Holes in donuts – the philosophical implications (part 2)

Glazed-DonutIn 2001, professor Achille C. Varzi, of Columbia University, New York, very probably became the first philosopher to author a paper focusing specifically on the ramifications of holes in donuts (that’s ‘doughnuts’ in the UK), as we reported. But the paper wasn’t, in the literal sense, the last word on donut holes. In 2012 the subject received further attention, this time from professor Stephen Barker and Mark Jago at the philosophy department at the University of Nottingham, UK. Their paper ‘Being Positive About Negative Facts’. (in: Philosophy and Phenomenological Research,85 (1):117-138) has a section partially devoted to donuts. (7, Constitution and Holes, page 12) in which they point out that :

“Donuts are material objects. The thing about donuts, however, is that they have holes. If you get rid of the donut hole by filling it up with more donut-dough, then there is no longer a donut.”

“Holes pose something of a philosophical quandary and, perhaps as a result of their mystery, are often treated as immaterial entities (Casati and Varzi 1994). Yet we seem to be able to perceive holes, gaps, dents and the like. The view of holes as immaterial objects is, we think, very much in line with thinking of the negative as the metaphysically undead. Given our acceptance of negative facts, we can offer a story about holes on which they are material entities. If there is a donut hole then there is a spatial region involving the instantiation of donut-dough which is intimately connected with an absence thereof.”

Improbable will of course endeavour to keep readers informed about future donut-centred philosophical investigations, should any arise to our attention.

Note on spelling : Curiously, although the authors are based at a UK university, they use the American spelling ‘donut’ throughout the paper – whereas professor Varzi, who’s at Columbia University in New York, goes exclusively for the English spelling, ‘doughnut’.

Luscious donut photos are kindly provided by photographer Evan Amos.