A sequence of actions constitutes a process. Our ontology is thus related to the process metaphysics of Whitehead and Teilhard de Chardin. Its historical origin can be traced back even further to the development from Kant to Schopenhauer. Relatively stable "systems" are constructed by such processes through the mechanism of variation and selection.
This leads to the spontaneous emergence of more complex organizations during evolution: from space-time and elementary particles, to atoms, molecules, crystals, DNA, cells, plants, animals, humans, and human society and culture see the history of evolution. This developmental sequence provides us with a basis for our cosmology. Because of this self-organization of the universe, there is no need to posit a personal God , distinct from the universe, as an explanation for the observed complexity.
Events of emergence are the "quanta" of evolution. They lead to the creation of new systems with new identities, obeying different laws and possessing different properties. In such systems, the behaviour of the whole depends on the behaviour of the parts a "reductionistic" view , but the behaviour of the parts is at the same time constrained or directed by the behaviour of the whole a "holistic" view.
Examples of metasystem transition s are the emergence of multicellular organism s, the emergence of the capacity of organisms to learn, and the emergence of human intelligence. See further: Turchin's paper on Cybernetic Metaphysics. Author F.
Heylighen , C. We human beings sort things into various classes. And we often suppose that the classes into which we sort things enjoy a kind of internal unity. In this respect they differ from sets in the strict sense of the word. And no doubt in others. It would seem, for example, that we think of the classes we sort things into—biological species, say—as comprising different members at different times.
Examples must suffice. There are certainly sets whose members do not make up natural classes: a set that contains all dogs but one, and a set that contains all dogs and exactly one cat do not correspond to natural classes in anyone's view. It is, however, a respectable philosophical thesis that the idea of a natural class cannot survive philosophical scrutiny. Let us simply assume that the respectable thesis is false and that things fall into various natural classes—hereinafter, simply classes.
Some of the classes into which we sort things are more comprehensive than others: all dogs are animals, but not all animals are dogs; all animals are living organisms, but not all living organisms are animals ….
But is this so? If there are, can we identify them? The former term, if not the latter, presupposes a particular position on one question about the nature of being: that everything is, that the universal class is the class of beings, the class of things that are.
Universals, if they indeed exist, are, in the first instance, properties or qualities or attributes i. It may be that the novel War and Peace is a universal, a thing that is in some mode present in each of the many tangible copies of the novel. All three terms are objectionable.
Aristotle believed in the reality of universals, but it would be at best an oxymoron to call him a platonist or a Platonic realist. This term, too is objectionable.
At one time, those who denied the existence of universals were fond of saying things like:. It would not be a mere puff of sound but would rather be what was common to the many puffs of sound that were its tokens. The old debate between the nominalists and the realists continues to the present day. Most realists suppose that universals constitute one of the categories of being. This supposition could certainly be disputed without absurdity. Perhaps there is a natural class of things to which all universals belong but which contains other things as well and is not the class of all things.
But few if any philosophers would suppose that universals were members of forty-nine sub-categories—much less of a vast number or an infinity of sub-categories.
If dogs form a natural class, this class is—by the terms of our definition—an ontological sub-category. A case can be made for saying that it does, based on the fact that Plato's theory of forms universals, attributes is a recurrent theme in Aristotle's Metaphysics. We shall be concerned only with ii. In the terminology of the Schools, that criticism can be put this way: Plato wrongly believed that universals existed ante res prior to objects ; the correct view is that universals exist in rebus in objects.
It is because this aspect of the problem of universals—whether universals exist ante res or in rebus —is discussed at length in Metaphysics , that a strong case can be made for saying that the problem of universals falls under the old conception of metaphysics. And the question whether universals, given that they exist at all, exist ante res or in rebus is as controversial in the twenty-first century as it was in the thirteenth century and the fourth century B.
If we do decide that the problem of universals belongs to metaphysics on the old conception, then, since we have liberalized the old conception by applying to it the contemporary rule that the denial of a metaphysical position is to be regarded as a metaphysical position, we shall have to say that the question whether universals exist at all is a metaphysical question under the old conception—and that nominalism is therefore a metaphysical thesis. There is, however, also a case to made against classifying the problem of universals as a problem of metaphysics in the liberalized old sense.
For there is more to the problem of universals than the question whether universals exist and the question whether, if they do exist, their existence is ante res or in rebus. For example, the problem of universals also includes questions about the relation between universals if such there be and the things that are not universals, the things usually called particulars. Aristotle did not consider these questions in the Metaphysics. One might therefore plausibly contend that only one part of the problem of universals the part that pertains to the existence and nature of universals belongs to metaphysics in the old sense.
