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My copy of Material Beings is not within reach, but, if I remember rightly, Van Inwagen distinguishes between artifacts and organisms by pointing to something like the "life principle" that unifies the various and sundry 'parts' of men, monkeys, and magnolias.

That is to say, a house is like a (specifically organized) pile of sand, whereas a dog, say, is not solely a conglomeration of atoms/molecules, but also an organizing principle which is responsible for the systematic and orderly repair and replacement of the dog's constituent atoms/molecules (i.e. this principle determines which bits cease to be a part of the dog (dead skin, shed hair, lost limbs), and which parts not previously part of the dog, become parts of the dog (ingested food, fresh skin, new hair.))

Van Inwagen doesn't elaborate on this organic principle (he calls it "life" or some such cognate), but I recall thinking that it sounded a lot like Aristotle/Aquinas.

So, in terms of the second pentad, I believe Peter would reject it: the dog is not only its atoms and "nothing else": there is also the "life principle" to consider.


Hello Bill,

1. I'm having trouble understanding how the puzzle here is made into an argument for modes of being. Premise (3) claims that the house and the bricks are not distinct and (4) claims that they are, so (3) and (4) are in contradiction regardless of (5). Are you perhaps suggesting the following? Since (4) contains the verb 'to exist', multiple modes of existence would allow us to modify the sense of 'can exist' in (4) so that the implicit little argument in (4) no longer delivers the conclusion 'the house is distinct from the bricks', and hence (4) would cease to contradict (3).

2. Here is an argument for rejecting (4). The idea is that it misapplies the term 'distinct'. Suppose we present the puzzle a little differently:

1. On some plot there is a house,
2. On the same plot there are some bricks.
I tend to imagine this situation as involving two objects, the house and the bricks. Suppose then we are told any one of the following,
3a. The house consists of the bricks and the bricks comprise the house, without remainder.
3b. The house and the bricks are identical,
3c. The house and the bricks are not distinct.
This has affinities with Frege's Puzzle. We learn that seeming two things are one. So I say that the inferential equivalence of 3a, 3b, and 3c fixes the sense we should assign here to 'distinct'. Now (4) says,
The bricks can exist without the house but the house cannot exist without the bricks; ergo the house is distinct from the bricks.
Arguably, the house could exist without the bricks by virtue of consisting of different bricks. But the argument that this modal claim leads to the conclusion 'the house and bricks are distinct' needs to be made. Clearly we can distinguish the senses of 'the house' and 'the bricks' in our minds, and conceptually a composite object is dependent on its parts but not conversely, but just as in Frege's Puzzle, it's the referents not the senses that are being identified. So (4) and (3) differ in their use of 'distinct'. You also argue for (4):
...it is also not just the bricks, but the house-wise arrangement of the bricks, an arrangement that is not nothing, but something real that makes the house distinct from the bricks.
This too, I think, conflates sense and reference. The sense of 'collection of bricks' does not include 'is house-shaped' or 'protects against the elements' and so is distinct from the sense of 'house'. But it's reference that counts here, not sense. The actual bricks in their house-shaped configuration do offer shelter.

The question I'm asking then is whether that's consistent. The organizing principle or the form would also be present in the artifact.
I take 3) not as expressing that the house is the mere aggregate, Bill himself hints at something like that in his answer, therefore there's something in the concept "house" that makes it different from the mere bricks arranged. This "something else" is, as I take it, what does the work in the argument with point 4 that, due to its asymmetrical dependence, exists in a different way.

I don't see how the organizing structure in an organism would differ in that regard

David,
while I agree that 3 and 4 could have been formulated better, they don't contradict each other. Especially for us who are familiar with Bill's position we should understand what he's trying to convey. Additionally, he provided further explanation in his reply above.

We ascribe properties to the house which don't apply to its mere parts, e.g. the size or it being the sum of multiple different kinds of parts, e.g. besides the bricks there are also doors and windows.
The point that the house could still be there in virtue of a different set of bricks is irrelevant. For one, the initial argument never specified any particular set of bricks for the simple reason that it doesn't need it. The dependence is never threatened by that; we could always have a pile of bricks which don't constitute a house, but you'll never be able to point to a house without there being bricks in the first place. Bill's point, as I understand it, is that once the bricks are arranged in such a way that they constitute a house, there is this real thing which we call house (its form?) that has properties not applicable to its parts. Having a particular number of square feet is a property of the house, not the bricks. Insofar, after a little bit of reflection, I understand why Bill thinks that this is the common sense position. This house however is identical to the bricks in the sense that there's nothing left to call "house" once all the bricks are removed. The house is identical to the bricks arranged in a particular structure and then, and only then, do we have something we can call house.

So clearly we do have different modes of being, if the argument is successful. The holistic object is dependent upon the parts. This is the crucial here, because even if we can debate about Bill's example, if the underlying argument is cogent, then we only have to swap out examples for a sound argument.

Dominik writes,

>>Bill's point, as I understand it, is that once the bricks are arranged in such a way that they constitute a house, there is this real thing which we call house (its form?) that has properties not applicable to its parts. Having a particular number of square feet is a property of the house, not the bricks. Insofar, after a little bit of reflection, I understand why Bill thinks that this is the common sense position. This house however is identical to the bricks in the sense that there's nothing left to call "house" once all the bricks are removed. The house is identical to the bricks arranged in a particular structure and then, and only then, do we have something we can call house.

So clearly we do have different modes of being,....<<

Right, that is what I am saying. Suppose I have a pile of stones and then make a wall out of them and nothing else. Have I brought something new into existence? Yes or No? I say Yes because the wall has properties the stones (taken collectively, not distributively) lack. Suppose I have a pipe bowl and a pipe stem. Can I smoke the mereological sum of the two? Not very well! But if I insert the stem into the bowl in the right way, then I have a pipe I can smoke. Therefore, the pipe is not identical to the sum of its parts. And yet that very pipe cannot exist without those very parts. It occurs to me now that this is an instance of Kripke's essentiality of origin thesis: this very pipe could not have been assembled from any other pair of parts, just as I could not have originated from any other pair of gametes than the pair whence I did originate.

Suppose the pipe stem by itself costs 20 USD and the bowl 100 USD. You want to buy the pipe composed of those two parts. I say,"That'll be 240 USD: 20 for stem, 100 for the bowl, and 120 for the pipe."

That's fair, right? It's fair if the parts are one existent and the whole is one existent, and 'exists' is univocal, and there are no modes of existence.

But it is not fair, ergo, etc.

Hi Dominik. My difficulty is with the logical structure of the overall argument rather than the sub-arguments inside (3) and (4). I can accept their conclusions. So I'm very surprised you say that (3) and (4) are consistent. How is that?

There is a further problem. Let's allow that (3) and (4) are consistent. How is (5) inconsistent with (1) thru (4), none of which mention 'mode of existence'? Further premises are needed, I would have thought.

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