Cryptobiosis and Composition (Presidential Prize Award Winner)

Southwest Philosophy Review 39 (1):21-29 (2023)
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Peter van Inwagen’s answer to the Special Composition Question, call it Organicism, says the xs compose y iff the activity of the xs constitutes a life. What about suspended lives (i.e., cryptobiosis)? Suppose a cat is alive at t1, completely frozen at t2, then revived at t3. Is the cat alive while frozen? Plausibly no, which according to Organicism means the cat-qua-composite ceases to exist at t2. Intuitively, however, the same cat seems present at all of t1, t2, and t3. To account for these intuitions, van Inwagen modifies his answer: the xs compose y iff the activity of the xs constitutes or results from a life. Alas, this modification permits problematic duplication cases where one collection of objects composes something, yet a duplicate collection does not. This prompts the search for alternative modifications that identify frozen organisms as composites without introducing duplication problems. A dispositional variant is proposed.

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David Skowronski
Baylor University


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