• Benj96
    200
    Theres a lot of contention over applying the term "material" or "substance" to certain metaphysical concepts. And I get that. What defines "stuff" because almost always theres an exception to any attempted definition. For example is energy a material or substance considering its equivalence to matter or is it an immaterial phenomenon? Could all phenomena be substances? Is time? Is consciousness?

    In this discussion I focus on space/ vacuum because its seemingly contradictory in nature to the term "material". Pure space has no atoms in it. It has no matter. So naturally you would assume it is not material in nature. However vacuum produces particles spontaneously. It also contains heat almost always. It has content and it has inherent qualities. It dictates the density and form and physical and chemical qualities of solid materials by its arrangement around atoms in molecules and its influence on the distance between bonds etc. In essence space makes up more of each object than the material parts of atoms do. An atom is over 90% space.

    Space can also be bent by gravity or rather "space-time" can be bent. Space can contract at great speed. It just seems space has too much going on to be considered immaterial or nothing or without substance.

    What is going on?
  • Geeguz
    2
    Clear cut divisions and definitions dont truly exist, they are created by humans for means of convinence. Everything is connected in nature because everything relies on something else for its existance, ive always seen the division between being and nonbeing more of a scale you can move up and down on rather than one or the other. On the furthest end of the scale representing being you get experience, life and on the other end you get complete nonexistance probably what most of us associate with death. You dont get one without the other because they both have to exist to imply one another. That being said space is something we can observe and although its quite barren compared to the richness of our planet and lives it still has properties, so to wrap this all up my conclusion would be that space is on the further end of the scale towards nonbeing than being but not true nonbeing because if that were the case it would be completely invisible to us.
  • jgill
    728
    Who knows? I wonder if there is any truly empty space that is devoid of fields, like the electromagnetic field. :chin:
  • Pfhorrest
    2.8k
    Nope, Higgs at least has a nonzero value everywhere.
  • apokrisis
    4.7k
    Could all phenomena be substances?Benj96

    Note the definition of substance is about that "which stands behind everything". So you can consider the reverse proposition. What if "stuff" is the emergent outcome rather than the foundational being?

    Could all substances be phenomenal? :grin:

    It is useful to flip the assumptions being made. Everything that seems "substantial" to us at our very human-centric scale of observation turns out to be quite "other" to that once we get digging with our scientific tools.

    Any solid object is mostly space - as you say. And yet any empty space is also "substantial" in having a temperature, a gravity field - the various other measures that suggest the presence of material properties.

    So our standard reified notion of substance has to be treated as suspect and broken down into whatever could cause such solidified existence to emerge.

    And hey, Aristotle already did a good job of that with his own investigation into substance or ousia.

    His idea that being is emergent from the combo of formal and material cause (as the broad generalisation) holds up pretty well.
  • Gnomon
    814
    It just seems space has too much going on to be considered immaterial or nothing or without substance.Benj96
    For most people, the words "substance" and "substantial" are referring to solid matter (Quanta -- tangible stuff). But Aristotle's Primary Substance was described as more like immaterial Essence (intrinsic quality necessary for existence; Qualia -- mental stuff).

    In that case, empty Space (plenum, vacuum) is essential for the existence of Matter. Mathematicians use material metaphors to explain their calculations of spatial topology, even when its "structure" consists of immaterial numerical values. So, yes, Space is a philosophical Substance, even when it contains no matter. :smile:

    Substance : https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/8807/is-spacevacuum-a-substance

    Space : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_(mathematics)
  • Pfhorrest
    2.8k
    Any solid object is mostly space - as you say. And yet any empty space is also "substantial" in having a temperature, a gravity field - the various other measures that suggest the presence of material properties.apokrisis

    As I wrote in a paper a decade and a half ago, “All is but space, and none of it empty.”
  • apokrisis
    4.7k
    But Aristotle's Primary Substance was described as more like immaterial Essence (intrinsic quality necessary for existence; Qualia -- mental stuff).Gnomon

    Surely what Aristotle meant by prime matter is one of the most fraught debates in metaphysics. But it can’t be cashed out as mental stuff. Nor even, immaterial essence.

