Modalité et changement: δύναμις et cinétique aristotélicienne

Dissertation, Université Catholique de Louvain (2023)
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The present PhD dissertation aims to examine the relation between modality and change in Aristotle’s metaphysics. On the one hand, Aristotle supports his modal realism (i.e., worldly objects have modal properties - potentialities and essences - that ground the ascriptions of possibility and necessity) by arguing that the rejection of modal realism makes change inexplicable, or, worse, banishes it from the realm of reality. On the other hand, the Stagirite analyses processes by means of modal notions (‘change is the actuality of what is virtual insofar as it is virtual’). In other words: to grasp what change is, one has to resort to the modal idiom of potentialities, while the fact that there is change is indicative of the fact that nature is full of modal properties. Aristotle’s modal and kinetic realism finds a negative in the figure of the Megaric Diodorus Kronus. The polemical situation of Greek philosophy has indeed the dialectical advantage of not opposing the Aristotelian position to a sui generis straw man. Both in its reduction of modal judgements to temporal quantifications and in its dissolution of the reality of the state-of-being-in-motion in favour of a cinematographic view of processes, the philosophical figure of reductionist antirealism embodied by Diodorus constitutes an alternative that takes the opposite view of Aristotle’s realism. The present study is structured as a discussion between these two positions. In the face of Diodorus’ antirealist challenges, Aristotle articulates modal and kinetic considerations: the answers he gives to Diodorus’ puzzles thus provide valuable insight into his metaphysics. Moreover, the examination of Aristotle’s and Diodorus’ metaphysics, because of their insight and originality, will not fail to interest the philosopher concerned with the metaphysical foundations of modern physics, insofar as the entanglement between modalities and processes is nowadays at the core of mechanics (phase spaces, path integrals, etc.).

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Florian Marion
Université Catholique de Louvain


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