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CRITIQUE OF DESCARTES’ DEFINITION OF SUBSTANCE IN PRINCIPLES

OF PHILOSOPHY, I, 51.

Paul Gerard Horrigan, Ph.D., 2018.

Instead of adhering to the descriptive definition of substance as that reality to whose


essence or nature it is proper to be in itself (esse in se) and not in another subject,1 the
rationalist René Descartes (1596-1650),2 in his 1644 Principles of Philosophy, I, 51, had

1
An accident, on the other hand, is that reality to whose essence it is proper to be in something else, as in its
subject.
2
Studies on Descartes: O. HAMELIN, Le Système de Descartes, Alcan, Paris, 1911 ; G. MILHAUD, Descartes
savant, Alcan, Paris, 1921 ; H. GOUHIER, La pensée religieuse de Descartes, Vrin, Paris, 1924 ; J. MARITAIN,
Three Reformers: Luther, Descartes, Rousseau, London, 1928 ; P. GARIN, Thèses cartésiennes et thèses thomistes,
Desclée, Paris, 1933 ; F. OLGIATI, Cartesio, Milan, 1934 ; S. V. KEELING, Descartes, Ernest Benn, London, 1934
; W. A. MERYLEES, Descartes: An Examination of Some Features of His Metaphysics and Method, Melbourne
University Press, Melbourne, 1934 ; E. GILSON, René Descartes: Discours de la Méthode (Texte et commentaire),
Vrin, Paris, 1935 ; F. OLGIATI, La filosofia di Descartes, Milan, 1937 ; J. MARITAIN, The Dream of Descartes,
Philosophical Library, New York, 1944 ; J. F. SCOTT, The Scientific Work of Réne Descartes, Taylor and Francis,
London, 1952 ; L. BECK, The Method of Descartes: A Study of the Regulae, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1952 ; A.
BALZ, Descartes and the Modern Mind, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1952 ; H. GOUHIER, Les premières
pensées de Descartes, Vrin, Paris, 1958 ; H. GOUHIER, La pensée métaphysique de Descartes, Vrin, Paris, 1962 ;
L. BECK, The Metaphysics of Descartes: A Study of the Meditations, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1965 ; N. K.
SMITH, New Studies in the Philosophy of Descartes, Macmillan, London, 1966 ; E. GILSON, Études sur le rôle de
la pensée médiévale dans la formation du système cartésien, Vrin, Paris, 1967 ; W. DONEY (ed.), Descartes: A
Collection of Critical Essays, Doubleday, New York, 1967 ; F. BROADIE, An Approach to Descartes’
‘Meditations,’ Athlone Press, London, 1970 ; G. RODIS-LEWIS, L’oeuvre de Descartes, Vrin, Paris, 1971 ; J.
COLLINS, Descartes’ Philosophy of Nature, Blackwell, Oxford, 1971 ; R. J. BUTLER (ed.), Cartesian Studies,
Barnes and Noble, New York, 1972 ; H. GOUHIER, Descartes: Essais sur le Discours de la Méthode, la
