Thomas White on Location and the Ontological Status of Accidents

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The work of Thomas White represents a systematic attempt to combine the best of the new science of the seventeenth century with the best of Aristotelian tradition. This attempt earned him the criticism of Hobbes and the praise of Leibniz, but today, most of his attempts to navigate between traditions remain to be explored in detail. This paper does so for his ontology of accidents. It argues that his criticism of accidents in the category of location as entities over and above substances was likely aimed at Francisco Suárez, and shows how White’s worries about the analysis of location were linked with his broader cosmological views. White rejects real qualities, but holds that the quantity of a substance is somehow distinct from its bearer. This reveals a common ground with some of his scholastic interlocutors, but lays bare a deep disagreement with thinkers like Descartes on the nature of matter.
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Archival date: 2022-03-30
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