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Philosophy Research Archives

Volume 1, 1975

William H. Brenner
Pages 46-53

Prime Matter and Barrington Jones

In Philosophical Review, October 1974, Professor Jones argues that Aristotle's concept of matter is that of any individual item, such as a piece of bronze or a seed, with which a process of coming into existence begins, and which is prior (in a purely temporal sense) to the product which comes to exist. Aristotle does not try to prove the existence of some sort of "super-stuff" called "prime matter." I argue that Jones' account does not do full justice to Aristotle's analysis of change, or to the traditional notion of prime matter based on it. I criticize Jones' arguments and draw attention to a passage in which Aristotle says that matter comes to be and ceases to be in one sense, while in another it does not. "Matter" in the first sense refers to the determinate individual, the first term of a change; in the second sense it is the "stuff" which remains after a substantial change, the "prime matter."

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