Powers as Mereological Lawmakers

In Christopher J. Austin, Anna Marmodoro & Andrea Roselli (eds.), Powers, Parts and Wholes: Essays on the Mereology of Powers. Routledge. pp. 83-95 (2023)
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This chapter explores a potential analogy between mereological principles and laws of nature. Against a backdrop of what Marmodoro has termed ‘power structuralism’ (and a rejection of a Humean worldview), the connection between parthood and modality may be richer than has hitherto been considered. Mereological principles delineate possibilities for parts and wholes, and putting powers at the centre of a discussion about parthood can furnish a novel conception of mereological laws, much as dispositionalism has done so for natural laws; namely, these principles express connections between fundamental dispositional properties. By extending dispositionalism to comprehend mereology in this way, we can help fulfil its promise to provide a foundational, naturalistic metaphysics, as foundational mereological debates then begin to mirror those relating to dispositionalist views of laws of nature: we may treat natural and mereological laws in tandem, as holding either necessarily or contingently, with associated strategies for dealing with supposed counterexamples to one’s preferred set of mereological principles. We can thus bring new life to the debate over whether questions of composition admit of contingent or only necessary answers.

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