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EVNINE, Simon J.: Making Objects and Events: A Hylomorphic Theory of Artifacts, Actions, and Organisms.

EVNINE, Simon J. Making Objects and Events: A Hylomorphic Theory of Artifacts, Actions, and Organisms. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016. xv + 268 pp. Cloth, $74.00--In this work the author articulates a novel and interesting metaphysics of material objects, one that makes an account of artifact objects such that artifact identity is grounded in the original act of making such objects central to the theory. Evnine's book deserves a wide readership. Although it is primarily a work of analytic metaphysics, it touches on topics of interest to, or has interesting implications for, philosophers working in aesthetics, the philosophy of language, the philosophy of biology, political philosophy, philosophical theology, and the philosophy of action. Aside from some occasional but very dense forays into analytic metaphysics--for which only the specialist will have the required patience--the prose makes for delightful reading and Evnine's arguments are easy to follow.

The book has seven chapters. In the first two chapters Evnine lays the groundwork for his own hylomorphic account of objects and action. Evnine does seven things in this part of the book. First, he offers a reading of Aristotle's hylomorphic theory, a reading that emphasizes that, for Aristotle, there is a "unity of efficient, formal, and final causes" in things such that understanding the nature of a thing is tied not only to its function but also to the act that brings that thing into existence. Second, Evnine offers a sufficient condition for a theory counting as hylomorphic, namely, that a theory has it that "some things stand in the relation of being the matter of to other things, and this relation (the matter relation) is irreflexive and asymmetric." Third, Evnine distinguishes the neo-Aristotelian "power-based" hylomorphic theories of contemporary philosophers such as David Oderberg and Robert Koons from the "principle-based" hylomorphic theories of philosophers such as Kit Fine. Fourth, Evnine provides a sketch of his own hylomorphic theory, which he calls "amorphic hylomorphism," a theory according to which there are often cases such that some material object x is the matter of a different material object y, where there exists a unity of formal, final, and efficient causes in y, but y is not composed of x and a form (or some substitute for form). Fifth, Evnine discusses the relation between hylomorphic theory and classical mereology, arguing that, generally speaking, these are contrasting approaches to material objects so that if one is a hylomorphist one should reject classical mereology, and vice versa. Sixth, Evnine argues that, when it comes to debates between four-dimensionalists and three-dimensionalists, hylomorphic theories fit better with the latter than the former. Seventh, Evnine discusses in some detail the views of three metaphysicians--Judith Jarvis Thomson, Lynne Rudder Baker, and Kit Fine--whose views about material objects are similar to, or have provided inspiration for, those of Evnine, but are views he nonetheless finds ultimately unsatisfactory.

Chapters 3 and 4 treat of artifact objects, which, according to the author, count as the clearest case where a contemporary philosopher can reasonably apply Aristotle's idea that there is a unity of efficient, formal, and final causation in an object. Evnine then defends the following account of artifact objects: an artifact object is such that there is a material object standing in the matter relation to that artifact object; the artifact is an object over and above the matter that constitutes it only because that artifact can be (or is) composed of some different matter (at different times); many, perhaps most, artifact objects belong to substance sortals; finally, an artifact object is an ideal object, that is, a real object whose identity conditions are wholly determined by the artisan's original intention to make that object (a certain kind of object). Where his treatment of artifacts is concerned, the author also has interesting discussions of those kinds of artifacts that are more difficult to understand, such as musical works, fictional characters, languages, and mass produced artifacts.

Evnine attempts to show in chapters 5, 6, and 7 how his theory of artifacts can be applied to things that are not artifact objects. In chapter 5 Evnine makes a case that his theory can be employed in offering an evolutionary account of organisms. In chapter 6 Evnine argues in defense of the denial of the substantial reality of nonorganic objects such as mountains, rivers, and clouds. Finally, in chapter 7 Evnine applies his theory of artifact objects to the nature and identity of human actions.

By way of critique, I suggest here two limitations in the work, one substantial and one stylistic. It is strange that, in an otherwise comprehensive treatment of a hylomorphic approach to the metaphysics of material objects, a hylomorphic tradition of philosophizing as dominant as that of Aristotle's medieval interpreters, especially in the work of Thomas Aquinas, is wholly neglected here. Of course, one can't do everything in a single book. Nonetheless, I commend to Evnine and his readers the Thomistic tradition of hylomorphism, especially in the work of his contemporary expositors and defenders (see, for example, the relevant works of Eleonore Stump and Jeffrey Brower). Indeed, Thomistic hylomorphism arguably makes better sense of aspects of human action that Evnine gives up explaining in hylomorphic terms. In addition, reading medieval Aristotelians can help contemporary philosophers see some of their metaphysical blind spots, for example, their neglect of problems Aristotle introduces hylomorphism to solve in the first place, namely, the problems of substantial change and the one and the many.

As one would expect in a book-length work of contemporary philosophy, some of the sections of this book are quite dense. But it seems one can skip these technical sections of the work and still follow with profit Evnine's arguments. Perhaps the author could--in a future edition--signal to readers which sections are necessary only for those interested in the finer points of analytic metaphysics. Doing so would perhaps give Evnine's book the greater number of readers his book deserves.--Christopher M. Brown, The University of Tennessee at Martin
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Author:Brown, Christopher M.
Publication:The Review of Metaphysics
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 1, 2018
Words:992
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