Métaphysique et la Morale, Vrin, Paris, 1973 ; H. CATON, The Origins of Subjectivity: An Essay on Descartes,
Yale University Press, New Haven, 1973 ; L. VEGA, L’etica di Cartesio, Celuc, Milan, 1974 ; C. CARDONA, René
Descartes: Discurso del método, EMESA, Madrid, 1975 ; J. RÉE, Descartes, Pica Press, New York, 1975 ; J.
GARCIA LOPEZ, El conocimiento de Dios en Descartes, EUNSA, Pamplona, 1976 ; E. CURLEY, Descartes
Against the Skeptics, Blackwell, Oxford, 1978 ; G. A. LINDEBOOM, Descartes and Medicine, Rodopi, Amsterdam,
1978 ; M. HOOKER (ed.) Descartes: Critical and Interpretive Essays, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore,
1978 ; B. WILLIAMS, Descartes: The Project of Pure Inquiry, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1978 ; A. PAVAN,
All’origine del progetto borghese: il giovane Descartes, Morcelliana, Brescia, 1979 ; J. M. BEYSSADE, La
Philosophie première de Descartes, Flamarion, Paris, 1979 ; E. GILSON, Index scolastico-cartésien, Vrin, Paris,
1979 ; G. CANSIANI, Filosofia e scienza nella morale di Descartes, La Nuova Italia, Florence, 1980 ; S.
GAUKROGER (ed.), Descartes: Philosophy, Mathematics and Physics, Harvester, Sussex, 1980 ; J. L. MARION,
Sur l’ontologie grise de Descartes, Vrin, Paris, 1981 ; T. M. LENNON, J. M. NICHOLAS, J. W. DAVIS (eds.),
Problems of Cartesianism, McGill Queens University Press, Montreal, 1982 ; E. GILSON, La liberté chez
Descartes et la Théologie, Vrin, Paris, 1982 ; W. RÖD, Descartes: die Genese des cartesianischen Rationalismus,
C. H. Beck, Munich, 1982 ; M. GUEROULT, Descartes’ Philosophy Interpreted According to the Order of
Reasons, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1984 ; G. RODIS-LEWIS, Descartes, Libraire Générale
Française, Paris, 1984 ; M. GRENE, Descartes, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1985 ; G. RODIS-
LEWIS, Idées et vérités éternelles chez Descartes et ses successeurs, Vrin, Paris, 1985 ; J. COTTINGHAM,
Descartes, Blackwell, Oxford, 1986 ; P. MARKIE, Descartes’ Gambit, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY, 1986 ;
J. L. MARION, Sur le prisme métaphysique de Descartes, Presses Universitaires de France, Paris, 1986 ; N.
GRIMALDI, J. L. MARION (eds.), Le Discours et sa méthode, Presses Universitaires de France, Paris, 1987 ; J.
LAPORTE, Le Rationalisme de Descartes, Presses Universitaires de France, Paris, 1988 ; S. GAUKROGER (ed.),
Cartesian Logic, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1989 ; A. DEL NOCE, Riforma cattolica e filosofia moderna:
Cartesio, Il Mulino, Bologna, 1990 ; J. L. MARION, Sur la théologie blanche de Descartes, Presses Universitaires

