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Ratio (new series) XVIII 3 September 2005 0034–0006

BLOCKING THE PATH FROM VAGUENESS TO
FOUR DIMENSIONALISM*

Kristie Miller

Abstract
There is a general form of an argument which I call the ‘argument
from vagueness’ which attempts to show that objects persist by per-
during, via the claim that vagueness is never ontological in nature
and thus that composition is unrestricted. I argue that even if we
grant that vagueness is always the result of semantic indeterminacy
rather than ontological vagueness, and thus also grant that com-
position is unrestricted, it does not follow that objects persist by
perduring. Unrestricted mereological composition lacks the power
to ensure that there exist instantaneous objects that wholly overlap
persisting objects at times, and thus lacks the power to ensure that
there exists anything that could be called a temporal part. Even if
we grant that such instantaneous objects exist, however, I argue
that it does not follow that objects perdure. To show this I briefly
outline a coherent version of three dimensionalism that grants just
such an assumption. Thus considerations pertaining to the nature
of vagueness need not lead us inevitably to accept perdurantism.

1. Introduction

It is now well established that there are two main views about the
way objects persist through time: four dimensionalism and three
dimensionalism. Four dimensionalism is the view that persisting
objects are the mereological fusion of temporal parts: objects
persist by perduring. Three dimensionalism is the view that per-
sisting objects have only spatial extension, and are wholly present
at each moment at which they exist: they endure. In his recent
book, Theodore Sider1 contends that the best argument in favour
of four dimensionalism is what he calls the argument from vague-
ness. This argument has two parts: the first part seeks to establish

* Thanks to David Braddon-Mitchell and Mark Colyvan for useful discussion of these
issues.
1
Sider, T. (2001). Four-dimensionalism: an ontology of persistence and time. Oxford Uni-
versity Press.
318 KRISTIE MILLER

that composition is unrestricted, that is, that any arbitrary
arrangement of particulars composes some object. The second
part seeks to show that if composition is unrestricted, then it
follows that persisting objects are composed of temporal parts,
and thus that four dimensionalism is true.
In general, the argument from vagueness is resisted by object-
ing to the first part of the argument, usually by denying that com-
position can never be vague.2 In this paper though, I want to
concentrate on the less often considered second part of the argu-
ment. I argue that even if we accept the first part of the argument,
we are not led inevitably to accept four dimensionalism. For it is
perfectly coherent to agree both that vagueness is never onto-
logical, and that composition is unrestricted, and nevertheless to
embrace three dimensionalism. To show this I will briefly outline
a version of three dimensionalism and show how this view avoids
the conclusion of the second part of the argument from vague-
ness. Consideration of this view allows us more clearly to see the
key points at issue between the three and four dimensionalist, and
to clarify just what it is for an object to be composed of temporal
parts. I conclude that even if one adopts the view that composi-
tion is unrestricted, this alone provides no reason to prefer four
dimensionalism over three dimensionalism: considerations per-
taining to vagueness are strictly orthogonal to the issue of the
manner in which objects persist.

2. The argument from vagueness

The first part of the argument from vagueness owes its origins to
David Lewis.3 Lewis argues that any attempt to restrict composi-
tion in a way that is in-keeping with our intuitions about which
objects exist, must necessarily be a vague restriction. For com-
monplace objects all have imprecise temporal and spatial borders
and thus there is no determinate point at which, for instance,
some atom A can be said to be part of some object x, or not part
of x. But if composition itself is vague, then existence will be
vague. It will be vague at exactly which moment an object comes

2
Cf. Koslicki, K. (2003). ‘The crooked path from vagueness to four dimensionalism.’
Philosophical Studies, 114: 107–134.
3
Lewis. D. (1986). On the Plurality of Worlds. New York Blackwell Press. pp. 212–213.
and Lewis, D. (1991). Parts of Classes. Oxford: Blackwell pp. 80–81.

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BLOCKING THE PATH FROM VAGUENESS TO FOUR DIMENSIONALISM 319
into existence, and vague at exactly which moment it ceases to
exist: so for every object, there will be some time at which it is
indeterminate whether that object exists or not. Since Lewis
thinks that vagueness is never ontological,4 but rather is the result
of semantic indeterminacy,5 he holds that existence cannot be a
matter of degree, and thus he concludes that composition cannot
be restricted. Recently, Lewis’ argument for unrestricted compo-
sition has been further refined by Sider.6 Expressed as a reductio,
Sider’s argument is as follows.

