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.

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