Activity, Process, Continuant, Substance, Organism
Wiggins (David)
Source: Wiggins (David) - Continuants: Their Activity, Their Being, and Their Identity
Paper - Abstract

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Editors’ Abstract1

  1. (This essay) is a response to John Dupré's suggestion that an ontology of processes will provide a better framework for interpreting science than any ontology of substances. In response, after giving grounds to doubt that an ontology of pure processes can muster the resources to answer the individuative questions presented by the biological sciences themselves, I defend a plural ontology of process, activity, event and continuant.
  2. We are referred to “a manifesto entitled “A Process Ontology for Biology” at Link”.

Editors’ Abstract2
  1. David Wiggins, in his essay ‘Activity, Process, Continuant, Substance, Organism’, argues against the view put forward by Dupré3, Meincke4 and others that organisms are processes and that the appropriate ontological framework for biological science is provided by process ontology.
  2. Wiggins’s rejection of this view is mainly motivated by considerations about persistence: insofar as organisms persist through time they are, Wiggins claims, continuants, i.e., material things or substances.
  3. Thus, Wiggins criticises attempts to explain biological identity through time with the help of the concept of genidentity: organisms are not concatenations of states.
  4. Assuming that any plausible scientific explanation of biological reality should comprise a plausible account of the persistence of organisms, Wiggins concludes that an ontology that does not allow for material things or substances in addition to processes fails. He therefore proposes a plural ontology which assumes process, activity, event and substance, or continuant, as fundamental categories of being.
  5. Such an ontology attributes a characteristic principle of activity for each kind of organism and, Wiggins claims, is also able to handle convincingly difficult questions, such as the questions of whether siphonophores and slime moulds are individuals and how to count Blackberry plants.


In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1: Footnote 2: Footnote 3: Footnote 4:

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  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2020
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

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