Part I: from vagueness to unrestricted composition
1. Assumption: Existence is not vague: composition either
definitely occurs or definitely does not occur.
2. Assumption: Not every arrangement of matter composes an
object.
3. So there must be a continuum of cases such that at one end
of the continuum composition occurs, and at the other end
composition fails to occur.
4. Each of the cases on the continuum is highly similar to the
adjacent cases.
5. So there is no principled way to draw the line between a case
where composition occurs and a case where composition
does not occur.
6. So there are cases where it is indeterminate whether com-
position occurs or not.
7. So existence is vague.
As it stands, this argument requires the rejection of either (1)
or (2). In general, arguments of this form have been resisted by
disputing the truth of (1).7 Hence Sider has constructed a

4
Lewis, On the Plurality of Worlds p. 212–213.
5
There is of course a large literature about the issue of whether all vagueness is purely
linguistic in nature or whether vagueness can be ontological. For discussion of these issues
see Evans, G. (1978). ‘Can there be vague objects.’ Analysis 38: 208, Hyde, D. (1998).
‘Vagueness, Ontology and Supervenience.’ The Monist 81: 297–312, Lewis, D. K. (1988).
‘Vague Identity: Evans Misunderstood.’ Analysis 48: 128–130, Sainsbury, R. M. (1989).
‘What is a Vague Object.’ Analysis 49: 99–103 and Tye, M. (1990). ‘Vague Objects.’ Mind
99: 535–557.
6
Sider, Four-dimensionalism: an ontology of persistence and time pp. 120–140, and Sider, T
(2003). ‘Against Vague Existence.’ Philosophical Studies, 114: 135–146
7
See for instance Koslicki, ‘The crooked path from vagueness to four dimensional-
ism.’ Other advocates of the view that composition is not unrestricted, and vagueness is
ontological include Peter van Inwagen (1990). Material Beings. Cornell University Press.

© Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2005
320 KRISTIE MILLER

number of ancillary arguments that aim to bolster (1) and thus
lead to the rejection of (2).8 In this paper, however, I want to focus
on the second part of the argument from vagueness, namely that
part that moves from the falsity of (2) to the truth of four dimen-
sionalism. Let us turn to this second part of the argument from
vagueness. Here is a reconstruction of Sider’s argument:9

Part II from unrestricted composition to temporal parts
1. Assumption: Composition is unrestricted.
2. So there is a fusion of the members of any arbitrary set S
at time t, where x is a fusion of the members of S at t iff
every member of S is part of x at t, and each part of x at t
overlaps at t some member of S.10
3. Objects persist through time, so we need a temporalised
version of unrestricted composition.
4. An object x is a diachronic fusion of the members of sets
S1, S2, and S3 at times t1, t2 and t3 if (i) x is composed of S1
at t1, S2 at t2, and S3 at t3 and (ii) x exists only at the times
t1 t2 and t3.11
5. Since composition is unrestricted, any sets of objects at
times has a diachronic fusion. Following Sider, call this
thesis U: Any arbitrary sets Sis and times tis has a diachronic
fusion.12
6. Given U, it follows that for any y at t, there is some instan-
taneous object x that (i) is the fusion of the members of
set y at t, and (ii) which exists only at t.
7. y is part of x at t and every part of x at t overlaps y at t (from
(i) and the definition of fusion).13
8. With certain mereological principles we can then move
from the claim that every part of x at t overlaps y at t, to
the claim that x is part of y at t.14

8
Sider, ‘Against Vague Existence.’
9
This part of the argument can be found both in his book (pp. 134–149) and in his
‘Against Vague Existence.’ I use the terminology from the latter, which differs slightly from
that used in the former.
10
Defined by Sider, ‘Against Vague Existence.’ footnote 2.
11
Sider, ‘Against Vague Existence’, p. 135.
12
Sider, loc cit.
13
Sider, op cit p. 136 (x and y are transposed in this paper: Sider uses ‘x’ to refer to
the set, and ‘y’ to refer to the fusion of the members of x).
14
Sider op cit. See footnote 4, p. 136.

