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Mereological nihilism
Posted: 25 May 2010 02:25 AM   [ Ignore ]
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What on earth is mereological nihilism (MN)?

From the wiki on Mereological nihilism

Mereological nihilism (also called compositional nihilism, or rarely simply nihilism) is the position that objects with proper parts do not exist (not only objects in space, but also objects existing in time do not have any temporal parts), and only basic building blocks without parts exist. Or, more succinctly, “nothing is a proper part of anything.”

That’s fascinating. There is more to consider:

A number of philosophers have argued that objects that have parts do not exist. The basis of their argument consists in claiming that our senses give us only foggy information about reality and thus they cannot be trusted; and for example, we fail to see the smallest building blocks that make up anything, and these smallest building blocks are individual and separate items that do not ever unify or come together into being non-individual. Thus they never compose anything. So, according to the concept of mereological nihilism, if the building blocks of reality never compose any whole items, then all of reality does not involve any whole items, even though we may think it does.

From the wiki on Paradox of the heap, an example of the Sorities paradox

  1,000,000 grains of sand is a heap of sand (Premise 1)
 
  A heap of sand minus one grain is still a heap. (Premise 2)

Repeated applications of Premise 2 (each time starting with one less grain), eventually forces one to accept the conclusion that a heap may be composed of just one grain of sand (and consequently, if one grain of sand is still a heap, then removing that one grain of sand to leave no grains at all still leaves a heap of sand, and indeed a negative number of grains also form a heap).

Peter Unger, a friend of MN, proposes the solution that heaps do not exist:

So the response must deny outright that there are such things as heaps. Peter Unger defends this solution.

Using the same logic, it can be shown that all wholes such as the universe, persons, cats etc., do not exist. All that exist are entities without parts.

From the same wiki on MN:

The only things we know of that do not have parts are the smallest items known to exist, such as leptons and quarks, which can’t be ‘seen’, so are not experienced—at least not directly. But indirectly through emergent properties. Thus all objects we experience have parts.

And, if quantum objects are vague objects, then ultimate reality is vagueness.

cheese

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Posted: 25 May 2010 03:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Mereological nihilism does appear to lead to literal nihilism for all except “the smallest items known to exist”. While particles may fit that bill, IIRC the smallest objects in QM are basic, probabilistic waveforms. So that’s all that exists.

It’s a laudably austere and consistent theory, but otherwise completely uninteresting, and preserves basically none of our normal intuitions. It’s impossible to adhere to such a theory in practice.

Eventually all these basic metaphysical theories become species of semantical arguments: they seem just to embrace different senses of the term “exist” as their paradigm. So I would say that the fundamental objects of existence, upon which all other things supervene in the physical world, are these basic objects.

I will say that Unger is a very good metaphysician, though it’s been awhile since I looked at his stuff.

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Posted: 25 May 2010 06:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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kkwan - 25 May 2010 02:25 AM

What on earth is mereological nihilism (MN)?

If mereological nihilism is true there is no earth.

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Posted: 25 May 2010 09:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Nihilism….pfeh.

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“In the end nature is horrific and teaches us nothing.” -Mutual of Omicron

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Posted: 25 May 2010 12:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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dougsmith - 25 May 2010 03:59 AM

Mereological nihilism does appear to lead to literal nihilism for all except “the smallest items known to exist”. While particles may fit that bill, IIRC the smallest objects in QM are basic, probabilistic waveforms. So that’s all that exists.

It’s a laudably austere and consistent theory, but otherwise completely uninteresting, and preserves basically none of our normal intuitions. It’s impossible to adhere to such a theory in practice.

Eventually all these basic metaphysical theories become species of semantical arguments: they seem just to embrace different senses of the term “exist” as their paradigm. So I would say that the fundamental objects of existence, upon which all other things supervene in the physical world, are these basic objects.

I will say that Unger is a very good metaphysician, though it’s been awhile since I looked at his stuff.

The criterion for existence in MN, i.e. that which is whole without parts, leads to the bizarre ontology where what exist are only quantum objects. The philosopher who proposed this does not exist!

What I (who does not exist) would like to know is how and why myriads of entities with parts (who also do not exist) emerge from the ontic vagueness of quantum objects.

Could MN be a metaphysical joke, satirizing both perdurantism and endurantism?

tongue wink

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Posted: 25 May 2010 12:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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faithlessgod - 25 May 2010 06:24 AM
kkwan - 25 May 2010 02:25 AM

What on earth is mereological nihilism (MN)?

If mereological nihilism is true there is no earth.

