Boundaries, continuity, and contact

Noûs 31 (1):26-58 (1997)
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There are conflicting intuitions concerning the status of a boundary separating two adjacent entities (or two parts of the same entity). The boundary cannot belong to both things, for adjacency excludes overlap; and it cannot belong to neither, for nothing lies between two adjacent things. Yet how can the dilemma be avoided without assigning the boundary to one thing or the other at random? Some philosophers regard this as a reductio of the very notion of a boundary, which should accordingly be treated a mere façon de parler. In this paper I resist this temptation and examine some ways of taking the puzzle at face value within a realist perspective—treating boundaries as ontologically on a par with (albeit parasitic upon) extended parts.

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Achille C. Varzi
Columbia University


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