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Tuesday, 25 June 2013

DIY packs substances

In Book H of the Metaphysics, Aristotle considers being as act and as potentiality and claims that one thing turns into the other solely by the concourse of an aitia of the third kind (of a so-called efficient cause). He develops an aspect ontology of substance where being-qua-sunolos is act while being-qua-matter is potentiality. But for each thing there ought to be a bit of matter that is that thing in potentiality - a specific bit of matter that composed this table and would not compose any other table (or any other thing). The material composition of this table is such that it will compose this table and nothing else. It is like a DIY pack, like an ikea item: ideally, the materials in the pack would build exactly the table drawn in the figure associated to it. This is the Aristotelian substance: it has a matter aspect and a form aspect.

Around 1044b35 he puts the problem of the wine and the vinegar: is wine the matter of vinegar? He has to say no as wine could cause something other than vinegar (that it does is because of the concourse of a sumbebekos). It is therefore not simply an efficient cause that would turn one thing into the other. The account of substance according to which substance-in-potentiality turns into substance-in-act by pure efficient cause becomes clearer in the next book, at around 1048b to 1049a (part 7). Something is a thing in potentiality only if it could become nothing else but that thing in act and only an efficient cause is required for that purpose. Aristotle says: a house in potentiality is so only if there is nothing that could stop it from becoming a house and no material that needs to be added or subtracted. This is again the connection (now in potentiality) between substance and resistance: substance requires resistance, it ought to resists all diverting. (Incidentally, Aristotle does pave the way for the claim that nothing is substantially anything.)

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