Volume 14, Issue 1, 2017
The Ontological Status of the Body in Aquinas’s Hylomorphism
Hylomorphism is central to Thomistic philosophical anthropology. However, little attention has been paid to the ontological status of the body in this theoretical framework. This essay aims to show that in Aquinas’s hylomorphic ontology, the body as a constituent part of the compound is above all prime matter as pure potentiality. In view of the contemporary criticisms of prime matter, it examines the fundamental theoretical presuppositions of this controversial concept and offers a defensive reading of Aquinas’s conception of the body as prime matter. It also displays possible difficulties in identifying the body with prime matter and gives a clue indicating the way out. This effort will make it possible to defend the consistency of Aquinas’s conception of the body and to react to the severe criticism of hylomorphism in the philosophy of mind by contemporary philosophers such as Bernard Williams, namely by showing how hylomorphism can be formally consistent without slipping into the materialism or dualism it bitterly opposes.