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Name: Simon Thunder

PhD: Philosophy

Thesis Title: A Defence of Reductive Nihilism as the Correct Theory of Composition


Thesis Description:

My thesis will defend mereological nihilism, which is a candidate answer to the Special Composition Question (SCQ). The SCQ asks, 'When do some smaller objects together compose a larger one?', and the nihilist answers, 'Never'. So nihilism is traditionally characterised as the view that composite objects, i.e. objects with parts, don't exist. Since tables, tuk-tuks, planets, penguins, molecules, mountains, etc. all appear to have parts, the nihilist is usually characterised as objectionably denying their existence. For similar reasons, nihilists usually deny that anything is a part of anything else. But I reject this characterisation of nihilism. I think it relies on implausible claims about what terms such as 'penguin' and predicates such as 'is a part of', would express/refer to if nihilism were true. So my research primarily aims to i) develop and defend a plausible semantic account that allows nihilists to accept the existence of tables, penguins, etc., and to claim that the parthood relation has a non-empty extension; ii) explore the extent to which this improves the nihilist's dialectical position; iii) investigate the metaontological questions that my approach raises.

Supervisors and Institution(s): 

Dr Jonathan Tallant - University of Nottingham

Dr Nikk Effingham - University of Birmingham


Publications (please include full details with page nos. or web links):

  • Thunder, S. (2017) 'Mereological Nihilism: Keeping it Simple' in Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 6 (4): 278-287


Scholarly / Public Engagement Activities:


  • <none>


  • <none>


Other Research Interests:

  • Philosophy of Mind, Philosophical Logic, Philosophy of Science


University email address:


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