August 10, 2018
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v2.1 Reference

The Aristotelian Tradition of Natural Kinds and Its Demise

There are two great traditions of natural-kinds realism: the modern, instituted by Mill and elaborated by Venn, Peirce, Kripke, Putnam, Boyd, and others; and the ancient, instituted by Aristotle, elaborated by the "medieval" Aristotelians, and eventually overthrown by Galilean and Newtonian physicists, by Locke, Leibniz, and Kant, and by Darwin. Whereas the former tradition has lately received the close attention it deserves, the latter has not. The Aristotelian Tradition of Natural Kinds and its Demise is meant to fill this gap. The volume's theme is the emergence of Aristotle's account of species, what Schoolmen such as Thomas Aquinas and William of Ockham did with this account, and the tacit if not explicit rejection of all such accounts in modern scientific theory. By tracing this history Stewart Umphrey shows that there have been not one but two relevant "scientific revolutions" or "paradigm shifts" in the history of natural philosophy. The first, brought about by Aristotle, may be viewed as a renewal of Presocratic natural philosophy in the light of Socrates's "second sailing" and his insistence that we attend to what is first for us. It features an eido-centric conception of living organisms and other enduring things, and strongly resists any reduction of physics to mathematics. The second revolution, brought about by seventeenth-century physics, features a nomo-centric view according to which what is fundamental in nature are not enduring individuals and their kinds, as we commonly suppose, but rather certain mathematizable relations among varying physical quantities. Umphrey examines and compares these two very different ways of understanding the natural order.

About the Author

Stewart Umphrey is a tutor emeritus at St. John's College, Annapolis, Md.


"Given the variety of historical, philosophical, and scientific themes it explores, this book should have some appeal to a wide range of readers. Although a difficult read to be sure, this book is well worth the intellectual challenge it presents."—CHOICE

"This is a book I wish to own. It is an acutely discerning and crystal-clear account—not easy but very rewarding reading—of 'natural-kind realism,' the notion of kinds that exist independently of our thinking, from its Aristotelian highpoint to its demise. It is historically presented, that is, by an analysis of its concept and its successive consequences. One most remarkable aspect is that Umphrey's exposition employs the analytic terminology of contemporary philosophy, but so deftly that, on retranslation into the original texts, it proves true to its sources. Highly recommended!"—Eva Brann, author of The Aristotelian Tradition of Natural Kinds and Its Demise

"Stewart Umphrey's The Aristotelian Tradition of Natural Kinds & Its Demise is a rare treat in recent work in the History of Ideas: an attempt to carefully follow a set of concepts (plus their various consequences) through numerous traditions and across more than two millennia. While not attempting to be exhaustive, it traces the often conflicting notions of 'kind' (type, species, etc.) and 'origin' (genesis) from the ancient Greek poets to Darwin. Philosophers, Historians of Ideas, and Historians of Science who are willing to seriously confront an 'Internalist' approach should find Umphrey's contribution to an important aspect of the history of natural philosophy stimulating and provocative."—Doren Recker, Oklahoma State University

"An erudite philosophical history of the original wave of natural-kinds realism and its demise, beginning with Galileo and ending with Darwin."—

9780813230412 : the-aristotelian-tradition-of-natural-kinds-and-its-demise-umphrey
296 Pages
$75.00 USD

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