Author ORCID Identifier
Year of Publication
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Arts and Sciences
Dr. Clare Batty
Dr. Megan Wallace
Ordinary material objects, such as guitars and houses, do not seem to pose any serious philosophical problems. However, the nature of the material objects and their part-whole relation raises serious questions about fundamental ontologies. Furthermore, part-whole relations are not necessarily spatial; they can be temporal as well.
My dissertation investigates the problems posed by ordinary material objects, and the different ontological views that attempt to provide answers to these problems. I then present a new and radical view, which I call Nihilist Perdurantism (NP). NP claims that objects have temporal parts, but not spatial parts. I arrive at this view by first exploring and arguing against different views on composition, with a focus on arguments against common sense ontologies of ordinary objects. I then discuss the nature of mereological simples and argue against several views that claim that qualitatively heterogeneous simples are possible (Markosian and McDaniel). Next, I present my arguments against perdurantist, endurantist, and presentist view of persistence. I especially focus on endurantism, and use the aforementioned argument against the possibility of qualitatively heterogeneous simples to construct a similar argument against endurantism. Finally, I argue in favor of my view, NP. This view combines a mereological nihilist view (defended at various times by Unger, Van Inwagen, Merricks, and Sider) about spatial parts with a perdurantist view (defended at various times by Lewis, Hawley, Heller, and Sider) of temporal parts. Therefore, according to NP, there are no guitars, trees, or houses.
The only objects that exist are NP objects; these are line-shaped objects that extend through spacetime. With respect to the three spatial dimensions, these objects have no parts. However, with respect to the temporal dimension, NP objects do have parts in the form of points and line segments. My work shows that NP has better solutions to many of the puzzles and problems posed by material objects, such as the puzzle of change, over the three standard views. Hinchliff argues that change is puzzling because in order for there to be real change, then the following four intuitions must be true: (1) The candle persists through the change. It existed when it was straight, and it exists now when it is bent…(2) Shapes are properties not relations. They are one-placed, not many-placed…(3) The candle itself has the shapes. Not just a part but the candle itself was straight, and not just a part but the candle itself is bent…(4) The shapes are incompatible. If the shapes were compatible, there need not have been a change. The puzzle of change is the mutual inconsistency of these four intuitions. I argue that perdurantists must deny intuition (3), endurantists must deny intuition (2), and presentists must deny intuition (1). I then argue that only NP can accommodate all four intuitions about both macroscopic and microscopic change while resolving the inconsistency of the four intuitions.
My dissertation presents a new view that provides a fresh perspective on the debate about the nature of material objects. My development of NP touches on a number of other philosophical problems. In Chapter One, I discuss the role of intuitions in metaphysics, and argue that many supposedly “common sense” intuitions are already philosophical positions. In Chapter 2, I argue against Korman’s and Markosian’s common sense ontologies of ordinary objects. In Chapter 3, I argue that the endurantist view of persistence is inconsistent and should be rejected. In addition to making the case for NP and its solution to the puzzle of change in Chapter 4, I also argue that NP can solve the problem of motion in a homogenous substance. Finally, in Chapter Five, I argue against the possibility of both gunky and junky material objects.
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Carlson, Brian Matthew, "NIHILIST PERDURANTISM: A NEW ONTOLOGY OF MATERIAL OBJECTS" (2017). Theses and Dissertations--Philosophy. 17.