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Title: Why is a House Nothing More than Stones and Pieces of Wood?
Subtitle: Ockham's Argument and its Critics
Author(s): MAJCHEREK, Kamil
Journal: Recherches de Théologie et Philosophie Médiévales
Volume: 89    Issue: 1   Date: 2022   
Pages: 109-144
DOI: 10.2143/RTPM.89.1.3290730

Abstract :
Is an artefact something distinct from the natural things composing it? For example, is a chair a thing distinct from the pieces of wood? Medieval artefact realists argued for an affirmative reply to this question, whereas artefact nominalists argued for a negative reply. This paper focuses on one of many facets of this medieval debate. It investigates William of Ockham’s influential argument for the thesis that artefacts made by composition, such as houses, cannot be anything more than their component parts. The paper also analyses the critical reception of Ockham’s argument, with special focus on the works of Walter Burley and Paul of Venice. I show that Ockham’s argument is based on plausible premises. I also demonstrate that the reply that Ockham’s critics offer to his argument is unconvincing, so that Ockham seems to have an upper hand in the debate.

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