Substances, Agents and Processes

Philosophy 95 (1):41-61 (2020)
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This paper defends a substance-based metaphysics for organisms against three arguments for thinking that we should replace a substantial understanding of living things with a processual one, which are offered by Dan Nicholson and John Dupré in their edited collection, Everything Flows: Towards a Processual Philosophy of Biology. Dupré and Nicholson consider three main empirical motivations for the adoption of a process ontology in biology. These motivations are alleged to stem from facts concerning metabolism; the life cycles of organisms; and ecological interdependence. The paper discusses each of the three arguments in turn and concludes that none gives us any compelling reason to abandon the metaphysics of things. At best, they are arguments against a kind of caricature substance metaphysics that ought never to have been in the running in any case. Then, at the end of the paper, it is suggested that there may be more positive arguments for insisting on retaining things in our metaphysics, arguments which, perhaps ironically get their main impetus from the phenomenon of life.



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A Manifesto for a Processual Philosophy of Biology.John A. Dupre & Daniel J. Nicholson - 2018 - In Daniel J. Nicholson & John Dupré (eds.), Everything Flows: Towards a Processual Philosophy of Biology. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.
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Helen Steward
University of Leeds

References found in this work

A Treatise of Human Nature.David Hume & A. D. Lindsay - 1958 - Philosophical Quarterly 8 (33):379-380.
Material Beings.Peter Van Inwagen - 1990 - Philosophy 67 (259):126-127.
What Happens When Someone Acts?J. David Velleman - 1992 - Mind 101 (403):461-481.
Actions and activity.Jennifer Hornsby - 2012 - Philosophical Issues 22 (1):233-245.

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