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Lowe, E.J. 1950- (Edward J. Lowe, Edward Jonathan Lowe, Jonathan Lowe)

Lowe, E.J. 1950- (Edward J. Lowe, Edward Jonathan Lowe, Jonathan Lowe)

PERSONAL:

Born March 24, 1950, in Dover, England; son of Eric and Vera Lowe; married Susan Robson, May 2, 1981; children: Rebecca, Timothy. Education: Cambridge University, B.A., 1971; Oxford University, B.Phil., 1974, D.Phil., 1975.

ADDRESSES:

Office—Department of Philosophy, Durham University, 50 Old Elvet, Durham DH1 3HN, England. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Philosopher, educator, and writer. University of Durham, Durham, England, professor of philosophy and chairperson, board of studies, 1995—.

AWARDS, HONORS:

British Academy/Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowship.

WRITINGS:

Kinds of Being: A Study of Individuation, Identity, and the Logic of Sortal Terms, Basil Blackwell (Oxford, England), 1989.

The Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Locke on Human Understanding, Routledge (New York, NY), 1995.

Subjects of Experience, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1996.

The Possibility of Metaphysics: Substance, Identity, and Time, Clarendon Press (Oxford, England), 1998.

An Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1999.

A Survey of Metaphysics, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2002.

(Coeditor with others) Analytic Philosophy without Naturalism, Routledge (New York, NY), 2005.

Locke, Routledge (New York, NY), 2005.

The Four-Category Ontology: A Metaphysical Foundation for Natural Science, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2006.

Contributor to books, including Thought, Reference, and Experience: Themes from the Philosophy of Gareth Evans, edited by J.L. Bermudez, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2005; contributor to journals, including History and Philosophy of Psychology Newsletter, Monist, Analysis Consciousness in the Natural World Project, Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume, and Mind. General editor of the "Cambridge Studies in Philosophy" monograph series.

SIDELIGHTS:

E.J. Lowe is an author of treatises on metaphysics, philosophy of mind, and logic. In particular Lowe has defended the position, once "a given" but now discounted by many philosophers, that the self and the body that houses the self are two different "substances." In explaining this position, Lowe has written that although he believes in the self he also believes that the self is not be identified as the body or the brain. This dualism, known in philosophical circles as the mind-body problem, shares center stage in Lowe's philosophical investigation with the question of whether the self can be a causative agent in a universe where only physical objects can cause change in other physical objects.

In his first book, Kinds of Being: A Study of Individuation, Identity, and the Logic of Sortal Terms, Lowe focuses on "sortal" concepts, or what it takes to individuate one object from another. Over several chapters Lowe challenges the notion that one object can belong to two separate classes, reasoning that the distinctions belong to the classification system and not to the object itself. In this sense Lowe argues for the concept of "bare particulars," the set of attributes that define one, and only one, class of objects. He extends this relativity to the discussion of what it means to be an individual, or person. In treating the issue of parts to whole, Lowe defines three different types of "wholes"—aggregates, collectives, and integrates—and arrives at the conclusion that some wholes are different from the sums of their parts. Michael Baur, reviewing Kinds of Being for the Review of Metaphysics, noted: "Lowe's purpose in this book is to examine the meaning and implications of sortal concepts, and to challenge relativist conceptions of identity and reductivist strategies in metaphysics." Baur called Lowe's work "carefully argued and well-written," and pointed out, "This study will be a challenge to anyone who wants to deny that ‘there are no "bare" particulars,’ as well as to anyone who has paid lip service to this claim without thinking through its far-reaching implications."

Lowe's next book, The Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Locke on Human Understanding, looks at John Locke's seminal work, Essay concerning Human Understanding. (Locke is a primary influence on Lowe's work.) Locke, the seventeenth-century founder of British Empiricism, challenged the rationalistic notion that the mind is equipped with "innate ideas"—ideas that do not come from experience. In Locke's view, ideas come from two sources—perceptions and introspection on those perceptions. Perceptions lead to ideas, and ideas are the stuff of thought. Locke was led by this train of thought to a "causal," or representative, view of human knowledge. In Locke's universe, individuals are not directly aware of physical objects, but of the ideas those objects represent. This view raises the question of how much ideas resemble the objects that cause them. Locke felt that only some of an object's qualities are like the ideas that represent them and that only mathematical ideas are pure ideas. Lowe not only comments on Locke's Essay, but also explicates how applicable the propositions in that essay still are.