    It is more like a fluctuation or the least possible notion of a material action or efficient cause, in my view.

    Peircean Firstness or tychism in other words.
  • Gnomon
    814
    Surely what Aristotle meant by prime matter is one of the most fraught debates in metaphysics. But it can’t be cashed out as mental stuff. Nor even, immaterial essence.apokrisis
    Aristotle was uncomfortable with Plato's notion of supernatural Forms, yet he still applied the same term to natural things. And the distinction is moot, since he used the metaphysical term "Soul" to describe the "form" component of all beings. So "Form" is both Matter and Mind/Soul, both Potential and Actual. I try to make a distinction, to avoid confusion, by capitalizing the Platonic ideal "Form" (qualities we conceive), as contrasted with real "forms" (things we perceive).

    Platonic Form is equivalent to my concept of Universal Information (EnFormAction) : it's not only a physical substance (Matter, objects, Quanta), but metaphysical essence (Mind; processes, Qualia) --- reason, feelings, consciousness, thought, etc, and Soul/Self. Abstract Information is equivalent to the Mathematical/Logical Ratios/Relationships that we rationally infer in physical objects.

    The Form or Design or Structure of a physical thing is Informational. And empty space is essentially Form Potential (probability), until something Actual emerges. For example, a Field in physics is empty space with a percentage potential for Virtual Particles to become Actual particles. The "structure" of the Field is mathematical, not material. This is getting enigmatically esoteric, so I'll stop here. :nerd:

    Soul : Soul or psyche (Ancient Greek: ψυχή psykhḗ, of ψύχειν psýkhein, "to breathe") comprises the mental abilities of a living being: reason, character, feeling, consciousness, memory, perception, thinking, etc.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soul

    Prime Substance : Hylomorphism (or hylemorphism) is a philosophical theory developed by Aristotle, which conceives being (ousia) as a compound of matter and form . . .
    Aristotle applies his theory of hylomorphism to living things. He defines a soul as that which makes a living thing alive. Life is a property of living things, just as knowledge and health are. Therefore, a soul is a form—that is, a specifying principle or cause—of a living thing. Furthermore, Aristotle says that a soul is related to its body as form to matter

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hylomorphism

    Information : So, my reading of cutting-edge science indicates that the quantum description of physical reality (informational, relational, mental) is akin to pre-scientific concepts of the metaphysical spirit realm, which is more Potential than Biological. Hence, on the cosmic scale, Mind seems to be more fundamental than Matter.
    http://www.bothandblog.enformationism.info/page12.html
  • Gnomon
    814
    It just seems space has too much going on to be considered immaterial or nothing or without substance.Benj96
    What's "going on" is Potential (Virtual), the statistical possibility of Actual (Real). See my reply to Apokrisis above. :smile:
  • Banno
    8.9k


    Substance was used before mass was properly identified and defined. It is now no more than philosophers continuing a bad habit.
  • apokrisis
    4.7k
    Substance was used before mass was properly identified and defined. It is now no more than philosophers continuing a bad habit.Banno

    So "mass" has been properly identified and defined? Or did you mean "massiveness"?

    Oh dear. Back into the good old metaphysical debate about "substance" I guess. :lol:
  • Gnomon
    814
    Substance was used before mass was properly identified and defined. It is now no more than philosophers continuing a bad habit.Banno
    "Mass" is not matter per se, but a measure of a quality or property of Matter (i.e. inertia). Aristotle's "Substance" is also an evaluated quality (what kind of thing) of Matter (physical object). "To measure" (from mensura = mind) is to convert a material thing into a mental or mathematical quality (value). Mass is a measure of Substance only in the sense of Qualia. Philosophers have a "bad habit" of trying to understand the essence of material objects (things). :smile:

    Mass : both a property of a physical body and a measure of its resistance to acceleration
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass

    What is the difference between mass and substance? : https://socratic.org/questions/what-is-the-difference-between-mass-and-substance

    Substance : Aristotle analyses substance in terms of form and matter. The form is what kind of thing the object is (identity), and the matter is what it is made of. . . .
    Aristotle’s preliminary answer to the question “What is substance?” is that substance is essence,
    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aristotle-metaphysics/#SubsEsse

    Essence : In philosophy, essence is the property or set of properties that make an entity or substance what it fundamentally is, and which it has by necessity, and without which it loses its identity.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Essence
  • apokrisis
    4.7k
    Sorry, I misread your "primary substance" as "prime matter". But then I'm still not sure which you have in mind here.

