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In Defence of the Importance of Substance Ontology for Personal Identity and the Self/Person

GUTA, MIHRETU,PETROS (2014) In Defence of the Importance of Substance Ontology for Personal Identity and the Self/Person. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This thesis attempts to show the advantage of substance ontology in providing us the most preferable framework, both on methodological as well as philosophical grounds, to have a better grip on the diachronic problem of personal identity. In this case, substance ontology plays multi-faceted roles in terms of allowing us for example, to make sense of the persistence of persons over time, intrinsic changes persons undergo while maintaining their identity over time, etc. However, substance ontology has not been taken seriously by the majority of philosophers. This is because there is a deep seated but mistaken assumption among contemporary analytic philosophers that given the advances in modern science, substance ontology is irrelevant. It is also not uncommon to see philosophers questionably appealing to an extremely controversial Locke’s theory of substratum (i.e., ‘something we know not what’) to justify their rejection of any notion that goes by the name substance. However, with close examination, at the heart of such a rejection of substance ontology lies the naturalistic ontology, according to which everything in the universe has to be explained in purely physical terms as dictated by the physical sciences (e.g., physics and chemistry). But as I will argue in this thesis, when it comes to the metaphysics of the self and its identity over time, the naturalistic ontology suffers from a serious lack of explanatory adequacy. I argue that ultimately, the controversy over the nature of the self is a metaphysical issue in that it is not for science to adjudicate what the nature of the self has to be. In light of this, the conception of substance ontology I defend in this thesis can be taken as Aristotelian in spirit as opposed to Lockean. The category of substance has a fundamental ontological primacy over any other non-substantial entities such as events, places, time, properties (or tropes) and so on. I will argue that substance ontology understood in this way is indeed the most plausible and sustainable conception.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Substance, Identity, Personal Identity and Self
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Philosophy, Department of
Thesis Date:2014
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:11 Dec 2014 10:29

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