The Being of Living Beings: Foundationalist Materialism versus Hylomorphism
Walsh (Denis) & Wiebe (Kayla)
Source: Meincke (Anne Sophie) & Dupre (John), Eds. - Biological Identity: Perspectives from Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Biology
Paper - Abstract

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Editors’ Abstract1

  1. Denis Walsh and Kayla Wiebe’s essay on ‘The Being of Living Beings: Foundationalist Materialism versus Hylomorphism’ takes another look at the relationship between metaphysics and science.
  2. It proceeds from the observation that the study of organisms in the biology of the 20th and early 21st centuries has predominantly been framed by a theory of being that stresses the commonalities between living and non-living matter.
  3. Walsh and Wiebe aim to show that this theory of being – they call it Foundationalist Materialism – unhelpfully constrains the scientific study of organisms by preventing us from appreciating the distinctive features of organisms, namely their self-building, self-maintaining, processual and emergent capacities.
  4. In response, they propose Aristotelian hylomorphism as a more suitable ontological framework. According to hylomorphism, organisms, qua substances, are interactions between matter and form such that while the properties and capacities of an organism as a whole are sustained by the properties and capacities of its parts, the former cannot be reduced to the latter.
  5. The hylomorphist assumption of a dynamical reciprocity between matter and form, Walsh and Wiebe argue, does justice to the distinctive status of organisms as processual emergents – a thesis neo-Aristotelian metaphysicians are likely to welcome.


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In-Page Footnotes

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