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Composition and Coincidence

By E.T. Olson


[First Paragraph] Suppose we take a pound of gold and mold it into the shape of Hermes. Then, it would\ud seem, we shall have a golden statue of Hermes, beautiful to behold. We shall also have a lump\ud of gold. And we have the makings of a well-known philosophical puzzle. Many people find it\ud obvious that if we crushed the statue or melted it down, we should destroy the statue but not the\ud lump of gold. The lump can be deformed and still continue to exist, but the statue cannot; that\ud is the nature of lumps and statues. So the lump can outlive the statue. Since nothing can\ud outlive itself, it is natural to conclude that the one-pound gold statue and the one-pound lump of\ud gold in our example are numerically different. And as statues are to lumps, they say, so are\ud brick houses to heaps of bricks, living organisms to masses of matter, and people to their\ud bodies. More generally, certain atoms (or elementary particles or what have you) often\ud compose two numerically different material objects at once. To put it another way, two\ud different material objects may have all the same proper parts (the same parts except themselves)\ud at once. Because of its many defenders and its intuitive attraction, I will call this the Popular\ud View about lumps and statues and other familiar material objects

Year: 1996
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