E. J. Lowe (philosopher)

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Edward Jonathan Lowe (/l/; 24 March 1950 – 5 January 2014), usually cited as E. J. Lowe but known personally as Jonathan Lowe, was a British philosopher and academic. He was Professor of Philosophy at Durham University.[2]

E. J. Lowe
Edward Jonathan Lowe

24 March 1950
Dover, England
Died5 January 2014 (aged 63)
EducationFitzwilliam College, Cambridge (BA, 1971)
St Edmund Hall, Oxford (BPhil, 1974; DPhil, 1975)
EraContemporary philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
InstitutionsDurham University
  • Induction and Non-Demonstrative Inference (1974)
  • Induction and Causal Inference (1975)
Doctoral advisorSimon Blackburn[1]
Other academic advisorsRom Harré (BPhil thesis advisor)[1]
Main interests
Metaphysics, philosophy of mind, philosophical logic
Notable ideas
Dualistic interactionism

Biography edit

Lowe was born in Dover, England.[3] His secondary education was at Bushey Grammar School, and he subsequently studied at the University of Cambridge, 1968–72 (BA in History, 1st Class), and the University of Oxford, 1972–75 (BPhil and DPhil in Philosophy).[1]

Overview edit

Lowe was one of the leading philosophers of his generation.[4] He researched and published on a vast array of topics including: metaphysics, philosophy of mind, philosophical logic, philosophy of language, philosophy of religion, and the history of early modern philosophy.[2][1][4] He supervised many PhD students, working on a wide variety of topics.[1]

He made notable contributions to developing thought on ontology, essences, dualistic interactionism, and Locke studies. For Lowe, ontology comes in two parts: a priori and empirical. The a priori aspect deals in the possible ways reality could exists.[5] The empirical aspect informs and establish what kinds of things do exists.[6] Thus, to grasp what is actual in the world you must also ascertain was it possible. At the heart of his ontological world is a four-category ontology which consist of objects, kinds, attributes, and modes. Key to his neo-Aristotelianism is a commitment to essences. He espouses general essences and individual essences.[7] The view follows in the Aristotelian tradition that an essence is ‘what it is’ to be a substance. One of his contributions was a sophisticated defense of dualistic interactionism in the philosophy of mind. This is the view that the mind and the brain are distinct substances, and that facts about each are "causally relevant" to the other. His work on Locke offers a charitable reading of the philosopher, and defends Locke's relevance to philosophy today.

Philosophy edit

The Four-Category Ontology edit

Lowe’s four-category ontology takes inspiration from Aristotle’s Categories.[8] His terminology emerges from the distinction that Aristotle made between ‘being said of’ and ‘being said in’ a subject: primary substances, secondary substances, attributes, and modes. Primary substances are neither said of nor in a subject. Secondary are said of a subject, but not in. His own addition is to label the final two categories, attributes and modes. Attributes are both said in and of, while modes are not said of a subject, but said in. Attributes and modes are his own additions to Aristotle’s language. Rather than ‘being said of’ or ‘being said in,’ Lowe introduces two distinctions: substantial and non-substantial; universals and particulars. Thus, there are substantial particulars (objects), substantial universals (kinds), non-substantial universals (attributes), and non-substantial particulars (modes). He argues that the distinction between kinds and modes are similar to the kind of distinction made between sortal and adjectival terms.

The former denotes kinds of object, while the latter denotes properties of objects. Individual objects are particular instances of kinds, while the modes of individual objects are particular instances of properties.[6]

The categories and their relations are laid out in the 'Ontological Square.'[6]

Lowe argues that his view has an advantage over other Universalist ontologies like that of David Armstrong. That is, it does not need to rely on appeals to second-order relations. Consider the law-statement, ‘Planets move in elliptical orbits.’ Lowe claims, according to a theory like Armstrong’s, a second-order necessitation relation obtains between the first-order properties: being a planet and moving in an elliptical orbit. Instead, the four-category ontology would state that the law amounts to the attribute, moving in an elliptical orbit, characterizing the kind, planet

A further advantage is in the accounts ability to distinguish between dispositional and occurrent states of objects. For example, the distinction between an object being soluble and its actually dissolving. Where counterfactuals need a covering claim, “all things being equal,” the four-category ontology can capture the dispositions through kinds and objects.

