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Contemporary Aristotelian Metaphysics.

Contemporary Aristotelian Metaphysics

Tuomas E. Tahko (University of Helsinki) (ed.)

New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012, 263 pp.

ISBN 978-1-107-00064-3

Fine argues that, according to Quine, the ontology of physics will include elementary particles: these are included within its domain of quantification. Fine contends that they will not be included in the ontology (physics has no interest in any particular elementary particle). The truths of an eidictic field are distinctively true in virtue of its overall subject-matter. Metaphysics is distinguished from other eidictic fields by the aprioricity of its methods and by the generality of its subject-matter (the notion of eidicity is part of the subject-matter of metaphysics). The truths of an eidictic field turn on the nature of its subject-matter. Tahko states that, according to the Quinean approach, the key questions of metaphysics concern the existence of different kinds of things (the Aristotelian approach focuses on the natures or essences of these things). Quine says that the central task of metaphysics is to determine "what there is." The Quinean metaphysician is interested in ontological commitment. Metaphysics and science are continuous (we could not really engage in one without the other). Aristotelian metaphysics is the study of being as it is in itself. The role of the a priori part in the mind-brain identity thesis is the same as in the mass-energy identity thesis. The role of (neo)-Aristotelian metaphysics is to provide a mapping of the initial limitations of any kind of rational inquiry.

Hofweber asserts that we can distinguish between the internal and the external reading of the existential quantifier. The question "Are there numbers?" is underspecified, having both an internal and an external reading. Mathematics does not provide an answer to the external reading. Metaphysics is interested in the external reading of questions such as "Are there numbers?". Internalism settles many of the problematic external ontological questions. Ladyman and Ross note that metaphysics suffers from a lack of scientific rigor and is badly informed of the latest developments in science. Metaphysicians' intuitions are often taken as evidence whereas scientists' intuitions are only heuristically valuable. The goal of metaphysics is to unify the special sciences. Our epistemic access to metaphysical possibility has to be infallible (the value of metaphysical claims is very limited). Ladyman and Ross identify metaphysical a priori inquiry with conceptual analysis.

Crane contends that Quine's aim is to create a language in which we can express, in as precise a way as possible, our best theory of the world. Quine asserts that it is not possible to make scientific sense of intentionality or the semantics of attributions of intentionality. We have more or less precise ways of talking about intentionality in ordinary speech. There is no non-verbal difference between being and existence. The ontological commitments of a theory are the objects that are the values of the theory's bound variables if the theory is to be true. Meinong draws a distinction between being and existence (there are different kinds of ways or modes of being): only spatiotemporal things exist. Non-spatiotemporal things ("objectives") have a different mode of being (subsistence). The objects of thought which are "beyond being" have no being at all, neither existence nor subsistence. Not everything we think about has being. Frege treats quantifiers as second-level function-expressions ("concept-words"): they take first-level function-expressions as arguments and yield truth or falsehood as values. The quantifiers are unary, creating a sentence by taking one first-level function-expression as argument. Apparently binary quantifiers can be defined in terms of unary quantifiers plus sentential connectives. One can quantify over some entities without being able to think or talk about them individually. Crane states that we can keep logic pretty much as it is and yet make sense of the idea that some things do not exist. Quantifying over things is a way of talking about them, in an intuitive sense. Representation of the non-existent should not make us change the standard way of understanding the semantics of quantifiers. A domain is a universe of discourse, a collection of objects of thought.

Olson writes that, for Lowe, to say that there is something of a certain sort is not by itself to say anything about how many there are. The identity principles hold neither left to right nor right to left. Lowe rejects the relativity of identity. Some things simply do not admit of number or of numerical description. Tropes and facts exist, but we can say nothing about how many there are. A piece of matter is distinct from the portion of matter that makes it up or constitutes it. Bird notes that Armstrong takes a reductive attitude towards natural kinds, whereas Lowe regards kinds as ontologically fundamental. Lowe has an ontology of four categories, in which we have individual substances, modes, and two species of universal: attributes and substantial universals. Particulars exemplify attributes. There is no general law-making relation (law involves a specific attribute that suffices for a law when it characterizes a substantial universal). Substantial universals (natural kinds) are needed to account for the laws of nature. On Armstrong's reading, laws should be understood as second-order relations between first-order universals (attributes). Laws entail universal generalizations.

Heil maintains that, according to Descartes, material objects answering to sortals turn out to be modes, not substances. Extension is an attribute. Armstrong states that universals are wholly present in each of their instances. Particulars are one kind of thing, universals another. Universals depend on their instances. Armstrong's universals exist only in the spatio-temporal world. On Williams's account, philosophers who regard universals as identical across their instances are not thinking what they think they are thinking. When philosophers think of universals as being identical across instances, this is all they could be thinking. Williams defends a one category "trope" ontology. Lowe affirms that sphericity is an attribute. Universals "depend non-rigidly" on their instances. Lowe's modes are instances of universals. A mode is of necessity an instance of a universal. Some universals, the "characterizing universals," are attributes. Both universals and modes are "ways." Kinds depend both for their identity and for their existence on the attributes. If you have the mode, you have the object's being characterized by the mode. Universals do not literally exist in the places or at the times in and at which their particular instances exist. Kinds depend on attributes that characterize them, and are characterized by attributes, properties, and relations regarded as universals. Abstract objects are concrete objects considered apart from, or independently of, their spatio-temporal trappings.