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de France, Paris, 1991 ; G. RODIS-LEWIS, L’antropologie cartésienne, Presses Universitaires de France, Paris,
1991 ; J. L. MARION, Questions Cartésiennes, Presses Universitaires de France, Paris, 1991 ; A. DEL NOCE, Da
Cartesio a Rosmini, Giuffré, Milan, 1992 ; D. GARBER, Descartes’ Metaphysical Physics, University of Chicago
Press, Chicago, 1992 ; S. TWEYMAN (ed.), Rene Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy in Focus, Routledge,
London, 1993 ; A. MALO, Certezza e volontà nell’etica cartesiana, Armando, Rome, 1994 ; J. COTTINGHAM
(ed.), Reason, Will and Sensations: Studies in Descartes’ Metaphysics, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1994 ; J.
COTTINGHAM (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Descartes, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1995 ; R.
DAMASIO, L’errore di Cartesio, Adelphi, Milan, 1995 ; J. DE FINANCE, Essere e pensiero: il “cogito”
cartesiano e la “reflexio” tomista, Soc. Ed. Dante Alighieri, Rome, 1996 ; G. BAKER and K. J. MORRIS,
Descartes’ Dualism, Routledge, London, 1996 ; J. COTTINGHAM, Descartes’ Philosophy of Mind, Phoenix,
London, 1997 ; J. COTTINGHAM (ed.), Descartes, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1998 ; J. MARSHALL,
Descartes’s Moral Theory, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 1998 ; E. GILSON, The Unity of Philosophical
Experience, Ignatius, San Francisco, 1999 ; M. D. WILSON, Descartes, Routledge, London, 1999 ; D. M.
CLARKE, Descartes’ Theory of Mind, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2003 ; L. ALANEN, Descartes's Concept
of Mind, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 2003 ; R. ARIEW, D. DES CHENE, D. N. JESSEPH, T. M.
SCHMALTZ, and T. VERBEEK, Historical Dictionary of Descartes and Cartesian Philosophy, Scarecrow Press,
Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, MD, 2003 ; D. M. CLARKE, Descartes: A Biography, Cambridge University
Press, Cambridge, 2006 ; S. GAUKROGER (ed.), The Blackwell Guide to Descartes’ Meditations, Wiley-
Blackwell, Hoboken, NJ, 2006 ; A. GOMBAY, Descartes, Wiley-Blackwell, Hoboken, NJ, 2007 ; H. G.
FRANKFURT, Demons, Dreamers, and Madmen: The Defense of Reason in Descartes’s Meditations, Princeton
University Press, Princeton, NJ, 2007 ; G. McOUAT, T. VINCI, and N. ROBERTSON (eds.), Descartes and the
Modern, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle upon Tyne, 2007 ; J. SKIRRY, Descartes: A Guide for the
Perplexed, Continuum, London, 2008 ; J. COTTINGHAM, Cartesian Reflections: Essays on Descartes’s
Philosophy, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2008 ; R. FRANCKS, Descartes’ Meditations: A Reader’s Guide,
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University Press, Palo Alto, 2008 ; J. COTTINGHAM, How to Read Descartes, Granta, London, 2009 ; C. G.
PRADO, Starting with Descartes, Continuum, London, 2009 ; J. CARRIERO, Between Two Worlds: A Reading of
Descartes’s Meditations, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 2009 ; P. HOFFMAN, Essays on Descartes,
Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2009 ; P. MACHAMER and J. E. McGUIRE, Descartes’s Changing Mind,
Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 2009 ; R. ARIEW, D. DES CHENE, D. M. JESSEPH, T. M.
SCHMALTZ, and T. VERBEEK, The A to Z of Descartes and Cartesian Philosophy, Scarecrow Press, Rowman &
Littlefield, Lanham, MD, 2010 ; J. BROUGHTON and J. CARRIERO (eds.), A Companion to Descartes, Wiley-
Blackwell, Hoboken, NJ, 2010 ; K. BRANDHORST, Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy, Indiana
University Press, Bloomington, 2010 ; R. ARIEW, Descartes Among the Scholastics, Brill, Leiden, 2011 ; C. WEE,
Material Falsity and Error in Descartes' Meditations, Routledge, London, 2011 ; S. GAUKROGER, J.
SCHUSTER, and J. SUTTON (eds.), Descartes’ Natural Philosophy, Routledge, London, 2011 ; D. A. BOYLE,
Descartes on Innate Ideas, Continuum, London, 2011 ; P. KREEFT, Socrates Meets Descartes, Ignatius Press, San
Francisco, 2012 ; H. HATTAB, Descartes on Forms and Mechanisms, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge,
2012 ; J. HILL, Descartes and the Doubting Mind, Continuum, London, 2013 ; R. DE ROSA, Descartes and the
Puzzle of Sensory Representation, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2013 ; N. NAAMAN-ZAUDERER, Descartes’
Deontological Turn: Reason, Will, and Virtue in the Later Writings, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2013 ;
T. SCHMALTZ, Descartes on Causation, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2013 ; G. DICKER, Descartes: An
Analytical and Historical Introduction, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2013 ; D. CUNNING (ed.), The
Cambridge Companion to Descartes’ Meditations, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2014 ; R. L. WALLER,
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Descartes: Belief, Scepticism and Virtue, Routledge, Abingdon, 2014 ; G. HATFIELD, The Routledge Guidebook to
Descartes’ Meditations, Routledge, Abingdon, 2014 ; K. DETLEFSEN (ed.), Descartes’ Meditations: A Critical
Guide, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2014 ; D. CUNNING, Argument and Persuasion in Descartes’
Meditations, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2014 ; R. ARIEW, Descartes and the First Cartesians, Oxford
University Press, Oxford, 2015 ; R. F. HASSING, Cartesian Psychophysics and the Whole Nature of Man: On
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Descartes’ Treatise on Man and Its Reception, Springer, Cham, 2016 ; M. VERSFELD, An Essay on the

