Matter and Form Part IV

What comes to be either exists in itself, or in another. We use the English word “substance” to name what exists in itself as oppsed to existing in another, although when it is used in this sense it is used outside of modern English usage. I stick with the word here for historical reasons, and because of the lack of any good replacement (although “being” would come close). For something that exists in another, I use the word “accident”. Here, the modern English usage is close to the philosophical meaning: accidents are most familiar to us as events that take place in the context of things intended, but yet outside of the intention- we meant to do X, but while doingit, Y happened. Y is an “accident”. As I said, this meaning is close, but not exact.

The primary example of a substance in the sense I use it here is myself. For you, it is yourself. Said generally, a substance is best exemplified by John, Peter, Mary, etc. or any other individual of the species “man”. From this interior experience of our own existence and unity as selves, we can extend the meaning of self to include others. How far we can extend it is sometimes clear, other times unclear.

An accident, which is a way of existing in another, can be taken in two ways. We can either consider the accident as it is contained in this particular substance, or not as contained in a particular substance. If we consider it as in a particular, then as such it is not common to many, but considered apart from particularity, it can be common to many.

We can consider a substance in the same way. In other words, we can choose to consider a particular substance, apart from its particularity and as communicable to each, for example “man” or “dog”.

And so there is a forfold distinction is things; for all are either substance or accidents, and each of these can be taken either in its particularity, or in its universality. How we understand “what comes to be” must be an account of things within one or more of these categories.

Matter and Form Part III

Since matter is what comes to be other, but since whatever comes to be other is either something in itself or in another, we distinguish matter into the kind that comes to be something in itself, and in another. Since what exists in another is derivative, and what exists in itself is not, the matter of something existing in itself is called first or prime matter; and the matter of something existing in another is called secondary matter.

Matter and Form Part II

Since in the first sense of matter or the material a thing is characterized by indetermination, we can consider it in two ways: either according to the indetermination as such, or according to the one determination that it happens to have now. In the first sense, we consider a two by four in relation to everything that it could make or become; in the second, we consider it as a wooden thing that happens to have a certain shape.

Matter can either be determined by only one form, or by many successively. As far as we know, there exists no matter which can only be one thing, which would require that the thing be eternal, for it could never break into a new shape, rot, be scattered, or be made into something else. The ancients belived- on good evidence- that the stars and planets were made of a matter that was determined to one thing, but that hypothesis was disproven.

Matter, then, while it may happen to be this thing, never looses its nature as a principle of becoming something else. When we consider something as material, we precind from considering it as a determinite thing- with a determinite shape, position, color, texture, even existence. Matter is a certain infinity; it can be this or that or some other thing. Matter, as such, is not fixed to any one particular.

Matter and Form Part I

Augustine: Behold I have prayed to God.
Reason: What then wouldst thou know?
A. All these things which I have prayed for.
R. Sum them up in brief.
A. God and the soul, that is what I desire to know.
R. Nothing more?
A. Nothing whatever.

For those of us who agree with Augustine, an immense part of the consideration begins with the proper definition of matter or material, because we know God and the soul by negating what we know of materiality about them.

Now in the first meaning of matter or material precisely insofar as it can become something. Take a two-by four. Is it material? If we take it insofar as it can become something that it is not, then yes. If we consider it inasmuch as it was made from a tree, then it is not material in this first sense at all, but the contrary of material: it is that which came to be. The name for this contrary is “form”.
If we consider the thing inasmuch as it has both a material and a formal part, then we call it a “composite”.

The first thing to notice is that though we can distinguish any imanginable thing into a material and a form- thus calling it composite- it doesn’t follow that matter an form are parts according to the first meaning of parts. In th esame way that we might distinguish a word from its pronunciation, or wetness from liquid, we might distinguish matter from form. We call something material inasmuch as it lacks determination to something, but can have it; and we call something formal inasmuch as it has been determined.

Sequence, Draft

Omnis creatura est
Deo manuducens
Omnis laudet gaudiens

A se homo impotens
Ardorem se attinget
Si Christus eum non surget

Nullus magis quam potest
Etiam de ipso
Amorem habere Christo

(Every creature is being lead by the hand
By God
Let every man give praise, rejoicing

By himself, man is powerless
that he might attain his deepest desire
If Christ does not raise him up.

No one can have a greater love, even of himself,
than Christ.)


When we speak of philosophy as the handmaid of theology, it connotes to us derivative, secondary, even expendable existence. For the medieval religious, on the other hand, the word “Ancilla” had the innescapable connotation of “ancilla Domini”, Mary the Mother of God. The phrase is was said by medieval religious at least twice a day: once at the angelus, and again during the Magnificat of the divine office. When we call philosophy the “ancilla” or handmaid of theology, we should first hear its marian connotations.

Exigetical Principle

I have no interest in doctrines that try to create opposition or antinomy between Jesus and Paul. One cannot drive a wedge between them except by dividing the Holy Spirit. And let the same be said for any attempt to oppose one scripture to another.

Material being

For material being, existence is existence with matter- hence it is intrinsically indeterminite and therefore imperfect existence, which is the root of its corruptibility, its extension, its mobility, its temporality. It does not follow from this that matter is anything but good: for all things intrinsically ordered to perfection are good, and matter is such. Again, as I’ve said many times on this blog, this all follows from what the word matter means: matter is what can be turned into something: i.e. what can be something.

Human Existence

“Human existence” is not some vague abstraction, as though it were separate in being from what we see around us, a metaphysical fog floating through the world of forms. Human existence is something procreated and raised by a mother and father, and we cannot have an opinion these latter things without it affecting our opinions of human existence as such.

Thoughts on the Fate of Protestantism

A hypothesis: Religion goes to the Megachurch to die. The Megachurch will continue to grow and flourish for the next generation or so, but then it will be abandoned. As the Megachurch is a Protestant church whose main talent seems to be the decimation of of Confessional Churches (Catholic and Protestant), the abandonment of Megachurch will constitute at least the end of Protestantism. Catholicism is too historically unpredicatable to predict.

Reason: Religion consists in things that bind us. The soul of the Megachuch is this: lack of anything that binds. Outbreaks of emotion are encouraged, even set up as ideals. Community ties are rendered impossible through becoming a faceless man in a crowd. The atmosphere is entertaining and liesurely, and nothing is less binding than liesure. No morality, whether progressive or traditional, is mentioned. The distinctive doctrines of Protestantism are essentially forgotten, or have softened into platitudes. So too the old antinomy to Catholicism. All beliefs concerning the Trinity or the Incarnation would immediately fall under the slighest popular attack.

Reason for the decine: Hatred of man. Christianity is incompatible with a hatred of human existence: God became man, God even is a man. Modern culture believes strongly that human existence only derives goodness from something else: and so we poison ourselves into infertility, we choose to neuter ourselves like dogs, we let anyone abandon his offspring for absolutely no reason, and it is unthinkable to suggest otherwise.

This situation has, of course, existed before: if Polycarp or Iranaeus or Justin Marytr or Agatha or any of the Apostles were to take stock of our situation, they would think that it was comparitively good: remember that the world of the early Church was one where baby girls were usually abandoned in the woods to be picked up and raised as prostitutes, where people watched other men kill each other for sport, where homosexuality was the rule for married men, and where divorce was an unquestioned right for both sexes. But I see nothing in the megachurch that can stop this sort of thing. The megachurch seems to be more a participation in this sort of thing.

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