pp 1–16 | Cite as

Mereological Composition and Plural Quantifier Semantics



Mereological universalists and nihilists disagree on the conditions for composition. In this paper, we show how this debate is a function of one’s chosen semantics for plural quantifiers. Debating mereologists have failed to appreciate this point because of the complexity of the debate and extraneous theoretical commitments. We eliminate this by framing the debate between universalists and nihilists in a formal model where these two theses about composition are contradictory. The examination of the two theories in the model brings clarity to a debate in which opponents frequently talk past one another. With the two views stated precisely, our investigation reveals the dependence of the mereologists’ ontological commitments on the semantics of plural quantifiers. Though we discuss the debate with respect to a simplified and idealized model, the insights provided will make more complex debates on composition more productive and deflationist criticisms of the debate less substantial.


Composition Mereology Plural logic Ontology 



We would like to thank Zach Weber for discussion and comments on an earlier draft, and several anonymous referees for helpful feedback.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand
  2. 2.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of California, DavisDavisUSA

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