What is it about?

It has been argued that Aristotle did not have a concept of matter, in the sense of the extended, movable, and, at times, perceptible stuff out of which physical bodies are made; in other words, there is nothing in Aristotle’s account of the world that corresponds to matter in the above sense. Against this view, this paper argues that Aristotle has a concept of matter in the sense of the extended, movable, and, at times, perceptible stuff of physical bodies. Aristotle develops this notion when investigating what sorts of things typically act as the material causes for perceptible substances; the latter all turn out to be matter of some sort and to possess the fundamental characteristics of physical stuff already in their own right, independent of the formal causes to which they are attached.

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Why is it important?

Other commentators on Aristotle have failed to see the systematic connection between matter and the material causes of perceptible objects. Matter, in the sense of physical stuff, is fundamental to Aristotle's account of natural substances and, indeed, perceptible objects of all kinds.

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Argues that for Aristotle the material causes of perceptible objects must always be something physical in their own right. Hence, the view that material causes in general and the material causes of perceptible objects in particular, get their nature from the formal cause with which they are combined is incorrect.

Prof. Christopher Byrne
St. Francis Xavier University

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This page is a summary of: Matter and Aristotle's Material Cause, Canadian Journal of Philosophy, January 2001, Taylor & Francis, DOI: 10.1080/00455091.2001.10717561.
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