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BLOCKING THE PATH FROM VAGUENESS TO FOUR DIMENSIONALISM 321
9. Now consider the definition of an instantaneous temporal
part: x is an instantaneous temporal part of y at instant
t = df (a) x is part of y at t (b) x exists at, but only at t and
(c) x overlaps at t everything that is part of y at t.15
10. The diachronic fusion x meets the definition of an instan-
taneous temporal part (from 7, 8, 9 and 10).
11. Since all diachronic fusions exist (see 6) it follows that
every persisting object is composed of these instantaneous
objects.
13. So four dimensionalism is true.
Sider’s argument then, is that every diachronic fusion exists,
and that these fusions count as temporal parts. If this argument
is successful, then it is surprising, for we might have thought that
the issue of when composition occurs, and thus which objects
exist, is orthogonal to the question of how objects persist.

3. Mereology and composition

Let us grant part I of the argument and consider only part II. The
first thing to notice is (2), the claim that given unrestricted com-
position, there will exist the fusion of the members of any arbi-
trary set S at time t, where x is a fusion of the members of S at t
iff every member of S is part of x at t, and each part of x at t over-
laps at t some member of S. Now unrestricted mereological com-
position only tells us that given that we have some particulars, we
can fuse those particulars. It does not tell us that there exist any
instantaneous basic particulars that can be fused to compose an
instantaneous object. So it does not tell us that any members of
S are instantaneous. But suppose S has three members, particu-
lars P, P1 and P2 which persist through T. We cannot assume these
particulars perdure. But if they endure, their fusion just is an
enduring object that persists through T: there exists no instanta-
neous object that is the fusion of P, P1 and P2 at t in T, for there
exists no object P-at-t.
Now Sider attempts to bypass this problem by talking (in 2) of
the fusion of the members of S at t. The problem is that (2) is
ambiguous between the claim that x is a fusion-at-t of
the members of S, and that x is a fusion of the members of S-at-t.

15
Sider, Four-dimensionalism: an ontology of persistence and time, p. 60.

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322 KRISTIE MILLER

Construed as a fusion-at-t, (2) involves some additional mereo-
logical axiom that allows for the fusion-at-a-time of particulars
which exist at other times, and it is difficult to see why the
endurantist need accept such an axiom. Construed as a fusion of
the members of S-at-t, (2) looks like a tricky way of smuggling in
temporal parts by the back door. After all, what is S-at-t if not a
temporal part?
For the sake of argument however, let us grant what the
endurantist almost certainly will not, either that basic particulars
are instantaneous and thus that there exists any arbitrary fusion
of these particulars, or that there exist instantaneous fusions-at-
times of particulars. Thus we grant that there exists some arbi-
trary fusion of the members of S at t. Now let us consider whether
Sider’s argument establishes that such objects count as temporal
parts. The crucial step in Sider’s argument is premise 8, which
relies on the mereological principle that licenses the move from
‘every part of x at t overlaps y at t’ to ‘x is part of y at t.’
To clarify this step a little, we need to be a little clearer about
the move from premise 7 to 8. Sider’s idea, I take it, is that we
begin with some persisting object y. At some arbitrary time t, y is
composed of some things. Now consider the set y whose members
are all of those things that compose y at t. The argument is a little
confusing because Sider uses ‘y’ to refer both to the persisting
object, and to the set whose members compose y at t. I retain this
terminology because ultimately it allows us to see how the argu-
ment goes wrong. So given that composition is unrestricted, we
can fuse all of the members of that y at t, and call this fusion x.
Then we conclude that the instantaneous object x, is part of the
persisting object y. We derive premise 7 from the definition of
fusion, combined with the fact that x is the fusion of the members
of y at t. If x is the fusion of the members of y at t, then we know
that every member of y at t is part of x at t, and x at t overlaps at
t some member of y. So 7 should more properly read:
7. Every member of y is part of x at t and every part of x at t
overlaps some member of y at t.
Then in premise 8 we move from ‘every part of x at t overlaps
y at t’ to ‘x is part of y at t.’ This should instead read: ‘every part
of x at t overlaps some member of y at t.’ And it is not obvious that
‘x is part of y at t’ follows from this claim, even if we accept the
relevant mereological principle. For presumably the ‘y’ in ‘x is
part of y at t’, refers to the persisting object y at t: for only if x was

