• AJJ
    621


    From what I understand there’s a distinction to be drawn between philosophical scholarship (what so-and-so actually said and thought) and interpretation (which understanding gives us the best insight into something). The objection being made was that the concept of prime matter is hard to grasp, when on the Scholastic interpretation it isn’t, really.
  • Fooloso4
    1k
    From what I understand there’s a distinction to be drawn between philosophical scholarship (what so-and-so actually said and thought) and interpretation ...AJJ

    There is no clear distinction between them. What so and so said and thought is an interpretation of what so and so said and thought, unless one simply points to the work of so and so in her own words. But even here there is interpretation involved.

    The objection being made was that the concept of prime matter is hard to grasp, when on the scholastic interpretation is isn’t, really.AJJ

    What the article says is:

    In fact there is considerable controversy concerning how to conceive the bottom rung of Aristotle’s hierarchy of matter.

    It is not that the concept is hard to grasp but rather that the concept shows itself to be problematic. If the school men interpreted it in such a way that there is no problem then perhaps they miss something or add something.

    In any case you are not discussing Aristotle but the scholastic interpretation of Aristotle.
  • AJJ
    621
    There is no clear distinction between them. What so and so said and thought is an interpretation of what so and so said and thought, unless one simply points to the work of so and so in her own words. But even here there is interpretation involved.Fooloso4

    You say that, but then I think you illustrate the distinction I described when you say:

    In any case you are not discussing Aristotle but the scholastic interpretation of Aristotle.Fooloso4

    ———

    It is not that the concept is hard to grasp but rather that the concept shows itself to be problematic. If the school men interpreted it in such a way that there is no problem then perhaps they miss something or add something.Fooloso4

    Or perhaps their interpretation lends the clearest insight. I guess they thought so, and it sounds good to me.
  • charles ferraro
    85
    I thought the evolution of natural biological forms was due to the combined operation of spontaneous genetic mutations and the process of natural selection.
  • Fooloso4
    1k
    The distinction I was referring to is this one:

    From what I understand there’s a distinction to be drawn between philosophical scholarship (what so-and-so actually said and thought) and interpretation ...AJJ

    Philosophical scholarship is interpretation and research that supports an interpretation.

    There is, however, a clear distinction between reading Aristotle and reading what other people say about Aristotle.

    Or perhaps their interpretation lends the clearest insight.AJJ

    That is possible but how do you know it is the clearest insight without reading Aristotle?

    I guess they thought so, and it sounds good to me.AJJ

    Okay.
  • AJJ
    621
    There is, however, a clear distinction between reading Aristotle and reading what other people say about Aristotle.Fooloso4

    This is the distinction I was describing, where what other people say about Aristotle is interpretation in an attempt to gain the best insight.

    Or perhaps their interpretation lends the clearest insight.
    — AJJ

    That is possible but how do you know it is the clearest insight without reading Aristotle?
    Fooloso4

    I didn’t say I knew.
  • tim wood
    3k
    "prime" matter? Is prime matter different from matter? And we have above that,
    The notion of prime matter is just the notion of something in pure potentiality.... And as noted above, what is purely potential has no actuality at all, and thus does not exist at all.
    So matter is simply the potential for there to be a form instantiated in the world, as opposed to being a mere abstraction.
    AJJ
    was that the concept of prime matter is hard to grasp, when on the Scholastic interpretation it isn’t, really.AJJ
    That is, that matter, or prime matter - It - does not exist at all. And this is what I have seen represented as Aristotle's idea of matter - except that Aristotle apparently did not have a lot to say about matter, and such views are thus made up - inferred - from what he did say.

    Is the Scholastic view similar? In a much as the Scholastics held that universals possessed an extra-mental reality, it seem likely that they probably held that matter existed.

    What is the Scholastic view?

    Above as well we have the compatibility of The Forms, and form(s). If the forms are of the world, and The Forms are not, but are ideal and perfect, and the world is imperfect and imprecise, then how exactly are they compatible?
  • AJJ
    621
    "prime" matter? Is prime matter different from matter?tim wood

    “Prime matter” is to my understanding the term for matter apart from an instantiating form.

    That is, that matter, or prime matter - It - does not exist at all. And this is what I have seen represented as Aristotle's idea of matter - except that Aristotle apparently did not have a lot to say about matter, and such views are thus made up - inferred - from what he did say.tim wood

    That’s fine I’d say; it’s appropriate to refer to those interpretations that lend the clearest insights.

