Introduction to the Body-Mind Problem: Aristotle on Causality, Substance, and Accidents’



  1. Further, the whole of being consists of bodies and space. For the existence of bodies is everywhere attested by sense itself, and it is upon sensation that reason must rely when it attempts to infer the unknown from the known. And if there were no space (which we call also void and place and intangible nature), bodies would have nothing in which to be and through which to move, as they are plainly seen to move. Beyond bodies and space there is nothing which by mental apprehension or on its analogy we can conceive to exist. When we speak of bodies and space, both are regarded as wholes or separate things, not as the properties or accidents of separate things.


  1. Again, of bodies some are composite, others the elements of which these composite bodies are made. These elements are indivisible and unchangeable, and necessarily so, if things are not all to be destroyed and pass into non-existence, but are to be strong enough to endure when the composite bodies are broken up, because they possess, a solid nature and are incapable of being anywhere or anyhow dissolved. It follows that the first beginnings must be indivisible, corporeal entities.


  1. Again, the sum of things is infinite. For what is finite has an extremity, and the extremity of anything is discerned only by comparison with something else. Now the sum of things is not discerned by comparison with anything else: hence it has no extremity, it has no limit; and, since it has no limit, it must be unlimited or infinite.


Aristotle, Physics, Bk 2

  1. Of things that exist, some exist by nature, some from other causes. By nature the animals and the parts exist, and the plants and simple bodies (earth, air, fire, water)—for we say that these the like exist by nature.
  2. All the things mentioned plainly differ from things which are not constructed by nature. For each of them has within itself a principle of motion and of stationariness (in respect of place, or of growth and decrease, or by way of alteration.  On the other hand, a bed and a coat or anything else of that sort, qua receiving these designations—that is, in so far as they are products of arts—have no innate impulse to change

Aristotle, Categories

  1. Substance in the truest primary and most definite sense of the word is that which is neither predicable of a subject nor present in a subject; for instance the individual man or horse.
  2. Substances are most properly called substances in virtue of the fact that they are the entities which underlie everything else, and that every else is either predicated of them or present in them.
  3. It is a common characteristic of all substance that it is never present in a subject.
  4. All substance appears to signify that which is individual.
  5. One and the self-same substance, while retaining its identity, is yet capable of admitting contrary qualities.


Link to a Hillsdale discussion of Aristotle’s Four Causes

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