Science and the special composition question

Andrew Brenner*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Mereological nihilism is the thesis that composition never occurs. Some philosophers have thought that science gives us compelling evidence against nihilism. In this article I respond to this concern. An initial challenge for nihilism stems from the fact that composition is such a ubiquitous feature of scientific theories. In response I motivate a restricted form of scientific anti-realism with respect to those components of scientific theories which make reference to composition. A second scientifically based worry for nihilism is that certain specific scientific phenomena (quantum entanglement, natural selection) might require ineliminable quantification over composite objects. I address these concerns, and argue that there seem to be nihilist-friendly construals of the scientific phenomena in question.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)657–678
Number of pages22
Issue number2
Early online date5 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2018
Externally publishedYes

User-Defined Keywords

  • Composition
  • Special composition question
  • Mereological nihilism
  • Compositional nihilism
  • Quantum entanglement
  • Natural selection


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