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What is substance?.

Discussion in 'Christian Philosophy & Ethics' started by Akita Suggagaki, Oct 23, 2021.

  1. Akita Suggagaki

    Akita Suggagaki Well-Known Member

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    Is anyone interested in exploring this with me? We hear of terms like "consubstantial" in the creed and 'transubstantiation" as in a Catholic explanation of the sacrament. But what does it all really mean?

    It seems, in summary, that there are at least six overlapping ideas that contribute to the philosophical concept of substance. Substances are typified as:

    1. being ontologically basic—substances are the things from which everything else is made or by which it is metaphysically sustained;
    2. being, at least compared to other things, relatively independent and durable, and, perhaps, absolutely so;
    3. being the paradigm subjects of predication and bearers of properties;
    4. being, at least for the more ordinary kinds of substance, the subjects of change;
    5. being typified by those things we normally classify as objects, or kinds of objects;
    6. being typified by kinds of stuff.
    We shall see later that the Kantian tradition adds a seventh mark of substance:

    1. substances are those enduring particulars that give unity to our spatio-temporal framework, and the individuation and re-identification of which enables us to locate ourselves in that framework. (It should be remarked in passing that at least one major expositor of Aristotle (Irwin: 1988, especially chs 1, 9, 10) attributes a very similar intention to Aristotle himself

    Substance (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
     
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  2. SkyWriting

    SkyWriting The Librarian Supporter

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    It means the bread and the wine become Jesus during communion.
     
  3. Maria Billingsley

    Maria Billingsley Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Substance is matter. Transubstantiation is a theological dogma.
    Jesus Christ of Nazareth never claimed that His matter , flesh, would supersede His Holy Spirit. In fact His Spirit must dwell in a human being in order to be saved from the second death.
    Blessings.
     
  4. Mark Quayle

    Mark Quayle Well-Known Member Supporter

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    "Faith is the substance of things hoped for"
     
  5. Albion

    Albion Factchecker

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    Well, that's what "Transubstantiation" means. The Original Post asked about the meaning of "substance."
     
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2021
  6. SkyWriting

    SkyWriting The Librarian Supporter

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    I don't object to more. Do you think?
     
  7. SkyWriting

    SkyWriting The Librarian Supporter

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    Go ahead....I'm not stomping you.
     
  8. Bob Crowley

    Bob Crowley Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I'm not sure what you're asking - are you after a definition of the term "Substance", which as you pointed out yourself has several interpretations in philosophy.

    Or are you asking for the interplay of the words "consubstantial" and "transubstantiation" with the word "substance" and what is the relationship between them?

    To get some idea of what the terms mean, I think we need to go back to their origins.

    1. Consubstantial

    According to CONSUBSTANTIAL - Definition and synonyms of consubstantial in the English dictionary, the word "Consubstantial owes it's origin to Tertullian.

    Consubstantial is an adjective used in Latin Christian christology, coined by Tertullian in Against Hermogenes 44, used to translate the Greek term homoousios.

    This begs the question, "What does 'homousios' mean?". According to Homoousios | Encyclopedia.com
    it meant "the same kind of stuff as..."

    In other words the Nicene Creed is saying that that God the Son is made of the "same kind of stuff" as God the Father, based on what was then a common theological term derived from the Greek language, later translated to "consubstantial". The church at the Nicean Council was affirming that Christ was divine, and not merely human in its argument with the Arian heresy.

    In this case "substance" simply means "stuff". I doubt if the Nicene bishops cared one whit about past and future philosophical definitions which would throw out various means for "substance". They had only one issue in mind, and that was how they dealt with it.

    2. Transubtantiation - Transubstantiation - New World Encyclopedia

    We can argue till the cows come home about the philosophy (a lot of water has passed under the bridge since Aristotle), but the term means that the bread becomes the Body of Christ in the Eucharist. The Protestants rejected this and then came up with their own differing versions. Proving it is another matter, although there have been miraculous incidents where the bread appears to have become human heart tissue.

    Eucharistic Miracle in Buenos Aires

    An Australian journalist Mike Willesee is mentioned in the article. He was often on the television some years ago, and was a hard bitten journalist, who checked his sources. He'd been raised a Catholic but rejected the church at least partly due to its treatment of him and his father who was a Labor Party member and Senator. He later returned to the faith, but if anybody had a skeptical journalistic outlook, he did. He died of cancer in 2019.

    Mike Willesee says revealing God is his greatest work

    I might point out the Christians Brothers figured highly in the "Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse", with an alleged 22% of Christian Brothers being the nominated figure as being involved in abuse of one sort or another.
     