    However I would see Primary Substance as the meat in the hylomorphic sandwich. So it is substance that is indeed enformed - that is, the accidental constrained by the necessary. Or material possibility constrained by formal requirement.

    This is the hierarchical order by which some particular dog - let's point to Rover over there - is a "dog" by some kind of higher formal necessity. Dogginess is an abstract idea that is real because it really does serve to limit the scope of material accidents.

    Rover might have three legs and still count as a dog - if he lost one by accident. Or he could even be a robot - if for good reason, the fact of being factory-made rather than biology-grown was regarded as incidental. A material particular or material accident.

    So the Aristotelean approach to substantial being recognises that the world attains its enformed state of solidity and concrete object-ness because globalised necessities constrain local material possibilities in a sufficiently robust fashion.

    And in this scheme, we can thus arrive at...

    What's "going on" is Potential (Virtual), the statistical possibility of Actual (Real).Gnomon

    ...but it is actually a Peircean triad of the accidental, the actual, the necessary. Actuality is emergent as a formal constraint on mere material accident. And so actuality is itself statistical or probabalistic.

    Rover is that substantial being, that enformed concrete particular. But also, on closer examination, Rover represents some generalised idea of "dog" that is being honoured in the exception. If Rover loses his leg tomorrow, that counts as an immateriality. Not enough has changed to alter his "essential being".

    But keep chipping away, and it will. The leg, for example, no longer fits the bill of being our pet dog.

    Aristotle was uncomfortable with Plato's notion of supernatural Forms, yet he still applied the same term to natural things. And the distinction is moot, since he used the metaphysical term "Soul" to describe the "form" component of all beings.Gnomon

    Yes, but what was Aristotle - as a naturalist - really meaning? He wasn't a proto-scholastic after all.

    Today, he might talk of the genome rather than the soul. We now have better ways to talk about the formal aspect that distinguishes life and mind as distinctive elements of nature.

    So for sure, life and mind have a regulating form - one that constrains material accidents in a very strong way. We have informational machinery - cellular membranes, genes, neurons, words - that are the semiotic machinery to encode "schemas" and impose their designs on raw physics.

    Rover is Rover because of his genetics, his immune system, his neurally-encoded memories, the fact that he is socially constructed as a pet within my family setting. There is a huge weight of information to enform the Primary Substance that goes by that name, preserving a constant thread of identity as he sheds hair, loses legs, or undergoes other material accidents that the schemas don't count as information - ie: differences that make a difference.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    7.3k
    Surely what Aristotle meant by prime matter is one of the most fraught debates in metaphysics. But it can’t be cashed out as mental stuff. Nor even, immaterial essence.

    It is more like a fluctuation or the least possible notion of a material action or efficient cause, in my view.

    Peircean Firstness or tychism in other words.
    apokrisis

    Aristotle discussed the concept of prime matter, because it was a common speculation in his time. He ended up proving that it is impossible that such a thing as prime matter, or infinite potential, is real, with his cosmological argument. Therefore, prime matter is taken by Aristotle to be a fiction.
  • apokrisis
    4.7k
    Which passage did you have in mind where he labelled it a fiction?
  • apokrisis
    4.7k
    I have. Although it’s been a while. Which quote or paragraph did you mean?
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    7.3k

    Read specifically Bk.9, Ch.8, where he explains how actuality is prior to potency, and how anything eternal must be actual, not potential. This excludes the possibility of prime matter as described earlier as an eternal, and first potential.
    Obviously, therefore, the substance or form is actuality. According to this argument, then, it is obvious that actuality is prior in substantial being to potency; and as we have said, one actuality always precedes another in time right back to the actuality of the eternal prime mover.

