PRINCIPLES OF SENSIBLE SUBSTANCES
LESSON 1: Sensible Substances Have Different Kinds of Matter LESSON 2 Form Inferred from Accidental Differences in Sensible Substances. Threefold Definition of All Things LESSON 3 The Nature of Form as Part of a Thing's Essence. The Resemblance between Numbers and Forms LESSON 4 What We Must Know about Matter. How Matter Is Found in All Things LESSON 5 Why Definitions and Matters Are Unities. The Union of Matter and Form
Sensible Substances Have Different Kinds of Matter
ARISTOTLE’S TEXT Chapter 1: 1042a 3-1042b 8
691. It is necessary, then, to argue from the points which have been made, and after making a summary, to bring our investigations to a close.
692. It has been stated that it is the causes, principles and elements of substances which are being sought (564).
693. Now some substances are admitted by all; but there are others about which some thinkers have expressed views peculiar to themselves. Those which are admitted by all are physical substances, such as fire, earth, water and the other simple bodies; plants and their parts; animals and the parts of animals; and finally the heaven and its parts. But certain other thinkers make the peculiar claim that the Forms and the objects of mathematics are substances (566).
694. From other arguments it also follows that there are other substances, i.e., the essence and the underlying subject. Again, from another point of view a genus is substance to a greater degree than species, and a universal to a greater degree than singular things (568). And the Ideas have a connection with the universal and the genus, for they seem to be substances on the same grounds.
695. Further, since the essence is substance, and the definition is the intelligible expression of the essence, for this reason we have examined both the definition and everything that is predicated essentially (576-597). And since the definition of a thing is its intelligible expression, and the intelligible expression has parts, then concerning the notion of part it was also necessary to consider what things are parts of substance and what are not, and whether these are necessary to the definition (625-649). Further, neither the universal nor the genus is substance (650-681). Related questions concerning the Ideas and the objects of mathematics must be examined later on; for some say that these are substances in addition to sensible ones. But now we must treat those things which all admit to be substances, and these are sensible substances.
696. All sensible substances have matter. And the underlying subject is substance; in one sense the matter (by matter I mean that which is not a particular thing actually but potentially); and in another sense the intelligible structure or form, which is a particular thing and is separable in thought; and in a third sense the thing composed of these, which alone is subject to generation and corruption, and is separable in an absolute sense. For according to the intelligible structure of substances, some are separable and others are not.
697. Now it is evident that matter is substance; for in every process of change between contraries there is something which underlies these changes. For example, in change of place, there is something which is now here and afterwards somewhere else; and in change of size, that which is now of such a size and afterwards smaller or greater; and in change of quality, that which is now healthy and afterwards diseased. And similarly in change of substance there is something which is now in the process of generation and afterwards in the process of corruption, and which is now a subject and this particular thing and afterwards a subject of privation.
698. And the other changes follow upon this change, but this change does not follow upon one or two of the others. For if a thing has matter which is subject to change of place, it is not necessary that it also have matter which is generable and corruptible. The difference between coming-to-be in an absolute sense and coming-to-be in a qualified sense has been explained in the Physics.
1681. Having dealt with substance by means of the dialectical method in Book VII, i.e., by examining the definition and its parts and other things of this kind which are considered from the viewpoint of dialectics, the Philosopher now intends in Book VIII to deal with sensible substances through their proper principles, by applying to those substances the things that were investigated above by means of the dialectical method.
This is divided into two parts. In the first (691:C 1681), he links up this discussion with the preceding one; and in the second (696:C 1686), he carries out his intention (“All sensible substances”).
In regard to the first he does three things. First, he states in a general way what he intends to do. Second (692:C 1682), he repeats some of the statements which have been made (“It has been stated”). Third (695:C 1685), he links up the foregoing discussion with the one that is to come (“Further, since the essence”).
He says first (691), then, that since many of the statements made about substance in Book VII belong to the consideration of dialectics, we must reason from the statements which have been made in order that the things stated from the viewpoint of dialectics may be applied to things existing in reality. And “after making a summary,” i.e., after bringing these together again in a brief and summary way, we must bring our investigation to a close by completing the treatise on substance. He does this by discussing those things which were omitted from the foregoing treatise.
1682. It has been stated (692).
Here he repeats some of the statements which have been made, because it was stated in Book VII (564:C 1260) that the principal objects of our search in this science are the causes, principles and elements of substances. For since this science investigates as its proper subject being in general, and this is divided into substance and the nine classes of accidents, and a knowledge of accidents depends upon substance, as was shown in Book VII (585-6:C 1342-50), it follows that this science is principally concerned with substances. And since we know each thing only when we know its principles and causes, it also follows that this science must be principally concerned with the principles, causes and elements of substances. The way in which these three differ has been shown above in Book V (403-12:C 751-807).
1683. Now some substances (693).
Then he repeats one of the points discussed above, i.e., the various senses in which substance is used. First, he gives the things which are said to be real substances. Among these there are some whose existence is admitted by all thinkers, namely, sensible substances, such as earth, water and the other elements; and above these, in the order of their nobility and perfection, plants and animals and their parts; and lastly the heaven and its parts, as the orbs and the stars, which surpass in nobility the other sensible substances. However, there are some substances whose existence is not admitted by all but only by certain particular thinkers, who claim that the Forms and the objects of mathematics have separate existence. They adopted this position because they thought that for every abstraction of the intellect there is a corresponding abstraction in reality. Thus, because the intellect considers the universal apart from particular things, as “man” apart from Socrates and Plato, they held that the Forms have separate existence of themselves. And since the intellect considers some forms apart from sensible material things, as curvature (whose concept does not contain nose as does the concept of pugnose) and a line and other things of this kind, which we call the objects of mathematics, they also held that the objects of mathematics have separate existence.
1684. From other arguments (694).
Here he gives the different ways in which substance is considered from the viewpoint of its intelligible structure; and there are two of these. The first is that substance means the quiddity of any natural substance, and this is merely the whatness of a natural being. In the second way substance is considered in a different sense, that is, in the sense that a genus is said to be substance to a greater degree than species, and a universal to a greater degree than singular things, as some men held according to what was treated in the questions in Book III (220-234:C 423-442). And with this way of considering substance, according to which both a genus and a universal are called substances, is connected the theory of Ideas, or Forms as Aristotle called them above (693:C 1683); for this theory maintains that both Ideas and universals are substances on the same grounds.
1685. Further, since the essence (695).
He links up this discussion with the preceding one by stating what has been solved and what remains to be solved. He says that, since the essence is substance, and the intelligible expression which signifies it is the definition, for this reason it was necessary in the preceding book to deal with definition. And since a definition is composed of those attributes which are predicated of a thing essentially, for this reason it was also necessary in that book to settle the issue about essential predication (576-597:C 1299-1380). Further, since the definition of a thing is its intelligible expression, and this is made up of parts, then concerning the parts of a definition it was also necessary to determine what parts are parts of the thing defined and what are not; and whether the parts of the definition and those of the thing defined are the same (625-649:C 1482-1565). Another text has “Whether the parts of the definition must be defined,” but the first version is better. In Book VII (650-681:C 1566-1647) it was shown also that neither the universal nor the genus is substance. Thus the entire study which may be made of definitions and substance was carried out in Book VII. But of those substances which exist in reality, it will be necessary to examine later the Ideas and the objects of mathematics, which one school of thinkers claim to subsist by themselves apart from sensible substances. This is done in the last books of this work. But now it is necessary to treat at once of those substances which all men admit to exist, namely, sensible substances, so that we may proceed from what has been made evident to what as yet remains unknown.
Sensible substance is matter, form, composite.
1686. All sensible substances (696).
Having linked up the foregoing discussion with the one that is to come, the Philosopher begins here to treat of sensible substances by investigating their principles. This is divided into two parts. In the first (1686) he establishes what is true concerning matter and form, which are the principles of sensible substances. In the second (1755) he considers the way in which they are united to each other (“It seems that we must”).
In regard to the first he does two things. First, he shows that matter and form are principles of sensible substances. Second (1705), he deals with those points which must be investigated about each of these principles (“And we must not”).
In regard to the first he does two things. First, he shows that matter is a principle of sensible substances; and second (1691), that the same is true of form (“But since that which has the character of a subject”).
In regard to the first he does three things. First he shows what matter is by distinguishing it from the other ways in which substance is considered. Hence he says that all sensible substances have matter; and the reason is that all are in motion, and motion does not exist without matter.
