Journal of Philosophical Logic

, Volume 48, Issue 5, pp 909–955 | Cite as

Models for Hylomorphism

  • Bruno JacintoEmail author
  • A. J. Cotnoir
Open Access


In a series of papers (Fine et al., 1982; Fine, Noûs28(2), 137–158; 1994, Midwest Studies in Philosophy, 23, 61–74, 1999) Fine develops his hylomorphic theory of embodiments. In this article, we supply a formal semantics for this theory that is adequate to the principles laid down for it in (Midwest Studies in Philosophy, 23, 61–74, 1999). In Section 1, we lay out the theory of embodiments as Fine presents it. In Section 2, we argue on Cantorian grounds that the theory needs to be stabilized, and sketch some ways forward, discussing various choice points in modeling the view. In Section 3, we develop a formal semantics for the theory of embodiments by constructing embodiments in stages and restricting the domain of the second-order quantifiers. In Section 4 we give a few illustrative examples to show how the models deliver Finean hylomorphic consequences. In Section 5, we prove that Fine’s principles are sound with respect to this semantics. In Section 6 we present some inexpressibility results concerning Fine’s various notions of parthood and show that in our formal semantics these notions are all expressible using a single mereological primitive. In Section 7, we prove several mereological results stemming from the model theory, showing that the mereology is surprisingly robust. In Section 8, we draw some philosophical lessons from the formal semantics, and in particular respond to Koslicki’s (2008) main objection to Fine’s theory. In the appendix we present proofs of the inexpressibility results of Section 6.


Objects Parthood Composition Mereology Hylomorphism Rigid embodiment Variable embodiment Qua-objects Atomism Gunk Junk Aristotle Neo-Aristotelian Cantor Cardinality Iterative Hierarchy 



This paper arose out of the weekly Metaphysics Research Group seminars at the Arché Philosophical Research Centre at the University of St Andrews. We are thankful to participants for their contributions. Thanks also to audience members at the the Metaphysics of Totality workshop and the University of Glasgow, especially Phillip Blum, Louis deRosset, Berta Grimau, Nathan Kirkwood, Anna-Sophia Maurin, Stephan Leuenberger, Alex Skiles, Naomi Thompson, Bruno Whittle, and Nathan Wildman. Thanks also to the Argument Clinic Group of the University of Lisbon, especially to Raimundo Henriques, José Mestre, Ricardo Miguel, and Diogo Santos. Thanks to two anonymous referees for this journal for their valuable comments. Special thanks to Gabriel Uzquiano and Maegan Fairchild for their comments on an earlier draft of this paper that led to many improvements. The research and writing of this paper was supported in part by a 2017–2018 Leverhulme Research Fellowship from the Leverhulme Trust.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of St AndrewsSt AndrewsUK

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