    But actuality is prior in a stricter sense also; for eternal things are prior in substance to perishable things, and no eternal thing exists potentially. The reason is this...
    — Aristotle, Metaphysics 1050b
  • apokrisis
    4.7k
    Thanks for digging out the bit you had in mind.

    We have of course been through this hoop before. Not that I mind a re-run. :razz:

    As this Stanford article argues....

    Aristotle does in fact use the expressions “prime matter” (prôtê hulê) and “primary underlying thing” (prôton hupokeimenon) several times ... The mere fact that he uses the phrase is inconclusive, however, since, he makes it explicit that “prime matter” can refer either to a thing’s proximate matter or to whatever ultimately makes it up:

    Nature is prime matter (and this in two ways, either prime in relation to the thing or prime in general; for example, in the case of bronze works the bronze is prime in relation to them, but prime in general would be perhaps water, if everything that can be melted is water). (1015a7–10)

    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/form-matter/#PrimMatt

    ...and as I've argued before, there is this confusion between prime matter and primary substance - between the primacy of whatever could constitute the material aspect of hylomorphically-emergent actuality, and primacy that is then the actualised or enformed being which is thus the substantial substrate of further change and development.

    So "potential" - quite rightly - has this double sense that needs to be addressed.

    There is what I would consider to be prime matter as Peircean firstness or vagueness. Or indeed, the apeiron of Anaximander. This is just the raw possibility of a fluctuation. The least "formed" or "enduring" or "purposeful" notion of a substantial material action or efficient cause. A difference that doesn't make a difference. A mark that is washed away as fast as it is made.

    It seems clear that for anything to be, you do need that kind of general ground that is the radically unformed - a kind of chaos without pattern - which can thus become the prime matter which is in fact formed up (enformed) into some kind of substance, something that is a concrete particular.

    And then the second sense of potentiality is the potential for the now actualised substance to be the subject of further developmental change. Iron can be forged into swords, flesh into dogs. You just need the formal/final cause that gives the iron or flesh its functional shape.

    So when we talk of Being preceeding Becoming, we are talking about Primary Substance - the dog that can become dead, the iron that can become sword.

    But when we talk of becoming preceeding being, we mean the Anaximander's apeiron or Peirce's tychism - potential as the pure spontaneity of unformed material fluctuation. If we had to describe such a general grounding to Being, it would be a materiality with the least possible substantiality. And even then, we should be imagining it as just naked "becoming" as "prime matter" with any materiality has already crossed that threshold into the realm of actualised Being.

    This may sound an esoteric distinction. But it is of course vital to grounding the metaphysics of modern physics. How else can we understand "quantum potential" or "the Big Bang"?
  • Banno
    8.9k
    An odd reply. Mass is measured in kg. What do we use for the unit of substance?
  • apokrisis
    4.7k
    The usual lumpen riposte. How heavy is your 1kg mass in outer space? What are your units of measurement now? Are you going to rely on a pair of scales or a stopwatch and ruler?
  • apokrisis
    4.7k
    What do we use for the unit of substance?Banno

    I realise you are not interested in the real answer here. But physics has arrived at its most general way of measuring units of substantial being - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CGh_physics

    Serious metaphysics would consist of a discussion over why the Planck scale has this particular triad of physical limits.
  • Banno
    8.9k
    Again, you are far too clever for me to be able to follow your reply.
  • apokrisis
    4.7k
    We agree then. :ok:
  • Banno
    8.9k
    Well, we can't conclude that, since your point remains for me quite elusive.
  • apokrisis
    4.7k
    But we agree why that is so.
  • Banno
    8.9k
    We agree why what is so? That your point remains elusive?
  • apokrisis
    4.7k
    Again, you are far too clever for me...Banno

    I mean it could be that you are just trolling, or lazy, or something else. But I don't mind if you believe it is this.
  • Banno
    8.9k
    It could be. Indeed, it could be. But there might be other explanations.
  • apokrisis
    4.7k
    It's what you said. And it seems legit. :grin:
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