Aristotle's Theory of Material Substance: Heat and Pneuma, Form and Soul

Aristotle's Theory of Material Substance: Heat and Pneuma, Form and Soul

Aristotle's Theory of Material Substance: Heat and Pneuma, Form and Soul

Aristotle's Theory of Material Substance: Heat and Pneuma, Form and Soul

Synopsis

This book offers an original new account of one of Aristotle's central doctrines. Freudenthal He recreates from Aristotle's writings a more complete theory of material substance which is able to explain the problematical areas of the way matter organizes itself and the persistence of matter, to show that the hitherto ignored concept of vital heat is as central in explaining material substance as soul or form.

Excerpt

The following enquiry aims to provide new perspectives on the relationships between form and matter in Aristotle's thought. Specifically, I examine Aristotle's accounts of the coming-to-be and functioning of substances consisting of informed matter, notably living beings, and highlight the role Aristotle ascribes in these accounts to the operations of heat, primarily vital heat. The notion of vital heat is not unknown to students of Aristotle's biology, but I believe its systematical import and significance have not as yet been appreciated adequately: it will indeed be my thesis that the theory of vital heat is a central building block in Aristotle's account of the organization of matter into structured, specifically living, substances and of the subsequent functioning of such organized substances (namely of their soul-functions). In the extant treatises Aristotle nowhere gives a systematic exposition of this theory: to show that he none the less had such a theory, at least in outline, to recover it from scattered accounts of limited scope, to bring out its explanatory roles, and to make some suggestions concerning its origin in Presocratic thought and in Aristotle's own early theology--this is my aim in the present book.

My point of departure is at the most basic level at which matter and form interact, namely in (i) the formation and (ii) the persistence of individual composite substances, notably living beings (plants and animals). I will argue that Aristotle's 'canonical' theory of matter, the theory of the four elements and four qualities or powers, falls short of accounting for these two clusters of major phenomena:

(i) As many scholars have stressed, in Aristotle's theory of matter there is no 'necessitation from below': Aristotle's matter does not organize itself spontaneously into structured substances such as living beings. But, obviously, forms do emerge in matter-- living beings come to be. Moreover, because Aristotle's world is . . .

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