• In aristotelian philosophy, there are no bare particulars ( contrary to what is the case in Plato, according to P.V. Spade) but internally structured ( substantial) particulars in which 2 "parts"/aspects can be distinguished ( though not separated) : matter and form.

Form is what makes a particular the kind of entity it is ; it is an embodied essence.

  • In cartesian ontology , the notion of substantial form disappears totally in the case of ordinary physical bodies ( the case of the human body being special).

However, Descartes does not seem to give much explanations as to the reasons why " substantial forms" become useless in his ontology. And commentators concentrate on Descartes strategy as to the reception of his doctrine ( strategy consisting , as he writes to his disciple Regis, in not attacking " substantial forms" directly and overtly) ; but are rather silent as to the reasons why substantial forms disappear.

  • One explanation I see is the following , though I can't provide textual evidence for it :

(1) Descartes rejects natural kinds ( for him, all bodies - be they "wax" " stone" , " diamond", " star" - though appearing distinct in essence at the level of perception - are parts of the same thing, namely matter or extended substance; they all share the same essence - being extended).

(2) The only function of " substantial form" is to explain natural kind membership .

(3) So, without natural kinds, substantial forms become useless.

  • Is this argument correct? It seems to me a bit general and abstract. It could also be suspected of begging the question ( how can Descartes know there are no natural kinds without first knowing there are no substantial forms?)

Are there more precise reasons, linked to Descartes physical theory, for rejecting substantial forms?

What makes substantial forms in principle incompatible with (Descartes) new physics?

Is there a reference in which this question is dealt with precisely?



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