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erroneously defined substance as “an existent thing which requires nothing but itself in order to
exist.”3 This definition of substance was to prepare the way for Spinoza’s monistic pantheism.
Copleston notes that “Descartes defined substance as ‘an existent thing which requires nothing
but itself in order to exist.’4 But this definition, if understood in a strict and literal sense, applies
to God alone. ‘To speak the truth, nothing but God answers to this description, as being that
which is absolutely self-sustaining; for we perceive that there is no created thing which can exist
without being sustained by His power.’5”6 The rationalist Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) would
take the Cartesian definition of substance in the strict sense to mean an absolutely independent
substance and conclude that there really is only one substance, the Divine Substance God, all
finite things or beings (entia) being simply modifications of this one Substance. This erroneous
position of pantheistic monism is contrary to the certainties of common sense which affirm the
great multitude and variety of substances, things, concrete beings, existing in the world around
us.7 Spinoza writes that “by substance I understand that which is in itself and is conceived by
itself; in other words, that whose concept does not need the concept of any other thing from
which it must be formed.”8 Guido Berghin-Rosè notes that “nel concetto che abbiamo formato di
sostanza non è affatto incluso il carattere di indipendenza da una causa efficiente o conservatrice,

Metaphysics of Descartes, Routledge, London, 2017 ; S. GAUKROGER and C. WILSON (eds.), Descartes and
Cartesianism: Essays in Honour of Desmond Clarke, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2017.
3
R. DESCARTES, De Principiis Philos., I, 51.
4
R. DESCARTES, Principles of Philosophy, I, 51; A.T., VIII, 24, cf. IX B, 47.
5
R. DESCARTES, Meditations, 6; A. T. , VII, 89, cf. IX, 71.
6
F. COPLESTON, A History of Philosophy, book 2, vol. 4, Image Doubleday, New York, 1985, p. 117. Copleston
goes on to write: “But Descartes did not draw the Spinozistic conclusion that there is only one substance, God, and
that all creatures are simply modifications of this one substance. He concluded instead that the word ‘substance’
cannot be predicated in a univocal sense of God and of other beings. He thus proceeds in the opposite way, so to
speak, to that in which the Scholastics proceeded. For while the latter applied the word ‘substance’ first to natural
things, the objects of experience, and then in an analogical sense to God, Descartes applied the word primarily to
God and then secondarily, and analogically, to creatures. This procedure is in accordance with his professed
intention of going from cause to effect rather than the other way round. And though he was by no means a pantheist
himself we can, of course, detect in his manner of proceeding a preliminary stage in the development of the
Spinozistic conception of substance…
“…substance in its application to creatures, we can say that, for Descartes, there are two kinds of substances and
that the word is predicated in a univocal sense of these two classes of things. ‘Created substances, however, whether
corporeal or thinking, may be conceived under this common concept; for they are things which need only the
concurrence of God in order to exist’(Principles of Philosophy, I, 52)…Descartes went on to assign to each kind of
substance a principal attribute which he proceeded to identify to all intents and purposes with the substance itself.
For his way of determining what is the principal attribute of a given type of substance is to ask what it is that we
perceive clearly and distinctly as an indispensable attribute of the thing, so that all other attributes, properties and
qualities are seen to presuppose it and depend upon it. And the conclusion seems to be that we cannot distinguish
between the substance and its principal attribute. They are all intents and purposes identical…for Descartes the
principal attribute of spiritual substance is thinking. And he was prepared to maintain that spiritual substance is in
some sense always thinking…What, then, is the principal attribute of corporeal substance? It must be extension. We
cannot conceive figure or action, for example, without extension; but we can conceive extension without figure or
action. ‘Thus extension in length, breadth and depth constitutes the nature of corporeal substance.’(Op. cit., I,
53).”(F. COPLESTON, op. cit., pp. 117-119).
7
For refutations of Spinoza’s pantheistic monism, see: C. BITTLE, From Aether to Cosmos: Cosmology, Bruce,
Milwaukee, 1949, pp. 386-390 ; C. BITTLE, God and His Creatures: Theodicy, Bruce, Milwaukee, 1953, pp. 230-
231 ; C. HART, Thomistic Metaphysics, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1959, pp. 193-194 ; A. L.
GONZÁLEZ, Filosofia di Dio, Le Monnier, Florence, 1988, pp. 189-199 (Spanish 6th edition: A. L. GONZÁLEZ,
Teología natural, EUNSA, Pamplona, 2008, pp. 183-192).
8
B. SPINOZA, Ethica, I definition 3.

