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Thursday, April 21, 2016

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Your subtle and sure logical investigation provoked a mighty explosion. The reader must shore assorted fragments against the ruins (of a venerable and highly controversial ontological concept). I shall try to salvage a few scraps in a later post. Meanwhile, I am cognitively concussed, yet nevertheless scrambling for cover.

Eric,

I am curious as to all the books you quote from -- do they reside in your own personal library?

Your extremely acute logical arguments exhilarate this reader. Yet in my respectful – and highly fallible opinion, but hopefully not too annoying – opinion, some of their premises are erroneous.

Note: Just as I was about to post this, I noted that you have just posted a piece entitled “Bare Particulars and Prime Matter: Similarities and Differences.” I have not yet had time to read your new post, but point #4 in my present post might seem otiose and unwarranted – yet, I trust, not aggravating – as it deals briefly with this very distinction.

(1) Bill: There is no change without a substrate of change which, in respect of its existence and identity, does not change during the interval of the change. In a slogan: no change without unchange. No becoming other (alter-ation, Ver-aenderung) without something remaining the same.

Eric: This seems incorrect or, at least, misleading. On the one hand, the substrate “does not change,” if by “does not change” you mean that the same “parcel “of matter compounded with the individual form is involved. That is, the substrate does not change quantitatively. But on the other hand, the substrate, construed as prime matter, does indeed change, because, as Owens indicates, “Anything that is sensible matter is changeable” (1963, 342). That is, the substrate changes qualitatively. Owens elaborates (in a different text): “‘Matter’” in its chief or primary sense, however, meant for Aristotle the substrate of generation and corruption (GC I 4, 320a2-5), even though the designation ‘primary matter’ never seems to have been limited by him in that sense” (1967, 198, n.6). I shall return to the relation between (a) matter and change and (b) matter and sameness later, in point #4. Please bear with me.

(2) Bill: The proximate matter of a chair consists of its legs, seat, back.

Eric: This seems misleading, perhaps because I don’t know what you mean by “proximate matter.” A substance is perhaps composed of parts, but its matter (whether materia prima or materia signata) is not composed of parts. Instead, matter constitutes the whole thing to which it pertains. Owens confirms: “The matter has to be conceived as being the whole composite – potentially” (1963, 341. He elaborates: “The matter, then, is the thing itself. It and the form are one and the same thing. The matter is the thing as potency. In saying that a statue is bronze, you are expressing the Being of the statue. You are saying what it is. Everything in the statue is in some way bronze. But you are expressing the Being of the statue only as potency. If you say, ‘It is a figure of Hercules,’ you are expressing the very same Being, but you are expressing it as act (1963, 341). He adds: “When he [Aristotle] speaks of the matter as a ‘part’ of the thing, he must be understood in a sense that does not exclude the matter from being the whole thing – potentially. The bronze is the whole statue, expressed as potency. There is nothing in the statue, considered from a material viewpoint, that is not bronze. The bronze expresses everything in the statue, but only as its matter” (1963, 341). I shall return to the notion of matter as potency in points #4 and 5.

(3) Bill: Question: if prime matter is wholly indeterminate, is it also indeterminate with respect to being either determinate or indeterminate? Presumably not. Is there a problem lurking here?

Eric: No, in my opinion, there is no problem. According to Owens, matter is “absolutely undetermined” (1963, 332; 1967, 198, n. 6). He elaborates: “It is the concept of a principle wholly undetermined, yet necessarily posited in reality by any form that is extended, multiplied in singulars, or terminating substantial change” (1967, 211). There is nothing indeterminate about the indeterminateness of matter.

(4) Bill: All change is reduction of potency to act, and all change requires an underlying substrate of change that remains self-same and secures the diachronic identity of that which changes. The substrate of a change is the matter of the change. What changes in a change are forms, whether accidental or substantial. Without the potency-act and matter-form distinctions we cannot accommodate the fact of change and avoid both the Heraclitean doctrine of radical flux and the Eleatic denial of change.

