A post about… Gunk

Mereological nihilism, it’s just something of interest.

Most of what I know about this topic, an interesting mix of philosophy and particle physics, has been through reading the papers of Jeffrey Grupp over at http://www.abstractatom.com – you should definitely read it straight from the man himself (specifically The Impossibility of Relations Between Non-Collocated Spatial Objects and Non-Identical Topological Spaces) but here’s a very basic summary of the idea anyway, as he’s not the only scholar working in this field.

Everything in the universe, the laptop screen you’re looking at, the trees you can see outside the window, the finger you’re using to click your mouse button is made of parts. The Greeks knew this, without a microscope to their names, they figured out atoms long ago and that’s essentially what it comes down to – the building blocks of our universe that we can’t even perceive. Beyond atoms, down to the smallest quarks and leptons, are the smallest parts of which everything is made. Mereological nihilism argues:

  • Everything we can see (chair, dog, etc) is a whole item
  • Every whole item is made of parts (tail of a dog, for example)
  • These parts are made of parts (ad nauseum, until you reach quarks and leptons)
  • These tiny parts are entirely seperate and discrete (they never come together)
  • Thus whole items simply do not exist (there are no relations between the parts)
  • We only perceive the world like we do because our senses are simply insufficient

Beyond a certain point, this way of looking at the universe doesn’t have too many overwhelming repercussions, as most mereological nihilists go on to argue that even though our human senses cannot comprehend the true nature of reality, we can see a reasonable enough representation to carry on with our lives (fairly obviously). See some Buddhist ideas for some similar perspectives.

In conclusion, objects with parts do not exist, only basic building blocks without parts exist. Our senses give us the false impression that there are whole objects because they are inadequate, but at the end of the day its reasonable enough to talk about objects as if they were whole. Read a bit about mereological nihilism is you get the chance, it’s an interesting position.


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