1687. But it must be noted that in one sense substance means (1) matter, and in another (2) form, and in still another (3) the thing composed of these.
For matter is called substance, not as though it were a being considered to have actual existence in itself, but as something capable of being actual (and this is said to be a particular thing).
And form, which is also termed the intelligible structure because the intelligible structure of the species is derived from it, is called substance (1) inasmuch as it is something actual, and (2) inasmuch as it is separable from matter in thought but not in reality.
And the thing composed of these is called substance inasmuch as it is something “separable in an absolute sense,” i.e., capable of existing separately by itself in reality; and it alone is subject to generation and corruption. For form and matter are generated and corrupted only by reason of something else.
And although the composite is separable in an absolute sense, yet some of the other things which are called substances are separable in thought and some are not. For a form is separable in thought because it can be understood without understanding individuating sensible matter; but matter cannot be understood without understanding form, since it is apprehended only inasmuch as it is in potentiality to form.
Or the, statements can mean that “according to the intelligible structure of substances,” i.e., of forms, some are separable in their intelligible structure, as the objects of mathematics, and some are not, as natural forms.
Or again it may mean that there are certain separate forms existing without matter, about which he will establish the truth later on (2447-2454).
1688. Now it is evident (697).
Second, he says that in sensible substances we must posit matter as substance and subject. For in every change between contraries, there must be a subject common to the termini of the change. For example, in change of place there is a common subject which is now here and afterwards somewhere else; and in growth there is a common subject which now has so much quantity and afterwards is smaller (if the change is decrease) or greater (if it is increase). And in alteration there is a common subject which is now healthy and afterwards diseased. Hence, since there is substantial change, that is, generation and corruption, there must be a common subject which underlies the opposite changes of generation and corruption. And this is the subject for the termini that have been given, i.e., form and privation, so that sometimes this subject is actual by reason of a form, and sometimes it is the subject of the privation of that form.
1689. Now from this argument of Aristotle it is clear that substantial generation and corruption are the source from which we derive our knowledge of prime matter. For if prime matter by nature had a form of its own, it would be an actual thing by reason of that form. Hence, when an additional form would be given [to prime matter], such matter would not exist in an absolute sense by reason of that form but would become this or that being; and then there would be generation in a qualified sense but not in an absolute sense. Hence all those who held that this first subject is a body, such as air or water, claimed that generation is the same as alteration. But it is clear from this argument what we must hold prime matter to be; for it is related to all forms and privations as the subject of qualitative change is to contrary qualities.
1690. And the other changes (698).
Here he shows that matter is not present in the same way in all sensible substances. He says that the other changes follow upon matter which is subject to generation and corruption; for if matter is subject to generation and corruption, it follows that it is subject to alteration and change of place. But this matter, i.e., one which is subject to generation and corruption, does not follow upon all the other changes, especially change of place. For if something has “matter which is subject to change of place,” i.e., by which it is potentially in a place, it does not follow that it also has “matter which is generable and corruptible,” namely, one which is subject to generation and corruption. For this kind of matter is lacking in the celestial bodies, in which there is a kind of alteration inasmuch as they are illuminated and deprived of light, but neither generation nor corruption. Hence he said one” because of change of place, or two” because of the kind of alteration just mentioned, although this is really not alteration, because illumination is not motion but the terminus of motion. Thus we must posit matter for every change according as there is in everything that changes a coming-to-be either in an absolute sense or in a qualified one. The difference between coming-to-be in an absolute sense and in a qualified one has been explained in the Physics, Book 1; 4 for coming-to-be in an absolute sense belongs to substance, and coming-to-be in a qualified sense belongs to accidents.
Form Inferred from Accidental Differences in Sensible Substances. Threefold Definition of All Things
ARISTOTLE’S TEXT Chapter 2: 1042b 9-1043a 28
699. But since that which has the character of a subject or matter has been admitted by all to be substance, and this is what is in potentiality, it remains to explain what it is that constitutes the substance of sensible things in the sense of actuality.
700. Now Democritus is like one who thinks that there are three differences in things. For he holds that the underlying body, as matter, is the same for all things, but that it differs in contour, which is shape; or in disposition, which is position; or in distribution, which is arrangement.
701. However, there seem to be many differences inasmuch as some things are said to be by reason of the way in which their material parts are combined; for example, some things are combined by mixture, as honey-water; others by a binding, as the binding around a head; others by birdlime, as a book; others by a nail, as a chest; and others in several of these ways. Others differ by position, as a threshold and a lintel, for these differ in a sense according to their position; others differ in point of time, as dinner and breakfast; others with respect to place, as the air currents; others by reason of sensible properties, as hardness and softness, density and rarity, dryness and moistness. And some things differ by some of these differences and others by all taken together; some by excess and others by defect.
702. For this reason it is evident that being is also used in the same number of ways; for a threshold is such because it is placed in this particular position, and to be a threshold means to be placed in such and such a position; and to be ice means to be congealed in such and such a way. However, the being of some things will be defined in all of these ways: one by being mixed; others by being combined; others by being tied together; others by being condensed; and others by other differences, as a hand and a foot.
703. Further, we must consider the classes of differences, for these will be the principles of being of things, as differences in degree, or in density and rarity, and others such as these; for all are instances of excess and defect. Indeed, if [anything differs] either in figure or in smoothness and roughness [these are reducible to differences] in straightness and curvature. Further, the being of some things will consist in being mixed, and their non-being will consist in the opposite state.
704. It is evident, then, from these instances that, if substance is the cause of the being of each thing which is composed of these differences, we must look for the cause of the being of each one of these among these differences. Now substances is none of these differences nor any combination of them; yet it is found analogously in each. And just as in the case of substance that which is predicated of matter is the actuality itself, in a similar way this is most true in the case of other definitions. Thus if a threshold has to be defined, we shall say that it is a piece of wood or stone placed in such and such a position; and we shall say that a house is bricks and timbers placed in such and such a position. (Or again in some cases there is also the final cause). And if ice is to be defined, we shall say that it is water frozen or condensed in such and such a way; and we shall say that a harmony is such and such a combination of high and low notes. [And we must proceed] in the same way too in other things.
705. From these instances, then, it is evident that different matters have a different actuality and intelligible structure; for of some things it is combination, of others mixing, and of others some of those differences mentioned above.
706. Therefore, among those who give definitions, those who state what a house is by saying that it is stones, bricks and timbers, are speaking of a potential house; for these are its matter. But those who say that it is a shelter for protecting goods and bodies, or by adding some other such property, speak of its actuality. And those who speak of both of these together speak of the third kind of substance, which is the thing composed of these. For the intelligible structure which is expressed by means of differences seems to be that of the form or actuality of a thing, but that which is expressed by a thing’s intrinsic parts is rather that of its matter. The same thing is true of the definitions of which Archytas approved, for they are both of these together. For example, What is stillness? Rest in a large expanse of air, where air is as matter and rest as actuality or substance. What is a calm? Smoothness of the sea, where the sea is as subject or matter, and smoothness as actuality or form.
707. From what has been said, then, it is evident what sensible substance is and how it exists; for in one sense it has the character of matter, and in another the character of form (because it is actuality), and in a third sense it is the thing composed of these.
1691. Having investigated the material principle in sensible substances, the Philosopher examines their formal principle.
First (699:C 1691), he links up this discussion with the foregoing one, saying that, since all recognize substance in the sense of matter and subject (for even the oldest philosophers held that matter is the substance of material things), and this kind of substance is something potential, it now remains to explain what form is, which is the actuality of sensible things.
1692. Now Democritus is like one (700).
Then he carries out his intention; and in regard to this he does two things. First (700:C 1692), he examines the differences in sensible things which indicate a formal principle. Second (705:C 1699), he draws some conclusions (“From these instances”).
In regard to the first he does two things. First, he examines certain accidental differences of sensible things. Second (704:C 1696), he shows how these differences are related to substantial differences (“It is evident”).
In regard to the first he does two things. First, he investigates the accidental differences of sensible things. Second (702:C 1694), he shows how these differences are related to those things whose differences they are (“For this reason”).
In regard to the first he does two things. First (700), he gives Democritus’ opinion about the differences of things. He says that Democritus is like one who thinks “that there are three differences in things,” i.e., according to the principles which he gives he seems to think that all differences of things are reduced to three classes. For he held that the material principles of things are indivisible bodies, which, being of the same nature, are similar to each other; but that they constitute a diversity of things because they differ in position, shape and arrangement. Thus he seems to hold that the underlying body, as a material principle, is one and the same in nature even though it is divided into an infinite number of parts, and that it differ’s, i.e., is divided into different things, because of differences in shape, position and arrangement. For things differ in figure by being straight or curved; in position by being above or below, right or left; and in arrangement by being before or after.
