Any Sum of Parts which are Water is Water

  • Henry Laycock Department of Philosophy, Queen’s University, Canada
Keywords: mereology


Mereological entities often seem to violate ‘ordinary’ ideas of what a concrete object can be like, behaving more like sets than like Aristotelian substances. However, the mereological notions of ‘part’, ‘composition’, and ‘sum’ or ‘fusion’ appear to find concrete realisation in the actual semantics of mass nouns. Quine notes that ‘any sum of parts which are water is water’; and the wine from a single barrel can be distributed around the globe without affecting its identity. Is there here, as some have claimed, a ‘natural’ or ‘innocent’ form of mereology? The claim rests on the assumption that what a mass noun such as ‘wine’ denotes — the wine from a single barrel, for example — is indeed a unit of a special type, the sum or fusion of its many ‘parts’. The assumption is, however, open to question on semantic grounds.

How to Cite
Laycock, H. (2018). Any Sum of Parts which are Water is Water. HUMANA.MENTE Journal of Philosophical Studies, 4(19), 41-55. Retrieved from