Prof. Anna Marmodoro (University of Durham, University of Oxford): Aristotle’s Parmenidean Essentialism
It is a (philosophical) commonplace to think that Parmenides’ philosophical influence on Western thought is all or mainly due to his ban of change, understood as the passage from being to non-being and vice versa. Here I argue that the most influential philosophical idea Parmenides bequeathed to us is a criterion for substancehood, according to which there is no division of any kind between a substance and what makes it what it is (its essence, in Aristotelian terms). This is a type of essentialism which denies ‘essential predication’ and all types of substance-making-relations. I call it Parmenidean Essentialism. I contend that it is different from today’s essentialism (wrongly, I contend, attributed to Aristotle), according to which substances are characterised by essential properties, whose lack they cannot survive. I show that Aristotle (following Plato) endorsed Parmenides’ criterion for substancehood, and in conceiving of his physical substances as kath’ auto beings, identified and responded to various ‘threats’ of division within a substance. Such ‘threats’ arise from a substance’s qualitative complexity, its mereological complexity, its hylomorphic complexity, and the complexity of property-instantiation. I examine the metaphysical ‘mechanisms’ Aristotle developed to address such ‘threats’ of division within a substance, and argue he did so successfully.