1693. However, there seem to be (701).
Second, he shows that the position of Democritus is unsatisfactory, because there seem to be many other differences of things which are not reducible to the foregoing ones. For some things differ by reason of the different way in which their material parts are combined: in some things the material parts are combined by being mixed, as honey-water; in others, by being tied together by some bond, as the binding around a woman’s’ head; in others by glue or birdlime, as occurs in books; in others by a nail, as occurs in a chest; and in others the parts are united in several of the aforesaid ways. On the other hand, some things differ from each other by their position, as a lintel and a threshold, which differ because they are placed in such and such a way-one being above and the other below. Again, some differ in point of time, as dinner, which is the late meal, from breakfast, which is the early morning meal. Others differ with respect to place, as “the air currents,” i.e., the winds, of which the Aquilonian comes from the north, the Favonian from the west, the Austerian from the south, and the Subsolian from the east. Others differ “by reason of the qualities of sensible bodies,” i.e., by hardness or softness and other characteristics of this kind; and some things differ in several of these ways, and others in all of them. And some differ by excess and some by defect. He adds this because the ancient philosophers held that all qualities of sensible bodies are reduced to excess or defect.
1694. For this reason (702).
He shows the way in which these differences are related to those things whose differences they are. In regard to this he does two things. First (702), he shows that these differences constitute the being of the things whose differences they are. Second (703:C 1695), he concludes that in order to grasp the principles of being we must reduce these differences to certain primary classes of differences (“Further, we must consider”).
First, then, he says that, because these differences are constitutive of the things we have mentioned above, it is evident that the being of the aforesaid realities is diversified according to these differences; for a difference completes the definition, which signifies the being of a thing. Thus a threshold is this particular thing “because it is placed in such and such a position,” and its being, i.e., its proper intelligible structure, consists in being placed in such and such a position. Similarly, being ice is being condensed in such and such a way. And by each of the differences mentioned the being of things of a certain type is differentiated: some by being mixed; others by being combined; and others by other differences, as a hand and a foot and other parts of this kind which have peculiar differences of their own inasmuch as they are directed to certain definite operations.
1695. Further, we must consider (703).
He concludes that, since the being of things consists in their differences and has to be known in this way, it will be worth our while to grasp the classes of differences by reducing the secondary differences of a class to the primary differences; because common and proper differences of this kind will be the principles of being of a whole class. This is evident in differences of degree, of rarity and density, and in other things of this kind; for density and rarity and the like are reduced to the class of the great and small, because all these signify excess and defect. Similarly, if things differ in figure or in roughness or smoothness, these are reduced to differences of straightness and curvature, which are the primary differences of figure. Again, it is necessary that some be reduced to being mixed or not being mixed; for the being of some things consists in the fact that they are mixed, and their non-being in just the opposite state.
1696. It is evident, then (704).
He shows how these differences are related to the substances of things. He says that it is now evident from the foregoing that we must try to discover in these differences the formal cause of the being of each thing, if it is in this way that substance in a formal sense, or the whatness of a thing, is the cause of the being of each thing, as was clear in Book VII (682-90:C 1648-80). For these differences signify the form or whatness of the above-mentioned things. However, none of these differences are substance or anything akin to substance, as though belonging to the genus of substance; but the same proportion is found in them as in [the genus of] substance.
1697. For just as in the genus of substance the difference, which is predicated of the genus and qualifies it in order to constitute a species, is related to the genus as actuality or form, so also is this true in other definitions.
(~) For we must not understand that difference is form or that genus is matter, since genus and difference are predicated of the species but matter and form are not predicated of the composite. (+) But we speak in this manner because a thing’s genus is derived from its material principle, and its difference from its formal principle.
The genus of man, for example, is animal, because it signifies something having a sensory nature, which is related as matter to intellectual nature from which rational, the difference of man, is taken. But rational signifies something having an intellectual nature.
It is for this reason that a genus contains its differences potentially, and that genus and difference are proportionate to matter and form, as Porphyry says . And for this reason too it is said here that “actuality,” i.e., difference, is predicated “of matter,” i.e., of the genus; and the same thing occurs in other genera.
1698. For if one wishes to define a threshold, he shall say that it is a piece of stone or wood placed in such and such a position; and in this definition stone or wood is as matter and position as form. Similarly, in the definition of a house stones and timbers are as matter, and being combined in such and such a way as form. And again in the definitions of some things there is also added its end, on which the necessity of the form depends. And similarly in the definition of ice, water is as matter and being frozen is as form. So too in the definition of a harmony the high and low notes are as matter and the way in which they are combined is as form. The same thing applies in all other definitions.
1699. From these instances (705).
He draws two additional conclusions from the above. First, there are different actualities or forms for different matters. For in some things the actuality consists in being combined; in others in being mixed, or in some of the aforesaid differences.
1700. Therefore, among those who (706).
He states the second conclusion; since in a definition one part,is related to the other as actuality to matter, some people in defining things give an inadequate definition by stating only their matter, as those who define a house by means of cement, stones and timbers, which are the material of a house; because such a definition does not signify an actual house but a potential one. Those who say that a house is a shelter for goods and living bodies state the form of a house but not its matter. However, those who state both define the composite substance, and therefore their definition is a complete definition. But the conceptual element which is derived from the differences pertains to the form, whereas that which is derived from the intrinsic parts pertains to the matter.
1701. The definitions which Archytas accepts are similar to these. E.g., stillness, which signifies the state of the atmosphere when it is windless, is rest in a large expanse of air; for if only the smallest amount of air in a vessel is at rest we do not speak of stillness. In this definition air is as matter and rest as form. Similarly, when a calm is defined as the smoothness of the sea, the sea is as matter and smoothness as form. Now in these definitions the matter is substance and the form is an accident; but in the definition of a house the matter is its parts and the actuality is the form of the whole.
1702. From what (707).
He summarizes the things said about form. The text is clear here.
The Nature of Form as Part of a Thing’s Essence. The Resemblance between Numbers and Forms
ARISTOTLE’S TEXT Chapter 3: 1043a 29-1044a 14
708. And we must not disregard the fact that sometimes it is not apparent whether a name signifies the composite substance or the actuality or form; for example, whether house signifies both the form and the matter together, i.e., a shelter composed of bricks, timbers and stones arranged in such and such a way, or whether it signifies the actuality or form—a shelter; and whether line signifies twoness in length or twoness; and whether animal signifies a soul in a body or a soul, for the latter is the substance or actuality of some body.
709. Now animal will also apply to both, not in the sense that both are expressed by one meaning, but insofar as they are related to some one thing.
71o. These distinctions make a difference with regard to something else, but not to the investigation of sensible substances, because the essence of this other thing consists of form or actuality. For a soul and the essence of a soul are the same, but a man and the essence of a man are not the same, unless a man is also called a soul. And in some things essence and thing are identical and in others not.
711. Accordingly, to those who make investigations it does not seem that a syllable consists of letters and their combination, nor does a house consist of bricks and their combination. And this is true, because a combination or mixture does not consist of the things of which it is the combination or mixture. Nor likewise do any of the other differences. If a threshold, for example, is constituted by its position, the position is not constituted by the threshold, but rather the latter by the former. Nor is man animal and two-footed, but there must be something else in addition to these, if these are matter. Now this is neither an element nor a combination of the elements, but the substance; but omitting this they speak only of matter. Therefore, if this is the cause of a thing’s being, and this is its substance, they will not be stating its substance.
712. Now this must be either eternal or corruptible without being in the process of corruption, and generated without being in the process of generation. But it has been demonstrated and made clear elsewhere (611) that no one produces a form, nor is it generated; but it is this particular thing which is produced and comes to be from these principles.
713. But whether the substances of corruptible things are separable or not is not yet clear.
714. It is evident, however, that this may not occur in the case of some things, i.e., in the case of all those that are incapable of existing apart from particular things, for exatnple, a house or a vessel.
715. Indeed, perhaps neither these particular things nor any of the others which are not produced by nature are substances. For at least one might hold that only the nature of corruptible things is substance.
