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The Lump and the Ledger: Material Coincidence at Little-to-No Cost

  • Jonah GoldwaterEmail author
Original Research


This paper aims to make headway on two related issues—one methodological, the other substantive. The former concerns cost–benefit analyses when applied to metaphysical theory choice. The latter concerns material coincidence, i.e., multiple objects occupying the same space at the same time, such as the statue and the clay from which it’s made. The issues are entwined as many reject coincidence on the grounds that it’s costly. I argue this judgment is unjustified. More generally, I set out and defend a framework for the use of cost–benefit analyses in metaphysics. The framework employs a fourfold division of pretheoretical costs and benefits (inconsistency or consistency with common sense), and theoretical costs and benefits (loss or gain of theoretical virtues such as simplicity). Yet these do not hold equal weight. Instead I argue that the appeal to theoretical benefits is illegitimate if the theory in question cannot first account for the relevant evidence or data, including, crucially, certain bits of pretheoretical or common knowledge. This is crucial because I not only argue that material coincidence is consistent with common sense, against what is widely believed, but that coincidence may even be a feature or implication of the common sense view. Put together, the result is that accepting an anti-coincidence theory for its putative theoretical virtues at the expense of common sense is an improper usage of the cost–benefit methodology. I instead conclude that material coincidence should be accepted with equanimity—which, after all, is free.



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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyThe College of William and MaryWilliamsburgUSA

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