects are inclined to deny that there are human organisms. For they are likely to think that the reasons to eliminate baseballs are equally reasons to eliminate humans.
- The Overdetermination Argument could not be adapted to humans if humans caused things that their atoms do not. (This would block the application of (2*) of the schema of the Overdetermination Argument to everything a human causes.) The Overdetermination Argument would also cease to threaten us if we exercised ‘downward causal control’ over our atoms. (This would block (1*)’s application to humans.)
- The next chapter argues, independently of the Overdetermination Argument, that humans cause things that their parts do not. It also argues that, as a result, humans have non-redundant downward causal control over their constituent atoms. So if the arguments of the next chapter succeed, we are safe from the Overdetermination Argument. And in Chapter 5, I'll argue that we are safe from the considerations of Chapter 2.
- But note that even if (contrary to fact!) the arguments of the next chapter failed, one could still deny that the Overdetermination Argument eliminates human organisms. For one could tollens instead of ponens, concluding that, because we exist, we either cause things not caused by our parts or exercise causal control over our parts.
- One might accept these claims about a human's causal powers as the price of one's own admission into Being. And one might do so while consistently endorsing the Overdetermination Argument's application to baseballs and statues. For a metaphysics that attributes these sorts of causal powers to human persons is more plausible than one that attributes such powers to baseballs or statues. (For more on this point, see Chapter 6's (§III) discussion of free will.) But it would be nice to have independent confirmation of the truth of this ‘top-down’ metaphysics of humans. And we shall have it.
"Merricks (Trenton) - Surviving Eliminativism"
Source: Merricks - Objects and Persons, 2001, Chapter 4
I argue that we human organisms - though composite - are not mere overdeterminers. We cause, by way of having conscious mental properties, some effects that our constituent atoms do not cause. (My defence of this claim involves considerations regarding supervenience1. I argue that our existing and having conscious mental properties does not supervene2 on the features of, and relations among, our microphysical parts.) Because mental causation makes us causally non-redundant, we are not eliminated by the overdetermination argument of Ch. 3.
- Step One
- Conscious Mental Properties and Premiss (1a)
- Objections to the Defense of Premiss (1a)
- Step One Again
- Step Two
- On What Composite Objects Exist
- Human organisms do not dodge the Overdetermination Argument on a mere technicality of which baseballs, for example, cannot avail themselves for some intuitively irrelevant reason. Rather, human organisms have non-redundant causal powers and so can exercise downward causation. Baseballs, on the other hand, would not – even if they existed – have non-redundant causal powers or exercise downward causal control over their parts. This deep, fundamental difference between the powers of human organisms and the powers of alleged baseballs (and statues and rocks and stars and so on) makes all the difference with respect to the Overdetermination Argument.
This chapter raised a couple of issues that it did not adequately address. The first is mental epiphenomenalism. The second revolves around those things a human causes, but does not seem to cause directly by having a conscious mental state. (Imagine, for example, that I am thrown through a window. My atoms seem to shatter the window; I seem to shatter the window; and, as a result, the shattering of the window seems overdetermined.) These issues will be addressed in Chapter 6, where I continue the exploration of mental causation and the causal powers of human organisms begun in this chapter.
- But discussions of our causal influence would be, at best, merely hypothetical if it turned out that we did not really exist. And so, before embarking on such discussions, it is important to show that we are not eliminated. In this chapter I showed that we are not eliminated by the arguments of Chapter 3. In the next I'll show how we survive the arguments of Chapter 2.
- The arguments of this chapter strengthen those of the former. The arguments of Chapter 3 might have seemed too powerful, eliminating all actual and possible composite physical objects, holding up a standard for existence too lofty for any composite object to meet. But now we see that this is not so. The arguments of the preceding chapter are, it turns out, discriminatory. They give us a reason to deny the existence of some supposed composites but not others. And thus the plausibility of those arguments is increased.
"Merricks (Trenton) - Considerations in Favour of Eliminating Us?"
Source: Merricks - Objects and Persons, 2001, Chapter 5
I show that the arguments of Ch. 2, while giving good reasons to eliminate statues and other inanimate composita, do not provide equally good reasons to eliminate us human organisms. As with Ch. 2, the arguments discussed touch on a variety of topics, including vagueness and the 'Sorites1 Game,' worries about co-location and constitution, and the way a thinker (such as a person) is related to her brain.