716. For this reason the problem which confronted Antisthenes and other uninstructed people is applicable here, i.e., that one cannot define what a thing is (for according to them the definition is a lengthy statement), but one can say what it is like; for example, one cannot say what silver is, but one can say that it is like tin. Hence, of one kind of substance there can be a limit or definition, i.e., of the composite, whether it be sensible or intelligible. But this cannot be true of the primary parts of which it is composed, since the definitive concept designates something as determining something else, and one of these must have the character of matter and the other that of form.
717. Further, it is also clear that if numbers are in any sense substances, they are such in this way and not (as groups) of units, as some claim. For a definition is like a number and is divisible into indivisible parts, because definitions are not made up of an unlimited number of parts; and this is also true of numbers.
718. And just as when any part constituting a number is subtracted or added it is no longer the same number that remains but a different one, even though the minimum is subtracted or added, so too neither the definition nor the essence will any longer be the same when anything is subtracted or added.
719. And there must be something by reason of which a number is one thing, although they cannot say what makes it to be one thing; i.e., if it is one thing. For either it is not one thing but like a heap, or if it is one thing it is necessary to state what makes it to be one thing out of many. And a definition is one thing; but they are also unable to say what makes it to be one thing; and this follows as a natural consequence. For by the same argument substance is also one thing in the way we have explained, but not, as some claim, as being a kind of unit or point, but as an actuality and a kind of nature.
720. And just as number does not admit of more or less, neither does substance in the sense of form; but if this were the case [it would be that substance which is joined] to matter.
721. In regard to the generation and corruption of the foregoing substances, in what way this is possible and in what way it is impossible, and in regard to the likeness which they have to numbers, we have established these things this far.
1703. Having investigated the principles of sensible substances~ and having shown that sensible substances are composed of matter and form, the Philosopher’s aim here is to establish the truth about the formal and material principles of things by investigating the points which must be considered about each.
This is divided into two parts. In the first (708:C 1705), he investigates the things which must be considered about the formal principle. In the second (722:C 1729), he investigates the things which must be considered about the material principle (“Concerning material substances”).
1704. And since Plato was the one who devoted special treatment to the formal principle, therefore Aristotle deals with the formal principle in reference to those things which Plato posited. Now Plato claimed that species [i.e., separate Forms or Ideas] and numbers are the forms of things. Hence the first part is divided into two sections. In the first (708:C 1705), he deals with the formal principle in relation to the species [or Ideas]; and in the second (717:C 1722), in relation to numbers (“Further, it is also clear”).
Now Plato held four things about forms in relation to the species [or Ideas]. The first of these is that specific names signify form alone and not form with matter. The second is that form is something besides the material parts. The third is that form can neither be generated nor corrupted. The fourth is that forms are separate from sensible things.
The first part is divided into four sections inasmuch as Aristotle investigates the four points just mentioned. The second (711:C 1712) begins where he says “Accordingly, to those.” The third (712:C 1715) begins where he says “Now this must.” The fourth (713:C 1717) begins where he says “But whether.”
1705. In regard to the first he does three things. First (708) he raises a question. We must understand, he says, that for some men there is the problem whether a specific name signifies the composite substance or only the form or something having the status of actuality; for example, whether the word house signifies both matter and form together so that a house means a shelter made of bricks and stones properly arranged (for shelter is as form, and bricks and stones as matter), or whether this word signifies only the actuality or form, a shelter.
1706. Similarly, there is the problem whether the word line signifies twoness and length or twoness alone. He mentions this because the Platonists claimed that numbers are the forms of continuous quantities; for they said that a point is merely the number one having position, so that position is a sort of material principle, and the number one a formal principle. They likewise claimed that the number two is the form of a line, so that a line is merely twoness in length. Therefore the Philosopher asks whether the word line signifies twoness alone as form, or twoness grounded in length as form in matter. And again, there is the problem whether the word animal signifies a soul in a body as a form in matter, or only a soul, which is the form of an organic body.
1707. Now animal will also apply (709).
He shows what follows if one says that specific names are used in both senses, so that they sometimes signify form alone and sometimes form in matter. And the result is that animal will be taken of either in either meaning, not univocally, as though it were predicated with one meaning, but analogically, as happens in the case of those things which have one name because they are related to one thing. For the specific name will be predicated of the composite only by reason of relationship to that which is predicated according to form alone, as the Platonists held. For they maintained that man, who is a composite of matter and form, is so named because he participates in the Idea man, which is only a form.
1708. These distinctions (710).
Then the Philosopher shows the result to which the aforesaid search leads. He says that, while the question whether a specific name signifies the composite substance or only the form, (+) makes a difference in regard to something else, (~) it makes no difference to the investigation of sensible substance. For it is evident that a sensible substance is composed of matter and form.
1709. (+) Now to what kind of thing it makes a difference, whether to those in this state or in another, he makes clear next. For it is obvious that if there is something which is only form or actuality, its essence “consists of this,” i.e., the thing and its essence will be identical, as a soul is identical with its essence, or is its own quiddity.
But if a thing is composed of matter and form, then in this case the thing itself and its essence will not be the same; for example, a man and the essence of a man are not the same, unless perhaps a man is said to be only a soul, as was held by those who say that specific names signify only the form. Thus it is evident that something does exist whose essence is the same as itself, namely, whatever is not composed of matter and form but is only a form.
1710. The reason for this position is that essence is what the definition signifies, and the definition signifies the nature of the species. But if there is something which is composed of matter and form, then in that thing there must be some other principle besides the nature of the species. For since matter is the principle of individuation, then in anything composed of matter and form there must be certain individuating principles distinct from the nature of the species. Hence such a thing is not just its own essence but is something in addition to this. But if such a thing exists which is only a form, it will have no individuating principles in addition to the nature of its species. For a form that exists of itself is individuated of itself. Therefore this thing is nothing else than its own essence.
1711. It is clear, then, that if the specific name signifies only the form, the essence of anything will be (+) the same as its being, as a man will be his essence, and a horse its essence, and so also will all other things of this kind.
But if specific names signify things composed of matter and form, then such things will (~) not be the same as their essence.
1712. Accordingly, to those who (711).
Here he deals with the second point mentioned above, namely, that the form is something in addition to the material parts. He says that for the Platonists, in raising this question, it does not seem that a syllable consists of its elements and their combination, as if combination, which is the form of a syllable, were a material part of a syllable like its elements or letters. Nor does it seem to them that a house consists of stones and their combination, as if a house were constituted of these as material parts.
1713. And on this point their remarks are true, because, if the form were one of the material parts, it would depend on matter. But we see that this is false; for combination or mixture, which are formal principles, are not constituted of those things which are combined or mixed; nor is any other formal principle constituted of its matter, but the reverse. For a threshold is constituted by position, which is its form, and not the reverse.
1714. Therefore, if one holds that animal and two-footed are the matter of man, man will not be animal and two-footed but will be something else in addition to these. And this will not be an element or anything composed of the elements but will be only a form as the Platonists claim, who omit matter from definitions. But it seems that we must hold, in opposition to this position, that, if form alone apart from matter is the substance or principle of being of a thing, they will not be able to say that this particular thing is that separate substance; i.e., they will not be able to say that this man as a sensible entity is composed of matter and form, but that man is only a form
1715. Now this must (712).
He considers the third point mentioned above, namely, the Platonists’ position that forms are eternal and Incorruptible. Hence he concludes, from what has been said, that either a form must be eternal, as the Platonists held when they claimed that the Ideas, which they called the forms of things, are eternal; or a form must be corruptible by reason of something else without being corrupted in itself, and similarly it must come to be by reason of something else without coming to be in itself. This is in agreement with the position of Aristotle, who does not hold that forms are separate but that they exist in matter.
1716. Further, the statement that forms can neither be corrupted nor generated in themselves (710-12:C 1708-15), on which each of the aforesaid points depends, Aristotle proceeds to demonstrate by reason of what was shown above, namely, that no one makes or produces a form, nor is a form generated or produced in itself; but it is this particular thing which comes to be or is generated in itself. And the reason is that everything which comes to be comes to be from matter. Hence, since this particular thing is composed of matter and form, it comes to be or is generated “from these principles,” i.e., from its material and individuating principles. But it was stated above (71I:C 1714) that a form is not an element or anything composed of the elements. Therefore it follows that a form neither comes to he nor is generated in itself.
1717. But whether the substances (713).
He examines the fourth point given above, namely, Plato’s position that forms are separate from matter. In regard to this he does three things. First, he exposes what the problem is in this position, saying that it is not clear whether “the substances,” i.e., the forms, of corruptible things are separable as the Platonists claimed.
