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Steward, Helen. Processes, Continuants, and Individuals
2013, Mind, Vol. 122(487): 781–812
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Added by: Andrea Blomqvist, Contributed by: Will Hornett
Abstract: The paper considers and opposes the view that processes are best thought of as continuants, to be differentiated from events mainly by way of the fact that the latter, but not the former, are entities with temporal parts. The motivation for the investigation, though, is not so much the defeat of what is, in any case, a rather implausible claim, as the vindication of some of the ideas and intuitions that the claim is made in order to defend — and the grounding of those ideas and intuitions in a more plausible metaphysics than is provided by the continuant view. It is argued that in addition to a distinction between events (conceived of as count-quantified) and processes (conceived of as mass-quantified) there is room and need for a third category, that of the individual process, which can be illuminatingly compared with the idea of a substance. Individual processes indeed share important metaphysical features with substantial continuants, but they do not lack temporal parts. Instead, it is argued that individual processes share with substantial continuants an important property I call ‘modal robustness in virtue of form’. The paper explains what this property is, and further suggests that the category of individual process, thus understood, might be of considerable value to the philosophy of action.

Comment: An important contribution to the debate on processes and events which should be central reading in a metaphysics course dealing with those issues. Steward argues against Stout's view of processes, so this paper should be taught alongside his 'Processes' (1997). Steward also deals with methodological issues in metaphysics and involves a nice elucidation of Wiggins's Conceptual Realism so can be taught as an example of that view. This paper could easily be taught in a senior year metaphysics course.

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