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Achille C. Varzi
Columbia University
  1. The Extensionality of Parthood and Composition.Achille C. Varzi - 2008 - Philosophical Quarterly 58 (230):108-133.
    I focus on three mereological principles: the Extensionality of Parthood (EP), the Uniqueness of Composition (UC), and the Extensionality of Composition (EC). These principles are not equivalent. Nonetheless, they are closely related (and often equated) as they all reflect the basic nominalistic dictum, No difference without a difference maker. And each one of them—individually or collectively—has been challenged on philosophical grounds. In the first part I argue that such challenges do not quite threaten EP insofar as they are either self-defeating (...)
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  2. Parts, Wholes, and Part-Whole Relations: The Prospects of Mereotopology.Achille C. Varzi - 1996 - Data and Knowledge Engineering 20:259–286.
    We can see mereology as a theory of parthood and topology as a theory of wholeness. How can these be combined to obtain a unified theory of parts and wholes? This paper examines various non-equivalent ways of pursuing this task, with specific reference to its relevance to spatio-temporal reasoning. In particular, three main strategies are compared: (i) mereology and topology as two independent (though mutually related) chapters; (ii) mereology as a general theory subsuming topology; (iii) topology as a general theory (...)
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  3. Perdurantism, Universalism, and Quantifiers.Achille C. Varzi - 2003 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 81 (2):208-215.
    I argue that the conjunction of perdurantism (the view that objects are temporally extended) and universalism (the thesis that any old class of things has a mereological fusion) gives rise to undesired complications when combined with certain plausible assumptions concerning the semantics of tensed statements.
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  4. Fiat and Bona Fide Boundaries.Barry Smith & Achille C. Varzi - 2000 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 60 (2):401-420.
    There is a basic distinction, in the realm of spatial boundaries, between bona fide boundaries on the one hand, and fiat boundaries on the other. The former are just the physical boundaries of old. The latter are exemplified especially by boundaries induced through human demarcation, for example in the geographic domain. The classical problems connected with the notions of adjacency, contact, separation and division can be resolved in an intuitive way by recognizing this two-sorted ontology of boundaries. Bona fide boundaries (...)
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  5. On Logical Relativity.Achille C. Varzi - 2002 - Philosophical Issues 12 (1):197-219.
    One logic or many? I say—many. Or rather, I say there is one logic for each way of specifying the class of all possible circumstances, or models, i.e., all ways of interpreting a given language. But because there is no unique way of doing this, I say there is no unique logic except in a relative sense. Indeed, given any two competing logical theories T1 and T2 (in the same language) one could always consider their common core, T, and settle (...)
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  6. Some Pictures Are Worth 2Aleph0 Sentences.Philip Kitcher & Achille C. Varzi - 2000 - Philosophy 75 (3):377-381.
    According to the cliché a picture is worth a thousand words. But this is a canard, for it vastly underestimates the expressive power of many pictures and diagrams. In this note we show that even a simple map such as the outline of Manhattan Island, accompanied by a pointer marking North, implies a vast infinity of statements—including a vast infinity of true statements.
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  7. A Note on the Transitivity of Parthood.Achille C. Varzi - 2006 - Applied Ontology 1 (2):141-146.
    That parthood is a transitive relation is among the most basic principles of classical mereology. Alas, it is also very controversial. In a recent paper, Ingvar Johansson has put forward a novel diagnosis of the problem, along with a corresponding solution. The diagnosis is on the right track, I argue, but the solution is misleading. And once the pieces are properly put together, we end up with a reinforcement of the standard defense of transitivity on behalf of classical mereology.
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  8. The Magic of Holes.Achille C. Varzi - forthcoming - In Pina Marsico & Luca Tateo (eds.), Ordinary Things and Their Extraordinary Meanings. Information Age Publishing.
    There is no doughnut without a hole, the saying goes. And that’s true. If you think you can come up with an exception, it simply wouldn’t be a doughnut. Holeless doughnuts are like extensionless color, or durationless sound—nonsense. Does it follow, then, that when we buy a doughnut we really purchase two sorts of thing—the edible stuff plus the little chunk of void in the middle? Surely we cannot just take the doughnut and leave the hole at the grocery store, (...)