  9. Akita Suggagaki

    Akita Suggagaki Well-Known Member

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    Thank you. I am trying to get at what do we mean by "stuff'. I think the first point comes closes to the question:
    1. being ontologically basic—substances are the things from which everything else is made or by which it is metaphysically sustained;

    "Metaphysically sustained" So lets take water. What is the substance of water? We are tempted to give the easiest answer: H2O molecule. But that is just at the atomic level. Is there something metaphysically deeper then? Is wetness a substance? What would have to change to make it "not" water?

    From your link, " Christian writers at Alexandria adopted the word [homoousios] to express the eternal origin of the Son from the Father.

    So substance goes far beyond matter to metaphysical origins.

    "The elimination of matter as a good candidate for being substance, leaves either form alone or the composite of form and matter. The composite seems more consonant with the doctrine of Categories, for the composite is the individual. Aristotle, however, chooses the form as more paradigmatically substance."
    Substance (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

    So now I have to read about "Form" and what Aristotle had in mind. Or maybe just jump to the middle ages.

    "Our discussion of Aristotle ended by returning to the issue of the unity of substantial form—what is the difference between a collection of ‘essential’ properties and the form as a unitary entity. Various aspects of this issue of the unity of substantial form preoccupied medieval philosophers. According to Aquinas, a substance possessed only one form, and its matter was the essentially characterless prime matter. In other words the informed parts of an object—in the case of a living creature, its organs, and the various kinds of stuff that constituted it (in the end, quantities of earth, fire, air, and water) did not possess their own forms, but were informed by the overall substantial form. Others disagreed. Some of the disagreements were internal to the hylomorphic system. Duns Scotus, for example, argued that a dead person’s body was the same body as had existed when that person was alive. The soul had departed, so the form that was the immortal soul could not be identical with the form of the body. This argument may seem to be specialised to the case of the human immortal soul, but, presumably, a similar problem applies to a dead parrot: it has lost its perceptive and vegetative souls, yet is the same body—even if it is no longer a parrot."

    again from Substance (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)


    That brings us to soul and hylomorphism

    "Aristotle famously contends that every physical object is a compound of matter and form. This doctrine has been dubbed “hylomorphism”, a portmanteau of the Greek words for matter (hulê) and form (eidos or morphê). Highly influential in the development of Medieval philosophy, Aristotle’s hylomorphism has also enjoyed something of a renaissance in contemporary metaphysics."
    Form vs. Matter (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

    Does it make sense to ask what the substance of soul is?

    Note well that I have not read philosophy since the 70s. I am no there to debate nor argue anything, especially any kind of Church teaching. I am here to understand more deeply the concepts that we may sometimes take for granted.
     
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2021
  10. Akita Suggagaki

    Akita Suggagaki Well-Known Member

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    I don't doubt that. What I am asking is what exactly changed?
     
  11. Akita Suggagaki

    Akita Suggagaki Well-Known Member

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    Speaking of soul in relation to substance I am wondering bout something else.

    Probably most of us accept some kind of the body/ soul distinction or matter/ spirit distinction or correlation, interplay. But what about thoughts and emotions? Matter or spirit? Something in between? Could it be more of a continuum or spectrum of being. I suppose materialist have a very different answer than idealists. Too many questions? confusing things?
     
  12. Mark Quayle

    Mark Quayle Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Consider this thought/concept: that the smallest particle, or component of particles, the most basic substance of matter/force, is something very physical —the Love of God. It would answer your question and many others. I have no idea if that concept has merit, but there is something to the thought, I think.

    One thing I learned from reading CS Lewis and a few others, and from the Bible, is that the spiritual is more 'substantial', more 'solid', than this vapor we in this temporal frame consider reality.
     
  13. Akita Suggagaki

    Akita Suggagaki Well-Known Member

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    I like that. I am thinking that the threshold of physical and spiritual, maybe more of perception. Like ice, water and vapor. or macro/micro. In biology we have organism/organ/cell/ molecule /atom: how far down does it go but to the limit of our perception.
     
  14. Mark Quayle

    Mark Quayle Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Notice as we approach the unverifiable/unreachability, the stranger things become —the more ethereal, it seems, even to the point where description of particle physics begins to sound like philosophy. We even want to give solid value to a mathematical 'possibility/chance' and nonsequential causation.
     
  15. Bob Crowley

    Bob Crowley Well-Known Member Supporter

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    On your sideline about "Wetness", there's an item here. I lifted the paragraph below from the article.

    Why wet feels wet: Understanding the illusion of wetness

    As for "not water", Hydrogen Peroxide is H2O2. It has one more oxygen atom per molecule, and has a quite different texture. It's been many years since I was made to rinse my mouth with it for an infected throat, but if I remember rightly it had a "bubbly" texture. It was only about 3% H2O2, the rest being water.

