Parts as counterparts

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Mereological nihilists are faced with a difficult challenge: explaining ordinary talk about material objects. Popular paraphrase strategies involve plurals, arrangements of particles, or fictions. In this paper, a new paraphrase strategy is put forward that has distinct advantages over its rivals: it is compatible with gunk and emergent properties of macro-objects. The only assumption is a commitment to a liberal view of the nature of simples; the nihilist must be willing to accept the possibility of heterogeneous extended simples. The author suggests reinterpreting the parthood and composition relations as modal. According to this paraphrase, composition is a kind of counterpart relation. The author shows that one can accept that mereological nihilism is metaphysically necessary, while endorsing all the claims of classical mereology. As a result, the nihilists are in exactly the same position as the classical mereologist when it comes to explaining talk about ordinary objects, but without the additional ontology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)228-241
Number of pages14
JournalThought: A Journal of Philosophy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2013


  • Mereology
  • Nihilism
  • Paraphrase
  • Composition
  • Simples
  • Gunk
  • Parts
  • Counterparts
  • Emergent properties


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