Substance, Nature, and Immanence – Form in Aristotle´s Constituent Ontology

Michael J. Loux


In this paper, I try to display Aristotle's account of familiar sensible individuals as an instance of the constituent strategy in ontology. On that strategy, a familiar particular is a mereologically complex object that derives its essential character from the things that count as its components or constituents. In Aristotle's version of the strategy, an individual substance falls under its proper kind in virtue of being a composite of the appropriate form and a parcel of matter of the appropriate sort. Now, constituent ontologists typically present us with reductive accounts of familiar particulars. They tell us that familiar particulars are mere aggregates of their constituents rather genuinely unified objects, and they tell us that the form of being exhibited by a familiar particular is a mere construction out of the more basic forms of being associated with its constituents. Aristotle, however, is notoriously not a reductionist about individual substances. While endorsing the constituent strategy, he wants to claim that things like the individual man and individual horse of the "Categories" are thorough going unities whose characteristic forms of being are irreducibly basic or autonomous. I try to show how his distinctively unique account of form allows him to develop a constituent theory of individual substances that does justice to both their unity and their autonomy.


20th century philosophy; ontology; philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; constituent ontology; matter vs form; Aristotle; substance

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