    Is the Scholastic view similar? In a much as the Scholastics held that universals possessed an extra-mental reality, it seem likely that they probably held that matter existed.tim wood

    That definition I quoted is from a book on Aquinas, so I guess it is the Scholastic view.

    Above as well we have the compatibility of The Forms, and form(s). If the forms are of the world, and The Forms are not, but are ideal and perfect, and the world is imperfect and imprecise, then how exactly are they compatible?tim wood

    Sure, but what I don’t understand is why the forms on Aristotle’s view shouldn’t also exist perfectly in the divine intellect, where it seems they must originate.
  • tim wood
    3k
    Sure, but what I don’t understand is why the forms on Aristotle’s view shouldn’t also exist perfectly in the divine intellect, where it seems they must originate.AJJ
    i was almost going to spare you an opinion, but nah! If the forms on earth, which is what I understand Aristotle's - wait a minute - his forms do not exist. Anyway, assuming the thing in question, as to such existence that it may or may not have, if it exists on earth, is thereby imperfect, imprecise. As such, how could a divine intellect also have it, "in mind?" Keeping in mind that the idea of an imperfect nature is a Greek idea. The Christian idea is that God made nature, and therefore, whatever it is, is perfect in its own way.
  • AJJ
    621


    If the divine intellect creates the world then all the forms things have must come from it.
  • tim wood
    3k
    If the divine intellect creates the world then all the forms things have must come from it.AJJ

    Sure, but that is a Christian idea, not a Greek idea. The Greek, a/k/a Pagan, idea is that nature is created by a "demiurge." What that is, as usual, is not-so-simple. I think of it as a creator/being/maker with a sense of humour, especially with respect to his or her own failures.
  • charles ferraro
    85
    Let me repeat! Who needs a "divine intellect" if the evolution of natural biological forms is due to the combined operation of spontaneous genetic mutations and the process of natural selection?
  • AJJ
    621


    It’s both Aristotle’s and Plato’s idea. The divine intellect is the unmoved mover in Aristotle’s metaphysics, the beginning of everything. In Plato’s metaphysics, as interpreted by Plotinus anyway, the divine intellect emanates Soul, which creates and organises the world by reflecting on the divine intellect.
  • charles ferraro
    85
    It appears that no one is really attempting to answer my question. Oh, well!!!!
  • AJJ
    621


    The divine intellect is the ongoing source of everything I should say; that’s what the Aristotelian argument from motion establishes.
  • Mww
    994


    Paying attention to the title of the thread, and staying in the context of it, should advise the curious onlooker, that
    natural biological forms is due to the combined operation of spontaneous genetic mutations and the process of natural selectioncharles ferraro
    is utterly irrelevant.
  • tim wood
    3k
    The history of ideas shouldn't be confused with ideas in themselves.
  • charles ferraro
    85
    I prefer that the history of false ideas (Plato/Aristotle) shouldn't be confused with the history of true ideas (Darwin). But, don't let me interfere with your thread discussion.
  • Andrew M
    711
    Are Forms and forms thought to be incompatible? Can’t material objects be manifestations of Plato’s Forms, while also having form as an essential metaphysical component as conceived by Aristotle? I don’t know their metaphysics well, but at a glance it seems to me that both accounts must (if they are at all) be true; my considerations being that in material objects matter and form are inseparable, and the forms that matter takes must (since both accounts posit a divine intellect) have existed prior to - and so also be separate from - their instantiations. Maybe this is all obvious, but it’s not clear to me why you’d adopt one view but not the other.AJJ

    Yes they are thought to be incompatible since Aristotle explicitly rejected Plato's theory of forms [*]. The difference is that Platonic Forms are independent of (or separable from) particulars whereas, for Aristotle, form and matter are correlates that are not separable from particulars.

    Consider a typical abstract object such as a number or triangle. For Aristotle, these abstract objects are ultimately grounded in concrete particulars, not in a Platonic realm. As Aristotle wrote, "The best way to conduct an investigation in every case is to take that which does not exist in separation and consider it separately; which is just what the arithmetician or the geometrician does." (Aristot. Met. 13.1078a) [italics mine]

    --

    [*] As you are probably aware, there is much disagreement over what that rejection entailed. Some Neo-Platonist and Christian thinkers (such as Aquinas) argue that Aristotle didn't really (or fully) reject separability, with the unmoved mover and active intellect put forward as examples of this.
  • AJJ
    621


