Would I be right in saying an a example of aristoles hylomorphism would be sculpting a piece of clay into the shape of a car ? Where clay would be the matter and the shape of the clay ( the car ) would be the form ?

Thanks Ben

1 Answer 1


Unfortunately, there's a problem with your example. Aristotle does not think artifacts (here meaning objects that people make) are hylomorphic substances.

For Aristotle, the most central examples are living things (but there are others). So for instance, a tree is something that is following the tree-pattern (or form or essence) and that is organizing lots of matter towards that pattern -- turning it into root, branch, leaf, fruit, etc.

Or a giraffe. It's eating stuff and turning that stuff (the hyle) into giraffy-organized stuff.

Transferred to your artifact example, you're right that the car shape is the "form" of it and that the clay is working as the "matter." But ...

  1. hyle is completely unformed matter (it's more a limit concept than something we ever encounter).
  2. morphe is more than just the shape something happens to be in. It's the shape and the unifying principle that the thing has.

So clay is a kind of weird mixture of dirt and other things rather than completely unformed matter, and while you've pounded the clay into a car shape, that doesn't make it a car.

Put another way, the clay car is going to break down over time and lose that kind of car-shaped nature as it gets battered. It doesn't resist this in the same way as a child would.

A real car doesn't fare much better because it's just a lot of matter we have forced together to do something for us.

There are others who have extended his account to artifacts, but he explicitly claims that they are not included.

(See more here:

Artifacts as substances in Aristotelian metaphysics

Also see: Hylomophism as the foundation of matter, how true can this be. explain)

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