- Persons and the Water in the Pool
- Persons and the Sorites2 Game
- Statues, Lumps, and Persons
- Brains, Thinkers and Persons
- This chapter responded to challenges to my claim that we exist and are human organisms. These challenges were not chosen randomly. They mimicked Chapter 2's considerations in favour of eliminativism. Chapter 2 gives reasons to deny the existence of statues (and of some other alleged macrophysical objects) which do not, we saw in this chapter, lead to equally good reasons to deny our existence as human organisms. Chapter 4's account of how persons avoid elimination by way of the Overdetermination Argument actually strengthened the Overdetermination Argument. For Chapter 4 showed that that argument's demands on composite objects were neither unrealistic nor impossible to satisfy. Persons satisfy them. Similarly, this chapter strengthens Chapter 2. For this chapter shows that Chapter 2 supports eliminating some material objects in a way that it does not support eliminating others.
- Chapter 2 concluded on a modest note, emphasizing only the intelligibility of eliminativism and that eliminativism should be at least somewhat of a live option. We can now be less modest. Because of their discriminatory nature, Chapter 2's considerations offer considerable support for eliminativism.
- This chapter and Chapter 2 constitute one strand of argument in support of my favoured ontology. A second, different strand of argument comprises Chapters 3 and 4. Thus we have two fairly independent and complementary defences of a statueless world populated by, among other things, us human organisms.
"Merricks (Trenton) - Mental Causation and Free Will"
Source: Merricks - Objects and Persons, 2001, Chapter 6
I argue that the Exclusion Argument against mental causation (an argument primarily associated with Jaegwon Kim and which opposes systematic overdetermination) is self-defeating and should be rejected by everyone. A new version of the Argument - the 'Micro Exclusion Argument' - does not undermine itself, but, I argue, we should reject that argument in light of the rejection of microphysical closure defended earlier in the book. And, among other things, I present an argument against free will, an argument that presupposes incompatibilism. I then show that those who believe in non-redundant mental causation of the sort I defend in Ch. 4 can resist that argument. And so, I suggest, incompatibilists who believe in free will should embrace my most controversial claims about mental causation.
- The Exclusion Argument(s)
- Causal Overdetermination Again
- The ‘Bottom-Up’ Threat to Free Will
- Conclusion: The arguments of Chapters 2 to 5 show that we should eliminate baseballs and statues but not humans. But those arguments side, one might query, doesn't it seem like statues and human organisms should be in the same metaphysical boat? Isn't it intuitively arbitrary to eliminate composite statues but not composite persons? No. As I emphasized at the close of §VI in Chapter 4, the ontology here can be well motivated by favouring objects with non-redundant causal powers and thus downward causal control over their proper parts. This chapter – relying as it has, in each section, on either our non-redundant powers or our resultant downward causal control – casts further light on the differences, relevant to ontology, between alleged statues and actual humans.
"Merricks (Trenton) - Belief and Practice"
Source: Merricks - Objects and Persons, 2001, Chapter 7
Argues that - because eliminativism is true - folk beliefs about statues and chairs are indeed false. But I make the case that, insofar as practical matters and justification are concerned, such beliefs are 'nearly as good as true.' And I argue that whether a claim of (e.g.) statue identity over time is 'nearly as good as true' can be, to some extent, a matter of convention. But, I argue, nothing similar can be said about claims of personal identity over time. Thus, my ontology yields a principled defence of the intuitively plausible claim that personal identity over time can never be a matter of convention, whereas the 'identity of artifacts' can be.
- False Folk Beliefs
- False Folk Beliefs are Nearly as Good as True: Justification
- False Folk Beliefs are Nearly as Good as True: Practice
- And Yet I Often Say ‘There are Statues’
- Eliminativism is true. And when the folk say ‘there are statues’, they ordinarily mean that there are statues. Thus the folk often say, and often believe, falsehoods. But false folk beliefs are nearly as good as true. Their being nearly as good as true makes them better, with respect to a number of epistemic norms, than beliefs like ‘there are unicorns’.
- Moreover, nearly as good as true folk beliefs are practically as good as true and, sometimes, even practically better than true. For eliminativism does better than standard folk ontology at accommodating our practice of treating certain cases of identity as somewhat conventional. Relatedly, my ontology does better than that of the folk at making sense of the intuitive asymmetry between artefacts and persons with respect to whether identity can be, for practical purposes, a matter of convention.
- Folk concepts such as that of statue, although empty, are indispensable. That is, there are important truths about the world – practically important to us – that we could not grasp without them. Perhaps we could make do without grasping those truths. Perhaps we could make do without thinking in terms of statues or even in terms of things arranged statuewise. Perhaps we could abandon the folk-ontological framework, along with any other framework that is parasitic upon it, altogether. But to do so would be to abandon our way of life.
- Eliminativism is true. But false folk-ontological beliefs are commendable in a variety of ways. And – even though eliminativism is true – empty folk-ontological concepts are indispensable, given our actual practical concerns. All of this speaks in favour of the ontology defended in these atoms arranged bookwise.
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2018
- Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)