The Monist

Volume 96, Issue 1, January 2013

Constitution and Composition

Roberta De Monticelli
Pages 3-36

Constitution and Unity
Lynne Baker and the Unitarian Tradition

Lynne Baker’s Constitution Theory seems to be the farthest-reaching and yet the most subtly elaborated antireductive metaphysics available today. Its original theoretical contribution is a nonmereological theory of material constitution, which yet has a place for classical and Lewisian mereology (this formalized version of Materialism). Constitution Theory hence apparently (i) complies with modern natural science, and yet (ii) rescues the concrete everyday world, and ourselves in it, from ontological vanity or nothingness, and (iii) does it by avoiding dualism. Why, then, does it meet so many opponents—or rather, why are its many opponents so stubbornly resisting the very idea of constitution, in Baker’s form? One of the most resisted claims is (iii). Is unity without identity—the feature distinguishing the relation between constituting and constituted things—the only nondualist way to oppose reductionism? What would be the price to pay for unity with identity—without reduction? What I (jokingly) call the Unitarian Tradition, going back to Plato, keeps working out the original Platonic way of constructing a complex object as a Unity comprising a Collection, as opposed to the Aristotelian suggestion of opposing Collections and Substances. For once you have split things apart ontologically, unifying them again may prove a very hard task.