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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: April 2019

5 - In Defence of Ordinary Objects and a Naturalistic Answer to the Special Composition Question


This paper first (Section 1) discusses the meaning of the English expression ‘ordinary’, its vagueness and its context-sensitivity. The diversity of types of ordinary objects is illustrated using data from comparative linguistics. It is then argued that many such objects must exist despite their composite nature (at least at ‘close’ possible worlds) (Section 2). Two arguments are given. The first (Section 2.1) is a charity argument and is roughly that the existence, development and survival of cognitive and linguistic capacities and representations require that, for any human linguistic community c, a ‘large number’ of expressions/concepts purporting to refer to/apply to objects and used by normal, healthy adult thinkers of c must successfully refer/have a non-vacuous extension (at least at ‘close’ possible worlds). The second argument (Section 2.2) is against the van Inwagenian rephrasing strategy for mereological nihilism, and is roughly that it offers only a simulacrum of rephrasing, and that nihilism is incompatible with virtually all current scientific and ‘everyday’ reasoning and knowledge, as well as being epistemologically self-defeating. The next parts of the paper (Sections 3, 4 and 5) explain how ordinary objects can exist given their composite nature by defending a naturalistic answer to the special composition question, according to which, roughly, objects compose something at t iff they form a chain of bound states at t. An appendix (Section 6) illustrates this thesis with examples drawn from classical and quantum physics.