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  9. Introduction: Philosophical Issues in Geography.Achille C. Varzi - 2001 - Topoi 20 (2):119-130.
    An outline of the wealth of philosophical material that hides behind the flat world of geographic maps, with special reference to (i) the centrality of the boundary concept, (ii) the problem of vagueness, and (iii) the metaphysical question (if such there be) of the identity and persistence conditions of geographic entities. Serves as an introduction to the special issue of "Topoi" (20:2, 2001) on the Philosophy of Geography.
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  10. Realism in the Desert.Achille C. Varzi - 2014 - In Massimo Dell’Utri, Fabio Bacchini & Stefano Caputo (eds.), Realism and Ontology without Myths. Cambridge Scholars Press. pp. 16–31.
    Quine’s desert is generally contrasted with Meinong’s jungle, as a sober ontological alternative to the exuberant luxuriance that comes with the latter. Here I focus instead on the desert as a sober metaphysical alternative to the Aristotelian garden, with its tidily organized varieties of flora and fauna neatly governed by fundamental laws that reflect the essence of things and the way they can be, or the way they must be. In the desert there are no “natural joints”; all the boundaries (...)
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  11. Promiscuous Endurantism and Diachronic Vagueness.Achille C. Varzi - 2007 - American Philosophical Quarterly 44 (2):181-189.
    According to a popular line of reasoning, diachronic vagueness creates a problem for the endurantist conception of persistence. Some authors have replied that this line of reasoning is inconclusive, since the endurantist can subscribe to a principle of Diachronic Unrestricted Composition (DUC) that is perfectly parallel to the principle required by the perdurantist’s semantic account. I object that the endurantist should better avoid DUC. And I argue that even DUC, if accepted, would fail to provide the endurantist with the necessary (...)
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  12. Voti e altri buchi elettorali.Roberto Casati & Achille C. Varzi - 2008 - Rivista di Estetica 37:169-194.
    A philosophical dialogue on the functioning, the limits, and the paradoxes of our electoral practices, dealing with such basic questions as: What is a vote? How do we count votes? And do votes really count?
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  13. Review of Susan Haack, Deviant Logic, Fuzzy Logic: Beyond the Formalism[REVIEW]Achille C. Varzi - 1998 - Philosophical Review 107 (3):468-471.
    Book information: Deviant Logic, Fuzzy Logic: Beyond The Formalism. By SUSAN HAACK. Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 1996. Pp. xxvi, 291.
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  14. The Niche.Barry Smith & Achille C. Varzi - 1999 - Noûs 33 (2):214-238.
    The concept of niche (setting, context, habitat, environment) has been little studied by ontologists, in spite of its wide application in a variety of disciplines from evolutionary biology to economics. What follows is a first formal theory of this concept, a theory of the relations between objects and their niches. The theory builds upon existing work on mereology, topology, and the theory of spatial location as tools of formal ontology. It will be illustrated above all by means of simple biological (...)
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  15.  97
    Deviant Logic, Fuzzy Logic: Beyond the Formalism.Achille C. Varzi & Susan Haack - 1998 - Philosophical Review 107 (3):468.
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  16. Fiat and Bona Fide Boundaries: Towards an Ontology of Spatially Extended Objects.Barry Smith & Achille C. Varzi - 1997 - In Stephen Hirtle & Andrew U. Frank (eds.), Spatial Information Theory: International Conference COSIT ‘97. Springer. pp. 103–119.
    Human cognitive acts are directed towards objects extended in space of a wide range of different types. What follows is a new proposal for bringing order into this typological clutter. The theory of spatially extended objects should make room not only for the objects of physics but also for objects at higher levels, including the objects of geography and of related disciplines. It should leave room for different types of boundaries, including both the bona fide boundaries which we find in (...)
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  17. The Universe Among Other Things.Achille C. Varzi - 2006 - Ratio 19 (1):107–120.
    Peter Simons has argued that the expression ‘the universe’ is not a genuine singular term: it can name neither a single, completely encompassing individual, nor a collection of individuals. (It is, rather, a semantically plural term standing equally for every existing object.) I offer reasons for resisting Simons’s arguments on both scores.
