When the whole McCain house thing came to light my initial reaction was to observe that most journalists don’t really have the technical background necessary to determine the metaphysical status of John McCain’s main residence, a Phoenix condo that’s actually two condos combined into one. I thought we might need the assistance of Laurie Paul, Arizona’s leading mereologist (that’s the branch of philosophy that studies “the relations of part to whole and the relations of part to part within a whole”) and wife of Crooked Timber blogger Kieran Healy. No word yet from Professor Paul, but Healy blogs in from on vacation in Ireland:
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.
That does make sense and tends to highlight the fact that political philosophy is in some respects less independent of metaphysical considerations than John Rawls would have you believe.