The ontological parsimony of mereology

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David Lewis (Parts of classes, Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, 1991, 84) famously argued that mereology is ontologically innocent. Many who have considered this claim believe he was mistaken. Mereology is not innocent, because its acceptance entails the acceptance of sums, new objects that were not previously part of one’s ontology. This argument, the argument from ontological parsimony, has two versions: a qualitative and a quantitative one. I argue that the defender of mereology can neutralize both arguments by holding that, given mereology, a commitment to the parts of an object is not an extra ontological commitment, made in addition to the commitment to the object; and that if the parts of an object are ‘ontologically innocent’, then sums cannot fail to be innocent either.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3253-3271
JournalPhilosophical Studies
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Philosophy


  • Mereology
  • Parthood
  • Composition
  • Ontological Commitment
  • Ontological Innocence.


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