    These days they wouldn't recommend using it.

    Should You Use Hydrogen Peroxide To Clean Cuts and Scrapes?

    I doubt if we have sensors for "bubbliness" either. Once again it's probably a combination of other sensors and our brain working to give a sense of "bubbliness".

    On the business of metaphysics, I think God maintains the universe as a stage prop for the human drama, and it adds up to nothing ("sum zero energy universe"). He's keeping the really solid universe for those who have proven themselves to be on His side. Why give a really solid universe to creatures who set up concentration camps for their own kind, blow up their own kind in terrorist attacks, kill their own kind in abortion chambers, commit serial murder against their own kind, continuously wage war against their own kind, build weapons of mass destruction, and all the rest of the crimes so evident in human history?

    For an allegorical version of Heaven versus this world (and Hell), read CS Lewis's "The Great Divorce".

    For myself, I think at the end of time, Hell will be swept under the carpet so to speak, a microscopic entity of terrible suffering, and forgotten. For those inside it will be horribly real - for those outside it will to all intents and purposes not exist, the core of an invisible black hole if you like. Maybe that's what Black Holes are, at least in part - an illustration of what Hell will be like.

    https://www.livescience.com/33129-total-energy-universe-zero.html

     
  16. Akita Suggagaki

    Akita Suggagaki Well-Known Member

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    Now we open another question. What is more essential or more substantial. our sense or the object in itself. So now we get into phenomenalism.

    "As an epistemological theory about the possibility of knowledge of objects in the external world, however, it is probable that the most easily understandable formulation of phenomenalism is to be found in the transcendental aesthetics of Immanuel Kant. According to Kant, space and time, which are the a priori forms and preconditions of all sensory experience, "refer to objects only to the extent that these are considered as phenomena, but do not represent the things in themselves". While Kant insisted that knowledge is limited to phenomena, he never denied or excluded the existence of objects which were not knowable by way of experience, the things-in-themselves or noumena, though he never proved them."
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phenomenalism


    So does the noumena/phenomena relationship correlate with the substance/accidentals relationship?
     
  17. Bob Crowley

    Bob Crowley Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I think some of these philosophers decry common sense.

    If three people look at a 3 dimensional box from 3 different positions, they will visualise the box as they see it.

    If they then change one place, they'll see the same box but from a different perspective.

    And if they change position again, the same thing will happen, but it will still be the same box.

    Unless somebody is bunging on a massive illusionist act for every object which can be perceived by nearly 8 billion people, many of them looking at the same object simultaneously, then it's a fair bet the objects exist in themselves.

    That we may only perceive the objects in our mind might be a fact, but so what? If train is coming downt the tracks, and we wonder "Is that object real or is it only a perception in my mind?" all we have to do to find out is step onto the tracks and wait.

    Geisler and Feinberg in "Introduction to Philosophy - A Christian Perspective" commented at one point "... Analytic thinking is as essential to good philosophy as good instruments and clean hands are to a surgical operation. On the other hand, some analytic philosophers seem to spend so much time on the tool-sharpening and hand-washing they never get around to the operation! In their preoccupation with meaning, they forget about truth."
     
  18. JimR-OCDS

    JimR-OCDS God Cannot Be Grasped, Except Through Love

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    The Catholic Church teaches that during the Consecration of the Mass the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ, transubstantiation. However the Church also teaches that the accidentals of bread and wine remain.

    In other words, Christ can make anything become his body, including this chair I'm sitting in, but it still appears to be a chair.

    The transubstantiation of the Eucharist was understood by the Apostles who taught their disciples like St Ignatius of Antioch, who also taught it to the early Church.

    As Jesus himself said, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you." John 6:53
     
  19. Akita Suggagaki

    Akita Suggagaki Well-Known Member

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    I am not debating or even challenging Transubstantiation.

    My question remains, "What is substance"? For most things it is the basic essence of something that can have many accidental changes. But usually essence or substance is intrinsic to the accidental possibilities. How much can the accidentals of water change before it is no longer water? How much can a rock change before it is no longer a rock. What is it that makes it water or a rock and not something else?
     
  20. Akita Suggagaki

    Akita Suggagaki Well-Known Member

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    I think the more meaningful question is, how accurate is our perception of the reality out there. Not doubting that reality but the accuracy of our perception of it.

    That is germane to the subject of substance though. Because accidentals relate more closely to our perceptions. Substance or essence (BTW are these terms interchangeable? I don't know) is more abstract and probably more complicated as it involves not only the reality of the object out there, but also the many aspect of its true nature. My goodness! It sounds like we are now getting into Zen. What is the true nature of a Rock. And as Jim said, could it also have been transubstantiated.
     
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