Why call something “material”?

For Aristotle, a cow was material because it was an ontological precursor to a baseball mitt, a pile of black dirt, an ingredient in the spaghetti, etc. For Descartes, it was material because it had dimensions, its weight, its age, or in general because it could have some status on a Cartesian coordinate system. For us,  cows are material because they are composed of fundamental particles, though all this means is that a cow is material if we consider it as nothing but a bunch of material things. The tautology probably indicates a lack of interest in, or lack of ability to address the question.

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