    Thanks, that’s clarifying. Although it does still puzzle me why Aristotle would ground abstractions only in the world when the world is grounded in the active intellect - can you tell me where in particular Aquinas or others wrote about that?
  • Andrew M
    711
    Although it does still puzzle me why Aristotle would ground abstractions only in the world when the world is grounded in the active intellect - can you tell me where in particular Aquinas or others wrote about that?AJJ

    The world isn't grounded in the active intellect for either Aristotle or Aquinas. Both were realists about the world (which contained concrete particulars) and moderate (immanent) realists about universals. Aquinas says:

    It is necessary to postulate a power, belonging to the intellect, to create actually thinkable objects by abstracting ideas from their material conditions. That is why we need to postulate an agent intellect.Thomas Aquinas and the Early Franciscan School on the Agent Intellect

    This SEP article on active intellect is also useful and highlights the nature of the controversies. Regarding interpretation, "The first and most consequential fault line, then, concerns whether De Anima iii 5 should be taken as characterizing the human mind or the divine mind." As indicated above, Aquinas argued for the "human mind" view.
  • Wayfarer
    8.3k
    For Aristotle, these abstract objects are ultimately grounded in concrete particulars, not in a Platonic realm.Andrew M

    I think the question would have to be asked, then, why Aristotelian philosophy is not nominalist. Because nominalism denies that 'forms' or 'types' have any reality outside the things which instantiate them; nominalism means 'name only'. So we call something a triangle because it happens to have three sides comprising straight lines that intersect; there is no triangle other than specific instances of triangles. But the very reason we can recognise a triangle, or a circle, or what have you, is because it obeys the requirements of a particular form - that it is a flat plane bounded by three intersecting lines, or a line drawn by points equidistant from a centre, and so on.

    So there, the 'form' is truly 'an idea', not simply the shape of something, but the defining feature - the essence, if you like, which is what is perceived by the rational intellect.

    Aristotle "immanentized" the Forms. This meant, of course, that there still were Forms; it was just a matter of where [or in what sense ~ WF] they existed. So Aristotle even used one of Plato's terms, eîdos, to mean the abstract universal object within a particular object. This word is more familiar to us in its Latin translation: species. In modern discussion, however, it is usually just called the "form" of the object.

    The Aristotelian "form" of an object, however, is not just what an object "looks" like [in other words, not just it's shape ~ wf]. An individual object as an individual object is particular, not universal. The "form" of the object will be the complex of all its abstract features and properties. If the object looks red or looks round or looks ugly, then those features, as abstractions, belong to the "form." The individuality of the object cannot be due to any of those abstractions, which are universals, and so must be due to something else. To Aristotle that was the "matter" of the object. "Matter" confers individuality, "form" universality. Since everything that we can identify about an object, the kind of thing it is, what it is doing, where it is, etc., involves abstract properties, the "form" represents the actuality of an object.
    — Kelly Ross

    http://www.friesian.com/universl.htm

    “EVERYTHING in the cosmic universe is composed of matter and form. Everything is concrete and individual. Hence the forms of cosmic entities must also be concrete and individual. Now, the process of knowledge is immediately concerned with the separation of form from matter, since a thing is known precisely because its form is received in the knower. But, whatever is received is in the recipient according to the mode of being that the recipient possesses. If, then, the senses are material powers, they receive the forms of objects in a material manner; and if the intellect is an immaterial power, it receives the forms of objects in an immaterial manner. This means that in the case of sense knowledge, the form is still encompassed with the concrete characters which make it particular; and that, in the case of intellectual knowledge, the form is disengaged from all such characters. To understand is to free form completely from matter.

    Moreover, if the proper knowledge of the senses is of accidents, through forms that are individualized, the proper knowledge of intellect is of essences, through forms that are universalized. Intellectual knowledge is analogous to sense knowledge inasmuch as it demands the reception of the form of the thing which is known. But it differs from sense knowledge so far forth as it consists in the apprehension of things, not in their individuality, but in their universality.

    The separation of form from matter requires two stages if the idea is to be elaborated: first, the sensitive stage, wherein the external and internal senses operate upon the material object, accepting its form without matter, but not without the appendages of matter; second the intellectual stage, wherein agent intellect operates upon the phantasmal datum, divesting the form of every character that marks and identifies it as a particular something.

    “Abstraction, which is the proper task of active intellect, is essentially a liberating function in which the essence of the sensible object, potentially understandable as it lies beneath its accidents, is liberated from the elements that individualize it and is thus made actually understandable. The product of abstraction is a species of an intelligible order. Now possible intellect is supplied with an adequate stimulus to which it responds by producing a concept.


