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A biologically informed hylomorphism

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Although contemporary metaphysics has recently undergone a neo-Aristotelian revival wherein dispositions, or capacities are now commonplace in empirically grounded ontologies, being routinely utilised in theories of causality and modality, a central Aristotelian concept has yet to be given serious attention – the doctrine of hylomorphism. The reason for this is clear: while the Aristotelian ontological distinction between actuality and potentiality has proven to be a fruitful conceptual framework with which to model the operation of the natural world, the distinction between form and matter has yet to similarly earn its keep. In this paper, I offer a first step toward showing that the hylomorphic framework is up to that task. To do so, I return to the birthplace of that doctrine – the biological realm. Utilising recent advances in developmental biology, I argue that the hylomorphic framework is an empirically adequate and conceptually rich explanatory schema with which to model the nature of organisms.

This talk is part of the CamPoS (Cambridge Philosophy of Science) seminar series.

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