"Stuff" and Substantial Change

Thumbnail Image
Swiderski, Jan
Ontology , Metaphysics , Change , Objects , Substance , Stuff
I consider whether coincident objects can be avoided, while preserving matter’s survival of substantial change and the everyday understanding of identity, by recognizing the ontological category of stuff. In Chapter 1, I explain the “statue problem”, which will serve as the guiding example of substantial change, establish the demands on an appropriate solution to it, and define the “stuff ontology”. In Chapter 2, I present Grandy, Burge, and Jubien’s solutions to the problem, which avoid coincidence by eliminating all objects, and argue that they are inferior to ones which – like Burke’s and McKay’s – include things in addition to stuff because of the latter’s ability to preserve the analogy between the constitution of things by stuff and the constitution of wholes by parts. In Chapter 3, I defend Burke and McKay’s views from objections, and demonstrate their superiority over the rival account of four-dimensional objects. In Chapter 4, however, I argue that, by imposing identity conditions on stuff, Burke and McKay reduce it to technical objects, thereby arguing in favour of coincidence between conventional and technical objects. The charge might be avoided by denying that technical “quantities” are genuine objects, but this response appears to attribute identity conditions, generally features of objects, to stuff. I conclude that the most promising avenue is to eschew the applicability of identity to stuff, and that Burke and McKay’s account must be supplemented by a means of distinguishing the sense of sameness applicable to stuff from its counterpart applicable to things in order to present a coherent alternative to coincident objects.
External DOI