Mereological nihilism and the problem of emergence

Cornell, David Michael orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-6980-8804 (2017) Mereological nihilism and the problem of emergence. American Philosophical Quarterly, 54 (1). pp. 77-87. ISSN 0003-0481

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Mereological nihilism is the view that there are no composite objects; everything in existence is mereologically simple. The view is subject to a number of difficulties, one of which concerns what I call the problem of emergence. Very briefly, the problem is that nihilism seems to be incompatible with emergent properties; it seems to rule out their very possibility. This is a problem because there are good independent reasons to believe that emergent properties are possible. This paper provides a solution to the problem. I will show that nihilism and emergence are perfectly compatible, providing one accepts a novel understanding of how objects can instantiate properties: what I call irreducibly collective instantiation.

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