2.16.2012

Parts and Wholes

We must remember that a natural compound is the unity of its matter and form. Inasmuch as prime matter and substantial form are united, they exist as one thing, meaning that they constitute no reality that is separate and apart. We can construct an argument for such a thesis:

1.If natural things were not essentially the unification of prime matter and substantial form, then the natural thing would itself some third thing.

2.This third thing, as an actuality, would be the act of the unity of matter and form.

3.Substantial form, though, is the first act by which prime matter is rendered actual.

4.Therefore, this third act, supposedly constituting the unity of matter and form as an actual natural compound, would be an act apart from the substantial form.

5.It must be, therefore, an accidental form.

6.An accidental form, then, would constitute a natural thing in existence, which cannot be, since substantial form is prior to accidental form.

7.Therefore, the natural thing just is the unity of prime matter and substantial form.

3 comments:

  1. I really really want to make sense of this because it seems like a typical formal logic exersise that mystifies me.

    Can I quote it on my blog? Can you explain what a layman would think this means? Or what a philosopher would think it means? I'm not criticising it - I really want to learn to play the game and to understand it (without taking any philosophy courses).

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  2. Well, I would begin by noting that this is not formal logic but philosophy of nature.

    The post is meant to dispel possible misconceptions about what we mean when we call form and matter parts of substances. Perhaps your trouble is that you do not understand these more fundamental terms.

    And finally, I do not understand what you mean in calling this a "game." This is a discipline that takes for its subject the same material realities studied by physics, chemistry, and biology, although it considers them in a different light.

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  3. Thanks, that gave me enough background to bug Wikipedia for the rest. It is a poem.

    We must remember that a natural compound is the unity of its matter and form. Inasmuch as prime matter and substantial form are united, they exist as one thing, meaning that they constitute no reality that is separate and apart. We can construct an argument for such a thesis:

    Unity is prime over just plain prime matter or real form when it comes to seeing something as a thing-that-we-can-notice. Unity is more important than we would at first think.

    1.If natural things were not essentially the unification of prime matter and substantial form, then the natural thing would itself some third thing.

    If the unity was not the most important thing we noticed about 'them', then we might think of them together as a third thing apart from each of them.

    2.This third thing, as an actuality, would be the act of the unity of matter and form.

    When this third thing became real, it would be the unified thing anyway.

    3.Substantial form, though, is the first act by which prime matter is rendered actual.

    Prime matter becomes something real when it is formed by its substance.

    4.Therefore, this third act, supposedly constituting the unity of matter and form as an actual natural compound, would be an act apart from the substantial form.

    Therefore, there isn't really a third thing, because it would be the same thing as the form was. Only it would be an action that was thought to be something other than the form (but really it is the form).

    5.It must be, therefore, an accidental form.

    The third thing is a third wheel, not needed, an accident of nature. Unnecessary.

    6.An accidental form, then, would constitute a natural thing in existence, which cannot be, since substantial form is prior to accidental form.

    The real form comes before the unnecessary form. The real form and the prime matter are already together before the accidental form gets there. Too late, accidental form, three is a crowd.

    7.Therefore, the natural thing just is the unity of prime matter and substantial form.

    So, the unnecessary form is unnecessary.

    It is titled: The Devoted Marriage

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