Justification for this as a PhilosophySE questions: there are two SEP articles concerning this topic:

  1. The Logic of Mass Expressions (Nicolas[18]).
  2. The Metaphysics of Mass Expressions (Steen[22]).

Carroll[78] seems to concur with my intuition, here, although I can read only the first page of this text, so I don't know that the apparent concord endures to the end of the matter. My intuition otherwise comes from a sense of count nouns as involving literal countability (in the set-theoretic sense of "countable"), with mass nouns mapping onto uncountably multipliable bits of matter/similar. However, if I push this too literally, I would seem to commit myself to the presence of an uncountably infinite amount of e.g. water in any proper mass of water, which (indeterminably-many virtual particles constitutive of Dirac water aside) seems false.

But could it instead be said that water is a mass because it could be expanded to an uncountable multiplicity of presence, whereas things denoted by count nouns cannot be so multiplied? For example, an individual dog cannot be multiplied so (I suppose), though its dogness might admit of this?

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    good question (i cannot answer). i approve of the length compared to most of your questions, btw :)
    – user67675
    Sep 25 at 22:39
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    They are more or less the same, and go back to the age-old distinction between counting and measurement that predates Cantorian dissociation of the continuum into an uncountable multiplicity. The latter, while technically convenient in mathematics, is rather artificial conceptually, and linguistic use is likely informed by Aristotelian intuitions of the continuum as not assembled from points and not being a multiplicity at all.
    – Conifold
    Sep 25 at 23:49
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    Colloquially count has additional sense such as an implicit (well) order to count that which is countable, even in situations involving mass nouns such as 'this is water' where you see seven bottles of water and there's a way to count them in an orderly fashion, otherwise we cannot trust our counting result confidently. Being merely discrete seems doesn't have such sense, it could still be dense in something else... Sep 26 at 0:03
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    @prof_post the motivation goes to a question I have about the document I'm working on, like it has set theory stuff in it that needs a very explicit logical background, but I don't want to work in just "one" logic system and so I'm trying to imagine that there could be "logic"-as-a-mass-noun (in addition to a count noun), and I'm working in "massive logic" (though that sounds kinda wacky). Sep 26 at 1:23
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    Count noun is also closely related to the concept of a 'sortal'. See plato.stanford.edu/entries/sortals
    – Bumble
    Sep 26 at 5:43


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