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BLOCKING THE PATH FROM VAGUENESS TO FOUR DIMENSIONALISM 323
part of this object, could it be said that we have shown four dimen-
sionalism to true. Moreover, since no fusion is ever part of a set,
(since sets do not have parts, they have members) it could not be
that x is part of y at t, where ‘y at t’ is a set at a time. In order to
show that x is part of y at t, we need to note that every part of y
at t overlaps some member of the set y at t, and every member of
set y at t is part of y at t. It then follows that x is part of y at t.
So has Sider shown that given the truth of unrestricted com-
position, it follows that four dimensionalism is true? If we grant
(2), he has shown that there exists a plethora of instantaneous
objects that wholly overlap persisting objects at a time, and which
are part of those objects at that time. Isn’t that just to say that four
dimensionalism is true? To answer this question we need to con-
sider the persisting object y. What is y? If persisting objects are
diachronic fusions, then y is a diachronic fusion. Now recall that
an object is a diachronic fusion of the members of sets at times,
if it is composed of those sets at those times, and exists only at
those times. What is it to be composed of the members of a set at
a time? According to Sider, some object x is composed of the
members of set S at t, iff every member of S is part of x at t, and
each part of x at t overlaps at t, some member of S.16 So x is com-
posed of the members of S at t, just if x is the fusion of the
members of S at t. Call the fusion of the members of a set at a
time a synchronic fusion. A diachronic fusion, then, is the fusion
of two or more synchronic fusions.
A synchronic fusion is an instantaneous object that has as
spatial parts, each of the members of the set that it fuses. A
diachronic fusion is a persisting object composed of the fusions
of members of sets at times. So at each time at which it exists, a
diachronic fusion has the spatial parts of the synchronic fusion
that exists at that time. But in addition to these spatial parts, a
diachronic fusion has as parts, all of the synchronic fusions of
which it is composed. Diachronic fusions not only have spatial
parts, they have synchronic fusions, or instantaneous objects, as
parts. So diachronic fusions are the mereological fusion of instan-
taneous objects: they are four dimensional objects.
So if y is a diachronic fusion, then it follows that y is a four
dimensional object, and that x is an instantaneous temporal part
of y. And if all objects are either synchronic or diachronic fusions,

16
Sider, ‘Against Vague Existence.’ footnote 2.

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324 KRISTIE MILLER

then it follows that four dimensionalism is true. But no three
dimensionalist will concede that persisting objects are diachronic
fusions, nor need she understand unrestricted composition as the
claim that every synchronic and diachronic fusion exists. For the
general claim that any arrangements of matter at any different
times composes some persisting object, need not be understood
as the claim that every diachronic fusion exists. For there is
nothing in three dimensionalism per se that prohibits the three
dimensionalist from holding that there exists any enduring object
composed of arbitrary combinations of things at times. Even if
the three dimensionalist accepts that there exist instantaneous
objects (fusions-at-times), she need not concede that persisting
objects are the fusions of these objects. She could instead hold
that for every synchronic fusion, there is some enduring object x
that is constituted by those fusions at those times. Call such an
object a diachronic object.
A diachronic object is an enduring object: it is wholly present
whenever it exists. So too a synchronic fusion is wholly present
when it exists. At any time at which any diachronic object exists,
there will be some synchronic fusion that wholly overlaps that
object at that time. At that time, these two objects are related by
the constitution relation. The constitution relation is the relation
that holds at a time, between any two objects that are materially
coincident at that time.17 So if x and y are related by constitution
at t, then x is an improper part of y at t, and y is an improper part
of x at t.18
Now let us suppose that y is a diachronic object, and consider
again the question of whether or not this object is composed
of instantaneous objects. Well if what it is to be composed of
certain objects is to be the fusion of those objects, then no
diachronic object is composed of instantaneous objects, for no
diachronic object is the mereological fusion of instantaneous
objects. Rather, there exist instantaneous objects, and enduring
objects (diachronic objects) both of which are wholly present
whenever they exist, and where these diachronic objects are at
each time at which they exist, constituted by some instantaneous

17
As defined, the constitution relation is symmetrical, though the definition could be
tightened so that the relation is asymmetric.
18
Some three dimensionalists in part define constitution as the relation that holds
between objects that are improper parts of each other at a time. Cf. Thomson, J. J. (1998)
‘The Statue and the Clay.’ Nous 32: 149–173.

