Saturday, June 6, 2009


Question: in the act of knowledge, intelligence only grasping form, can we not deduct that substance is irreducibly inaccessible to it?

Answer: You write: “in the act of knowledge, intelligence only grasping form...”

Do we agree on what form is? A quick reminder on what is meant by “form”.. A form answers the question of “what is it”, or again “that by which what is exists as it exists”, and can thus beget diverse answers according to the order in which we interrogate this reality. For example, if I look at you in the order of intelligibility and ask myself what determines you firstly, I will say you are a human being. “Human being” is a form abstracted by intelligence which seeks what is most intelligible in you, what is most significant, determining. In fact, I have never met “human being”, only such and such concrete human; I thus abstract this form “human being” from a multitude of singular people I have crossed. It is very difficult to describe “human being”... I could describe you if I met you, and even take a picture of you, but “human being” is not as easy to describe as one would think! Yet Everyman understands what I signify by “human being”.

If I look at you in the order of life, after having come across a multitude of living beings, I will say what firstly determines you is your soul. Thus the soul is the form of the living.


But contrary to what you write, intelligence does not solely know through forms, it also knows via the sensibles, for it never ceases to cooperate with the five senses, to an extent that we would know nothing of reality without them. Further, the abstract wouldn't exist, since the abstract proceeds form the concrete... it is One from the Multiple. In short, there are two ways intelligence can acquire knowledge: the abstract mode and the concrete mode... there are no others!

Now then, in the order of what exists, thus of the concrete, you are what comes first, and realist philosophers call that the first substance, in other words the subject, you, Veritas, whereas “human being” is first in the order of intelligibility, and we call that second substance or “quiddity”.

We thus have a first substance, Veritas, and a second substance: “human being”.

The substance which you are thinking of, which we can call substance-principle, is neither the first substance nor the second substance. It is what explains that Veritas is first in his order, and that “human being” is first in its order. In other words the substance-principle which you are seeking is what explains that the concrete is concrete and the abstract is abstract, that first substance is first substance and that second substance is second substance, thus it is neither one nor the other, neither concrete nor abstract... It is in fact because it has something to do with first substance and second substance that it is neither one nor the other... for if it were abstract, the concrete wouldn't exist, and vice versa. It is thus necessary, with regards to these two correlatives – the concrete and the abstract – that there be a reality that is present in both but at the same time beyond both.

Thus when you write: “can we not deduct that substance is irreducibly inaccessible to it?”... are right in the sense that one can not concretely touch nor abstract substance-principle according to the form of what is! For substance-principle is neither concrete, else we could touch it, nor abstract, else it would only exist in our intelligence. So how can we be certain it is a reality since we can only know in a concrete or abstract mode? We must induce it... it is only through induction that one can find substance, principle according to the form of what is, for if substance-principle is neither concrete nor abstract, it nevertheless exists; in fact, it is!

You are thus right in expressing a doubt concerning the abstract mode of knowledge, since intelligence must simultaneously renounce the concrete and the abstract. You can neither take a picture of substance-principle, nor abstract it, nor describe it, nor figure it, not even imagine it... and that is precisely why many deny it exists, for no one has ever made a full circle around substance-principle, to the extent that if anyone tells you one day “that's it, I have seen precisely what substance-principle is”, you can rest assured that either that person is joking or he is clueless. In fact, it would be just as silly as another who would profess “that's it, I love my wife, I have gone full circle around her, I don't need to see her anymore”, for we never go full circle around a person, something always escapes us, which possibly proceeds from the substance of that person!

One must thus think about what an induction is. For the moderns an induction is often Baconian – i.e. quantitative – whereas for Aristotle an induction is qualitative... Now then, substance-principle is a reality in the order of being, thus is qualitative, not at all quantitative! The induction of substance-principle is quite poor! It hardly has the brilliance of a mathematical demonstration... which may explain why this necessary meagerness of intelligence to induce substance-principle, in other words this aspect of us which begs for what is at the heart of reality, does not go down well with a self-important spirit. Metaphysics is for the poor.


  1. To the questioner: Ask a person blind and deaf from birth what they know about substance Metaphysics is indeed for the poor and perhaps the poor in heart.
    My best Count Sneaky

  2. Count! Nice to read you :) I'm quite certain what the original author signifies by "poor" is the attitude of begging to seek to approach the heart of reality... :D

    Interesting point you bring up... even without all your senses, it seems to me you still can know some concrete realities and thus make an abstraction from these singular realities, and ultimately induce substance-principle :D

    Not sure I understand the "poor in heart" angle.

    Saludos! :)

  3. don't you ever feel like your 'human being-ness' only pops up when you turn to look at it?

    after all, what is substance but what it can accomplish? and what is an accomplishment but another illusion, an anticipation, of substance?

    please look at my blog; we have different takes on these issues.

  4. I think the "poor-in-heart" reference means those not proud of their own learning/ accomplishments. Those with enough humility to say, " I just don't understand.
    I may never understand. But I will keep trying in the face of ideology, religion and fate." Yes, I think you can still abstract from little sensory input because the mind is still there and producng reality. I think.

  5. @Adam,
    I'm not sure I'm following your train of thought here, nor what you are disagreeing about. I will read your blog in more detail. thank for input! :)

    @Count Sneaky,
    Yes, I hear you. ;) It's funny, the more one delves into first philosophy, the less one seems to understand, to some extent. Apparently, that is a good sign :P

  6. i reckon the abstract (commonly known as 'understandings') is actually a substance
    elsewhere mind and matter are the same thing.
    understnadings raise us to the finer matters..
    that's why the word 'matters' as in subjects affairs etc also means a material substance
    its a clue from da godz.

  7. Hello FFC,
    The abstract(One from the Multiple)is what Aristotle calls the second substance (or quiddity or form). It is a principle in the order of intelligibility. However, substance-principle is first in the order of Being. It is what is common to the first substance (eg Harvey) and the second substance (man)- both of which descibe the same reality (me) :)

  8. Nice work and Lovely blog!! You have been awarded!!!