Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS



Project ID: 263484
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: United Kingdom

Final Report Summary - EARLYPOWERONTOLOGIES (Causal Structuralist Ontologies in Antiquity: Powers as the basic building block of the worlds of the ancients)

The project’s original research hypothesis is that all ancient ontologies of the first millennium of ancient Western thought accounted for the constitution of all there is with powers as the sole basic building block in the ontology. Powers are instances of physical properties. They dispose their possessor to be or act in a certain way, which is manifested in appropriate circumstances (e.g. something with the power to heat is disposed to heat something cooler). Typical examples of powers in the ancient ontologies this project investigates are the opposites: the hot, the cold, the wet and the dry. The idea is that everything else that exists in the ontology is derivative from combination of powers: substances, processes, higher level properties are all derived by the more basic ones which are powers only.

In the course of the project a number ancient world-views have been investigated and compared in the light of the project’s hypothesis, to gain an understanding of which ultimate constituents they posited. The team included specialists in different areas and periods of ancient philosophy. Collectively we examined a variety of ancient thinkers, and in special depth: Democritus, Anaxagoras, Empedocles, the Pythagoreans, Philolaos, the authors of the Hippocratic corpus, Plato, Aristotle, Alexander of Aphrodisias, the Stoics, Sextus Empiricus, the Epicureans, Plotinus, Porphyry, Proclus - we have published journal articles and books on all these. We have also extended the investigation beyond the original plan and look into later period of the history of philosophy, with particular reference to Gregory of Nyssa and Thomas Aquinas. This research has generated a new way of mapping out the first millennium of Western thought and has uncovered a variety of power-ontologies in antiquity. The project has also generated a new ‘wave’ of research in the reception of ancient thought in later eras, such as the Middle ages.

In addition, the Pi and some of the post-doctoral researchers in the team have engaged in the study of contemporary theories of powers, and the PI has developed in the course of the project her own original metaphysical view, which she calls Power Structuralism. Further information about the project, its activities and outcomes is available at this address:

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United Kingdom
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