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BLOCKING THE PATH FROM VAGUENESS TO FOUR DIMENSIONALISM 325
object. Moreover, since every diachronic object exists, each instan-
taneous object will constitute more than one diachronic object at
each time at which it exists: for there will exist diachronic objects
that wholly overlap for some period of time. Just as an instanta-
neous temporal part will, if unrestricted composition is true, be
a part of more than one four dimensional object, so too for the
three dimensionalist, these instantaneous objects will constitute
more than one enduring object at the time at which they exist.

4. Diachronic fusions and diachronic objects

But is there any real difference between the view I am describing,
and four dimensionalism? Well the debate between the three and
four dimensionalist is not a debate about whether or not objects
can have other objects as parts at times: for no one need deny
that. Nor is it a debate about which objects exist. For there is
nothing about four dimensionalism that prescribes that one
accept unrestricted composition. Crucially, four dimensionalism
is the view that persisting objects are temporally extended: that is,
that at every time at which they exist, some of their parts are not
present at those times. An object does not have a temporal part
in virtue of having some improper spatial part for a period of
time. An object O has a temporal part P if it is true that ‘O has P
simpliciter.’
For the four dimensionalist, ‘P is part of O’ is true at every time
at which O exists, even if P is not present at the time of utterance.
So a four dimensional object that is the mereological fusion of
instantaneous objects is an object that has each of these instan-
taneous objects as parts simpliciter. For the three dimensionalist
though, these instantaneous objects are not parts simpliciter of
the diachronic object that they constitute at a time. The three
dimensionalist will say that the instantaneous object x that exists
at t, is an improper part of the diachronic object O at t, but is not
part of O simpliciter. This version of three dimensionalism, there-
fore, is not simply a way of accepting that there exist ersatz tem-
poral parts. For it involves rejecting the idea that objects are
temporally extended, and thus rejecting the idea that there is any-
thing answering to the description of ‘temporal’ part.
We can further clarify this distinction if we consider how Sider’s
argument would proceed with respect to extended temporal
parts. Consider daisy*. Daisy* is a diachronic fusion of the fusions

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326 KRISTIE MILLER

of the members of sets C at t, C1 at t1, C2 at t2 and C3 at t3. Let’s
say that at t, every member of C is part of some other object Daisy,
and every part of Daisy at t overlaps some member of C at t. So
too with C1 at t1 and so forth. Daisy is a cat, and therefore exists
at many times at which daisy* does not. So is daisy* an extended
temporal part of Daisy? To answer this, consider the following
definition, due to Sider, of an extended temporal part.
ETP: x is an extended temporal part of y during T iff (1) x
exists at, but only at, times in T, (2) x is part of y at every time
during T, and (3) at every moment in T x overlaps everything
that is part of y at that moment.19
Daisy* exists through times t to t3. Call this duration T. So daisy*
exists at and only at times in T. Daisy* is part of Daisy at every
time during T, and at every moment in T, daisy* overlaps every-
thing that is part of Daisy at that moment. So we can conclude
that daisy* is a temporal part of Daisy. All well and good since the
three dimensionalist denies that daisy* exists.
But now let us consider the diachronic object snowy*. Snowy*
is an object that is constituted by the fusions of the members of
sets D at t, D1 at t1, D2 at t2 and D3 at t3. At each of those times,
the fusions of those sets also constitute Snowy the dog, who is five
years old. Both snowy* and Snowy are enduring objects that are
wholly present whenever they exist: snowy* is not, for the three
dimensionalist, a temporal part of Snowy. When we look to Sider’s
definition of an extended temporal part, however, we run into dif-
ficulties. For snowy* exists only during T. Snowy* overlaps at every
moment in T, everything that is part of Snowy at that moment,
and snowy* is part of Snowy at every time in T. So by Sider’s
definition of an extended temporal part, snowy* is a temporal
part of Snowy.
What is snowy*? Snowy* is simply a persisting object that exists
between and only between certain times, and which happens to
overlap another object, Snowy, at the times at which it exists. None
of this precludes snowy* (and Snowy) from being wholly present
at every time at which each exists. For consider a more familiar
example: the statue and the lump of clay. A statue and the lump
of clay that composes the statue are materially coincident at

19
Sider, op cit. Note this definition is also accepted by Markosian in Markosian, N.
(1994). ‘The 3D/4D Controvery and Non-Present Objects.’ Philosophical Papers 23: 243–49.

