Contingency, Time, and Possibility: An Essay on Aristotle by Pascal Massie

By Pascal Massie

Properly opting for and faithfully following his old and smooth resources, Pascal Massie proves himself to be a skilled and loyal advisor for uncovering the ontological foundations of contingency within the worlds of Aristotle and John Duns Scotus.

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Sample text

Newton’s methodology requires us to take very seriously the goal of including the actual world among the possibilities we are addressing, and the metaphysical project set up by Descartes is therefore to be carried out with careful attention to empirical details. One could also challenge the framework of the project (in terms of matter, motion, and laws) or the methodology adopted for carrying it out. For those of an empiricist inclination, seeing the framework and the methodologies in action will be an important part of this assessment.

He is an empiricist, in the sense that all our knowledge comes through our experience; but, for Newton, to know the world through our experiences is not to first know our “experiences” and to then know the world. He is clear that this is a mistake, and he is clear about the methodological implications that follow. Challenges to the significance of Newton’s work for metaphysics should take place within this philosophical context. For example, one could challenge the value of Newton’s contribution to metaphysics by rejecting the goal of Descartes’s metaphysical physics (of giving an account of all the rich variety of the world as we experience it) as being irrelevant to the metaphysics of matter, motion, space, and time.

The issue is whether, for the system of interest, there is any such thing as true time. 16 There are at least two ways in which this could fail. One possibility is that we could get close but not quite there, so that we are left with irregularities that cannot be accounted for either by modifying the time parameter or in terms of forces: we are not able to come up with a satisfactory physical theory using a single time parameter, and so we are unable to supply this empirical warrant for the existence of a true time associated with that system.

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