Philosophy research seminar: Arianna Betti: "Gluing Facts"; 23.10.2008, Helsinki

The research seminar at the Department of philosophy will meet on thursday, 23.10 at 16-18 (Siltavuorenpenger 20 A, 2nd floor, room 222):

Dr.Arianna Betti (Free University of Amsterdam): Gluing Facts

The seminar is open for all, including students. Welcome!

Metaphysical posits such as Armstrong’s states of affairs find their legitimacy in the explanatory roles they play, the most popular and general among such roles being that of truth-maker. But, as known, Armstrong’s states of affairs face the so-called Glue Problem, namely the question of what grounds their unity (Vallicella 2000). Armstrong’s states of affairs differ from mereological sums insofar as they infringe the Extensionality of Composition (EC), i.e. the principle according to which two wholes are identical if they are composed of the same parts. The same constituents can form different states of affairs; hence states of affairs are more than the mereological sum of their constituents: states of affairs have, in fact, a fundamental and peculiar non- mereological form of composition. The question whether Armstrong can solve the Glue Problem depends therefore on whether non-mereological composition can be made sense of. If not, Armstrong’s view is incoherent, because mereologically speaking a state of affairs is and at the same time is not a whole of its parts.


By drawing upon results by Maurin (2006) and Wieland & Betti (forthcoming) two mereological solutions to the Glue Problem can be advanced which employ certain complexes of tropes (henceforth: complexes). Complexes obey EC and are identical to the mereological sums of their constituents, so their metametaphysical advantage upon states of affairs is clear: in a universe of complexes the only form of composition needed is (ordinary) mereological composition, while in a universe of states of affairs both mereological composition and mysterious non-mereological composition are needed.


What I claim in this talk is that the metametaphysical advantage mentioned above can be fully generalized: between two metaphysical theories we should always choose the one which deviates less from principles of extensional mereology such as EC. In the first part of my talk I thus defend the principle that in metaphysics getting one’s parts and wholes right – call this Mereological Responsibility – is a methodological constraint which is in fact way more fundamental than any truthmaking principle. Which means, in the case of the Glue Problem, that even if the two mereological solutions at hand were less satisfactory as truthmakerdeliverers(and it is to be seen whether they are) they would still be preferable to Amstrong’s non-mereological one. Central to the Glue Problem is the relation between the parts of a whole; in the second part of my talk I extend the discussion of Mereological Responsibility instead to the relation between the ontological characteristics of the whole on the one hand and those of its parts on the other. This will involve a critical
examination of the legitimacy of (a) ‘principles’ such as Armstrong’s ‘victory of particularity’-slogan; (b) complexes of time-bound particulars being themselves time-unbound as found at the turn of the 20th century in Twardowski, Husserl and Meinong; (c) trope-theoretical claims such as (i) a complex of particular tropes is itself particular; (ii) (some) complexes of (compresent) abstract tropes are concrete.