A Sensible Metaphysical Realism (Aquinas Lecture) by William P. Alston

By William P. Alston

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The Good in Existential Metaphysics. Elizabeth G. Salmon (1952) ISBN 0-87462-117-8 18. St. Thomas and the Object of Geometry. Vincent E. Smith (1953) ISBN 0-87462-118-6 19. Realism And Nominalism Revisted. Henry Veatch (1954) ISBN 0-87462-119-4 20. Imprudence in St. Thomas Aquinas. Charles J. O’Neil (1955) ISBN 0-87462-120-8 21. The Truth That Frees. J. (1956) ISBN 0-87462-121-6 22. St. Thomas and the Future of Metaphysics. R. (1957) ISBN 0-87462-122-4 23. Thomas and the Physics of 1958: A Confrontation.

What in the more familiar substance metaphysics is construed as a persisting substance like a bedside table is thought by Whitehead to be a complex “society” of actual occasions. There is no single individual that remains the same through what we think of as the life span of the spruce tree. The “bedside table” has temporal parts just as a football game does, and it is such temporal parts that are the fundamental constituents of reality. From this standpoint it is an illusion to suppose that there is an individual that retains its self identity through the life span of what we call a beside table.

Alston appears to ordinary observation to be solid matter all the way through. Chopping it up will uncover no hollow portions. Well, it depends on how the term ‘solid’ is construed whether the judgments can be reconciled on an absolute construal. If ‘x is (completely) solid’ entails ‘x contains no empty space’, then we can accept both pictures only at the cost of relativization. And, no doubt, before the development of modern physics, that was the way in which complete solidity was understood. But now that the rudiments of elementary particle physics is common knowledge, most of us are happy with a more modest understanding of ‘solid’.

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