An object possesses a disposition to F just in case it instantiates a kind which is characterized by the property of being F. Thus, for example, an object O has a disposition to be dissolved by water just in case O instantiates a kind, K, such that the law obtains that water dissolves K.[6]

The modes and attributes capture the object actually dissolving by their relation to the universal of the object. For Lowe, modes are features of an object, not constituent of it. Here, modes are particular ways an object is. Thus, an object may exemplify attributes dispositionally or occurrently. It exemplifies attributes dispositionally if the object instantiates the kind which is characterized by the attribute. It exemplifies attribute occurrently if the object is characterized by a mode which instantiates the attribute.[6]

Essences edit

A central aspect of Lowe’s metaphysics is his view of essences. Put simply, essences are ‘what it is’ to be that object. Each object has two kinds of essences: general essences and individual essences. General essences are ‘what it is’ to be that object, and is shared by all the particulars of that object. Individual essences capture ‘what it is’ to be a particular object as opposed to some other.[7] For Lowe, essences are not some particular thing you need to find. For example, H2O as the essence of water. Rather, you simply need to ‘grasp’ what it is to be that substance. The bar he uses for grasping an essence is obtaining an “adequate conception” of it.[7]

Publications edit

  • Kinds of Being: A Study of Individuation, Identity and the Logic of Sortal Terms (Oxford: Blackwell, 1989)
  • Locke on Human Understanding (London: Routledge, 1995)
  • Subjects of Experience (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996)
  • The Possibility of Metaphysics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998)
  • An Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000)
  • A Survey of Metaphysics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002)
  • Locke (London, New York: Routledge: 2005)
  • The Four-Category Ontology: A Metaphysical Foundation for Natural Science (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006)
  • Personal Agency (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007)
  • More Kinds of Being: A Further Study of Individuation, Identity and the Logic of Sortal Terms (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009)
  • Forms of Thought: A Study in Philosophical Logic (Cambridge University Press, 2013)

He also published over 200 articles, including in the leading journals in the field, such as The Journal of Philosophy, Mind, and Noûs.[2][1]

References edit

  1. ^ a b c d e f "CV (2006)". Retrieved 1 March 2015.
  2. ^ a b c "The E. J. Lowe Page". Durham University. Archived from the original on 26 January 2021. Retrieved 1 March 2015.
  3. ^ "Lowe, E.J. 1950- (Edward J. Lowe, Edward Jonathan Lowe, Jonathan Lowe) | Encyclopedia.com". www.encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 5 January 2024.
  4. ^ a b Reisz, Matthew (30 January 2014). "Jonathan Lowe, 1950-2014". Times Higher Education. Archived from the original on 5 September 2023. Retrieved 1 March 2015.
  5. ^ Lowe, E.J. (1998). The Possibility of Metaphysics: Substance, Identity and Time. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0199244997.
  6. ^ a b c d e Lowe, E.J. (2006). The Four-Category Ontology: A Metaphysical Foundation for Natural Science. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0199229819.
  7. ^ a b c Lowe, E.J. (2013). Forms of Thought: A Study in Philosophical Logic. New York: Cambridge University Press. p. 98. ISBN 978-1107001251.
  8. ^ Lowe, E.J. (2012). "Essence and ontology". In Novák, Lukáš; Novotný, Daniel; Sousedík, Prokop; Svoboda, David (eds.). Metaphysics: Aristotelian, Scholastic, Analytic. Frankfurt: Ontos Verlag. pp. 93–111. ISBN 9783868381467.

External links edit