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Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Substance

Discussing substantiality in several groups. Aristotle, in book Z of the Metaphysics, takes substance to mean essence, or universal, or genre, or substratum (hypokeimenon). Antirealism about substantiality, I take, is a roughly nominalistically inspired position that could reject substance in these four meanings. I think it amounts basically and more typically to the denial either of ousia in the sense of what persists with the change of qualities within time (what travels in time, say, to the next moment in the future) or hypokeimenon in the sense of what persists with the change of qualities within possible worlds (what travels to other possible worlds). In the first sense, we have, for instance, actual entities, as in Whitehead, entities devoid of substantiality that, therefore, become something else at each moment while nothing perseveres. The second case, we have, for instance, counterparts, as in David Lewis, where whatever exists persists only within a world (much as in Leibniz' substances without substrata). Substantiality seems to point at some capacity to travel - at some capacity to resist change. To exist, substantially, is to resist. An exorcism of substance could therefore recoil, as Latour does in Irréductions, to the connection between existence and resistence. This amounts, as in Latour, to rethinking actuality - actuality can be thought in terms of the different processes that intertwine (maybe along the lines what is the contemporary in Whitehead). There are lines of resistance that constitute actants and bind networks - but there is no fixed (substantial) element that would resist all changes in time (or in modality) comes what may. The contrast is: in one case there are things underly qualities and events and that persist whatever change while in the other persistence is a matter of alliance, depending on a negotiation that takes place at each occasion. In fact, process philosophies
often exorcise substance as they try to minimize structures that precede the occurrence processes. The substantiality of anything, the extent to which it will persist, is up for grabs.

Susbtantiality also plays a role in Meillassoux's argument against the metaphysics of subjectivity. He claims that the very idea of correlation depends on an assumption he calls something like "the capacity to be other of everything"(which itself is a corollary of his principle of facticity - this is in the beginning of chapter 3 of AF). He claims that this is what is needed for one to think that there could be a difference between the in-itself and the for-us. They can be different only if a thing could be something else (this keyboard could be an elephant etc). In other words, the distinction between appearances (for us) and reality is dependent on the lack of substantiality. (Aristotle in fact defines the in-itself in book Z as what is necessary identical with its substance.) Aristotle mentions Antistenes (in book Delta) as someone who was attached to substance to an extent that the false was impossible - one cannot think beyond the identity of something with itself, an identity that precludes any capacity to be other. Correlation - as the false and error - would then be a consequence of lack of substantiality. In fact, our senses, as maybe Parmenides hinted, go again substantiality. Maybe also, unsubtsantiality was the first grand idea by that paleo-genius called Jones.

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