Eric: There seems to be a misconstruction here. To begin with, since matter considered on its own has no individuality, it cannot be “self-same, as “self-same” presupposes identity. Owens confirms that prime matter “is not individual, like any of the materials of which a house is composed” (1967, 198, n. 6). He continues: “Rather it is below the level at which individuality and universality appear. Considered just in itself, it has nothing to distinguish it as found in one thing from itself as found in another” (1967, 198, n. 6). Nor can matter be “self-same” with respect to the change in it imposed by predication of the form. Unlike the form predicated of it, matter is not construed in terms of self-sameness. On the contrary, matter is potency to change. Moreover, the change proper to matter occurs in the matter. Matter can change with the same form (as when an accord develops into an oak tree) or with a change of forms. Owens elaborates: “As the substrate of substantial change, it may be said – with the appropriate therapy – to change from the one form to another. So doing, it shows itself to be really distinct from its forms, since it really persists while the forms really replace each other. But it is not therefore a really distinct being from the form” (1967, 199, n. 6).

When you apply the term, “self-same” to matter in this way, I get the impression that you are somehow fusing prime matter with the notion of the “bare particular,” reprehended by trope theorists. In that context, the bare particular is construed as an inert, bland substrate, a static, unpropertied holder of properties – what Garcia terms “the non-property haver of properties, which has properties in the sense of being characterized by them” (2015, 148). Maurin treats the substrate similarly: “Properties may change, that is, but as long as the underlying substrate persists the thing will persist as well” (2003, 126). But this kind of substrate is not Aristotelian prime matter, which is what we might call malleable, remembering that the hammer in this case is entitative determination – that is, predication of the form. In the following passage, Denkel distinguishes between matter and bare particular, but without indicating the principle of potency crucial to the former: “A parcel of matter constitutes an object without being itself a bare particular that holds the qualities of the object together” (1996, 35).

(5) Bill: Prime matter is pure potency. It has to be, given the exigencies of accounting for substantial as opposed to accidental change. As pure potency, prime matter is wholly indeterminate and wholly formless. In itself, then, prime matter does not exist. It does not exist actually, as is obvious. But it also does not exist potentially: prime matter does not have potential Being.

Eric: There seems to be a misconstruction here. Matter is not pure potency as such. It is potency only with respect to the form – only, with respect, that is, to the potential to be determined by the form. Owens confirms: “The matter of a thing, therefore is the capacity or potency to become something else. For the matter is a permanent principle, that can be either according to a form or according to the privation of the form. A piece of bronze, not yet a statue, is able to become a statue. Wood is similarly able to become a bed. The bronze is the matter for the statue, the wood for the bed” (1963, 339).

(6) Bill: The either there is no prime matter, the very concept thereof being self-contradictory, or there is prime matter but it is unintelligible to us.

Eric : Unintelligible? Owens disagrees: “[Matter is] a positive, though entirely non-actual subject of predication. Because the potential is positive without being determinate, this concept of matter is possible to the human mind. Its referent is any sensible thing considered potentially as substance. It is the concept of a principle wholly undetermined, yet necessarily posited in reality by any form that is extended, multiplied in singulars, or terminating substantial change” (1967, 210-211).

(7) Bill: But designated matter cannot be that which individuates/differentiates them since it presupposes for its individuation and differentiation the logically (not temporally) antecedent existence of individual material substances. Why are Socrates and Plato different? Because their designated matters are different. Why are their designated matters different? Because they are the matters of different substances. The explanation moves in a circle of rather short diameter.

Eric: There seems to be a misconstruction here. Far from presupposing “the logically antecedent existence of individual material substances,” matter IS the material substance, but that substance considered potentially. I requote an item involving Owens in point #2 above: “The matter, then, is the thing itself. It and the form are one and the same thing. The matter is the thing as potency” (1963, 341). For more on matter and differentiation, please see the next point.
(8) Bill: Prime matter in itself is undifferentiated. It is differentiated and dimensive only in combination with substantial forms. But this is equivalent to saying that prime matter is differentiated and dimensive only as the designated matter of particular individual substances. But then designated matter cannot non-circularly explain why numerically different substances are numerically different. For the numerical difference of these matters presupposes the numerical difference of the substances.