In Subjects of Experience, Lowe explores the mind-body problem. Modern cognitive science seems to posit that the self and the body are one biological substance; most modern philosophers of the mind accept this as a basic tenet. Lowe hearkens back to the traditionalist view that psychological substance is different from physical substance. For dealing with the conundrum of the mental, non-physical, self-causing actions in the physical world, Lowe proposes a chain of causality. "The self ‘shapes’ the complex causal sequences that leads to action," wrote John Heil in a review of Subjects of Experience in the Times Literary Supplement. "My brain includes a vast network of intertwined causal chains, chains that extend backwards in time and outward from my body." Heil welcomed Lowe's perspective: "Lowe is not reluctant to move away from the well-worn patterns of explanation in the philosophy of mind. In this regard, Subjects of Experience represents an infusion of ontological seriousness into a discussion that has been notoriously lacking in metaphysical bite. More than that, the book promises to liberate our thinking about minds and their place in the natural world from the functionalist ruts into which it has fallen in recent years." Katarzyna Paprzycka, writing for Philosophy in Review, had a similar take on Lowe's work: "The book's major strength is Lowe's brave attempt to take up a position about the mind (the self) which has fallen into disrepute." Paprzycka continued: "Lowe's many sharp criticisms and incessant attempts to defend scorned positions from too quick dismissals should be of interest to philosophers of mind on both sides of the divide."

Lowe followed Subjects of Experience with The Possibility of Metaphysics: Substance, Identity, and Time. In this work he supplements his view of objects as they exist in space with a view of how they exist in time. A desk is not a desk, for instance, until its constituent pieces are assembled, and it ceases to be a desk if its legs are sawed off. In addition to exercising his views on what makes something a classifiable object, Lowe posits two ways to classify objects: by substantial universals and by non-substantial universals. Substantial here means classifying objects by "kind," such as "leaf" or "ball." Non-substantial means classifying by "property," such as "green" or "round." Lowe feels that these distinctions between kind and property are important because an individual leaf, while exemplifying an instance of the universal "leaf," does not necessarily exemplify the universal quality of "green." Reviewing The Possibility of Metaphysics for the Times Literary Supplement, Frank Jackson wrote that "E.J. Lowe's good book is an essay in traditional metaphysics." Jackson continued: "He also offers us an interesting account of what metaphysics is—it is not a branch of semantics or of science, for example—and how it should be justified."

Lowe also wrote the book An Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind and has written articles for journals, including History and Philosophy of Psychology Newsletter, Consciousness in the Natural World Project, Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume, and Mind. His many journal articles include "Why There Are No Easy Problems of Consciousness," in which he argues that no computational models can satisfy a definition of mind; "Self, Agency, and Mental Causation," in which he sums up and extends the arguments of his several books; "Why Is There Anything at All?"; and "Conditional Probability and Conditional Beliefs."

In his 2006 book, The Four-Category Ontology: A Metaphysical Foundation for Natural Science, Lowe provides a defense of his theory of his four-category ontology to explain reality. This metaphysical system recognizes two fundamental categorical distinctions between the particular and the universal and between the substantial and non-substantial. According to the author, these distinctions cut across each other to generate the four fundamental ontological categories known as substantial particulars (propertied individuals such as persisting concrete objects), non-substantial particulars (property-instances and relation-instances), substantial universals (natural kinds of persisting objects), and non-substantial universals (properties and relations conceived of as universals). The ontology discussed by the author has been traced back by some philosophers to Aristotle but has never been universally accepted and has fallen in and out of favor over the years. "In this excellent and thought provoking book, Jonathan Lowe further develops and elaborates upon the ontological system that has been growing out of earlier works," wrote Brandon C. Look in the Review of Metaphysics. Here, the author argues that the four-category ontology provides a way to explain the nature of reality and life that far exceeds most, if not all, other systems. "This account of how universals and properties are to work in scientific explanation is the most interesting and likely most controversial part of the book," noted Look, who went on to write in the same review that "this is an excellent book which deserves to be read by everyone working in analytic metaphysics today."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, June, 2003, J. Hoffman, review of A Survey of Metaphysics, p. 1760; September, 2006, J. Hoffman, review of The Four-Category Ontology: A Metaphysical Foundation for Natural Science, p. 126.

Philosophy in Review, February, 1997, Katarzyna Paprzycka, review of Subjects of Experience, pp. 45-47.

Review of Metaphysics, September, 1992, Michael Baur, review of Kinds of Being: A Study of Individuation, Identity, and the Logic of Sortal Terms, pp. 166-168; March, 2007, Brandon C. Look, review of The Four-Category Ontology, p. 666.

Times Literary Supplement, January 10, 1997, John Heil, review of Subjects of Experience, p. 27; April 9, 1999, Frank Jackson, review of The Possibility of Metaphysics: Substance, Identity, and Time, p. 33; January 12, 2007, Peter Van Inwagen, "All Square" (review of The Four-Category Ontology), p. 22.

ONLINE

Durham University,http://www.dur.ac.uk/ (December 14, 2007), faculty profile of author.

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