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Alexander, Samuel (1859–1938)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-DC001-2
Version: v2,  Published online: 2021
Retrieved June 15, 2024, from

Article Summary

Samuel Alexander was a leading British philosopher of the early twentieth century. Along with G.E. Moore and Bertrand Russell, he is responsible for the rise of realism in England against idealism, which was the dominant philosophy at the time. Alexander’s realism is put forth as a comprehensive metaphysical system most famously in Space, Time and Deity (1920). Alexander’s work was at the forefront of debate during his lifetime, but after his death his influence fell suddenly, mostly due to the rise of positivism and linguisticism.

Alexander posits spacetime as the fundamental stuff of things. Spacetime as a whole is one unified totality – consisting of motions – that encompasses all else. From this spatiotemporal basis he provides a theory of categories according to which categorial properties are features of spacetime. Variable, empirical qualities are emergent features that arise from complexities in groupings of motions having categorial properties. These empirical qualities form an emergent order: spacetime, matter, secondary qualities, vegetative life, mind, tertiary qualities such as truth, beauty, goodness, and eventually deity. God is spacetime as a whole driving towards the emergent quality of deity.

Citing this article:
Fisher, A.R.J.. Alexander, Samuel (1859–1938), 2021, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-DC001-2. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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