1718. It is evident, however (714).
Second, he indicates what seems to be evident on this point. He says that it is evident that the forms of some corruptible things are not separate, namely, “all those” which are incapable of existing apart from their matters, as house or vessel, because neither the form of a house nor that of a vessel can exist apart from its proper matter.
1719. Indeed, perhaps (715).
Third, he precludes an objection, saying that perhaps the forms of artifacts are not substances or anything in their own right, and so cannot have separate existence. Nor similarly can other artificial forms, which have no natural existence, because in artifacts the matter alone is held to be substance, whereas the forms of artifacts are accidents. Natural forms, however, belong to the class of substance; and this is why Plato did not hold that the forms of artifacts exist apart from matter but only substantial forms.
1720. For this reason (716).
He advances arguments that are clearly opposed to Plato’s position. He says that if one holds that there are separate forms, as the Platonists maintained, the problem which the followers of Antisthenes raised, even though they seem to be uninstructed, may be used against the Platonists. For they argued that it is impossible to define a thing by means of a definition which signifies its quiddity, since a thing’s quiddity is simple and is not fittingly expressed by a statement composed of many parts. For we see that “the limit,” or definition, which is given to a thing, is a lengthy statement made up of many words. Therefore it does not signify what a thing is but “what it is like,” i.e., something to which it is similar; as if one were to say that the definition of silver does not signify silver but signifies something like lead or tin.
1721. Hence in order to solve this problem we must say that the substance which is defined, whether it be intellectual or sensible, must be one that is composite. But since the primary parts of which a definition is composed are simple, they are incapable of definition. For it was stated above (706:C 1700) that the definitive statement joins one part to another, one of which is as form and the other as matter, because genus is derived from matter and difference from form, as was pointed out above (704:C 1696-8). Hence, if the species of things were forms only, as the Platonists held, they would be indefinable.
1722. Further, it is also clear (717).
Having determined what is true of forms in relation to the Ideas introduced by Plato, Aristotle now ‘determines what is true of forms in relation to numbers. For Plato held that numbers are the forms and substances of things by establishing a kind of likeness between forms and numbers. This is divided into four parts inasmuch as there are four ways in which he likens forms to numbers.
First, he says that, if numbers are in any sense the substances or forms of things, it is evident that they are such in this way, as can be understood from the foregoing, but not as numbers of units as the Platonists said. Now a number of units is called a simple and absolute number [i.e., an ab9tract number], but the number applied to things is called a concrete number, as four dogs or four men; and in this way the substances of things, which are Signified by a definition, can be called numbers. For a definition is divisible into two parts, one of which is as form and the other as matter, as was pointed out above (706:C 1700). And it is divisible into indivisible parts; for since definitions cannot proceed to infinity, the division of a definition must terminate in certain indivisible parts. For example, if the definition of man is divided into animal and rational, and the definition of animal into animated and sensible, this will not go on to infinity. For it is impossible to have an infinite regress in material and formal causes, as was shown in Book II (152:C 299). Hence he explains that the division of a definition is not like the division of a continuous quantity, which is divisible to infinity, but is like the division of a number, which is divisible into indivisible parts.
1723. And just as when (718).
He gives the second way in which the substance that the definition signifies is like number. He says that, if anything is added to or subtracted from any number, even if it is a bare minimum, the resulting number will not be specifically the same. For in the case of numbers the minimum is the number one, which, when added to the number three, gives rise to the number four, which is a specifically different number; but if it is subtracted from the same number, the number two remains, which is also a specifically different number. And this is true because the ultimate difference gives to a number its species.
1724. And it is similar in the case of definitions and of the essence, which the definition signifies; because, howsoever small a part has been added or subtracted, there results another definition and another specific nature. For animated sensible substance alone is the definition of animal, but if you also add rational to this, you establish the species man. And in a similar way if you subtract sensible, you establish the species plant, because the ultimate difference also determines the species.
1725. And there must be (719).
He gives the third way in which forms are like numbers. He says that a number is one thing. For a number is an essential unity inasmuch as the ultimate unity gives to a number its species and unity, just as in things composed of matter and form a thing is one and derives its unity and species from its form. And for this reason those who speak about the unity of a number as though a number were not essentially one cannot say what makes it to be one thing, i.e., if it is one. For since a number is composed of many units, either it is not one thing in an absolute sense but its units are joined together in the manner of a heap, which does not constitute a unity in an absolute sense, and therefore not a being in any class of things (and thus number would not be a class of being); or if it is one thing in an absolute sense and a being in itself, it is still necessary to explain what makes it one thing out of a plurality of units. But they are unable to assign a reason for this.
1726. Similarly, a definition is one thing essentially, and thus they do not have to assign anything which makes it one. This is understandable, because the substance which the definition signifies is one thing for the very same reason that a number is, i.e., essentially, because one part of it is related to the other as form [to matter]. And it is one, not as being something indivisible such as a unit and a point, as some men claimed, but because each of them is one form and a kind of nature.
1727. And just as number (720).
He gives the fourth way in which forms are like numbers. He says that just as a number does not admit of (~) more or less, neither does substance in the sense of form, although perhaps substance in the sense of matter does admit of such difference. For just as the concept of number consists in some limit to which neither addition nor subtraction may be made, as has been pointed out (1723), so also does the concept of form.
But things admit of (+) more or less because of the fact that matter participates in a form in a more or less perfect way. Hence too whiteness does not differ in terms of more or less, but a white thing does.
1728. In regard to the generation (721).
He summarizes the points discussed. He says that he has dealt with “the generation and corruption of such substances,” or forms, both as to the way in which this is possible, namely, by reason of something else; and as to the way in which this is impossible, i.e., essentially; and also with the likeness which forms have to numbers, i.e., by reducing them to numbers by way of a likeness.
What We Must Know about Matter. How Matter Is Found in All Things
ARISTOTLE’S TEXT Chapters 4 & 5: 1044a 15-1045a
722. Concerning material substance we must not remain ignorant of the fact that, even though all things come from the same first [principle] or from the same [principles] or first [causes], and even though the same matter is the first principle of things which come to be, still there is some proper matter of each thing; for example, the first matter of phlegm is the sweet or the fat, but of bile the bitter or something else. But perhaps these come from the same matter.
723. Further, there are several matters of the same thing when one comes from another, as phlegm comes from the fat and the sweet, if the fat comes from the sweet. And something comes from bile by dissolving bile into its first matter. For one thing comes from another in two ways: either because it is prior to the other [in the process of development] or because it comes from the dissolving of a thing into its first principle.
724. Now when there is one matter it is possible for different things to come into being by virtue of the cause of motion, as a chest and a bed come from wood. But of certain things the matter is necessarily different when the things are different; e.g., a saw cannot be made from wood, and it is not within the power of the cause of motion to do this; for he is incapable of making a saw from wool or from wood. But if the same thing can be made from different matters, it is clear that the art and the principle which acts as a mover are the same. For if both the matter and the cause of motion are different, so also will be the thing that is made.
725. Hence, when one asks what the cause of anything is, it is necessary to mention all the causes concerned, since causes are spoken of in several senses. For example, What is a man’s material cause? The menstrual fluid. What is his moving cause? The seed. What is his formal cause? His essence. What is his final cause? His end. But perhaps both of these are the same.
726. It is necessary also to give the proximate causes. What is the matter of man? Not earth or fire, but his proper matter.
727. Indeed, concerning natural substances which are generable it is necessary to proceed in this way, if one is to proceed correctly, granted that these are the causes, that they are of this number, and that it is necessary to know the causes.
728. In the case of natural substances which are eternal there is another procedure. Perhaps some of them do not have matter or do not have this kind of matter but only that which is subjected to change of place.
729. Thus all those things which are by nature but are not substances do not have matter, but the underlying subject is their substance. For example, What is the matter of an eclipse? There is none, but it is the moon that is the patient. What is the efficient cause destroying the light? The earth. What is the final cause? Perhaps there is none. What is the formal cause? The definition. But this will not be clear if it does not include the [efficient] cause. For example, What is an eclipse? A privation of light. And if one adds, as a result of the earth intervening, this definition is one which includes the [efficient] cause. However, in the case of sleep it is not clear what the primary subject is, although it is clear that the animal is also a primary subject. But it is such in a qualified sense. And what is the primary subject, the heart or some other part? Then, by what [is this modification produced]? And what is this modification which pertains to that [part] and not to the whole? Is this a special kind of immobility? It is, but it belongs [to the animal] by reason of some primary subject.
