New paper: Wax, minds, and Aristotelian bodies

Comments welcome, as usual. This paper is the product of wrestling with how a debate in secondary literature on pre-modern philosophy remains wedded to paradigms inherited from modernity. The result is to show that certain assumptions about matter inherited from early modern physics aren’t at all plausible, and that Aristotle’s physical theory remains markedly more plausible in its general contours, if not always in its details. Here is an abstract.

Abstract: In a series of articles, Myles Burnyeat has suggested that Aristotle’s psychology is no longer credible because it presupposes a post-Cartesian conception of matter that none of us, functionalists or not, can share. By focusing on the employment of Aristotle’s and Descartes’ uses of a common example – the relation of a piece of wax to its shape – I pinpoint where exactly this disagreement lies. While there are major differences between an Aristotelian and a Cartesian conception of matter, the Aristotelian account is by no means as incredible as Burnyeat takes it to be. Moreover, Aristotle himself addresses a conception in many respects like that given by Descartes, and explicitly rejects it.

and here is the paper.

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