E of a plant or an animal at the end of z17 aristotle

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Unformatted text preview: t a structure considered by itself, as an element, is not the structure of the syllable. The syllable BA consists of two elements structured in a certain way; it isn’t an unstructured collection of three things, one of which is a thing called a structure. So substance is the structure or form of a compound of matter and form (i.e., of a plant or an animal). At the end of Z.17, Aristotle describes substance, in this sense, in three ways: 1. Primary cause of being. 2. The nature (of a plant or animal). 3. Not an element, but a principle. The resulting view is not Platonism The form that Aristotle says is primary substance is not, like Plato’s, separable from all matter (except, perhaps, in thought). And it cannot exist if it is not the form of something. (E.g., the species-form does not exist if there are no specimens of that species.) But it is still separable, in Aristotle’s sense, since it is non-parasitic: it does not depend for its existence on the particular batch of matter it’s in, nor on the accidental characteristics of the compound it’s the form of. The form is not a “thing” in the manner of a Platonic form. It’s the way something is, the way the matter composing an individual compound is organized into a functioning whole. Nor is it materialism Why doesn’t this view collapse into materialism? That is, why isn’t the form that can only exist in matter just a mode or modification of the matter that it informs? Why isn’t matter more basic than form in the way that the primary substances of the Categories are more basic than their accidents? Copyright © 2004, S. Marc Cohen 7 Last modified 12/4/2004 10:49 PM The substantial form (i.e., what makes Socrates human, or, for the proponent of individual forms, what makes Socrates Socrates) is really the basic entity that persists through change. This may seem wrong, since when Socrates dies, his matter persists, although he no longer exists. But when we are tracing the history of Socrates through time, we do not follow the course of the matter that happens to compose his body at any given moment, but that of the form that the matter has. (Animals and plants metabolize; the matter that they are composed of differs from time to time.) So what makes Socrates the kind of thing he is, and what makes him remain, over time, the same thing of that kind, is the form that he continues to have. For Aristotle, the form of a compound substance is essential to it; its matter is accidental. (Socrates could have been composed of different matter from that of which he is actually composed.) Form may be accidental to the matter that it informs, but it is essential to the compound substance that it is the form of. Form is what makes the individual plants and animals what they are. Therefore, it is the substance of those individuals. Copyright © 2004, S. Marc Cohen 8 Last modified 12/4/2004 10:49 PM...
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