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BLOCKING THE PATH FROM VAGUENESS TO FOUR DIMENSIONALISM 327
certain times. But suppose that the statue is squashed, and thus
ceases to exist at some time, while the lump persists for some time
longer. It surely does not follow merely from the fact that the
statue and the lump wholly overlap for some period of time, and
that the statue exists during and only during that period of time,
that the statue is a temporal part of the lump. The same is true
for the relation between snowy* and Snowy.
The problem lies in Sider’s definition of an extended tempo-
ral part. For on this definition, something is an extended tem-
poral part of y if it completely overlaps y for some period of time,
and exists only during that period of time. Once we accept,
however, that three dimensionalists can coherently accept a
version of unrestricted composition, then this definition of an
extended temporal part is seen to be lacking. For given unre-
stricted composition, a three dimensional diachronic object can
overlap another such object during and only during some period
of time T. But nothing about this suggests that one of those
diachronic objects is a part simpliciter of the other. Specifically,
nothing about snowy* shows that it is part of Snowy simpliciter.
At each time at which snowy* exists, snowy* is an improper part
of Snowy at that time. But there is no timeless sense in which
snowy* is part of Snowy, because neither Snowy nor snowy* are
temporally extended.
The problem with Sider’s ETP definition of an extended tem-
poral part is that clause (2) is couched in terms of parthood at
times, rather than atemporal parthood. This was an attempt to
accommodate the three dimensionalist, who rejects the idea of
atemporal parthood. The difficulty is that clause (2) does not dis-
tinguish between a case where we have a diachronic object such
as snowy*, where snowy* is an improper part of Snowy at each time
t in T, and the case where we have a diachronic object daisy* that
is part of Daisy simpliciter. For if daisy* is part of Daisy simpliciter
then it is also true that daisy* is part of Daisy at each time in T,
though the reverse is not the case. But only if daisy* is part of
Daisy simpliciter, does it follow that Daisy is a temporally extended
object, of which daisy* is an extended temporal part. Sider’s atem-
poral version of ETP achieves just this:

AETP: x is an extended temporal part of y during T iff (1) x
exists at, but only at, times in T (2) x is part of y and (3) at
every moment in T, x overlaps every part of y that exists at that
moment.

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328 KRISTIE MILLER

Considering again clause (2), we can see that in the case of
daisy* and Daisy, it is true that daisy* is a part of Daisy, and thus
that daisy* is an extended temporal part of Daisy. In the case of
snowy*, however, since both snowy* and Snowy are wholly present
at each time at which they exist, there is no atemporal sense in
which snowy* is part of Snowy. While there are some times at
which snowy* is part of Snowy, there are other times at which
snowy* is not part of Snowy. So (2) is not true of snowy* and
Snowy, and thus snowy* is not an extended temporal part of
Snowy.
This brings us back nicely to the question of why the second
part of the argument from vagueness does not show that the
fusion of the members of y at t, namely x, is part of the persisting
object y. Recall that Sider employed a mereological principle
according to which we can move from the claim that every part
of x at t overlaps y at t, to the claim that x is part of y at t. I earlier
conceded that Sider had shown that x at t is part of y at t, where
y is a persisting object. We can now see why conceding this was
not conceding that x is a temporal part of y. For consider again
snowy* and Snowy. Snowy* at t overlaps Snowy at t. So by the
mereological principle, we can conclude that snowy* at t is part
of Snowy at t. Even having shown this, however, we have not shown
that snowy* is a temporal part of Snowy. To show that, it needs to
be the case that we can move from the claim that ‘snowy* at t
overlaps Snowy at t’ to the claim ‘snowy* is part of Snowy.’ For
the three dimensionalist does not deny that at t, snowy* is part of
Snowy: snowy* is an improper part of Snowy at t. Rather, she
denies that snowy* is part of Snowy simpliciter. So while the mere-
ological principle is sound, applying this principle to two wholly
overlapping persisting objects that exist for different durations,
tells us only that at each time at which both exist, each is an
improper part of the other. There is a further question as to
whether one is a part of the other simpliciter. Only if this latter is
the case, can we conclude that one is a temporal part of the other.
So all Sider’s earlier argument shows is that x at t is part of y at t.
It does not show that x is part of y simpliciter, and thus does not
rule out the possibility that y is a diachronic object, and not a
diachronic fusion.
So it is hardly surprising that it is the atemporal, and only the
atemporal version of the definition of an extended temporal part
that permits us to draw the distinction between diachronic objects
and diachronic fusions. For showing that some object is a tem-

