, Volume 192, Issue 5, pp 1373–1392 | Cite as

Mass additivity and a priori entailment

  • Kelvin J. McQueen


The principle of mass additivity states that the mass of a composite object is the sum of the masses of its elementary components. Mass additivity is true in Newtonian mechanics but false in special relativity. Physicists have explained why mass additivity is true in Newtonian mechanics by reducing it to Newton’s microphysical laws. This reductive explanation does not fit well with deducibility theories of reductive explanation such as the modern Nagelian theory of reduction, and the a priori entailment theory of reduction that is prominent in the philosophy of mind. Nonetheless, I argue that a reconstruction of the explanation that incorporates distinctively philosophical concepts in fact fits both theories. I discuss the implications of this result for both theories and for the reductive explanation of consciousness.


Reduction Explanation Mass additivity Nagel  Newtonian mechanics A priori entailment Scrutability Consciousness 



I would like to thank David Chalmers, Dan Marshall, Tim Maudlin, Daniel Nolan, Jesse Robertson, Raul Saucedo, Craig Savage, Wolfgang Schwarz, Jonathan Simon, Michael Simpson, Jonathan Tapsell, and two anonymous referees, for helpful feedback. This publication was made possible in part through the support of a Grant from Templeton World Charity Foundation. The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

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