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Res Philosophica

Volume 91, Issue 2, April 2014

Neo-Aristotelian Themes in Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Mind

Robert Koons
Pages 151-177

Staunch vs. Faint-hearted Hylomorphism
Toward an Aristotelian Account of Composition

A staunch hylomorphism involves a commitment to a sparse theory of universals and a sparse theory of composite material objects, as well as to an ontology of fundamental causal powers. Faint-hearted hylomorphism, in contrast, lacks one or more of these elements. On the staunch version of HM, a substantial form is not merely some structural property of a set of elements—it is rather a power conferred on those elements by that structure, a power that is the cause of the generation (by fusion) and persistence of a composite whole through time. Bernard Williams discussed (and rejected) a faint-hearted version of HM in 1986, and faint-hearted HM has been defended more recently by Mark Johnston (2006) and Kathrin Koslicki (2008). I defend the superiority of the staunch version, in spite of its heavier ontological commitments, as a way of accounting for a real distinction between living organisms and heaps of matter, without recourse to dualism or vitalism, and as a way of combining a powers ontology with the possibility of gunk.