The Problem of Composition

Verity Harte

in Plato on Parts and Wholes

Published in print September 2002 | ISBN: 9780198236757
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191597640 | DOI:
The Problem of Composition

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Examines several modern accounts of composition—especially David Lewis's, a version of classical extensional mereology—with the aim of framing a shared question about composition. The problem that Plato sets out to solve is of how to give an account of composition in such a way as to allow that a whole is an individual rather than merely a collection of parts. The relation between composition and identity, and the ontological innocence or otherwise of composition, are both matters right at the heart of Plato's discussions of composition, since on the view of composition that identifies a whole with its parts, a whole is both one and many. Consideration of a passage from the Theaetetus (203–206) gives content to the points of contact established between Platonic and modern discussions of composition and provides the first example of Plato's concern with this model of composition that he rejects.

Keywords: collection; composition; identity; individual; David Lewis; mereology; ontology; parts; Plato; Theaetetus; wholes

Chapter.  16102 words. 

Subjects: Ancient Philosophy

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