730. But since some things are and are not, without generation and corruption, such as points, if they do in fact exist, and in general the forms and specifying principles of things, then all contraries do not come from each other. For whiteness does not come to be but white wood does; and everything which comes to be comes from something and becomes something. And white man comes from black man and white from black in different ways. Nor do all things have matter but only those which may be generated and changed into each other. There is no matter in those things which are and are not without undergoing change.
731. Again, there is the problem how the matter of each thing is related to contraries. For example, if the body is potentially healthy and the opposite of health is disease, is the body potentially both? And is water potentially wine and vinegar? Or is it related to one as matter to its form or actuality, and to the other as the privation and natural corruption [of its form or actuality] ?
732. Now this raises the problem why wine is not the matter of vinegar, even though vinegar comes from it, and why the living is not the potentially dead; or whether this is not the case, but the corruptions of these occur in virtue of something else. As a matter of fact the matter of a living body is by corruption the potency and matter of a dead body, and water is the matter of vinegar; for they come from each other as night comes from day. Hence whatever things are changed into each other in this way must return to their matter. For example, if a living body is to come from a dead one [the latter must return] to its first matter, and then a living body comes into being. And vinegar [must return] to water, and then wine comes into being.
1729. Having treated those points which had to be considered about the formal principle of substance, Aristotle now establishes what is true regarding the material principle. This is divided into three parts. First (7:22:C 1729), he deals with the material principle in relation to the things which come from matter; second (724:C 1733), in relation to the other causes (“Now when there is one matter”); and third (730:C 1746), in relation to the change of generation and corruption, whose subject is matter (“But since some things”).
In regard to the first he does two things. First (722), he shows whether there is one or several kinds of matter that there are several matters of the for all things. And in regard to the material principle he says that one must not remain ignorant of the fact that, even though all things come from the same first material principle, namely, first matter, which has no form of its own, or from the same material principles “or first [causes],” (which is added because of the four elements, the material principles common to all generable and corruptible things), and even though the same matter is “the first principle of things which come to be,” (which he adds because of the fact that matter is not only a principle of being but also of coming-to-be), i.e., even though first matter and the elements are universally related to things composed of the elements, there is still some proper matter of each thing. For example, the proper matter of phlegm (not in an absolute sense but generically) is the fat and the sweet, since these have a certain relationship to phlegm by reason of their moistness. But the first matter of bile is bitter things or certain others of this kind; for in bitter things heat seems to have absolute dominion over moistness even to the extent of destroying it. Thus by reason of dryness and warmth the bitter has a relationship to bile. But perhaps these two matters, namely, the bitter and the sweet, come from some prior material principle. He adds “perhaps” because certain things have different matters, since their matters are not reducible to any prior matter, for example corruptible and incorruptible bodies.
1730. From the things which are said here then it is evident that there is one first matter for all generable and corruptible things, but different proper matters for different things.
1731. Further, there are several matters (723).
Second, he points out how in an opposite sense there are several matters for one and the same thing. He says that there are several matters of the same thing when one of these is the matter of another, as the matter of phlegm is the fat and the sweet, if the fat comes from the sweet. For the savor of fat is reckoned among the intermediate savors, and these are produced from extremes, which are the sweet and the bitter. But the fat is nearest to the sweet. Now in these examples we must bear in mind that he takes as the matter of each thing that from which the thing comes to be, even though it is not permanent but transitory.
1732. Therefore, lest someone should think that a thing is always said to come from a material principle, and not the reverse, he adds that something is also said to come from bile by the dissolution of bile into its first matter, and in reverse order bile is said to come from first matter. For one thing is said to come from another in two ways: either because the thing from which it comes is naturally its starting point in the process of generation (for this kind of thing is a material principle); or because the process of coming-to-be is the dissolving of a thing into its material principle, namely, in the sense that a material principle is said to come from a composite by dissolution. For a mixed body comes from the elements by the process of composition, whereas the elements come from a mixed body by the process of dissolution.
1733. Now when there is one matter (724).
He establishes what is true of matter in relation to the other causes. First, in relation to the agent cause alone, which produces something from matter; and this relationship pertains to matter according as it is a principle of coming-to-be. Second (725:C 1737), in relation to all the causes, according as matter constitutes a principle of knowing (“Hence, when one asks”).
But since he had said above (722:C 1729) that there was one first matter of all things, one can inquire how a diversity of things could come from one common matter. For the ancient Philosophers of nature attributed this to chance when they disregarded the agent cause and claimed that the diversity of things comes from one matter by a process of rarefaction and condensation.
1734. Therefore in rejecting this the Philosopher says, first (724), that when there is one matter it is possible for different things to come into being by reason of the cause of motion, either because there are different causes of motion, or because one and the same cause of motion is disposed in a different way for producing different effects. This is most evident in the case of things made by art. For we see that a chest and a bed are made from wood by one craftsman in virtue of the different art-forms which he himself possesses.
1735. But even though there is a first matter common to all things, nevertheless the proper matters of different things are different. Therefore, lest someone should attribute the diversity of things in their entirety to the cause of motion and in no way to the material principle, he adds that in some of the things that are different the matter is necessarily different, namely, the proper matter. For not anything at all is naturally disposed to come into being from any matter, as a saw does not come from wood. Nor is it within the power of the craftsman to bring this about; for he never assigns one matter to each work, because he is unable to make a saw either from wood or from wool, which, on account of their softness, are not suitable for the work of a saw, which is to cut.
1736. It is evident, then, that the diversity of things is a result of the efficient cause and of matter. Hence, if it is fitting that something specifically the same should be produced from a different matter, as a bowl from gold and from silver, it is obvious that the efficient principle, i.e., the art, must be the same. For if both the matter and the cause of motion were different, the thing produced would have to be different.
1737. Hence, when one asks (725). He deals with matter in relation to the other causes according as matter is a principle of knowing. In regard to this he does two things. First (725), he shows that in the case of generable and corruptible things we must assign matter along with the other causes. Second (728:C 1740), he shows how matter is found in natural substances which are eternal (“In the case of natural substances”). Third (729:C 1743), he explains how matter is ascribed to accidents (“Thus all those things”).
In regard to the first he does three things. For, first (725), since the ancient philosophers of nature assigned only the material cause, he says that when one asks what the cause of anything is, it is necessary to state all the causes “concerned,” i.e., all which contribute to the being of the thing in question, since causes are spoken of in several senses. For not all things have all the causes, although natural beings, and especially generable and corruptible ones, have all the causes. For example, in the generation of man his material cause is the menstrual fluid; his active cause is the seed, in which the active power is contained; his formal cause is his essence, which is signified by the definition; and his final cause is his end [or goal]. But perhaps these two causes, namely, the end and the form, are numerically the same. He says this because in some things they are the same and in some not. For the goal of a man’s generation is his soul, whereas the goal of his operations is happiness.
1738. It is necessary also (726).
Second, he shows that it is not only necessary to assign all the causes but also to state the proximate causes, so that by beginning with the first causes we may reach the proximate ones. For the knowledge had of a thing through first causes is only a general and incomplete knowledge, whereas that had of a thing through proximate causes is a complete knowledge. For example, if one asks about the material cause of man, one should not assign as his cause fire or earth, which are the common matter of all generable and corruptible things, but should state his proper matter, such as flesh and bones and the like.
1739. Indeed, concerning natural substances (727).
Third, he summarizes the foregoing. He says that it is necessary to proceed thus in regard to natural and generable substances if one is to consider the causes correctly, giving all the causes including the proximate ones. This is necessary in view of the fact that the causes are of this number, as has been explained (725:C 1737). And it is necessary to grasp the causes of a thing in order that it may be known scientifically, because science is a knowledge of the cause.
1740. In the case of natural substances (728).
He shows how there is matter in natural substances which are eternal, namely, in the celestial bodies. He says that the matter in natural substances which are eternal, namely, in the celestial bodies, is not the same as that in bodies subject to generation and corruption. For perhaps such substances do not have matter, or if they do have matter, they do not have the sort that generable and corruptible bodies have, but only that which is subjected to local motion.
1741. For, as was said above (725:C 1737), in the case of generable and corruptible things generation and corruption bring us to a knowledge of matter; because in the process of generation and corruption there must be one subject common to both privation and form. Hence, since in a celestial body there is no potentiality for privation of form but only for different places, it does not have a matter which is in potentiality to form and privation but one which is in potentiality to different places.
