SOPhiA 2018

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

The Mereological and the Anti-Mereological View of the Matter-Form Compound. Two Readings of the Regress Argument
(History of Philosophy, English)

The Regress Argument, discussed by Aristotle's Metaphysics Z.17, provides the solution to the problem of unity of a matter-form compound. Focusing on composite things, wholes and heaps are indeed distinguished in virtue of a principle of unity which is present in the formers and absent in the latters. Among what can be neutrally called totalities, Aristotle distinguishes indeed between wholes, which show a oneness, such as his examples of the flesh and the syllable BA, and heaps, totalities of elements which lack any sort of unifying principle, such as a heap of sand.
Being metaphysically different from the basic elements composing both wholes and heaps, the principle of unity is understood as corresponding to the form of the compound. The Aristotelian argument aims basically at avoiding any consideration of a material principle of unity, which, leading to an infinite regress, would result unsatisfactory. Nevertheless, the argument still permits two opposite readings of the compositional relationship between the elements which characterizes the principle of unity. Once analysed and developed, these two readings would provide two corresponding divergent views of the relationship between form and matter within a compound. On one hand, the mereological view (Koslicki 2006, 2007) defines a unique parthood relation and considers a whole as having both vertical and horizontal parts. On the other hand, the anti-mereological view (Harte 2002) defines two different relations, one concerning the mereological composition of whole and elements and another regarding the metaphysical composition of form and matter.
Confronting these two views with the Aristotelian lexicon in Met. Δ .25 and Δ .26, each reading will be then considered in its limits and virtues. The mereological reading of the Regress Argument will then finally result the only interpretation able to support the analysis of the Aristotelian text.


Aristotle. Metaphysics. Ed. and trans. by C.D.C. Reeve. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company. 2016.
Harte, Verity (2002). Plato on Parts and Wholes: The Metaphysics of Structure. Oxford: Clerendon Press.
Koslicki, Kathrin (2006). ''Aristotle's Mereology and the Status of Form''. In: The Journal of Philosophy 103.12. Ed. by Wolfang Mann and Achille C. Varzi, pp. 715-736. Special Issue: "Parts and Wholes".
-- (2007). ''Towards a Neo-Aristotelian Mereology''. In: Dialectica 61.1, pp. 127-159. Special Issue: "The Philosophy of Kit Fine".
-- (2008). The Structure of Objects. New York: Oxford University Press.
Simons, Peter M. (1987). Parts. A Study in Ontology. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Chair: Rareș Fogaș
Time: 14:40-15:10, 12 September 2018 (Wednesday)
Location: HS E.002

Mattia Sorgon 
(University of Alberta, Canada)

Ph.D. student in Philosophy. Master of Philosophy 2012, University of Milan. Bachelor of Philosophy 2010, University of Milan. Interests in Metaphysics, Philosophical Logic, and Philosophy of Language. Research project about identity and persistence of material objects, mereology, modality, and metaphysics of time.

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