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The Journal of Philosophy

Volume 117, Issue 3, March 2020

David Mark Kovacs
Pages 150-177

Constitution and Dependence

Constitution is the relation that holds between an object and what it is made of: statues are constituted by the lumps of matter they coincide with; flags, one may think, are constituted by colored pieces of cloth; and perhaps human persons are constituted by biological organisms. Constitution is often thought to be a "dependence relation." In this paper, I argue that given some plausible theses about ontological dependence, most definitions of constitution don’t allow us to retain this popular doctrine. The best option for those who want to maintain that constitution is a dependence relation is to endorse a kind of mereological hylomorphism: constituted objects have their constituters as proper parts, along with a form, which is another proper part. The upshot is that constitution theorists who think of constitution as a dependence relation but are reluctant to endorse mereological hylomorphism ought to give up one of their commitments.

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