Causal Relata Rea, Michael ed. Nowadays however, the epistemological problem, by a fatal mistake of method, is assigned to metaphysics, and the result is a confusion between the two branches of philosophy , viz. For a more complete survey of recent theories of causation, see Paul and Hall Coming now to the borderland of metaphysics and physics, Aristotle defined the nature of causality , and distinguished four supreme kinds of cause, Material, Formal, Efficient and Final see CAUSE. Presentist A-theorists, like Prior , deny that the past or future have any concrete reality.
At one time, a philosopher might have said,. Therefore, questions about its nature belong to metaphysics, the science of things that do not change. But dogs are things that change. Therefore, questions concerning the relation of dogs to doghood do not belong to metaphysics. But no contemporary philosopher would divide the topics that way—not even if he or she believed that doghood existed and was a thing that did not change. Let us consider some aspects of the problem of universals that concern changing things.
That is, that concern particulars—for even if there are particulars that do not change, most of the particulars that figure in discussions of the problem of universals as examples are things that change. Consider two white particulars—the Taj Mahal, say, and the Washington Monument. And suppose that both these particulars are white in virtue of i. All white things and only white things fall under whiteness, and falling under whiteness is what it is to be white.
We pass over many questions that would have to be addressed if we were discussing the problem of universals for its own sake. For example, both blueness and redness are spectral color-properties, and whiteness is not. What is it about the two objects whiteness and the Taj Mahal that is responsible for the fact that the latter falls under the former? Or might it be that a particular like the Taj, although it indeed has universals as constituents, is something more than its universal constituents?
Or might the Taj have constituents that are neither universals nor substrates? Is the Taj perhaps a bundle not of universals but of accidents? Or is it composed of a substrate and a bundle of accidents?
And we cannot neglect the possibility that Aristotle was right and that universals exist only in rebus. The series of questions that was set out in the preceding paragraph was introduced by observing that the problem of universals includes both questions about the existence and nature of universals and questions about how universals are related to the particulars that fall under them.
We can contrast ontological structure with mereological structure. A philosophical question concerns the mereological structure of an object if it is a question about the relation between that object and those of its constituents that belong to the same ontological category as the object. For example, the philosopher who asks whether the Taj Mahal has a certain block of marble among its constituents essentially or only accidentally is asking a question about the mereological structure of the Taj, since the block and the building belong to the same ontological category. Many philosophers have supposed that particulars fall under universals by somehow incorporating them into their ontological structure.
And other philosophers have supposed that the ontological structure of a particular incorporates individual properties or accidents—and that an accident is an accident of a certain particular just in virtue of being a constituent of that particular. Advocates of other theories of universals are almost always less liberal in the range of universals whose existence they will allow. And it seems that it is possible to speak of ontological structure only if one supposes that there are objects of different ontological categories.
For a recent investigation of the problems that have been discussed in this section, see Lowe They make up the most important of his ontological categories. This last feature could be put this way in contemporary terms: if the prote ousia x exists at a certain time and the prote ousia y exists at some other time, it makes sense to ask whether x and y are the same, are numerically identical and the question must have a determinate answer ; and the question whether a given prote ousia would exist in some set of counterfactual circumstances must likewise have an answer at least if the circumstances are sufficiently determinate—if, for example, they constitute a possible world.
More on this in the next section. It is difficult to suppose that smiles or holes have this sort of determinate identity. The question whether there in fact are substances continues to be one of the central questions of metaphysics. Several closely related questions are: How, precisely, should the concept of substance be understood? Depending on how one understood the word or the concept one might say either that Hume denied that there were any substances or that he held that the only substances or the only substances of which we have any knowledge were impressions and ideas.
We now turn to topics that belong to metaphysics only in the post-Medieval sense. Philosophers have long recognized that there is an important distinction within the class of true propositions: the distinction between those propositions that might have been false and those that could not have been false those that must be true.
Compare, for example, the proposition that Paris is the capital of France and the proposition that there is a prime between every number greater than 1 and its double. Both are true, but the former could have been false and the latter could not have been false. Likewise, there is a distinction to be made within the class of false propositions: between those that could have been true and those that could not have been true those that had to be false.
The types of modality of interest to metaphysicians fall into two camps: modality de re and modality de dicto. If modality were coextensive with modality de dicto , it would be at least a defensible position that the topic of modality belongs to logic rather than to metaphysics. Indeed, the study of modal logics goes back to Aristotle's Prior Analytics.
But many philosophers also think there is a second kind of modality, modality de re —the modality of things.