1742. However, a body is related to place not as matter to form but rather as subject to accident. And although in one respect a subject is related to an accident as matter is to form, still a subject is not to be identified with matter, as is stated below (729:C 1743). Thus a celestial body as such does not have matter in any way, if subject does not imply matter; or it has matter as regards place, if subject implies matter.
1743. Thus all those (729).
He shows how matter is ascribed to accidents. He says that those things which exist by nature yet are not substances but accidents, (~) do not have a matter from which they come to be, but (+) they have a subject, which is the substance. Now a subject bears some likeness to matter inasmuch as it is receptive of an accident. But it differs from matter in this respect, that while matter has actual being only through form, a subject is not constituted in being by an accident.
1744. Therefore, if one asks what is the cause of an eclipse, one cannot give its (~) matter, but the moon is the (+) subject undergoing this modification.
And the efficient cause which extinguishes the light is the earth placed directly between the sun and the moon.
But perhaps it is impossible to give the final cause; for those things which pertain to defect do not exist because of some end but are rather a result of natural necessity or of the necessity of the efficient cause. However, he says “perhaps” because an investigation of the causes of particular events which take place in celestial movements is especially difficult.
And the formal cause of an eclipse is its definition. But this definition is not clear unless the [efficient] cause is given therein. Thus the definition of a lunar eclipse is the privation of light in the moon. But if one adds that this privation is caused by the earth being placed directly between the sun and the moon, this definition will contain the [efficient] cause.
1745. This is evident also in regard to the accident sleep. But in the case of sleep it is not clear what the primary subject is that undergoes this modification, although it is clear that the animal is the subject of sleep. However, it is not clear to what part of the animal sleep primarily belongs-whether to the heart or some other part; for some men hold that the primary organ of sensation is the brain and some the heart. However, sleep is the cessation of sensory operation. Then, having come to an agreement on the subject of sleep, it is necessary to consider from what, as its efficient cause, sleep comes—whether from the evaporation of food or physical labor or something of this kind. Next we must consider what modification sleep is, [defining] its primary subject, which will be some part of the animal and not the whole animal. For sleep is a kind of immobility. But it belongs primarily to an animal by reason of some part which is the subject of such a modification. Now in the definition of sleep we must state this primary subject, just as in the definition of every accident we must state its primary and proper subject. For color is defined by surface but not by body.
1746. But since some things (730).
He deals with matter in relation to the process whereby one thing is changed into something else. Therefore, first (730), he shows how change comes about in different ways in different things. Second (731:C 1748), he proposes certain problems (“Again, there is the problem”).
He says, first (730), that certain things sometimes are and sometimes arc not but “without generation and corruption,” i.e., without being gencrated and corrupted in themselves, for example, points and all specifying principles and forms generally, whether substantial or accidental. For properly speaking, white does not come to be, but white wood does; for everything which comes to be comes “from something,” i.e., from matter, and comes to be that in which the process of coming to be is terminated, which is form. Thus everything which comes to be is composed of matter and form. Hence those things which are forms only cannot come to be in themselves. Therefore, when it is said that contraries come to be from each other, this has one meaning in the case of composite things and another in the case of simple things. For white man comes from black man in a different way than white from black, because white man signifies a composite and can therefore come to be in itself. But white signifies a form only, and therefore it comes to be from black only by reason of something else.
1747. From the above, then, it is clear that matter does not exist in everything but only in those things which are generated or transformed essentially into each other. However, those things which sometimes are and sometimes are not, without being changed essentially, are such that their matter is not that from which they come, but they have as their matter the subject in which they exist.
1748. Again, there is the problem (731).
He raises two questions in regard to the above. The first of these pertains to the way in which matter is related to contraries, namely, whether in all things which seem to have contrariety or opposition matter is in potentiality to each contrary equally and in the same order. For health is a certain equality of humors, whereas disease is their inequality. But both inequality and equality are related to their subject in the same order. Therefore it seems that water, which is the matter of humors, is in potentiality to wine and vinegar as contraries, and is disposed equally to both.
1749. But in solving this problem the Philosopher says that this is not true. For the form of wine is a certain positive state and nature, whereas the form of vinegar is the privation and corruption of wine. Hence matter is disposed first to wine as a positive state and form, but to vinegar as the privation and corruption of wine. And thus it is related to vinegar only through the medium of wine.
1750. Now this raises the problem (732).
He proposes a second problem, which is as follows. That from which a thing comes to be seems to be the matter of that thing; for example, mixed bodies come to be from the elements, which constitute their matter. Therefore, since vinegar comes from wine and a dead body from a living one, the problem arises why wine is not the matter of vinegar and a living body the matter of a dead one, since one is related to the other as potentiality is to actuality.
1751. But the answer to this is that vinegar is the corruption of wine itself, and a dead body the corruption of a living one. Hence vinegar does not come from wine as matter, or a dead body from a living one; but one is said to come from the other in virtue of something else inasmuch as it comes from its matter. Hence the matter of a bowl is not a goblet but silver. Similarly, a living body is not the matter of a dead body, but the elements are.
1752. But because a dead body is said to come from a living one or vinegar from wine, this preposition from will signify order if reference is made to the form itself of wine or living body; for in the same matter after the form of wine there is vinegar, and after the form of a living body there is a dead one. An(] it is in this way that
we say that night comes from day. Therefore, in all things that come from each other in this way, as vinegar from wine and a dead body from a living one, the process of change is reversed only when these things are dissolved into their matter. For example, if a living body must come from a dead one, the latter must first be dissolved into its primary matter inasmuch as a dead body is dissolved into the elements; and from the elements again in due order a living body is constituted. It is the same in regard to vinegar and wine.
1753. The reason for this is that, whenever matter is disposed to different forms in a certain order, it cannot be brought back from a subsequent state to one that is prior in that order. For example, in the generation of an animal, blood comes from food; and the semen and menstrual fluid, from which the animal is generated, come from blood. But this order cannot be reversed so that blood comes from semen and food from blood, unless these are resolved into their first matter; because for each thing there is a definite mode of generation. And it is the same [in the other case], because the matter of wine is related to vinegar only through the medium of wine, namely, inasmuch as it is the corruption of wine. The same is also true of a dead body and a living one, of a blind man and one who has sight, and so on. Therefore from such privations there can be a return to a prior form only when such things are dissolved into first matter.
1754. However, if there is some privation to which matter is immediately disposed, and this signifies nothing else than the non-existence of form in matter which lacks a disposition for form, then the process of reverting from such a privation to a [prior] form, as from darkness to illumination, will be possible because this [i.e., darkness] is nothing else than the absence of light in the transparent medium.
Why Definitions and Matters Are Unities. The Union of Matter and Form
ARISTOTLE’S TEXT Chapter 6: 1045a 7-1045b 23
733. It seems that we must discuss next the problem which was mentioned with regard to definitions and numbers: what it is that causes them to be one. For all things which have several parts, and of which the whole is not a kind of heap but is something over and above the parts, have some cause that makes them one. For in some bodies contact is the cause of their unity, and in others stickiness or some other such quality. But a definition is one intelligible structure not by the connection of its parts, like the Iliad, but by being one thing. What is it, then, that makes man to be one; and why is he one thing and not many, for example, animal and two-footed?
734. And if, in a different way, as some claim, there is an animal-itself and a two-footed-itself, why is man not these two things? And if this were the case, men would not be such by participating in man, i.e., by participating in one thing, but in two, namely, in animal and two-footed. Hence in general man will not be one thing but many, i.e., animal and two-footed.
735. It is evident, then, that those who accept this position and discuss and define things in the way they have been accustomed to do, cannot find an answer or solution to this problem. But if (as we say) one part is as matter and the other as form, or one is in potency and the other in act, the problem with which we are dealing will no longer appear to be a difficulty.
736. For this problem is just the same as we should have if the definition of cloak were round bronze. Now let us suppose that this term is the sign of this definition. Then when one asks what causes round and bronze to be one thing, there will no longer be a problem, because one is as matter and the other as form. What is it, then, apart from the efficient cause, that causes the potential to become actual in the case of things which are generated? For there is no other cause of the potential sphere being an actual sphere; but this was the essence of each.
737. Further, some matter is intelligible and some sensible. And one part of a definition is always as matter and the other as actuality; for example, a circle is a plane figure.
