Research

My primary areas of study are ancient and medieval philosophy. I have a keen interest in Aristotle’s hylomorphic theory, its history, and its applications in philosophical anthropology, contemporary metaphysics, and the philosophy of mind/perception. Put simply, this doctrine strikes me as true. It is well worth our time, then, to accurately retrieve, defend, and extend it.

In addition to these interests, I have further interests in contemporary metaphysics and philosophy of mind/perception–e.g. questions about the existence and nature of properties, questions about metaphysical grounding, and questions in the philosophy of color and color perception.


“A Defense of Aristotle’s Constituent Ontology” (Dissertation)

My dissertation—”A Defense of Aristotle’s Constituent Ontology”—was co-advised by Christopher Shields and Sean Kelsey. In it, I defend classical hylomorphism against two different kinds of opponents; the first—certain scholars of the history of philosophy who often declare themselves to be friends of hylomorphism–deflate it, so to speak, so that it does not yield the genuine distinction between body and soul so integral to its most important applications in philosophical anthropology and theology, while the second—contemporary metaphysicians who openly declare themselves to be its enemies—claim that the doctrine is unintelligible. I explain and rebut the positions of both parties, in the process producing an accurate account of classical hylomorphism and motivating its intelligibility for those who would doubt or deny it.


“An Aesthetic Argument for Ontological Structure” (Under Review)

In this paper, I argue that ordinary objects—things like pale Socrates or a hot cup of joe—have ontological structure, which is to say that they are constituted in part by certain forms or properties. The argument is unique among arguments for ontological structure in that it focuses on certain aesthetic considerations, i.e. on considerations about what is sensible and what is not. I proceed by first arguing that certain properties are sensible, and that property bearers are not sensible. I then argue that ordinary objects, which are sensible, cannot be identical to property bearers, which are not sensible. They must, therefore, be complex items either a) consisting of properties alone, some of which are sensible, or b) consisting of a non-sensible property bearer together with its properties, some of which are sensible. On either view, ordinary things have ontological structure.


“A Hylomorphic Solution to the Problem of the Many” (Under Review Shortly)

In this paper, I defend a Thomistic Hylomorphic Solution to Peter Unger’s problem of the many—viz. a puzzle of material constitution that posits that where we think that there is only one ordinary object, in fact, there are millions of overlapping objects of the same kind. The solution provides a principled way to conclude that once we have stipulated the existence of one material whole in some case, additional overlapping material wholes do not exist, and hence do not threaten Unger’s problem. Two important features of Thomistic hylomorphic theory are put to work in the solution—viz. the unicity of substantial form and the fact that substantial form is a cause of the existence of both corporeal part and corporeal whole—both of which are developed in detail.


“Aristotle’s Doctrine of Nature in Light of the Meaning of ‘Archē’” (Draft)

This paper was presented at Fordham University in the fall of 2017 for the 35th annual meeting of the Society for Ancient Greek Philosophy.  Some recent Aristotelian scholars offer interpretations of Aristotle’s doctrine of nature that obscure the moderate dualism of Aristotle’s hylomorphic theory, a moderate dualism recognized by most classical, late antique, and medieval interpreters.  I argue that the correct understanding of the Aristotelian technical term “archē,” as it is used in Aristotle’s engagement with the pre-Socratic philosopher Parmenides, has implications for how we must understand Aristotle’s doctrine of nature.  An archē, or “source,” always implies multiplicity, for the very concept of a source implies a difference in being between a source and that which is from a source.  Since the term is famously applied to nature in Physics Book 2, the proper interpretation of Aristotle’s doctrine of nature must make sense of the multiplicity implied by the term “archē.” I show that it is the moderately dualistic classical and medieval interpretations of the doctrine of nature that are best able to accomplish this, rather than reductive contemporary readings.


“Organicism and Hylomorphism on the Principle of Unity of Organisms” (Draft)

This paper was presented at Fordham University in the fall 2016 for the 34th annual meeting of the Society for Ancient Greek Philosophy.  In it, I make the case that the principle of unity of organisms employed in classical hylomorphism—viz. substantial form—fares better in its role than does the principle of unity of organisms employed in Peter van Inwagen’s “organicism”—viz. the “self-maintaining, well-individuated, jealous event” he terms “life.”  I begin by describing a problem facing organicism’s principle of unity that I call “the problem of the unity of the principle of unity”; if life is complex because “constituted” by many activities, then what is the principle of unity of a life, such that it is one life, and not merely many activities?  I then investigate a number of possible responses to this problem, showing that none of them is satisfying.  Lastly, I show that classical hylomorphism’s principle of unity does not face this problem and, in fact, has a better claim than life to be the necessary and sufficient condition of the unity of complex bodies on account of its metaphysically causal character.


“Substantial Holism or Mereological Hylomorphism?” (Draft)

This paper concerns the doctrine of “substantial holism,” an interpretation of hylomorphism put forward by Theodore Scaltsas and Anna Marmodoro.  Scaltsas and Marmodoro are primarily concerned with Aristotle’s notion of substantial unity.  They argue that, according to Aristotle, for a substance to be truly unified, it cannot contain substantial parts of any kind, whether these parts be elemental substances or, as Scaltsas says, “abstract” parts, by which he means form and proximate matter.  While it is common for interpreters to understand Metaphysics Z.17 as a denial that substances are composed of other corporeal substances, Scaltsas’ and Marmodoro’s attempt to efface the duality of matter and form is novel.  It represents an attack on the moderate dualism common to classical and medieval interpretations of Aristotle’s hylomorphism, as well as contemporary, moderately dualistic interpretations such as the “mereological hylomorphism” posited by Kathrin Koslicki.  I argue that substantial holism cannot be squared with the works of Aristotle, since, the difference between matter and form is real, according to Aristotle, but not the kind of difference or duality that threatens the substantial unity of primary substances.  I show that mereological hylomorphism properly understood poses no threat to the unity of substance and is the genuine Aristotelian view.


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