Suppose we are four-dimensional. Parthood simpliciter then is an eternal relation between, typically, four-dimensional entities. My heart is a four-dimensional object that is eternally a part of me, who am another four-dimensional object.
But there is surely also such a thing as having a part at a time t. Thus, in utero my umbilical cord was a part of me, but it no longer is. What does it mean to have a part at a time? Here is the simplest thing to say:
- x is a part of y at t if and only if x is a part of y and both x and y exist at t.
But (1) then has a very interesting metaphysical consequence that only a few Aristotelian philosophers endorse: parts cannot survive being accreted by or excreted from the whole. For if, say, my finger survived its removal from the whole (and not just because I became a scattered object), there would be a time at which my finger would exist but wouldn’t be a part of me. And that violates (1) together with the eternality of parthood simpliciter.
This may seem to be a reductio of (1). But if we reject (1), what do we put in its place, assuming four-dimensionalism? I suspect we will have to posit a second relation of parthood, parthood-at-a-time, which is not reducible to parthood simpliciter. And that seems to be unduly complex.
So I propose that the four-dimensionalist embrace (1) and conclude to the thesis that parts cannot survive their accretion or excretion.