    ~From Thomistic Psychology: A Philosophical Analysis of the Nature of Man, by Robert E. Brennan, O.P.; Macmillan Co., 1941. (Additional paragraphing and emphasis added).

    https://thomasofaquino.blogspot.com/2013/12/sensible-form-and-intelligible-form.html

    Aristotle, in De Anima, argued that thinking in general (which includes knowledge as one kind of thinking) cannot be a property of a body; it cannot, as he put it, 'be blended with a body'. This is because in thinking, the intelligible object or form is present in the intellect, and thinking itself is the identification of the intellect with this intelligible.

    Among other things, this means that you could not think if materialism is true… . Thinking is not something that is, in principle, like sensing or perceiving; this is because thinking is a universalising activity. This is what this means: when you think, you see - mentally see - a form which could not, in principle, be identical with a particular - including a particular neurological element, a circuit, or a state of a circuit, or a synapse, and so on. This is so because the object of thinking is universal, or the mind is operating universally.

    ….the fact that in thinking, your mind is identical with the form that it thinks, means (for Aristotle and for all Platonists) that since the form 'thought' is detached from matter, 'mind' is immaterial too.


    Lloyd Gerson, Platonism vs Naturalism, 39:00
  • AJJ
    621
    The world isn't grounded in the active intellect for either Aristotle or Aquinas.Andrew M

    I’ve been confusing terms - I thought the active intellect was another way of describing the unmoved mover. So it seems to me on Aristotle’s view that universals must be ultimately grounded in the unmoved mover, rather, which is why I don’t fully understand the rejection of Plato’s Forms.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    6k
    So matter is simply the potential for there to be a form instantiated in the world, as opposed to being a mere abstraction.AJJ

    It's better to look at matter as the potential for change. The concept of "matter" is introduced by Aristotle as a means for understanding the nature of change. If a thing has one form at one moment, and a slightly different form at the next moment, we say that the thing has changed. If "the thing" is identified strictly by its form, then at one moment it is not the same thing as it is at the next, due to it's changing. So in his Physics, Aristotle wanted to be able to explain what we all observe, and say, that a thing remains being the same thing despite the fact that there are changes to it. Matter is the underlying thing which persists, and does not change when a change occurs, and assuming the reality of matter allows us to say that the same thing persists from one moment to the next, but it changes.

    I say it is "the potential for change", because it is what has been determined by Aristotle as what is required (logically) to make change into something real, something comprehendible. If we can state the form of a thing (describe what it is) at one moment, and do the same at a following moment, and see that the form is slightly different, then we ought to be able to account for the change to the thing which happens between these moments. If we account for the change by stating an intermediate form, which is different from the other two, this does not solve the problem because now we have changes between this form and the others. We cannot posit an infinite number of forms between one form and the next, to account for change, so Aristotle posits matter. Matter is not a form, but it provides the potential for one form to change into another, with the thing remaining as the same thing. Matter is what makes becoming intelligible.
  • Wayfarer
    8.3k
    Here's a snippet from the Wiki entry on Aristotle's concept of hyle:

    Aristotle's concept of hyle is the principle that correlates with eidos (form) and this can be demonstrated in the way the philosopher described hyle, saying it is that which receives form or definiteness, that which is formed.[5] Aristotle explained that "By hyle I mean that which in itself is neither a particular thing nor of a certain quantity nor assigned to any other of the categories by which being is determined."[4] This means that hyle is brought into existence not due to its being its agent or its own actuality but only when form attaches to it [ I would prefer 'is given form']. ...

    ...

    The Latin equivalent of the hyle concept - and later its medieval version - also emerged out of Aristotle's notion. The Greek term's Latin equivalent was silva, which literally meant woodland or forest.[4] However, Latin scholars opted for a word that had technical sense instead of the literal meaning so that it became understood as that of which a thing is made but one that remained a substratum with changed form.[4] The word materia was chosen instead to indicate a meaning not in handicraft but in the passive role that mother (mater) plays in conception.

    My bolds. I had read previously that 'mother' and 'matter' were etymologically related but never knew how.