Simons claims that the basic relations in factor families are one and all "internal." Aristotle calls those things which are not in something substance. Those things which are in something are accidents. Aristotle's categories delimit the fundamentally different kinds of thing in the world, being the supreme genera of being. Kant holds that we are not able to divide reality as it is in itself, but only as thought by us, or brought under concepts. Categories are organizing principles of cognition. The forms of judgment provide the "transcendental clue" for the categories. Lowe posits that modality is too loose and sloppy a notion to fully characterize the idea of dependence.

Hoffman explains that Aristotle stresses that substances are in some sense more fundamental than other categories of being. There is some kind of asymmetrical dependence of all of the other categories upon substance. "Existence" is not univocal. An instance of one category of being exists in a different sense than does an instance of another category of being. The category of substance is neither eliminable nor reducible to any other category of being. Substances are in some way ontologically fundamental, basic, or primary. The notion of a substance can be philosophically analyzed. Substances uniquely possess some kind of ontological independence. Chisholm takes the notion of a constituent to be undefined: there are two kinds of constituents of material substances (boundaries and material parts). Lowe observes that tropes are instances of properties while substances are instances of kinds. While kinds and properties are multiply exemplifiable, they exist in their instances and are contingent upon the existence of their instances. Lowe's latest system of categories postulate what kinds of entities there are. Among "objects," substances are basic. They are at the same level of basicness as trope, kind, and property.

Guenin states that Aristotle associates entelecheia with actuality. With respect to a given thing, there exists an origin of change. A human is by nature capable of becoming capable of theorizing. Aristotle conceives organismic development to involve change to an organism qua self and qua other. McCall points out that, for Davies, the division between living and nonliving beings coincides with the introduction of informational software in the form of the genetic code. Cells contain a wide variety of machines at the nanotechnology level.

Koslicki puts it that Aristotle conceives of the necessary truths as being distinct and derivative from the essential truths, and of the necessary features of objects as being distinct and derivative from the essential features of objects. Aristotle relies on a distinction between what belongs to the essence of an object and what follows from the essence of an object. Aristotle traces the explanatory power of definitions to the causal power of essences. A demonstrative argument must be at least deductively valid. Science is concerned only with lawful connections among kinds of phenomena rather than with the accidental features of individual instances of these kinds. Individual instances of a kind of phenomenon can only be perceived through sense-perception. Successful definitions and explanations are the linguistic correlates of essences and causes. A definition is a formula or statement. Essences cause the other necessary features of a thing. The explanatory power inherent in definitions is a direct reflection of the causal power of essences. Definitions figure among the first principles or axioms of a demonstrative science. We reach the epistemic state of nous through a process of induction. Induction begins with the perception of particulars and leads through a series of steps to the ability to "give an account." All necessary (but non-essential) features of a kind of thing can be causally traced back to facts about essences.

According to Oderberg, Aristotle writes that no primary substance is essentially relational: neither are so-called or defined with reference to something beyond them. Some secondary substances are relational. No substance, primary or secondary, is essentially relational. Not everything that exists is essentially relational because substances are not relational. Bird argues for dispositional monism (all properties have dispositional essences). At the "fundamental level," all properties are essentially dispositional. The identity and distinctness of the members of a set of entities can supervene on some relation or set of relations on those entities. Graphs are a tool for defending a world of pure powers. Structure can fix identity. The "fundamental level" of reality is a graph. Bird is concerned with physical realizations of the asymmetric graph structure. Lowe advocates the regress/circularity objection to a world of pure powers. A chain of pure powers will not provide fixed identity conditions (such a chain would either be infinite or circular). If the identity conditions of a thing are circular, it has no fixed identity. Dipert argues that the distinctness of relata can be established "through relations alone" (it is coherent to suppose that everything that exists is relational in nature). The use of set theory "pollutes" the mathematical theory of graphs. If we identify "the concrete world" with a graph, we should not import assumed individuation of entities when a key component of metaphysics is the individuation of entities. The structure of symmetric graphs does not fix the identity of the nodes. The entire world is a graph.

Lowe assumes that both features and forms are universals, rather than particulars. The form of a substance constitutes its essence, what it is, whereas its features are how it is. The only way in which we can understand resemblance is as an internal relation. Attributes and modes are characterizing entities, whereas primary and secondary substances are characterizable entities. Secondary substances and attributes are instantiable entities, whereas primary substances and modes are instantiating entities. Form, conceived as a type of universal, is secondary substance or substantial kind. Individual objects or primary substances are particular forms, or form-particulars (objects, or individual substances, are form-particulars or particularized forms). Lowe conceives of modes as being identity-dependent on their objects. Within the four-category ontology we need to regard modes as being "aspects" of objects. The four-category ontology has to be excluded both from the class of relational ontologies and from that of constituent ontologies.

It should be clear from this synopsis that this book makes a number of powerful and original contributions to the literature on contemporary Aristotelian metaphysics.

Reviewed by George Lazaroiu, PhD

Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies in

Humanities and Social Sciences, New York
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Author:Lazaroiu, George
Publication:Review of Contemporary Philosophy
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2013
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