Neither would you, I and this forum exist as well! There is only the “infinite sea” of quantum objects which congregate to “form” the non-existent universe and everything in it.

LOL

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Posted: 25 May 2010 12:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Dead Monky - 25 May 2010 09:05 AM

Nihilism….pfeh.

Depressive reality. Neither you or I or the universe exist. What exists is a grey goo.

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Posted: 25 May 2010 12:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Depressive reality. Neither you or I or the universe exist. What exists is a grey goo.

Bah.  The entire concept of ‘mereological nihilism’ reeks of absurdity and mental masturbation taken too seriously.

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Posted: 26 May 2010 10:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Dead Monky - 25 May 2010 12:54 PM

Bah.  The entire concept of ‘mereological nihilism’ reeks of absurdity and mental masturbation taken too seriously.

I would not dismiss the metaphysical concept of MN as absurd so easily, though the ontological implications are outrageous.

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Posted: 26 May 2010 10:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Eh, that’s my opinion.  Of course, I care little about ontology and most metaphysical concepts seem laughably inane to me.

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Posted: 26 May 2010 12:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Dead Monky - 25 May 2010 12:54 PM

Depressive reality. Neither you or I or the universe exist. What exists is a grey goo.

Bah.  The entire concept of ‘mereological nihilism’ reeks of absurdity and mental masturbation taken too seriously.

It just seems like taking science seriously to me. The world consists of matter/energy and space/time.

Stephen

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Posted: 26 May 2010 12:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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It just seems like taking science seriously to me. The world consists of matter/energy and space/time.

Quite right with the second part, but it seems like nothing but pointless, overly obsessive reductionism.  Like saying water doesn’t really exist and that your glass is full of a mass of hydrogen and oxygen.  Or nitpicking that nobody ever really touches anything because the electromagnetic fields of the atoms composing matter keep the molecules from actually touching.  Why?  It’s pointless and arbitrarily captious.

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Posted: 26 May 2010 12:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Dead Monky - 26 May 2010 12:32 PM

It just seems like taking science seriously to me. The world consists of matter/energy and space/time.

Quite right with the second part, but it seems like nothing but pointless, overly obsessive reductionism.  Like saying water doesn’t really exist and that your glass is full of a mass of hydrogen and oxygen.  Or nitpicking that nobody ever really touches anything because the electromagnetic fields of the atoms composing matter keep the molecules from actually touching.  Why?  It’s pointless and arbitrarily captious.

It’s just a matter of whether it’s true or not.

Stephen

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Posted: 26 May 2010 12:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Feels more like semantics to me.  The idea of whether ‘parts’ really exist depends entirely upon what one’s definition of ‘part’ is and how obsessively one wants to nit pick things.

Sorry if I’m sounding like an asshole.  I’m not meaning to, but after rereading my last couple posts I think I’m being unintentionally douchey about this.  Again, sorry about that.  I’ll try not to be such an a-hole.

[ Edited: 26 May 2010 12:51 PM by Dead Monky ]
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Posted: 26 May 2010 12:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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kkwan - 25 May 2010 02:25 AM

From the wiki on Paradox of the heap, an example of the Sorities paradox

  1,000,000 grains of sand is a heap of sand (Premise 1)
 
  A heap of sand minus one grain is still a heap. (Premise 2)

Repeated applications of Premise 2 (each time starting with one less grain), eventually forces one to accept the conclusion that a heap may be composed of just one grain of sand (and consequently, if one grain of sand is still a heap, then removing that one grain of sand to leave no grains at all still leaves a heap of sand, and indeed a negative number of grains also form a heap).

Peter Unger, a friend of MN, proposes the solution that heaps do not exist:

So the response must deny outright that there are such things as heaps. Peter Unger defends this solution.

Using the same logic, it can be shown that all wholes such as the universe, persons, cats etc., do not exist. All that exist are entities without parts.

From the same wiki on MN:

The only things we know of that do not have parts are the smallest items known to exist, such as leptons and quarks, which can’t be ‘seen’, so are not experienced—at least not directly. But indirectly through emergent properties. Thus all objects we experience have parts.

And, if quantum objects are vague objects, then ultimate reality is vagueness.

cheese

Or: you’re just changing the definition of “heap” as you go on.

I agree with DM.  Sounds like nothing more than cheap word games.

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Posted: 26 May 2010 01:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Dead Monky - 26 May 2010 12:45 PM

Feels more like semantics to me.  The idea of whether ‘parts’ really exist depends entirely upon what one’s definition of ‘part’ is and how obsessively one wants to nit pick things.

What interests me is what is there when we are not looking, labeling, etc.

I don’t think any of this is semantics.

Stephen

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