Hylomorphism: What It Is and What It Isn’t

Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 85:173-187 (2011)
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“Hylomorphism” has recently become a buzzword in metaphysics. Kit Fine, Kathryn Koslicki, and Mark Johnston, among others, have argued that hylomorphism provides an account of parthood and material constitution that has certain advantages over its competitors. But what exactly is it, and what are its implications for an account of what we are? Hylomorphism, I argue, is fundamentally a claim about structure. It says that structure is a basic ontological and explanatory principle. I argue that hylomorphism is compatible with physicalism, and also with substance dualism, and epiphenomenalism. The most interesting kinds of hylomorphism nevertheless reject these views. I describe one such hylomorphic theory. It is an empirically well-warranted theory, I argue, one based on work in biology and biological subdisciplines such as neuroscience



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