738. But each of those things which do not have matter, either intelligible or sensible, is at once one thing, just as it is a being: a particular thing, a quality, or a quantity; and for this reason neither being nor unity is expressed in their definitions. And their essence is at once one thing just as it is also a being. For this reason there is not some other cause of each of these being one or of being something; for each is at once a being and a unity, not as belonging to the class of being or unity, nor because these distinctions exist separately from singular things.
739. And it is because of this difficulty that some men speak of participation, and raise the question as to what causes participation and what it is to participate. For some speak of the coexistence of the soul, as Lycophron, who says that knowledge is the coexistence of the act of knowing and the soul; and others say that life is the composition or connection of soul with body.
740. The same argument applies in all cases. For being healthy will be either the coexistence or conjunction or composition of soul and health; and being a bronze triangle will be the composition of bronze and triangle; and being white will be the composition of surface and whiteness.
741. Now the reason for this position is that these thinkers are looking for some unifying principle and difference of potentiality and actuality. But, as we have pointed out (736), both the ultimate matter and form are the same, one potentially and the other actually. Hence to ask what the cause of their unity is, is the same as to ask what makes them one; for each particular thing is a unity, and what is potential and what is actual are in a sense one thing. Hence there is no other cause except that which causes motion from potentiality to actuality. And all those things which do not have matter are simply one.
1755. Having dealt with the material and formal principles, Aristotle now intends to settle the question about the way in which they are united to each other; and in regard to this he does three things. First (733:C 1755), he raises the question. Second (735:C 1758), he answers it (“It is evident”). Third (739:C 1765), he rejects the false opinions about this question (“And it is because”).
In regard to the first, he gives two reasons for saying that this question involves a difficulty. He says (733) that, in regard to the question which was touched on above about definitions and numbers as to what makes each of them one, it must be noted that all things which have several parts (and of which the whole is not merely a heap of parts but is something constituted of parts and is over and above the parts themselves) have something that makes them one. For in some bodies which have unity in this way, contact is the cause of their unity, and in others stickiness or something else of this kind.
1756. Now it is evident that, while a defining concept is one thing composed of many parts, it is not one thing merely by the addition of its parts, “like the Iliad,” i.e., the poem written about the history of the Trojans, which is one thing only by way of aggregation. But a definition is one thing in an absolute sense, for it signifies one thing. It is reasonable, then, to ask what makes both the definition of man to be one thing, and man himself, whose intelligible structure is the definition. For since man is animal and two-footed, and these seem to be two things, it is reasonable to ask why man is one thing and not many.
1757. And if, in a different way (734).
Then he gives the reason why this question is a problem. For if what some men claim is true, i.e., if animal itself is a particular thing which exists of itself and is separate, and the same
is true of two-footed, as the Platonists held, then it is reasonable to ask why man is not these two things connected together, so that particular men are such only by participating in man, and not by participating in one thing but in two, animal and two-footed. And according to this man will not be one thing but two, namely, animal and two-footed.
1758. It is evident (735).
He solves the above problem; and in regard to this he does two things. First, he offers an explanation that seems to provide a solution to the problem. He says that, if some men accept the things which have been said about Plato’s position, and change the natures of things in this way because they hold that universals are separate as the Platonists were accustomed to define and speak of them, it will evidently be impossible to give the cause of a man’s unity or solve the foregoing problem. But if, as is stated above (706:C 1700), one holds that in definitions one part is as matter and the other as form, i.e., one as potentiality and the other as actuality, then it will be easy to solve the question, because there does not seem to be a problem.
1759. For this problem (736).
Second, he solves this problem in the aforesaid way. First, he solves it in the case of natural substances which are generated and corrupted. He says that this problem would be the same as if we were to ask why bronze is round. For let us assume that the definition of the term cloak is round bronze, and that this term signifies this definition. Then when one asks why the definition round bronze is one, there does not seem to be any problem, because bronze is as matter and round as form. For there is no other cause of these being one except that which makes what is in potency to become actual. And in everything in which there is generation this is the agent. Hence, since this (what is in potentiality to become actual) is the essence signified by the definition, then in the case of things subject to generation and corruption it is evidently the agent which causes the definition of the essence to be one.
1760. Further, some matter (737).
Then he solves the above problem in regard to the objects of mathematics. He says that matter is of two kinds, sensible and intelligible.
Sensible matter is what pertains to the sensible qualities, hot and cold, rare and dense and the like; and with this matter natural bodies are concreted. Now the objects of mathematics abstract from this kind of matter.
But intelligible matter means what is understood without sensible qualities or differences, for example, what is continuous. And the objects of mathematics do not abstract from this kind of matter.
1761. Hence, whether in the case of sensible things or in that of the objects of mathematics, their definitions must always contain something as matter and something as form; for example, in the definition of a mathematical circle, a circle is a plane figure, plane is as matter and figure as form. For a mathematical definition and a natural definition are each one thing on the same grounds (even though there is no agent in the realm of mathematical entities as there is in the realm of natural entities), because in both cases one part of the definition is as matter and the other as form.
1762. He solves the above problem in regard to the things that are wholly separate from matter. He says that in the case of all those things which do not have intelligible matter, as the objects of mathematics have, or sensible matter, as natural bodies have, that is to say, in the case of the separate substances, each one of these is at once one thing [individuated by form].
For each of those things which have matter is not at once one thing, but they are one because unity comes to their matter. But if there is anything that is only a form, it is at once one thing, because it is impossible to posit in it anything prior in any order whatever that must await unity from a form.
1763. He gives this example: the ten categories do not derive being by adding something to being in the way that species are established by adding differences to genera, but each is itself a being. And since this is true, it is evident that being does not await something to be added to it so that it may become one of these, i.e., either a substance or quantity or quality; but each of these from the very beginning is at once either a substance or quantity or quality.
This is the reason why neither unity nor being is given as a genus in definitions, because unity and being would have to be related as matter to differences, through the addition of which being would become either substance or quality.
1764. Similarly, that which is wholly separate from matter and is its own essence, as was stated above (1708), is at once one thing, just as it is a being; for it contains no matter that awaits a form from which it will derive being and unity. In the case of such things, then, there is no cause that makes them one by means of motion.
However, some of them have a cause which supports their substances without their substances being moved [separate simple substances depend on God for existence], and not as in the case of things subject to generation, which come to be through motion. For each of them is at once a particular being and a one, but not so that being and unity are certain genera or that they exist as individuals apart from singular things, as the Platonists held.
1765. And it is because (739).
Then he rejects the false opinion which some men held about this question; and in regard to this he. does three things.
First, he states their position. He says that it is because of this problem that some, namely, the Platonists, posited participation, by which inferior beings participate in superior ones; for example, this particular man participates in man, and man in animal and two-footed. And they asked what the cause of participation is and what it is to participate, in order that it might become clear to them why this thing which I call two-footed animal is one thing. And others held that the cause of a man’s unity is a certain consubstantiality or coexistence of the soul with the body, as if soul’s being with body were signified in the abstract; as if we were to speak of animation as Lycophron said that knowledge is a mean between the soul and the act of knowing; and others said that life itself is the mean whereby soul is joined to body.
1766. The same argument (740).
He rejects these positions. He says that if the statement made about the soul and the body is correct, i.e., that there is some mean uniting them, the same argument will apply in all things which are related as form and matter. For, according to this, being healthy will be a mean as a kind of consubstantiality or a kind of connection or bond between the soul, by which the animal subsists, and health. And being a triangle will be a mean combining figure and triangle. And being white will be a mean by which whiteness is connected with surface. This is obviously false. Hence it will be false that animation is a mean by which the soul is joined to the body, since animation means merely being ensouled.
1767. Now the reason (740).
He gives the reasons for the error in the above positions. He says that the reason why these thinkers held such views is that they sought for some principle which makes potentiality and actuality one thing, and looked for the differences of these as though it were necessary for them to be brought together by some one mean like things which are actual and diverse. But, as has been stated, both the ultimate matter, which is appropriated to a form, and the form itself are the same; for one of them is as potentiality and the other as actuality. Hence to ask what causes a thing is the same as to ask what causes it to be one, because each thing is one to the extent that it is a being. And potentiality and actuality are also one in a certain respect, for it is the potential that becomes actual; and thus it is not necessary for them to be united by some bond like those things which are completely different. Hence there is no other cause that produces the unity of things which are composed of matter and form except that cause which moves things from potentiality to actuality. But those things which simply do not have matter are some one thing of themselves just as they are something existing. These explanations will suffice for Book VIII.