Monday, January 26, 2015


“It’s matter and form that make substance,
Bronze shape is a statue, for instance.
But form’s own existence
Needs matter’s persistence:
This breeds theoretic resistance.

Note: According to Aristotle, individual substances (such as President Obama and the Eiffel Tower) are things that are neither said of nor present in anything else.  (By contrast, for example, tallness can be said of Obama and is present in him, so tallness is not a substance.)  These substances are matter-form composites (hylomorphism).  So, for example, every statue is composed of matter (whatever it was made out of, say a lump of bronze) and form (the statue’s shape, which is what makes the statue the statue that it is).  But the form of a substance is not separable from its matter: if the lump of bronze ceases to exist, so does the statue’s shape.  This makes sense in the statue case.  But Aristotle also claims that human beings are substances, that a human being’s form is its soul and its matter is its body (or flesh, blood, and bone).  If form is not separable from matter, it follows that the soul of a human being is not separable from the human’s body.  This becomes a serious issue for Christians in the Middle Ages (Scholastics) who want to preserve the possibility of life after death within the main lines of Aristotelian metaphysics.

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