Philosophical Studies

, Volume 159, Issue 1, pp 1–20 | Cite as

Modal Mereology and Modal Supervenience



David Lewis insists that restrictivist composition must be motivated by and occur due to some intuitive desiderata for a relation R among parts that compose wholes, and insists that a restrictivist’s relation R must be vague. Peter van Inwagen agrees. In this paper, I argue that restrictivists need not use such examples of relation R as a criterion for composition, and any restrictivist should reject a number of related mereological theses. This paper critiques Lewis and van Inwagen (and others) on their respective mereological metaphysics, and offers a Golden Mean between their two opposite extremes. I argue for a novel account of mereology I call Modal Mereology that is an alternative to Classical Mereology. A modal mereologist can be a universalist about the possible composition of wholes from parts and a restrictivist about the actual composition of wholes from parts. I argue that puzzles facing Modal Mereology (e.g., puzzles concerning Cambridge changes and the Problem of the Many, and how to demarcate the actual from the possible) are also faced in similar forms by classical universalists. On my account, restricted composition is rather motivated by and occurs due to a possible whole’s instantiating an actual type. Universalists commonly believe in such types and defend their existence from objections and puzzles. The Modal Mereological restrictivist can similarly defend the existence of such types (adding that such types are the only wholes) from similar objections and puzzles.


Mereology Universalism Restrictivism Modal Supervenience David Lewis Peter van Inwagen Composition Wholes Parts Problem of the Many 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of MinnesotaDuluthUSA

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