Eric: You appear to be putting the cart before the horse here. Might I approach the issue in stages? To begin with, there is no “particular individual substance” – the composite of matter and form – without matter. How therefore can matter presuppose substance? Owens clarifies: “The concept will have to be that of a positive subject, able to receive predication” (1967, 203). Moreover, Owens would, I think, turn your statement around. Rather than saying that matter is “dimensive only in combination with substantial forms,” he states that the object cannot be dimensive without matter: “It [matter] is the concept of a principle wholly undetermined, yet necessarily posited in reality by any form that is extended, multiplied in singulars, or terminating substantial change” (210-211). He adds: “In any case, its presence is absolutely required to account for the extension of a formally identical characteristic in parts outside parts, and for the multiplication of the characteristic in a plurality of individuals, without any formal addition whatsoever” (1967, 211).
Futhermore, the question of differentiation through matter entrains the principle of entelechy or self-realization of the form. To say that matter is the principle of individuation, though not itself an individual, is to say that differential realization of the same form in material substances denominated by that form renders those substances numerically distinct. The form is not actualized identically or uniformly in each substance. As Owens indicates, form is ““the determining force of a whole” (1963, 387). But the determining force of form is not uniformly manifested in different individuals of the same kind. That is, it does not entail uniform determination of the matter in each individual constituted by the union of (that) form and matter.

Might we investigate the Aristotelian notion of entelechy at some point? In rejecting matter, bundle theory rejects entelechy, depriving the concrete particular of the potential for self-realization. Change in the concrete particular is reduced to the notion of alteration of the constituents of the trope or property bundle. There is no intrinsic force or energy of self-actualization – and hence no possibility of responsibility (in rational beings) to optimize it. In my opinion, trope theory is the metaphysical counterpart to the post-structuralist privileging of discourse, which, according to Foucault, “have decentered the subject in relation to the” network of discourses by which man seeks to give his existence meaning (1972, 13). In Jonathan Culler’s formula, “the self can no longer be identified with consciousness. It is dissolved as its functions are taken up by a variety of interpersonal systems that operate thorough it” (Culler 1975, 28). In this schema, according to Suzanne Gearhart, “our subjectivity is a product of the particular cultural power that in reality fashions each of us” (Gearhart 1997, 459). In this dispensation, the individual rational substance is demoted to the status of a bundle of discourses.

Bill, I often find these metaphysical arguments very difficult to follow. You say, for example, that the following statements issue in contradiction.

1. Prime matter is the substrate of substantial change.
2. Prime matter does not exist in reality except as divided among individual material substances.
3. The substratum of a substantial change cannot be identified with any of the substances involved in the change, or with any other substance, or with any accident of any substance.
4. There is substantial change and it requires a really existent substrate.
I don't understand how you get this result. Let's think of 'prime matter' and 'substance' as undefined terms and (1)--(4) as axioms. If there is a contradiction hidden here then it should be impossible to find a model for these sentences. But if we say 'prime matter' means water and that 'substance' means (water) droplet we get something like the following,
1. Water is the substrate of droplet change.
2. Water does not exist in reality except as divided among individual droplets.
3. The substratum of a droplet change cannot be identified with any of the droplets involved in the change, or with any other droplet, or with any accident of any droplet.
4. There is droplet change and it requires a really existent substrate.
This seems perfectly consistent. A world of eternal fission and fusion of water droplets obtained by abstracting away all other compounds and the other phases of water.

Eric,

I have time to respond only to your first comment. The point I am making is very simple. I'll illustrate it with an example, change of position. At t1 I am seated. At later time t2 I am standing. That is an example of change from one state to a different one. So there is a difference of states (in this case postures). But that does not suffice for a change. There must also be something that remains the same throughout the change, in this case me. Now re-read my opening sentences and they should make sense to you.

