Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: The bottom of things : essences for explanation
Author: Gibson, Peter
ISNI:       0000 0004 5350 1714
Awarding Body: Birkbeck (University of London)
Current Institution: Birkbeck (University of London)
Date of Award: 2014
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Access from Institution:
Central to the philosophy of Aristotle is the belief that the aim of serious enquiry is knowledge of the constitutive essences of a given field. Modern scientific essentialism claims that this still holds good, and this thesis aims to support that approach by elucidating and applying the original concept of essence. Chapter one argues that Aristotle formulated his theory of essences entirely in the context of the theory of explanation expounded in Posterior Analytics. The components of that theory are explained, and the implications of Aristotle’s view for current debate are considered. Chapter two examines the reasons for the decline of Aristotelian essentialism during the scientific revolution, the metaphysical problems which resulted, and Leibniz’s reasons for defending the older view. Chapter three considers the nature of explanation in a modern context, starting with the preconditions for any grasp of reality that are needed to make explanations possible; it is then argued that only essentialist explanation can occupy the role which these preconditions entail. Chapter four surveys the components of that picture of reality that seem explicable, to see how essentialist explanations would actually be formulated. The theoretical discussion concludes with an account of what form essences should take, in order to occupy the explanatory role that has been assigned to them. The final chapter examines the cases of counting physical objects, explaining abstract axiomatic systems, and the discovery of the periodic table of elements, showing how attempts at explanation in these cases all converge on the sorts of essence which have been delineated in the thesis.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available