What is Primary matter?

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by Mind Over Matter, Jan 31, 2011.

  1. Mind Over Matter Registered Senior Member

    St. Thomas was speaking of 'Primary matter', not mundane, physical matter. It is also something similar to what Aristotle taught.

    Does anyone have a more precise definition?
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  3. D H Some other guy Valued Senior Member

    The philosophical ramblings of a 13th century theologian have little if anything to do with physics. This thread needs to be moved to philosophy.
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  5. Emil Valued Senior Member

    Before moving, and I'd like to ask a question.
    If there is something before matters.
    Something that is not organized in atom and therefore not part of the periodic table?
    I use "primary matter" because I can not find a more appropriate word.
    Universal attraction of matter is not an intrinsic property of matter.
    It is a property of positrons and neutrons contained in the atom.
    And if material damage and no longer exists as atoms, as in a black hole remains the property of attraction.
    We can say that there are matter, about what exists in a black hole or a "primary matter"?
    We can talk about something that is not organized in an atom, there is matter?
    Can to exist somewhere all necessary components of the atom but it is not organized in an atom?
    It knows something about the properties of this "primary matter" something other than attraction there?
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  7. Rav Valued Senior Member

    Strings maybe? String Theory postulates that all matter (classical particles) is made from tiny 1-dimensional strings of energy that are oscillating in multiple microscopic hidden dimensions.
  8. glaucon tending tangentially Registered Senior Member


    Thanks DH.

    Not quite similar to Aristotle's thought.

    St. Thomas' thinking was strikingly similar to most of the Pre-Socratics when it comes to ontology. Basically, he was attempting an Essentialist position, whereby all media of experience can be reduced to (or explained by) one singular notion.

    Given St. Thomas' Christian background, it's difficult to delineate the philosophy from the theology, so I would direct you to the Pre-Socratics for a better grasp on this kind of essentialist thinking:

    Pre Socratics
  9. Spectrum Registered Senior Member

    It's all semantics.
    Says who? Have YOU discovered this, or are you stealing somebody elses work? Do you have any thoughts of your own on the 'matter'.
  10. Emil Valued Senior Member

    I called by mistake proton as the positron.
    Read here! Atom Mass
    Please be more specific.
    What does it mean for you to steal?
    I believe that the language used by you, is unfit for this place.
  11. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    I'm not particularly familiar with Thomas Aquinas. But since he followed Aristotle in most things, I'll assume that he intended the phrase 'prime matter' to be understood in the Aristotelian sense of 'prote hule', first or primary matter.

    This is the idea that there's some original form of matter, some fundamental material ground-state, that in itself is completely devoid of form. It has no positive qualities of its own, but possesses the potential to assume any form whatsoever.

    Prime matter seems to be the Aristotelian term for an idea that Anaximander had earlier called 'apeiron', meaning without boundaries. My speculation is that Anaximander was himself kind of philosophizing the much more ancient idea of primaeval chaos. The Mesopotamians imagined primaeval chaos as water (which has no shape of its own) and we see that idea recurring in Thales. Creation is imagined in terms of imposing form onto chaos. In Aristotle, 'apeiron' becomes a philosophical word for infinity as in infinite numbers, and 'prime matter' replaces 'apeiron' in the being-without-form role.

    In Aristotle, and I suppose in Aquinas as well, matter in this sense becomes the principle of reality, of physical being. Impressing a form into matter (like the form of a seal into formless wax) is what turns an abstraction like circularity into an actual reality like a particular chariot wheel.

    If somebody wants a modern scientific idea that's vaguely analogous to prime matter, perhaps it might be some kind of quantum vacuum or something.
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2011
  12. Rav Valued Senior Member

    Or perhaps even quantum foam, which some describe as the fabric of the universe.
  13. Pandaemoni Valued Senior Member

    "Primary Matter" to my recollection was physical matter, but divorced from the soul or other divine spark that made it, in its true essence, what it is. As a crude example, imagine a chair. Whatever chair you imagined is really just a potential chair, it is the "form" of a chair, but without primary matter that gives it physical reality.

    Imagine that form is a real thing and that it is only because the form exists that chairs--any chair--can exist. This is how many of the ancients imagined the world (and is key to understanding things like, alchemy, for example and why they thought that only four Empedoclean elements were needed to make every substance that exists...because earth air fire and water were physical only--primary matter--and there was no end to the forms they could take.)

    Now imagine taking a physical chair, but extracting from it that "essence" or "form" of "chairness". Not merely smashing the chair to bits, mind you, But simply separating from the crude physical matter the underlying essence of what it is to be a chair. The formless physical matter that would be left behind is the primary matter of that (former) chair.

    Edit: I should add, in case there is confusion...generally, to be "primary matter" the physical matter in question would have to be devoid of all form. So imagine a wooden chair, and take the "chairness" out of it...what you are left with is not primary matter because it's still "wood". If you extract the "woodness" (the essential intangible essence of what it means to be "wood") from it, and any other form the remains may hold, the those remains are "primary matter." (Now, why "wood" was a form and the "earth" "air" "fire" and "water" were not, I have never understood. There is a discussion of it by Paracelcus, but I couldn't follow what distinction we was trying to make.)
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2011

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