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BLOCKING THE PATH FROM VAGUENESS TO FOUR DIMENSIONALISM 329
poral part of another object involves more than just showing that
the former is at some times an improper part of the latter, it
involves showing that the former is part of the latter simpliciter,
and the temporal definition of an extended temporal part is
unable to accomplish this. Thus what it ends up defining is not a
temporal part at all.

5. Unrestricted composition and fusions-at-times

But why would a three dimensionalist accept that there exist any
such instantaneous objects at all? Perhaps most wouldn’t. This
would not preclude the endurantist from accepting unrestricted
composition and its attendant advantages. As we noted previously,
that composition is unrestricted does not entail that there exist
instantaneous objects that could count as instantaneous temporal
parts. The fusion of materially coincident enduring particulars is
an enduring object. But suppose there exist two basic particulars
P1 and P2. P1 endures through T, and P2 endures through T*,
where T and T* are non-contiguous intervals. Given unrestricted
mereological composition, there exists a fusion of P1 and P2, call
it P, and P appears to be a four dimensional object in that it has
P1 and P2 as parts, albeit enduring parts. So while P1 is wholly
present through T, P is only partly present during T.
Although this would not be disastrous for the endurantist (it
would certainly not be typical perdurantism) the endurantist
might want to understand unrestricted composition not in mere-
ological terms, but rather, in the same non-mereological terms as
does the endurantist who accepts the existence of instantaneous
objects – as constitution at a time. Thus she might contend that
any arbitrary combination of enduring particulars constitutes
some persisting object, and thus that P is constituted by P1 during
T, and constituted by P2 during T*. Hence P is wholly present
whenever it exists. Thus unrestricted composition would be
understood as the claim that for any arbitrary arrangement of
particulars, there is some enduring object that is constituted by
those particulars at times.
Still, if empirical discovery revealed that basic particulars are
instantaneous, I do not see that this would entail the truth of four
dimensionalism, rather, it would entail something like the three
dimensionalist view I have been considering according to which
enduring objects are constituted by instantaneous objects at

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330 KRISTIE MILLER

times. So too there are certain advantages for the three dimen-
sionalist in accepting Sider’s idea of a fusion-at-a-time. For
instance, if there exist instaneous objects that constitute endur-
ing objects at times, then the endurantist can make sense of the
idea that in some sense enduring objects can have properties sim-
pliciter: an enduring object O is red at t just if O is constituted at
t by some object that is red simpliciter. The instantaneous objects
that constitute enduring objects can play much the same explana-
tory role as temporal parts do for the four dimensionalist, without
the need to claim that objects are only partly present whenever
they exist.

6. Conclusion

What all this shows is that even if one endorses part I of the argu-
ment from vagueness, this does not compel one to accept four
dimensionalism. The endurantist can still reject the idea that
basic particulars are instantaneous, or that there exist fusions-at-
times, and can thus reject the idea that enduring objects are
diachronic objects constituted by shorter lived objects at times.
On the other hand, even if one grants Sider’s contention that
such instantaneous objects exist, it does not follow that persisting
objects perdure, for it does not follow that persisting objects are
the fusions of these instantaneous objects. Thus the argument
from vagueness provides no reason to prefer four dimensional-
ism to three dimensionalism.

University of Queensland
Brisbane, Queensland
Australia 4072
kristie_miller@yahoo.com

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© Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2005