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  18. Boundaries, Continuity, and Contact.Achille C. Varzi - 1997 - Noûs 31 (1):26-58.
    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 (...)
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  19. Vagueness in Geography.Achille C. Varzi - 2001 - Philosophy and Geography 4 (1):49–65.
    Some have argued that the vagueness exhibited by geographic names and descriptions such as ‘Albuquerque’, ‘the Outback’, or ‘Mount Everest’ is ultimately ontological: these terms are vague because they refer to vague objects, objects with fuzzy boundaries. I take the opposite stand and hold the view that geographic vagueness is exclusively semantic, or conceptual at large. There is no such thing as a vague mountain. Rather, there are many things where we conceive a mountain to be, each with its precise (...)
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  20. Boundaries, Conventions, and Realism.Achille C. Varzi - 2011 - In Michael O'Rourke, Joseph K. Campbell & Matthew H. Slater (eds.), Carving Nature at its Joints: Natural Kinds in Metaphysics and Science. MIT Press. pp. 129–153.
    Are there any bona fide boundaries, i.e., boundaries that carve at the joints? Or is any boundary —hence any object—the result of a fiat articulation reflecting our cognitive biases and our so-cial practices and conventions? Does the choice between these two options amount to a choice between realism and wholesome relativism?
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  21. Omissions and Causal Explanations.Achille C. Varzi - 2007 - In Francesca Castellani & Josef Quitterer (eds.), Agency and Causation in the Human Sciences. Mentis Verlag. pp. 155–167.
    In previous work I have argued that talk about negative events should not be taken at face value: typically, what we are inclined to think of as a negative event (John’s failure to go jogging) is just an ordinary, positive event (his going to the movie instead); it is a positive event under a negative description. Here I consider more closely the difficulties that arise in those cases where no positive event seems available to do the job, as with putative (...)
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  22. Words and Objects.Achille C. Varzi - 2002 - In Andrea Bottani, Massimiliano Carrara & Daniele Giaretta (eds.), Individuals, Essence, and Identity. Themes of Analytic Metaphysics. Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 49–75.
    A lot of work in metaphysics relies on linguistic analysis and intuitions. Do we want to know what sort of things there are or could be? Then let’s see what sort of things there must be in order for what we truthfully say to be true. Do we want to see whether x is distinct from y? Then let’s see whether there is any statement that is true of x but not of y. And so on. In this paper I (...)
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  23. Mereotopological Connection.Anthony G. Cohn & Achille C. Varzi - 2003 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 32 (4):357-390.
    The paper outlines a model-theoretic framework for investigating and comparing a variety of mereotopological theories. In the first part we consider different ways of characterizing a mereotopology with respect to (i) the intended interpretation of the connection primitive, and (ii) the composition of the admissible domains of quantification (e.g., whether or not they include boundary elements). The second part extends this study by considering two further dimensions along which different patterns of topological connection can be classified - the strength of (...)
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  24. Events and Event Talk: An Introduction.Fabio Pianesi & Achille C. Varzi - 2000 - In James Higginbotham, Fabio Pianesi & Achille C. Varzi (eds.), Speaking of Events. Oxford University Press. pp. 3–47.
    A critical review of the main themes arising out of recent literature on the semantics of ordinary event talk. The material is organized in four sections: (i) the nature of events, with emphasis on the opposition between events as particulars and events as universals; (ii) identity and indeterminacy, with emphasis on the unifier/multiplier controversy; (iii) events and logical form, with emphasis on Davidson’s treatment of the form of action sentences; (iv) linguistic applications, with emphasis on issues concerning aspectual phenomena, the (...)
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  25. Logic, Ontological Neutrality, and the Law of Non-Contradiction.Achille C. Varzi - 2014 - In Elena Ficara (ed.), Contradictions. Logic, History, Actuality. De Gruyter. pp. 53–80.
