Organisms, activity, and being: on the substance of process ontology

European Journal for Philosophy of Science 10 (2):1-21 (2020)
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Abstract

According to contemporary ‘process ontology’, organisms are best conceptualised as spatio-temporally extended entities whose mereological composition is fundamentally contingent and whose essence consists in changeability. In contrast to the Aristotelian precepts of classical ‘substance ontology’, from the four-dimensional perspective of this framework, the identity of an organism is grounded not in certain collections of privileged properties, or features which it could not fail to possess, but in the succession of diachronic relations by which it persists, or ‘perdures’ as one entity over time. In this paper, I offer a novel defence of substance ontology by arguing that the coherency and plausibility of the radical reconceptualisation of organisms proffered by process ontology ultimately depends upon its making use of the ‘substantial’ principles it purports to replace.

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Christopher J. Austin
Durham University

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