Hylomorphic Animalism, Emergentism, and the Challenge of the New Mechanist Philosophy of Neuroscience

Daniel D. De Haan

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.12775/SetF.2017.025


This article, the first of a two-part essay, presents an account of Aristotelian hylomorphic animalism that engages with recent work on neuroscience and philosophy of mind. I show that Aristotelian hylomorphic animalism is compatible with the new mechanist approach to neuroscience and psychology, but that it is incompatible with strong emergentism in the philosophy of mind. I begin with the basic claims of Aristotelian hylomorphic animalism and focus on its understanding of psychological powers embodied in the nervous system. Next, I introduce the new mechanist approach to neuroscience and psychology and illustrate how it can enrich the more abstract ontological framework of Aristotelian hylomorphic animalism. In the third section of this article I establish in detail the many ways Aristotelian hylomorphic animalism is incompatible with strong emergentism in the philosophy of mind. Based on these fundamental differences I show why a criticism leveled against emergentism by the new mechanist philosophy does not hamper my proposed rapprochement between hylomorphism and the new mechanist philosophy. This conclusion, however, leaves untouched the problem I address in the second article, namely, is the new mechanist philosophy compatible with Aristotelian philosophical anthropology’s contention that intellectual operations are immaterial and interact with the psychosomatic operations of the rational animal?


Hylomorphism; Animalism; New Mechanist Philosophy; Neuroscience; Psychology; Philosophical Anthropology; Aristotelianism; Thomas Aquinas; Emergentism

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