The Identity of a Material Thing and its Matter

Philosophical Quarterly 64 (256):387-406 (2014)
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I have both a smaller and a larger aim. The smaller aim is polemical. Kit Fine believes that a material thing—a Romanesque statue, for example, or an open door—can be distinguished from its constituent matter—a piece of alloy, say, or a hunk of plastic—without recourse to modal or temporal considerations. The statue is Romanesque; the piece of alloy is not Romanesque. The door is open; the hunk of plastic is not open. I argue that these considerations, when combined with a proper understanding of how the use of ‘not’ is functioning, entail that the statue is the piece of alloy, and that the door is the hunk of plastic. Far from challenging the doctrine that a material thing is its matter, Fine’s observations confirm the view. My larger aim is methodological. I will show that natural language semantics can guide inquiry in certain areas of metaphysics by helping us to advance lingering debates.

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Mahrad Almotahari
University of Edinburgh


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