Research Group
in Analytic Philosophy

The Difficulty of Finding a Commonsense Answer to The Special Composition Question

Date: 20 June 2018

Time: 15:00

Place: Seminari de Filosofia UB


Peter van Inwagen, in (van Inwagen 1990), famously formulates the Special Composition Question (SQC): When do some things compose something? Chad Carmichael, in (Carmichael 2015), formulates an innovative answer to the SCQ which, he argues – unlike the rest of the answers proposed – accords with common sense about composition. This is Carmichael’s proposal:

Necessarily, for all xs, there is a y such that the xs compose y iff either
(i) the xs are lump-like and the xs are bonded, or
(ii) the activities of the xs constitute an event that imposes sufficient unity on the xs.

Now, van Inwagen (1990) states several powerful objections to answers of this kind (i.e., series-style answers) to which Carmichael (2015) provides interesting replies. In this paper I will focus on Carmichael’s answers to two of van Inwagen’s objections. Against what van Inwagen says, he argues that his proposal is compatible with the transitivity of parthood and that it can provide a solution to the Ship of Theseus puzzle. My main aim here is to argue that Carmichael’s answers are not satisfactory, and thus reflect the difficulty of finding a commonsense answer to SCQ.