Substance, Independence and Unity
Koslicki (Kathrin)
Source: Aristotle on Method and Metaphysics, edited by Edward Feser, Palgrave/Macmillan, Basingstoke, UK, pp. 169-195
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction

  1. Hylomorphism is the position popular among neo-Aristotelian metaphysicians according to which unified wholes (such as presumably organisms) are in some sense compounds of matter (hyle) and form (morphe). Neo-Aristotelians also often find themselves drawn to an account of substancehood which centers on the idea that the substances are just those entities which are ontologically independent, according to some preferred notion of ontological independence. But what this preferred notion of ontological independence is in terms of which a successful criterion of substancehood can be formulated has been a difficult and controversial question.
  2. Aristotle, in the Categories, seems to have been the first to propose explicitly an independence criterion for substances. Those entities which are classified as primary substances in the Categories (e.g., individual organisms and artifacts) are, in Aristotle's view, ontologically independent, since they are neither "said of" nor "in" anything else as a subject. Entities belonging to other categories, on the other hand, are ontologically dependent on the primary substances, since in his view they are either "said of" the primary substances as subjects or are "in" them as subjects. The first class of entities, those dependent on the primary substances by being said of them, comprises the so-called secondary substances, i.e., universals in the category of substance (e.g., the species, human being, and the genus, animal); these entities correspond to classifications of the primary substances into more general taxonomic categories. The second class of entities, which are dependent on the primary substances by being in them, comprises individuals and universals in categories other than substance (e.g., quantities, qualities, relations, times, places, actions, passions); these entities correspond either to Individual accidental features (e.g., a particular instance of red), which directly inhere in primary substances, or to more general taxonomic categories into which these individual accidental features fall (e.g., color, quality).
  3. When we attempt to combine hylomorphism with an independence criterion of substancehood, an apparent conflict emerges. Consider, for example, organisms, which are widely regarded by neo-Aristotelians as paradigmatic examples of substances. If these alleged substance candidates are also to be construed along hylomorphic lines as compounds of matter and form, one wonders whether they will not then turn out to be ontologically dependent on entities numerically distinct from themselves (viz., their form and possibly their matter as well) and thereby jeopardize their status as substances. My main focus in this chapter will be to examine the apparent tension between these two prominent strands within neo-Aristotelian metaphysics, hylomorphism and independence criteria of substancehood, and explore some possible resolutions to this apparent conflict.


See Koslicki - Substance, Independence and Unity.

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