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Ideas of Peter Alexander, by Text

[British, 1917 - 2006, Professor at Bristol University.]

1985 Ideas, Qualities and Corpuscles
01.1 p.16 Alchemists tried to separate out essences, which influenced later chemistry
     Full Idea: The alchemists sought the separation of the 'pure essences' of substances from unwanted impurities. This last goal was of great importance for the development of modern chemistry at the hands of Boyle and his successors.
     From: Peter Alexander (Ideas, Qualities and Corpuscles [1985], 01.1)
     A reaction: In a nutshell this gives us the reason why essences are so important, and also why they became discredited. Time for a clear modern rethink.
02.3 p.57 If the substantial form of brass implies its stability, how can it melt and remain brass?
     Full Idea: If we account for the stability of a piece of brass by reference to the substantial form of brass, then it is mysterious how it can be melted and yet remain brass.
     From: Peter Alexander (Ideas, Qualities and Corpuscles [1985], 02.3)
     A reaction: [Alexander is discussing Boyle]
03.3 p.68 Science has been partly motivated by the belief that the universe is run by God's laws
     Full Idea: The idea of a designed universe has not been utterly irrelevant to the scientific project; it is one of the beliefs that can give a scientist the faith that there are laws, waiting to be discovered, that govern all phenomena.
     From: Peter Alexander (Ideas, Qualities and Corpuscles [1985], 03.3)
     A reaction: Of course if you start out looking for the 'laws of God' that is probably what you will discover. Natural selection strikes me as significant, because it shows no sign of being a procedure appropriate to a benevolent god.
5.02 p.123 Can the qualities of a body be split into two groups, where the smaller explains the larger?
     Full Idea: Is there any way of separating the qualities that bodies appear to have into two groups, one as small as possible and the other as large as possible, such that the smaller group can plausibly be used to explain the larger?
     From: Peter Alexander (Ideas, Qualities and Corpuscles [1985], 5.02)
     A reaction: Alexander implies that this is a question Locke asked himself. This is pretty close to what I take to be the main question for essentialism, though I am cautious about couching it in terms of groups of qualities. I think this was Aristotle's question.
54 p.54 The peripatetics treated forms and real qualities as independent of matter, and non-material
     Full Idea: The peripatetic philosophers, in spite of their disagreements, all treated forms and real qualities as independent of matter and not to be understood in material terms.
     From: Peter Alexander (Ideas, Qualities and Corpuscles [1985], 54)
     A reaction: This is the simple reason why hylomorphism became totally discredited, in the face of the 'mechanical philosophy'. But there must be a physical version of hylomorphism, and I don't think Aristotle himself would reject it.
6 p.136 Absolute space either provides locations, or exists but lacks 'marks' for locations
     Full Idea: There are two conceptions of absolute space. In the first, empty space is independent of objects but provides a frame of reference so an object has a location. ..In the second space exists independently, but has no 'marks' into which objects can be put.
     From: Peter Alexander (Ideas, Qualities and Corpuscles [1985], 6)
     A reaction: He says that Locke seems to reject the first one, but accept the second one.