    Abstract. As a general theory of reasoning—and as a general theory of what holds true under every possible circumstance—logic is supposed to be ontologically neutral. It ought to have nothing to do with questions concerning what there is, or whether there is anything at all. It is for this reason that traditional Aristotelian logic, with its tacit existential presuppositions, was eventually deemed inadequate as a canon of pure logic. And it is for this reason that modern quantification theory, too, with (...)
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  26. Vagueness.Achille C. Varzi - 2003 - In Lynn Nadel (ed.), Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science, Vol. 4. Nature Publishing Group. pp. 459–464.
    This is an encyclopedia entry on vagueness, focusing mainly on the opposition between re re and de dicta (linguistic or cognitive) accounts.
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  27. The Best Question.Achille C. Varzi - 2001 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 30 (3):251-258.
    Suppose we get a chance to ask an angel a question of our choice. What should we ask to make the most of our unique opportunity? Ned Markosian has shown that the task is trickier than it might seem. Ted Sider has suggested playing safe and asking: What is the true proposition (or one of the true propositions) that would be most beneficial for us to be told? Let's see whether we can do any better than that.
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  28. The Structure of Spatial Localization.Roberto Casati & Achille C. Varzi - 1996 - Philosophical Studies 82 (2):205 - 239.
    What are the relationships between an entity and the space at which it is located? And between a region of space and the events that take place there? What is the metaphysical structure of localization? What its modal status? This paper addresses some of these questions in an attempt to work out at least the main coordinates of the logical structure of localization. Our task is mostly taxonomic. But we also highlight some of the underlying structural features and we single (...)
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  29. Musil's Imaginary Bridge.Achille C. Varzi - 2014 - The Monist 97 (1):30-46.
    In a calculation involving imaginary numbers, we begin with real numbers that represent concrete measures and we end up with numbers that are equally real, but in the course of the operation we find ourselves walking “as if on a bridge that stands on no piles”. How is that possible? How does that work? And what is involved in the as-if stance that this metaphor introduces so beautifully? These are questions that bother Törless deeply. And that Törless is bothered by (...)
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  30. The Talk I Was Supposed to Give….Achille C. Varzi - 2006 - In Andrea Bottani & Richard Davies (eds.), Modes of Existence: Papers in Ontology and Philosophical Logic. Ontos Verlag. pp. 131–152.
    Assuming that events form a genuine ontological category, shall we say that a good inventory of the world ought to include “negative” events—failures, omissions, things that didn’t happen—along with positive ones? I argue that we shouldn’t. Talk of non-occurring events is like talk of non-existing objects and should not be taken at face value. We often speak as though there were such things, but deep down we want our words to be interpreted in such a way as to avoid serious (...)
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  31. Parts, Counterparts and Modal Occurents.Achille C. Varzi - 2001 - Travaux de Logique 14 (1):151-171.
    The paper investigates the link between the theory of modal occurrents (where individuals are allowed to stretch across possible worlds) and Lewis’s counterpart theory (where all individuals are world-bound but have counterparts in other worlds). First I show how to interpret modal talk extensionally within the theory of modal occurrents. Then I show that the assumption that worlds be pairwise discrete is all that is needed to reconstruct the bulk of counterpart theory (i.e., to define the concept of a counterpart (...)
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  32. Ontologia e metafisica.Achille C. Varzi - 2002 - In Franca D’Agostini & Nicla Vassallo (eds.), Storia della Filosofia Analitica. Einaudi. pp. 81-117.
    A critical survey of topics that play a central role in contemporary analytic ontology and metaphysics, including, identity, persistence through time, the problem of universals, the notion of ontological commitment, and the boundary between semantic issues and metaphysics proper.
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  33. Spatial Entities.Roberto Casati & Achille C. Varzi - 1997 - In Oliviero Stock (ed.), Spatial and Temporal Reasoning. Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 73–96.
    Ordinary reasoning about space—we argue—is first and foremost reasoning about things or events located in space. Accordingly, any theory concerned with the construction of a general model of our spatial competence must be grounded on a general account of the sort of entities that may enter into the scope of the theory. Moreover, on the methodological side the emphasis on spatial entities (as opposed to purely geometrical items such as points or regions) calls for a reexamination of the conceptual categories (...)
