Andrea Oliani


Steps Toward a Theory of Natural and Unnatural Objects


According to a popular but controversial view, inspired by classical mereology, viz. part-whole theory (Hovda 2009, Simons 1987), ontological composition is unrestricted and, hence, Mereological Universalism is true: for any things whatsoever, there is a whole composed out of them. Given Universalism, it seems that there are not only, say, trout, turkeys, dogs, and trees, but also “objects undreamt of by most” (Sider 2007, p. 62): for instance, objects composed out of trout and turkeys, i.e. “trout-turkeys" (Lewis 1991), of dogs and trees, i.e. “trogs" (Korman 2015), and many more. Supporters of Universalism, e.g. Cotnoir (2016), Hawthorne (2006), Lewis (1986, 1991), Sider (2001), Varzi (2000), often praise its expressive power, elegance, and anti-arbitrariness. In this work, I too will assume its truth. Here, I will focus instead on some expressive inadequacies in Universalism's machinery that could undermine its potential and attractiveness. Especially, I will focus on its unstructured conception of composition and its insensitivity to the varied structure of objects. I will solve this predicament by presenting a novel view of composition: Structural Universalism (SU), which combines Universalism and Lewisian naturalness for objects. The upshot is an abundant ontology capable of discriminating the unified and nomologically relevant objects, i.e. the natural wholes (e.g. trout and turkeys), from the gerrymandered and nomologically irrelevant ones, i.e. the unnatural wholes (e.g. trout-turkeys), without thereby relying on other more problematic notions, e.g. Aristotelian forms. Eventually, SU will prove to be a useful and powerful tool for a new foundation of material objects' metaphysics.


June 20th/16:40/Aula 0A