Aquinas on Substance: A Defense of Hylemorphism Against Contemporary Accounts of Substance
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Theories of substance have dominated much of the literature in metaphysics. Today, there are two prominent accounts of substance: bare particularism and bundle theory. Both theories are attractive for different reasons, yet both have serious problems. While bare particularism and bundle theory enjoy preference in the literature on substance, I think that hylemorphism and the metaphysics of substance formulated by Aristotle and adopted by Saint Thomas Aquinas is an attractive view for two reasons: (1) its ability to account for both substantial and accidental change, and (2) its ability to account for the teleological nature of substance. To account for substantial change, hylemorphism makes a distinction between different types of form and matter. In substantial change, the substantial form of a substance is destroyed and replaced with a new substantial form. The subject of this change is prime matter. In accidental change, an accidental form is replaced by a new accidental form and the subject of this change is secondary matter, or the substance itself. Furthermore, a substance can also be understood as a composite of essence and accidents. By postulating an essence distinct from its accidents, hylemorphism can explain how substances are internally unified and directed towards a range of characteristic ends. As an integral part of a more general metaphysics, hylemorphism provides motivation to revisit the metaphysics of Aristotle and Aquinas.
Ostertag, Christopher (2016). Aquinas on Substance: A Defense of Hylemorphism Against Contemporary Accounts of Substance. Master's thesis, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from