Monday, November 7, 2011

Some Elementary Metaphysics

Define a substance as the actuality of an essence which in its act of being (essendo) does not depend on another essence subjectively sustaining it in the same supposit. By an essence I mean an intelligible ratio. By "subjectively sustaining" x I mean acting as a subject for x. By a supposit I mean a singular concrete existent.

All right, then: a substance so defined exists. I take it for granted that something exists. Call it x. If x is not essentially dependent on anything in its supposit, x is a substance. If what you admit exists is dependent on something subjectively sustaining it in its supposit - if x is dependent on y - I ask whether y is independent or whether it depends on another. On pain of infinite regress we have to come to something which is not essentially dependent in the sense defined, and this will be the substance sustaining x.

Granted that substances exist, accidents can be shown to exist from the fact of change. In change a substate x remains itself while becoming different in some respect: Socrates sitting becomes Socrates standing, xa-->xb. That x remains the same is presupposed by the notion of change; otherwise we would have mere annihilation of a and subsequent creation of b. But if x is identical across xa and xb, then x does not essentially depend on a or b, while either a or b may belong to x; therefore in both xa and xb a and b are accidental to x.

Cf. Scotus, Quaest. in Metaph. VII. Q.2 n.24.


Edward Ockham said...

Hmm yes, elementary metaphysics indeed. Does Scotus include the 'xa' and 'xb' or is that your paraphrase?

Michael Sullivan said...

No, it's mine. The definitions are mine too.