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3/05/2017 4:48 pm  #1


Do artifacts have substances?

Hi,

In Dr. Feser's article 'From Aristotle to John Searle and Back Again: Formal Causes, Teleology, and Computation in Nature' he says that "Artifacts are the stock examples of objects having only accidental forms", but in his book, Aquinas, taking the example of rubber ball, he seems to suggest that it does have substantial form. For example, talking about the distinction between form and matter, he says "For a ball merely to change its color is for its matter to lose on accidental form and take on another, while retaining the substantial form of a ball and thus remaining the same substance, namely a ball" (page 14) .

Can someone help clarify?

Thanks!

Last edited by quixotic701 (3/05/2017 4:55 pm)

 

3/07/2017 4:20 am  #2


Re: Do artifacts have substances?

I think he's just talking loosely: giving an idea of the relationship between accidental and substantial form by speaking as though a rubber ball is a substance in the proper Aristotelian sense. The rubber ball is perhaps not a great illustration (I don't like his use of it to illustrate final causality, for example, as he then has to go back and explain that actually final causes exist independently of human intentions, etc.) but it's good enough to give a basic idea of what the four causes are.

 

3/07/2017 1:51 pm  #3


Re: Do artifacts have substances?

Yes, I think Alexander's right, and the tendency to introduce the four causes using examples of artifacts can lead to confusion.

Everything has a substantial form, in a sense. But the rubber ball's substantial form is that of rubber; its shape is one of its accidental forms.

 

3/07/2017 4:37 pm  #4


Re: Do artifacts have substances?

A related question (to help me iron out this concept of substantial form), if "ordinary objects of our experience are composites of form and matter", then it's the matter which has substantial form, true?

So a rubber doorstop and rubber ball have the same substantial form, a piece of paper and a wooden chair, have the same substantial form? Which means that the difference in 'being', between a piece of paper and wooden chair (other then the amount of matter involved) corresponds to a difference in accidental form?

Thanks again!

Last edited by quixotic701 (3/07/2017 6:52 pm)

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3/08/2017 1:54 pm  #5


Re: Do artifacts have substances?

"Matter" in Aristotle and Aquinas is a relative term. Humans have proximate matter ("flesh and blood"), but they also have "remote" matter, all the way down to prime matter. Properly speaking, in the case of natural substances, we would say: The substance has the form and the substance has the matter. The substance's matter is not that which has the matter, though one could, I suppose, say that it is informed.

Your questions are about artifacts. What makes a piece of rubber a doorstop rather than a ball is its accidental form. Since this form is playing a role in the specification of artifacts similar to the role of substantial form in the specification of substances, it's natural to look for a corresponding "matter" of the artifacts. And that will be, in each case, some rubber (a substance), which has the substantial form of rubber. But this is, I'd say, an analogous use of "matter".

 

3/08/2017 7:59 pm  #6


Re: Do artifacts have substances?

Thanks for replying!

Greg wrote:

Properly speaking, in the case of natural substances, we would say: The substance has the form and the substance has the matter. The substance's matter is not that which has the matter, though one could, I suppose, say that it is informed.

I'm sorry, I don't understand what this means.

Greg wrote:

What makes a piece of rubber a doorstop rather than a ball is its accidental form.

And the same goes for the paper and wooden chair? They are of the same substance but different accidental forms? Or does a change from wood to paper involve a change in substance?

Last edited by quixotic701 (3/08/2017 8:09 pm)

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3/09/2017 9:15 am  #7


Re: Do artifacts have substances?

quixotic701 wrote:

Greg wrote:

Properly speaking, in the case of natural substances, we would say: The substance has the form and the substance has the matter. The substance's matter is not that which has the matter, though one could, I suppose, say that it is informed.

I'm sorry, I don't understand what this means.

My apologies. I meant to say: The substance's matter is not that which has the form.

Substances are the things which exist fundamentally, which subsist. Accidents exist in or inhere in them. Matter and form are neither substances nor accidents. We can refer to them, but they don't exist fundamentally; they are rather posited, respectively, as the principle of potentiality and as the principle of actuality in substances. 

My point is just that it is therefore the substance's matter and the substance's form to which we refer. In general, then, when we are discussing a natural substance, we would not say that "it's the matter which has substantial form."

We might say that, though, when we speak about artifacts. But that is because the "[proximate] matter" of an artifact is the natural substance which underlies it and which, through an accidental form, becomes the artifact.

quixotic701 wrote:

Greg wrote:

What makes a piece of rubber a doorstop rather than a ball is its accidental form.

And the same goes for the paper and wooden chair? They are of the same substance but different accidental forms? Or does a change from wood to paper involve a change in substance?

I'm not sure whether they are the same substance, since I don't know enough about what goes into making paper.

 

5/11/2017 12:38 am  #8


Re: Do artifacts have substances?

I have no idea of it.

 

5/28/2017 3:38 pm  #9


Re: Do artifacts have substances?

Greg wrote:

Yes, I think Alexander's right, and the tendency to introduce the four causes using examples of artifacts can lead to confusion.

Everything has a substantial form, in a sense. But the rubber ball's substantial form is that of rubber; its shape is one of its accidental forms.

This. The matter is actually rubber but the matter could be otherwise or take on another substantial form. Matter itself has no necessity of being except in consideration of the actuality of a material form. For example: If rubber exists, then necessarily matter exists/is. Substantial form is primary because actuality is primary (from nothing comes nothing).

Quarks and electrons are substantial, elemental forms, for instance. Their differences make dynamism in the material world possible (e.g. attraction and repulsion; density and rarity; hot and cold). But their existence is not necessary because they are material.

Last edited by Timocrates (5/28/2017 3:38 pm)


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