Substantial Forms and the Rise of Modern Science
University of Western Ontario
One way to consider what substantial forms were is to explore their demise during the Scientific Revolution. It is suggested here that their physicalization was what doomed them by thwarting their ability to function as formal causes, which was the primary reason for postulating them. After discussing formal causality and its role within hylomorphism, four early modern arguments against substantial forms are considered. The most obvious and natural way for Aristotelians to respond to these arguments is by increasingly physicalizing substantial forms. But then the physicalized notion of form are no longer able to function as formal causes. Thus there is no basis for retaining such entities in one's ontology. Thus the door for a "bottom-up" explanatory schema, like early modern Epicureanism, is opened.
An Argument for Substantial Form
St. Francis Xavier University
I provide an argument, based on Thomistic principles, for substantial form, understood as the single principle of substantial actuality for any natural substance. To make this argument, I distinguish between substance and accident, between the natural and the artificial, and between ontological and methodological reduction. I respond to two objections to the Thomistic doctrine of substantial form raised by Benjamin Hill: I explain how it is possible for Thomas to account for the presence of elements in compounds and also to account for the fact of natural instances that fail to realize the full reality of the substantial form ("monsters").
What Killed Substantial Form?
Saint Anselm College
What killed substantial form, and can it live again? Substantial form died at the beginning of the scientific revolution when a new method made it unnecessary and a new view of the senses revealed by this new method made it unknowable. Conway's Game of Life as a model for Mechanism reveals not only the problems that make it impossible for contemporary thinkers to take substantial form seriously, but also a way in which the idea might be revived in a different form. The proponent of substantial form in the modern world should not oppose mechanism, but should insist upon it. If a thoroughgoing mechanism is true, it implies its own limits and requires the resurrection of form in a way that even a mechanist could love.
Gaunilo's Cogito Argument
University of London
Gaunilo presents Anselm with a dilemma in section 7 of his Responsio: I know most certainly that I exist. But If I cannot think my non-existence at the same time, then Anselm's claim in Proslogion 3 (that my inability to think God's non-existence, while knowing most certainly that He exists, is a unique property of God) would be false. If I can do so, however, then I should also be able to know most certainly that God exists and, at the same time, think his non-existence. I will show that Anselm's response to Gaunilo's attack is not adequate because it does not address the issue of certainty, which is at the heart of Gaunilo's objection.