And consider this. Suppose a being seated is followed by a standing. Does that constitute a change? No. For if my being seated is followed by your standing, there is no change in any primary substance.

David,

I don't grant that your foursome models mine. Your (3) is false. Consider a case of fission. Droplet D1 splits into D2 and D3. The substratum of this change is D1, a droplet.

Besides, water is not prime matter.

I’m sorry, Bill. I do not see the connection between (a) your example and (b) prime matter as the substrate of change. Doesn’t your example shift us to a different ontological context – from (a) the composition of substance through the compounding of form and matter to (b) consideration of substance as an agent able to reduce itself from potency to act?

Your example concerns a rational substance changing its location through locomotion. That substance is already constituted as substance. Does not your example, therefore, move us from consideration of (a) potency to be acted upon (as with respect to the potency of prime matter to be determined by the form) to (b) potency to act upon something else (as when a rational substance gets up from a seated position)?

I am plunged into confusion.

Might I add something to my preceding comment? Doesn’t your example concern the action of an agent, not the potency of prime matter to change? As Ross indicates, in a comment on Metaphysics θ. 6, 1048b24, “If there is something that is not ‘of’ anything else, it is prime matter, not being a ‘this.’ Subjects or substrata differ by being or not being ‘thises’” (1924). You in the act of changing your position are definitely a “this.” Prime matter is not a “this.”

Bill,

(1) I think the point David was making is simply that your tetrad is not aporetic. It doesn't look aporetic to me either. I can affirm all of those statements without saying that prime matter does not exist, so a contradiction does not result.

(2) One analogy that may help for understanding prime matter as pure potency would be some sort of active potency (i.e. power). Take the seeing potency of the eye: whether it sees red, blue, or nothing (for reasons other than blindness), this power/potency exists. This power seems analogous to the substrate of substantial change, as the seeing power is to colors, so is the ultimate substrate to substantial forms. In both cases, the potency exists in a mode distinct from its actuality (prime matter, is neither substantial form nor substance; the seeing power is neither color nor actually seeing).

For all the similarities, there are also many differences. I just thought it would be helpful to reflect on what it means to be a potential being. A further question: Does analytics philosophy shrink from potency? When you posited the first aporetic dyad, my first (scholastic) thought was "Yes, both of those statements are true, or perhaps both false. For potency stands between being and non-being." Having a sense for scholastic sensibilities, you amended the two propositions, but still did not introduce the word potency. Is there a reason for this?

(3) Your final consideration on the principle of individuation touches on a very difficult question: how it is that quantity (which seems to follow substance) can be a principle by which substances are individual. I once listened to lecture on the topic (an attempted, and apparently successful, resolution), but was not at that time capable of appreciating the problem, and therefore did not throw myself into the challenging thinking involved in the solution. If you are interested I can look around again for that lecture.

Max

(One last note: I can't ever quite figure out anything that Eric is saying. He seems to quote many texts and express wonder at your points, but I never quite know where he is going. Nonetheless, I am thankful that it has prompted your own considerations.)

Faculties are potencies in some respect. Animals have the faculty of movement. You are a rational animal with the faculty of movement. When you move from a seated to a standing position, you are actualizing your potential to move (or to achieve movement). As Ross indicates, “Potentiality indeed everywhere presupposes and is rooted in actuality” (1949, 177). Faculties are potencies and, as Ross further notes, “actuality is the end to which potentiality points, and not vice versa. Animals do not see in order that they may have the faculty of sight, but have this in order that they may see” (1949, 177).

But I do not see where prime matter enters into this. We are talking about the agent of movement, and that agent is a primary (rational) substance.

Morning Bill,
It seems quite natural to say that D1 changes into D2 and D3, in which case we can hardly assign the role of the unchanging substratum of this instance of change to D1. It seems equally natural, to me at least, to assign this role to the water, or perhaps more specifically, to the water of D1.

