Strange Parts: The Metaphysics of Non-classical Mereologies


Correspondence: A. J. Cotnoir, University of St Andrews, Philosophy G07, Edgecliffe, The Scores, St Andrews, United Kingdom, KY16 9AL. Email:


The dominant theory of parts and wholes – classical extensional mereology – has faced a number of challenges in the recent literature. This article gives a sampling of some of the alleged counterexamples to some of the more controversial principles involving the connections between parthood and identity. Along the way, some of the main revisionary approaches are reviewed. First, counterexamples to extensionality are reviewed. The ‘supplementation’ axioms that generate extensionality are examined more carefully, and a suggested revision is considered. Second, the paper considers an alternative approach that focuses the blame on antisymmetry but allows us to keep natural supplementation axioms. Third, we look at counterexamples to the idempotency of composition and the associated ‘parts just once’ principle. We explore options for developing weaker mereologies that avoid such commitments.