Social phenomena do not require a revisionof our understanding of matter; the
social cannot in itself dictatea revision of our ontological edifice. However, if
science happensto impose a revision of the philosophical concept of matter in
terms of philosophical details rather than in terms of materiality,then a new
ontological construction may have multifold effects.Science will no doubt be the
first to bear these effects, focusingon aspects that might be validated or not.
Second, man's outlookon the material world and on himself will likewise be
influenced.These influences may in their turn give rise to new cultural grounds
in regard of the social life, and new views on the role of societyin the material
world. For man is equally open to action, to socialaspects, and to cognition and
the relation with the prime realitiesof the existence. If by extricating from man
what is similar tothe automaton and artificial intelligence, leaving something
aside,we obtain a new model on man, and if this model is largely known,then this
new model will no doubt bear on the social phenomena.
2. Let us examine now Aristotle's conceptof matter. Contemplating
the thingsin nature or thosecreated by man, Aristotle observes that they
consist of substanceand form, like a bronze statue. The
elementary substances,which many philosophers of the Ancient Greece identified
withwater, fire and earth, consist in their turn of a profounder primesubstance
and of form. In Aristotle's view the prime substanceis matter. The
substances in the universe are subjects,which arise with space, time,
quantity and quality:
"But there are different senses of 'comingto be'. In some cases
we do not use the expression 'come to be',but 'come to be so-and-so'. Only
substances are said to "cometo be' in the unqualified sense.
Matter is a principle (Physics, I,7, 191a) whereas simple elements like
the fire, the water, theair are not principles (Metaphysics, I, 8,
988b),but as substances their substratum is matter, understood "notas
what is determined in actuality but in potentiality" (Metaphysics,
VIII, 1, 1042a); "matter exists potentially, just becausein certain
circumstances it will proceed into its formed state,and it is in its formed state
only when it is in actuality" (Metaphysics, IX,8, 1050a);
"neither matter nor form are subject to generation"
(Metaphysics, XII,3, 1069b), only substances are generated and perish
and so doall the things which consist of substances and forms.
Now in all cases other than substance it isplain that there must be some subject,
namely, that which becomes.For we know that when a thing comes to be of such a
quantity orquality or in such a relation, or place, a subject is always
presupposed,since substance alone is not predicated of another subject, but
everything else of substance..."6
With Aristotle, matter is a profound substance,it is a substratum. Matter is the
substratum of change. It ispotential and devoid of attributes. It is made evident
by meansof a form, and so Aristotle finds it to be barely definable.
The substance in the universe andnature has matter and
Aristotle finds that the thesis on a uniqueprinciple of existence is untenable.
Indeed, the world is notthat simple in his view, to be reduced to only one
principle.Nor do the form or the matter exhibit accomplished simplicity.However,
we shall not find too many prime principles (the infiniteis impossible
quaactuality or as a number of principles),but only two or three:
"Granted, then, that they are a limitednumber, it is plausible to suppose
them more than two. ... Onethey cannot be, for there cannot be one contrary. Nor
can theybe innumerable, because, if so, Being will not be knowable ..."
(Physics, I, 6, 189a).
Aristotle considers these principles to be form, privation
(formlessness) and substratum (matter).We would have expected these
prime principles to be only formand matter, but Aristotle seeks to solve also the
problem of thecontrariety between not-existence and existence. He regards
privation(formlessness) as non-existence. With this, the dilemma raisedby the
paradox of existence seems to be solved but only underthe rules established by
thought, as a play upon words. In defectof forms, or of forms applied to matter,
we may speak of not-existence,of which something is still left: the prime matter.
Not-existenceis a word, the state of not-existence is described in terms of
physics qua "privation". Hence, not-existenceis still existence
but more involved in profundities though onlyas a potential existence.
Matter in Depths17