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  34. Supervaluationism and Paraconsistency.Achille C. Varzi - 2000 - In Diderik Batens, Chris Mortensen, Graham Priest & Jean Paul Van Bendegem (eds.), Frontiers in Paraconsistent Logic. Research Studies Press. pp. 279–297.
    Since its first appearance in 1966, the notion of a supervaluation has been regarded by many as a powerful tool for dealing with semantic gaps. Only recently, however, applications to semantic gluts have also been considered. In previous work I proposed a general framework exploiting the intrinsic gap/glut duality. Here I also examine an alternative account where gaps and gluts are treated on a par: although they reflect opposite situations, the semantic upshot is the same in both cases--the value of (...)
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  35. Undetached Parts and Disconnected Wholes.Achille C. Varzi - 2013 - In Christer Svennerlind, Jan Almäng & Rögnvaldur Ingthorsson (eds.), Johanssonian Investigations. Essays in Honour of Ingvar Johansson on His Seventieth Birthday. Ontos Verlag. pp. 696–708.
    I offer a diagnosis of the parallelism between the Doctrine of Potential Parts and the Doctrine of Potential Wholes and briefly examine its bearing on Johansson’s account of the Tibbles-Tib Problem.
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  36. Critical Notice of John Heil, From an Ontological Point of View[REVIEW]Achille C. Varzi - 2006 - Philosophical Books 47 (2):148-154.
    Book information: John Heil, From an Ontological Point of View, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2003, xv + 267 pp, $45.00 cloth, ISBN 0-19-925974-7.
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  37. Unsharpenable Vagueness.John D. Collins & Achille C. Varzi - 2000 - Philosophical Topics 28 (1):1-10.
    A plausible thought about vagueness is that it involves semantic incompleteness. To say that a predicate is vague is to say (at the very least) that its extension is incompletely specified. Where there is incomplete specification of extension there is indeterminacy, an indeterminacy between various ways in which the specification of the predicate might be completed or sharpened. In this paper we show that this idea is bound to founder by presenting an argument to the effect that there are vague (...)
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  38. Formal Theories of Parthood.Achille C. Varzi - 2014 - In Claudio Calosi & Pierluigi Graziani (eds.), Mereology and the Sciences: Parts and Wholes in the Contemporary Scientific Context. Springer Verlag. pp. 359–370.
    A compact overview of the main formal theories of parthood and of their mutual relationships, up to Classical Extensional Mereology. Written as an Appendix to the other essays included in the volume.
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  39. Event Concepts.Roberto Casati & Achille C. Varzi - 2007 - In Thomas F. Shipley & Jeff Zacks (eds.), Understanding Events: From Perception to Action. Oxford University Press. pp. 31�54.
    Events are center stage in several fields of psychological research. There is a long tradition in the study of event perception, event recognition, event memory, event conceptualization and segmentation. There are studies devoted to the description of events in language and to their representation in the brain. There are also metapsychological studies aimed at assessing the nature of mental events or the grounding of intentional action. Outside psychology, the notion of an event plays a prominent role in various areas of (...)
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  40. Events, Truth, and Indeterminacy.Achille C. Varzi - 2002 - The Dialogue 2:241-264.
    The semantics of our event talk is a complex affair. What is it that we are talking about when we speak of Brutus’s stabbing of Caesar? Exactly where and when did it take place? Was it the same event as the killing of Caesar? Some take questions such as these to be metaphysical questions. I think they are questions of semantics—questions about the way we talk and about what we mean. And I think that this conflict between metaphysic and semantic (...)
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  41. Basic Problems of Mereotopology.Achille C. Varzi - 1998 - In Nicola Guarino (ed.), Formal Ontology in Information Systems. Ios Press. pp. 29–38.
    Mereotopology is today regarded as a major tool for ontological analysis, and for many good reasons. There are, however, a number of open questions that call for an answer. Some are philosophical, others have direct applicative import, but all are crucial for a proper assessment of the strengths and limits of mereotopology. This paper is an attempt to put sum order in this area.