Max asks:

>> A further question: Does analytics philosophy shrink from potency? When you posited the first aporetic dyad, my first (scholastic) thought was "Yes, both of those statements are true, or perhaps both false. For potency stands between being and non-being." Having a sense for scholastic sensibilities, you amended the two propositions, but still did not introduce the word potency. Is there a reason for this?<<

No, analytic philosophy does not shrink from potency. There is plenty of analytic work on powers and dispositions and the like. My dyad was this:

1. Prime matter exists.
2. Prime matter does not exist.

A contradiction, obviously. Not a contradiction:

1* Prime matter potentially exists.
2* Prime matter does not actually exist.

Apparently, you want to say that prime matter exists potentially. But I explicitly argued against that idea in "argument for limb (2)." I have the power to see even when I am not seeing anything. But that power is grounded in something actual, my visual apparatus (eyes, optic nerve, visual cortex). Prime matter is a pure potency not grounded in anything actual -- and therefore something impossible.

Good morning David.

Your claim is that my tetrad is not inconsistent. I haven't properly responded to you yet, but hope to do so later in the day.

On Bill’s comment: “Prime matter is a pure potency not grounded in anything actual -- and therefore something impossible.” But, in my opinion, this is incorrect. Let us take a step backward first in order to move the explanation forward, hoping thereby not to provoke Max to further insult. In Aristotelian ontology, as Owens indicates, “Potency can therefore be known and defined only in terms of its corresponding act” (1963, 407). Prime matter never exists alone or in isolation. It can be a component of material substance only in relation to the corresponding Form. Thus, prime matter is indeed “grounded” in something actual – namely, the Form or Act of the compound substance. If substance comprised just one component, Form, it would be a Parmenidean being, not an Aristotelian one. That is, it would be unchanging and eternal, without the potency to become or to change. One function of prime matter is to account for and enable the becoming of being – the process of generation and corruption that sublunary being undergoes. It is a profound notion – one that can be extended, of course, to personal development, with respect to the exercise of faculties (which are potentialities that can be reduced to act). Consider, for example, the mind. It has the faculty of thought. That faculty entails the potential not merely to think, but to think more openly and deeply: to think in such a way that thought moves beyond its prior limitations, such as prejudice or and the tendency to construe dismissively – and even pejoratively – whatever it fails to understand.

David,

Here again is my tetrad:

1. Prime matter is the substrate of substantial change.
2. Prime matter does not exist in reality except as divided among individual material substances.
3. The substratum of a substantial change cannot be identified with any of the substances involved in the change, or with any other substance, or with any accident of any substance.
4. There is substantial change and it requires a really existent substrate.

The question is whether or not the tetrad is inconsistent. You claim that it is not. I claim that it is. But I merely asserted this claim. Can I demonstrate that the tetrad is inconsistent?

a. All change requires a substrate.
b. There are substantial (as opposed to accidental) changes, e.g., Socrates' coming into existence. Something comes to acquire the substantial form *being human.* (An example of an accidental change is an avocado's going from unripe on Monday to ripe on Friday.)
Therefore
c. Substantial change requires a substrate. a, b.
d. The substrate of substantial change is prime matter. Prime matter is what remains the same across the substantial change.
Therefore
e. Prime matter, as the substrate of substantial change, exists. From b, c, d.
f. Prime matter in itself is wholly indeterminate, i.e., without substantial or accidental form.
g. What is wholly indeterminate cannot actually exist.
h. What is wholly indeterminate cannot potentially exist.
i. Prime matter, as the substrate of substantial change, is not the designated matter of the primary substance coming into existence.
j. Prime matter, as the substrate of substantial change, is not the designated matter of the substance or substances from which the primary substance (Socrates e.g.) comes into existence. Why not? Because designated matter is already informed by substantial form.
Therefore
k. Prime matter, as the substrate of substantial change, must be prime matter in itself, i.e., unformed or wholly indeterminate prime matter. i, j.
l. Prime matter in itself does not exist. f, g, h
m. (l) and (e) are contradictories.

So what do you say, David? I have derived a contradiction from the doctrine of prime matter. This is the contradiction which can be teased out of my tetrad.

