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Very interesting! I wanted to just add a comment about the Aristotelian remarks at the beginning. You wrote:
"For Aristotle substance was closely connected to essence: to be a cat was to possess the essence of catness, the property or properties that made that entity a cat. For a processualist, on the other hand, a cat is a pathway from zygote to kitten to mature animal to death. ... No property need be common to every stage of a cat life cycle..."

I just wanted to note that for Aristotle, the 'essence of catness,' i.e. what 'made that entity a cat,' was a developmental+homeostatic pathway or tendency: the telos. The 'property common to every stage of a cat life cycle' thus appears to be something like a processual property, I think.

John Dupre

Thanks! That's a very interesting suggestion. I'm sceptical about even a processual essence, as I'm not sure that there is any non-trivial 'property common to every stage of a cat life cycle'. However, that certainly would bring the Aristotelian position a lot closer to mine.


I wonder whether you've read Aryeh Kosman's book on Aristotle's ontology, "The Activity of Being" (Harvard, 2013), and if so, what you think of it? He argues that it was the translation of Aristotle's 'ousia' into 'substantia' and then 'substance' that has led us to think of Aristotle incorrectly as proposing an ontology of things rather than an ontology of activity ('energeia' as "activity" rather than "actuality"). According to the publisher's website, Kosman argues that "Aristotle conceives of substance as a kind of dynamic activity, not some inert quality. Substance is something actively being what it is"--which seems to bring Aristotle's view much closer to your own.


very educative

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