Making a House a Whole

by Kieran Healy on August 22, 2008

At present I’m in a part of Ireland where internet access is about as common as sunshine and clear skies. This means I have only belatedly come across Matt Yglesias’s call for technical assistance from my wife, in her capacity as a trained professional mereologist, to help resolve the thorny question of whether John McCain’s luxury double-condo in Phoenix counts as one house or two. My understanding is that mereological relations are somewhat flexible, and it’s quite acceptable for the same material object to be two condos and one home. Nevertheless, I am a mereologist by marriage only, so my views should not be taken as representing the opinions of a trained and licensed professional. I do think that this issue opens up the possibility of a new kind of political philosophy, though.



sab 08.22.08 at 10:09 am

Damn. I wish my husband could find an heiress and bring me along as house staff.


Mereological Bum 08.22.08 at 12:55 pm

Man, I’d be scared to have a wife as interested in “parts” as yours is. Doesn’t that make you insecure, Kieran?


Martin Qualters 08.22.08 at 9:26 pm

There may have been a typo, because McCain’s answers depend on which way the wind blows.


John Quiggin 08.22.08 at 11:24 pm

#2 I already used that line, though I can’t find the thread now :-(


Kenny Easwaran 08.23.08 at 12:01 am

I actually only just realized the appropriateness of this – isn’t a lot of Laurie’s work about properties being parts of objects? (Of course, she says that properties are parts of objects in a different way than objects are parts of each other, I think. But still, properties!)


vivian 08.23.08 at 1:02 am

So does this marriage thing make you one mereologist, two, or something in between?


The Modesto Kid 08.23.08 at 4:05 am

Wait, what has weather prediction got to do with it?…


bdbd 08.23.08 at 12:32 pm

the “2 condos/1 home” conundrum is a nice synecdoche for the overall Hensley-McCain living arrangements, mereologically speaking.

or, how can you live in 2 places at once, when you really live nowhere at all?


abb1 08.23.08 at 1:06 pm

If he owns a house that only includes those of his houses that don’t include themselves, would this house be a part of itself or not? That’s what I’m wondering.


Cala 08.23.08 at 6:57 pm

I am a mereologist by marriage only

It’s not, like, a religion. Or an infection. (“Alack! I’ve caught the dreaded mereologons!”)


Keith M Ellis 08.24.08 at 1:48 am

You can catch them, though. They usually don’t run very fast.


fred lapides 08.24.08 at 2:47 am

I am not in the least annoyed nor upset that McCain has 7 houses, though no doubt bought and paid for by his present wife, but it has become a bit of an issue since some dunderhead adviser allowed the senator to accuse Obama of being an “elitist.” It seems an elitist is someone who is both articulate and informed. We are supposed to admire and vote for a candidate we are likely to lunch with at McDonald’s. Or drink beer with (preferably Schlitz now that Bud has been sold).
I recall that it was the non-elitist Hamilton who favored a strong central govt because the masses were not to be trusted, and it was the elitist, Jefferson who trusted the farmer and ordinary person to entrust to democracy. Moving further along, FDR was beloved by the people though he too had an “artistocratic” background.

Now Bush the First and Bush the Second (and I hope the Last) as well as both the Clintons went to Yale, hardly a local community college, and since most of our elected folks in congress are no longer farmers but rather lawyers, we are likely to have “elitiists” all over the place. After all, the legal union (ABA) managed to turn a short spell after the B.A. into –no not Masters of Law–a Doltor of Law, again proving the cleverness of what they get taught in these elite programs.


Tangurena 08.24.08 at 6:11 pm

Well, I went to high school in Ireland, and sunny & warm days were de facto national holidays. If y’all are interested I could tell a (rather long) story about the day that was both a (regular, de jure) national holiday that was also sunny & warm (an irregular national holiday) when I also worked at McD’s (the one on Grafton St, if you’re in the neighborhood).


praisegod barebones 08.26.08 at 1:30 pm

‘I do think that this issue opens up the possibility of a new kind of political philosophy, though.’

Maybe not entirely new: I seem to remember that when I was a grad student in philosophy in the UK, I sat through a talk by a hotshot metaphysician who appeared to be arguing that the majority of wars were caused by people’s irrational desire to live in countries with simple topological properties. (In fairness to analytic philosophy, I have to add that the thesis met with almost universal derision from its audience)

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