Article

Samuel Alexander

Emily Thomas

in Philosophy

ISBN: 9780195396577
Published online February 2014 | | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0181
Samuel Alexander

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Samuel Alexander (b. 1859–d. 1938) was one of the leading proponents of British emergentism, an early-20th-century movement best known for its thesis that mind “emerges” from body. Fellow emergentists include C. Lloyd Morgan and C. D. Broad. Alexander developed a comprehensive metaphysical system, in which space and time are the foundation of things, and everything else—matter, life, mind, and deity—emerges from space-time. Alexander is also sometimes dubbed a “new realist,” in part because he attempts to seek confirmation for his ontology in the science of his period. Although Alexander rejects idealism, he is nonetheless closely associated with the movement known as British idealism, and his metaphysical system arguably bears some resemblance to that of F. H. Bradley. Alexander is best known for his metaphysics, but he wrote on many other subjects too, including the history of philosophy, the philosophy of mind, aesthetics, ethics, and the philosophy of religion. Alexander ultimately came to regard his space-time metaphysic as a “gloss” of Spinoza. Toward the end of his life, Alexander’s attention returned from metaphysics to some of the issues that had occupied his early career: aesthetics and ethics. Alexander put forward a “natural” account of beauty and goodness, on which these values are dependent on our minds. Alexander spent most of his academic career at the University of Manchester, and after his death he left a trove of papers to the John Rylands Library there. Although Alexander did not found a school, his philosophic influence extends to figures as diverse as Alfred North Whitehead and C. D. Broad. Alexander is also credited as being one of the founders of Australian philosophy, as he had a significant influence on the work of John Anderson and his school at Sydney. Most of the existing scholarship on Alexander concerns his metaphysics, but several pieces exist on other aspects of his thought, particularly his philosophy of mind and account of value.

Article.  4111 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art ; Epistemology ; Feminist Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Metaphysics ; Moral Philosophy ; Non-Western Philosophy ; Philosophy of Language ; Philosophy of Law ; Philosophy of Mathematics and Logic ; Philosophy of Mind ; Philosophy of Religion ; Philosophy of Science ; Social and Political Philosophy

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