The naive conception of material objects: a defense

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Korman, Daniel Z.

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I defend a naive conception of material objects, according to which there are such things as stones, statues, cats and their tails, but no "strange fusions" of such things as my nose and the Eiffel Tower. Virtually everyone in the literature rejects the naive conception in favor of some revisionary theory of material objects. Eliminativists (e.g., Unger, van Inwagen, Merricks) deny that there are such things as statues and stones and, in some cases, cats as well. Universalists (e.g., Lewis, Rea, Sider) hold that for any objects you like--even my nose and the Eiffel Tower--there is a single object composed of those objects. These revisionary theories are manifestly counterintuitive, but there are powerful arguments for preferring them to the naive conception. The first part of the dissertation is devoted to showing how these arguments can be resisted. First, I assess the charge that, given the correctness of the naive conception, it would have been a miraculous stroke of luck for us to have hit upon the privileged conceptual scheme. Second, I examine the Lewis-Sider argument from vagueness for unrestricted mereological composition, Third, I show that the grounding problem for coincident modally discernible objects can be solved. Fourth, show that the causal exclusion argument as applied to ordinary objects can be resisted without either systematic overdetermination or epiphenomena. In the second part of the dissertation, I argue that the prima facie conflict between revisionary theories and our ordinary discourse, beliefs, and intuitions about material objects proves to be an insurmountable problem for those theories. First, I argue that existing attempts to reconcile revisionary theories of material objects with folk discourse are unsatisfactory, Second, I provide a perspicuous statement of the "challenge from folk belief" and argue that the standard strategies for meeting the challenge are unsatisfactory.