How to Solve the Puzzle of Dion and Theon Without Losing Your Head

Mind 129 (513):205-224 (2020)
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The ancient puzzle of Dion and Theon has given rise to a surprising array of apparently implausible views. For example, in order to solve the puzzle, several philosophers have been led to deny the existence of their own feet, others have denied that objects can gain and lose parts, and large numbers of philosophers have embraced the thesis that distinct objects can occupy the same space, having all their material parts in common. In this paper, I argue for an alternative approach: I claim that human beings have ordinary parts—hands, heads, feet, and so on—but no extraordinary parts, such as ‘foot-complements’, the existence of which is essential to the puzzle. I rebut three objections to this approach: an objection that it is unacceptably metaphysically arbitrary, an objection that the view is incompatible with versions of the puzzle involving decapitation, and an objection concerning masses of matter. If we can believe that there are such things as hands and feet without involving ourselves in paradox, and without accepting large numbers of co-located material objects that share all their material parts, then that is what we should do. My view is the only known alternative which allows this.

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Chad Carmichael
Indiana University Purdue University, Indianapolis


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