- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
I don't yet have a copy of this paper. I will buy the book when it comes out.
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