The Use of Sets (and Other Extensional Entities) in the Analysis of Hylomorphically Complex Objects



Hylomorphically complex objects are things that change their parts or matter or that might have, or have had, different parts or matter. Often ontologists analyze such objects in terms of sets (or functions, understood set-theoretically) or other extensional entities such as mereological fusions or quantities of matter. I urge two reasons for being wary of any such analyses. First, being extensional, such things as sets are ill-suited to capture the characteristic modal and temporal flexibility of hylomorphically complex objects. Secondly, sets are often appealed to because they seem to contain their members. But the idea that sets do contain their members, in the ordinary sense of containment, is a substantive metaphysical position that makes analyses that rely on that idea for their plausibility much more metaphysically committing than is generally thought.


  • Year: 2018
  • Volume: 1 Issue: 1
  • Page/Article: 97-109
  • DOI: 10.5334/met.9
  • Submitted on 7 Mar 2018
  • Accepted on 27 Aug 2018
  • Published on 28 Sep 2018
  • Peer Reviewed