In this paper I propose a notion of propria inspired by Aristotle, on which propria are non-essential, necessary properties explained by the essence of a thing. My proposal differs from the characterization of propria by Kit Fine and Kathrin Koslicki: unlike Fine, the relation of explanation on my account can’t be assimilated to a notion of logical entailment. In disagreement with Koslicki, I suggest that the explanatory relation at issue needs not be necessary. My account of essence is conceptually parsimonious: it illuminates the contribution of essence to explanation without relying on obscure notions such as Aristotelian form or identity.
Relying upon a very close reading of all of the definitions given in Euclid’s Elements, I argue that this mathematical treatise contains a philosophical treatment of mathematical objects. Specifically, I show that Euclid draws elaborate metaphysical distinctions between (i) substances and non-substantial attributes of substances, (ii) different kinds of substance, and (iii) different kinds of non-substance. While the general metaphysical theory adopted in the Elements resembles that of Aristotle in many respects, Euclid does not employ Aristotle’s terminology, or indeed, any philosophical terminology at all. Instead, Euclid systematically uses different types of definition to distinguish between metaphysically different kinds of mathematical object.
On the one hand, Aristotle claims that the matter of a material thing is not part of its form. On the other hand, he suggests that the proper account of a natural thing must include a specification of the kind of matter in which it is realized. There are three possible strategies for dealing with this apparent tension. First, there may be two kinds of definition, so that the definition of the form of a thing does not include any specification of its matter, whereas the definition of a compound does. Second, the definition of a substance may not include a specification of its matter at all, but still reveal in what kinds of matter its form can be realized. Third, there may be a special kind of matter, functional matter, which belongs to the form of certain things. I will show that the functional matter of a thing does not belong to its form (in a strict sense of “form”), but that an adequate account of natural substances and their functions must nonetheless involve a reference to their functional matter. This means that the function of a natural thing is not the same as its form and that its adequate account as a natural thing is not a definition (in a strict sense of “form” and “definition”).
This paper offers an overview of the history of the axiom forma dat esse, which was commonly quoted during the Middle Ages to describe formal causality. The first part of the paper studies the origin of this principle, and recalls how the ambiguity of Boethius’s first formulation of it in the De Trinitate was variously interpreted by the members of the School of Chartres. Then, the paper examines the various declensions of the axiom that existed in the late Middle Ages, and shows how its evolution significantly follows the progressive decline of the Aristotelian model of formal causality.
This paper develops a valid reconstruction in first-order predicate logic of Leibniz’s argument for his complete concept definition of substance in §8 of the Discours de Métaphysique. Following G. Rodriguez-Pereyra, it construes the argument as resting on two substantial premises, the “merely verbal” Aristotelian definition and Leibniz’s concept containment theory of truth, and it understands the resulting “real” definition as saying not that an entity is a substance iff its complete concept contains every predicate of that entity, but iff its complete concept contains every predicate of any subject to which that concept is truly attributable. An account is suggested of why Leibniz criticises the Aristotelian definition as merely nominal and how he takes his own definition to overcome this shortcoming: while on the Aristotelian basis the predication relation could generate endless chains, so that substances as endpoints of predication would be impossible, Leibniz’s definition reveals lowest species as such endpoints, which he therefore identifies with individual substances. Since duplicate lowest species make no sense, the Identity of Indiscernibles for substances follows. The reading suggests a Platonist interpretation according to which substances do not so much have but are individual essences, natures or forms.
Despite the fact that the theory of Forms is regarded as the hallmark of Plato’s philosophy, it has remained remarkably elusive, because it is more hinted at than explained in his dialogues. Given the uncertainty concerning the nature and extension of the Forms, this article makes no pretense to coming up with solutions to all problems that have occupied scholars since antiquity. It aims to elucidate only two aspects of that theory: the indication in certain dialogues that the Forms are what in modern parlance are called functions or purposes, and the indication in other dialogues that such functions rely on harmonious structures.
This paper discusses the metaphysical status of artefacts and their forms in the ancient commentators on Aristotle’s Metaphysics. Specifically, it examines the Peripatetic tradition and Alexander of Aphrodisias to then turn to the commentaries of the late Neoplatonist Asclepius of Tralles, and the Byzantine commentator Michael of Ephesus. It argues that Alexander is the pioneer of the interpretation of artefactual forms as qualities and artefacts as accidental beings. The fortune of this solution goes through Asclepius and Michael to influence Thomas Aquinas.
Some philosophers of biology state that the metaphysical status of biological species is context determined by the use different branches of biology make of their corresponding proper names, so that one and the same biological species can be both an individual and a natural kind. In this paper, I aim to undermine the idea, often associated with the present thesis, according to which the debate about the metaphysical status of biological species should be deflated, since it would be possible to translate every sentence from natural-kind talk to individual-talk and vice versa. I offer a charitable interpretation of the principle grounding such an idea and show how it is in tension with independent theoretical biological notions.