    Another point: that Aristotelian dualism comprised 'matter and form', not the Cartesian 'matter and mind'. However I think Descartes' version was ultimately derived from the same source, albeit Descartes wished to sharply differentiate his philosophy from that of 'the schoolmen'.
  • tim wood
    3k
    The following from https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/form-matter/

    "The traditional interpretation of Aristotle, which goes back as far as Augustine (De Genesi contra Manichaeos i 5–7) and Simplicius (On Aristotle’s Physics i 7), and is accepted by Aquinas (De Principiis Naturae §13), holds that Aristotle believes in something called “prime matter”, which is the matter of the elements, where each element is, then, a compound of this matter and a form. This prime matter is usually described as pure potentiality, just as, on the form side, the unmoved movers are said by Aristotle to be pure actuality, form without any matter (Metaphysics xii 6). What it means to call prime matter “pure potentiality” is that it is capable of taking on any form whatsoever, and thus is completely without any essential properties of its own. It exists eternally, since, if it were capable of being created or destroyed, there would have to be some even lower matter to underlie those changes. Because it is the matter of the elements, which are themselves present in all more complex bodies, it is omnipresent, and underlies not only elemental generation and destruction, but all physical changes. As a completely indeterminate substratum, prime matter bears some similarities to what modern philosophy has called a “bare particular” (see Sider 2006), although, not being a particular, it may have more in common with so-called “gunk” (see Sider 1993).

    "By “matter” I mean that which in itself is not called a substance nor a quantity nor anything else by which being is categorized. For it is something of which each of these things is predicated, whose being is different from each of its predicates (for the others are predicated of substance, and substance is predicated of matter). Therefore this last is in itself neither substance nor quantity nor anything else. Nor is it the denials of any of these; for even denials belong to things accidentally. (1029a20–26)

    "Although the word “prime” does not occur here, Aristotle is evidently talking about prime matter. A natural way to read this passage is that he is saying there is a wholly indeterminate underlying thing, which he calls “matter”, and it is not a substance."
    --------------------

    The point made in these paragraphs, especially the last two, is that for Aristotle "matter" is a term of art for him that has nothing to do with modern usage - which he defines only negatively. Therefore, to discuss what Aristotle meant by "matter" is a mug's game, because he did not mean any thing by it! The best that can be done is to note as well as possible what Aristotle said, as being part of the history of ideas. Beyond that is arguing whether the largest number of angels that can fit on the head of a pin is an even or an odd number. Or more profitably, how superlatively handsome I am.
  • Wayfarer
    8.3k
    Beyond that is arguing whether the largest number of angels that can fit on the head of a pin is an even or an odd number.tim wood

    I read about 'angels on the head of a pin' recently. It's held up as an example of the vanity of scholastic metaphysics. But the real debate was about 'whether two incorporeal intelligences (i.e. 'angels') can occupy the same spatial location - which is not that daft a question at all, although of course in a materialist culture, the whole notion of 'incorporeal intelligence' is unintelligible. (That said, there's an echo of the same question in the conundrums surrounding superposition.)

    to discuss what Aristotle meant by "matter" is a mug's game, because he did not mean any thing by it!tim wood

    ON the contrary, I think it is quite useful to trace how Aristotelian (and other classical) terms and ideas, like 'hyle', 'ousia', 'esse', and so on, have been translated and interpreted over time.
  • tim wood
    3k
    ON the contrary, I think it is quite useful to trace how Aristotelian (and other classical) terms and ideas, like 'hyle', 'ousia', 'esse', and so on, have been translated and interpreted over time.Wayfarer

    Complete agreement! And this falls under history of ideas, not modern physics. If you follow the Hegel thread, in the preface being covered there, Hegel refers to the necessity of going through - recapitulating - the history of such things. But he had his own reasons for that, which, if I had a decent grasp of, I'd get into. It seems as if he is continually at pains to hold the ghost of Kant's noumenon at bay: his - Hegel's - being a theory of knowledge that appears to ignore most of Kant.
  • AJJ
    621
    Therefore, to discuss what Aristotle meant by "matter" is a mug's game, because he did not mean any thing by it!tim wood

    But in the second paragraph you shared he explicitly says what he means by it; Augustine and Aquinas appear to have gotten it right.
  • AJJ
    621


    Sure, it’s what allows there to be material objects in the first place and also what allows them to change.

    So in his Physics, Aristotle wanted to be able to explain what we all observe, and say, that a thing remains being the same thing despite the fact that there are changes to it. Matter is the underlying thing which persists, and does not change when a change occurs, and assuming the reality of matter allows us to say that the same thing persists from one moment to the next, but it changes.Metaphysician Undercover

    I don’t understand the above though. Since matter isn’t composite, doesn’t that mean the same matter underlies every object? In which case the only way to distinguish between objects is by their forms; but why then do individual objects remain the same objects as their forms change?
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