Winters, A.M. (2017) Natural Processes. Understanding Metaphysics Without Substance. Palgrave Macmillan: Cham, Switzerland.
As this book highlights, the dominant European ontological tradition is one based on substances. Here, a discussion is developed which considers this substance-based ontology and its possible problems, and then presents a case for the alternative, a process-based metaphysics.
The book begins by focusing on the debate over the primacy of substance over process, beginning with the pre-Socratic philosophers. The argument presented is that a substance ontology has become dominant with little consideration of the potential of the process alternative.
The main body of the book goes on to outline both Aristotelian and Neo-Aristotelian accounts of substance. Neo-Aristotelian metaphysics is discussed using Lowe’s work which focuses on a four category ontology (objects, kinds, properties and modes) which are discussed and the shortcomings of the account identified. This leads to a more general discussion about the problems with a substance metaphysics, focusing particularly on how change is possible. This section of the book uses common sense orientated arguments, which are then followed by a consideration of naturalistic (i.e. scientific) problems. Here, Winters uses quantum field theory and biology to explore further the idea of substance metaphysics and again finds that problems present themselves in relation to developing a substance metaphysics.
Having argued that even though Neo-Aristotelian theories have problems, they should not be characterised as false, but should also explore alternative metaphysical theories, Winters then goes on to outline the fundamental terms of a process metaphysics. He uses quantum field theory as a vehicle to suggest that a process approach works as well as alternative substance theories and that it also fits well for biological explanations. However, Winters is careful not to suggest that a process metaphysics is not without its own problems and thus takes a balanced view of the potential for a process alternative to substance metaphysics.
This is a very interesting and well written book, but is probably not for the general reader, assuming a level of philosophical engagement and understanding of metaphysics. However, as a source to support arguments around the legitimacy of process metaphysics it is a very useful contribution.
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