Might I further play advocate for prime matter? Prime matter must be construed as counterpart to the Form, “able to receive predication” of that Form (Owens 1967, 203) Whereas Bill says that “prime matter is a pure potency not grounded in anything actual,” Owens would, I think, say that prime matter is that which grounds the corresponding Form, enabling that Form to exercise its formative influence, “as it fulfills its function as the determining force of a whole” (1963, 387).

We can make a similar observation by considering the other aspect of prime matter: indeterminacy. Kosman provides a convenient starting point: “Matter is a principle of indeterminacy relative to some being” (2013, 24). Again, the concept of prime matter requires the concept of Form (in this case, as the principle of determination). In this context, prime matter is that which grounds the corresponding Form, enabling that Form to exercise its determinative function.

Might I add something? We note that various substances in a given species actualize the species-form variously. With respect to the species-form, man, for example, we are apt to say that some men more admirably realize their constituent Form than others. In praising his father, Hamlet references this point: “He was a man, take him for all in all: / I shall not look upon his like again” (1.2.187-88). This view is perhaps due to the Platonic inheritance. The transcendent Platonic Form has become the immanent Aristotelian Form. But despite that transformation, the notion of differential participation in Form by individual substances (concrete particulars) remains.

Prime matter is not pure potency. That is, it is not potency as such. Instead, it is potency to determination through receiving predication. Its ontological function is to enable generation, development, and corruption of a given substance. Without prime matter, construed in this way, concrete particulars could be, but they could not become in the sense of progressively realizing their innate potential to fulfill their own intrinsic form.

But I realize that here I am a voice crying in the wilderness.

Incidentally, I discovered yesterday that Politis (Routledge, 2004) is not alone in claiming that Aristotelian substance is not a compound or union of form and matter. The argument occurs more recently in Kosman (Harvard UP, 2013): “Substance not a combination of matter and form” (26).

Hello Bill, Could the defender of prime matter say something like this? That prime matter is indeterminate with respect to form but determinate with respect to quantity and number and that form is determinate with respect to, well, form, and indeterminate with respect to quantity and number. There is a pleasing symmetry here. Their combination is fully determinate substance. Quantification in (g) is over substances not principles.

Bill, I also have an objection to your Argument for limb (2). You declare right at the outset that prime matter is pure potency. I'm afraid I can't make sense of this. My understanding is that matter--form and potency--actuality are distinct axes onto which we can decompose substance. Seeking to decompose matter into potency--actuality has the feel of a category error. It's a little like agreeing that a piece of music can be understood in terms of melody, harmony, and rhythm, say, and then asking how much melody is in the rhythm. I'm not surprised a contradiction can be teased out of this.

David,

Read this: http://www.iep.utm.edu/aq-meta/#H5

Prime matter is the lower limit of hylomorphic analysis. As such, it is matter devoid of any and all forms. As devoid of forms, it is devoid of actuality. So it is pure potency.

Bill,

>> As devoid of forms, it is devoid of actuality. So it is pure potency.

But potency is grounded in actuality. Contradiction in one step. Agreed. But only if the matter--form principle is subject to and subordinated to the potency--actuality principle. There are good reasons for not doing this, not the least of which are the contradictions you derive. So why does Thomism insist on it?

Hey Eric, your posts are extremely informative. I caught you referencing Owens and Kosman a few times if I am not mistaken. Owens is fantastic and I just finished reading "The Doctrine of Being" interestingly enough. His explanation of Ontos and Ousia is probably the finest available in Aristotelian scholarship. I also noticed that you mentioned Entelechy a few times. Since Kosman and Joe Sachs are prominent defenders of a different interpretation of motion that is often connected with Aristotle, what is your personal opinion of how Entelechy was used throughout history? Do you agree with the claim that Averroes, Maimonides and Aquinas' conceptions of Entelechy distort, and ultimately limit the effect of motion when construed in a scholastic manner? Because based on the modern scholarship of Aristotle, your comments regarding Prime Matter are actually quite powerful and cogent when getting into the nitty gritty of it.

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