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  42. Fictionalism in Ontology.Achille C. Varzi - 2013 - In Carola Barbero, Maurizio Ferraris & Alberto Voltolini (eds.), From Fictionalism to Realism. Cambridge Scholars Press. pp. 133–151.
    Fictionalism in ontology is a mixed bag. Here I focus on three main variants—which I label after the names of Pascal, Berkeley, and Hume—and consider their relative strengths and weaknesses. The first variant is just a version of the epistemic Wager, applied across the board. The second variant builds instead on the fact that ordinary language is not ontologically transparent; we speak with the vulgar, but deep down we think with the learned. Finally, on the Humean variant it’s the structure (...)
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  43.  92
    Vagueness, Indiscernibility, and Pragmatics: Comments on Burns.Achille C. Varzi - 1994 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 33 (S1):49-49.
    In ‘Something to Do with Vagueness ...’, Linda Burns defends an analogy between the informational and the borderline-case variety of vagueness. She argues that the latter is in fact less extraordinary and less disastrous than people in the tradition of Michael Dummett and Crispin Wright have told us. However, her account involves presuppositions that cannot be taken for granted. Here is to take a closer look at some of these presuppositions and argue hat they may—when left unguarded—undermine much of Burns’ (...)
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  44. Review of André Gallois, Occasions of Identity: The Metaphysics of Persistence, Change, and Sameness. [REVIEW]Achille C. Varzi - 2001 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 79 (2):291–295.
    Book Information: Occasions of Identity: The Metaphysics of Persistence, Change, and Sameness. By André Gallois. Clarendon Press. Oxford. 1998. Pp. xiii + 296. Hardback, £35.00.
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  45. Livelli di realtà e descrizioni del mondo.Achille C. Varzi - 2013 - Giornale di Metafisica 35 (2/3):387–404.
    I articulate and the defend the following two claims: (i) it is a mistake to think that the structure of the world should mirror the structure of the theories by which we represent it, and through which we try to decipher it, simply because those theories appear to work; (ii) among the most deplorable consequences of this mistake is the widespread tendency to think that there must be a plurality of realities, or several different and irreducible levels of a stratified (...)
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  46.  98
    Review of Amie L. Thomasson, Fiction and Metaphysics[REVIEW]Achille C. Varzi - 2001 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 63 (3):723-727.
    Book Information: Thomasson, Amie L., Fiction and Metaphysics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), pp. xii, 175, $49.95.
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  47. Event Location and Vagueness.Andrea Borghini & Achille C. Varzi - 2006 - Philosophical Studies 128 (2):313-336.
    Most event-referring expressions are vague; it is utterly difficult, if not impossible, to specify the exact spatiotemporal location of an event from the words that we use to refer to it. We argue that in spite of certain prima facie obstacles, such vagueness can be given a purely semantic (broadly supervaluational) account.
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    Riferimento, predicazione, e cambiamento.Achille C. Varzi - 2003 - In Claudia Bianchi & Andrea Bottani (eds.), Significato e ontologia. Franco Angeli. pp. 221–249.
    This paper focuses on the semantics of statements of the form ‘x is P at t’ vis-à-vis its metaphysical underpinnings. I begin by considering four main readings, corresponding to the four basic parsings of the temporal modifier ‘at t’: (1) at-t x is P, (2) x-at-t is P, (3) x is-at-t P, and (4) x is P-at-t. Each of these readings—which correspond to different metaphysical conceptions of the nature of temporal change—is found inadequate or otherwise problematic. In the second part (...)
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  49. Kripke: modalità e verità.Achille C. Varzi - 2010 - In Andrea Borghini (ed.), (ed.), Il genio compreso. La filosofia di Saul Kripke. Carocci Editore. pp. 21–76, 186–191.
    An introduction to Kripke’s semantics for propositional and quantified modal logic (with special reference to its historical development from the original 1959 version to the extended versions of 1963 and 1965) and to his theory of truth.
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    Nomi in crisi di identità.Elena Casetta & Achille C. Varzi - 2008 - Rivista di Estetica 38:143-156.
    An exchange of letters among proper names and natural-kind terms, dealing with various identity and individuation problems (rigid designation, use-mention ambiguities, translation) from their point of view.
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