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ma soltanto «a subiecto inhaesionis». Sono quindi arbitrarie le definizioni date da Cartesio e
Spinoza, in cui si confonde l’«ens in se» con l’«ens a se». Descartes: «Substantia est res quae ita
existit ut nulla alia re indigeat ad existendum»(De Principiis Philos., parte I, 51). Spinoza: «Id
quod in se est et per se concipitur esse, hoc est id cuius conceptus non indiget conceptu alterius
rei a quo formari debeat»(Eth., parte I, definiz. 3).

“In queste definizioni identificandosi più o meno esplicitamente la sostanza con l’«ens a
se» (esistente per essenza) che è uno solo, si viene a considerare tutte le cose del mondo come
accidentalità, modi di presentarsi di quest’unica sostanza, ponendosi così la base di una visione
panteistica del universo.9”10

R. P. Phillips observes the following concerning Descartes’ definition of substance, that


“if the definition be taken literally it would ascribe absolute independence to substance; it would
be not only intrinsically independent, that is independent of any subject, but also extrinsically,
and so independent of any cause; so that, as Descartes himself notices, the definition applies,
strictly speaking, only to God. It was in this latter sense that Spinoza took up the Cartesian
definition, making this meaning still more explicit in his own definition: ‘Per substantiam
intelligo id, quod in se est, et per se concipitur: hoc est id, cujus conceptus non indiget conceptu
alterius rei, a quo formari debeat.’11 From this he immediately deduces that it is impossible that
one substance should produce another, and consequently that there can be only one substance,
which is necessarily infinite. So he concludes: ‘There does not exist, and it is impossible to
conceive, any substance outside God; and all that exists, exists in God, and nothing can exist or
be conceived without God.’12 …Spinoza’s notion of substance is only possible by an abuse of
abstraction; and is totally divorced from any conception of it which is acceptable to common
sense.”13

Peter Coffey’s Critique of Spinoza’s Pantheistic and Monistic Definition of Substance:


“There is yet another mistaken notion of substance, the notion in which the well known
pantheistic philosophy of Spinoza has had its origin. Spinoza appears to have given the
ambiguous definition of Descartes – ‘Substania est res quae ita existit, ut nulla alia re indigeat
ad existendum’ – an interpretation which narrowed its application down to the Necessary Being;
for he defined substance in the following terms: ‘Per substantiam intelligo id quod est in se et
per se concipitur: hoc est, id cujus conceptus non indiget conceptu alterius rei a quo formari
debeat.’ By the ambiguous phrase, that substance ‘requires no other thing for existing,’ Descartes
certainly meant to convey what has always been understood by the scholastic expression that
substance ‘exists in itself.’ He certainly did not mean that substance is a reality which ‘exists of
itself,’ i.e. that it is what scholastics mean by Ens a se, the Being that has its actuality from its
own essence, by virtue of its very nature, and in absolute independence of all other being; for
such Being is One alone, the Necessary Being, God Himself, whereas Descartes clearly held and

9
Base da cui di fatto lo Spinoza con logica perfetta, «more geometrico», dedusse il suo panteismo.
10
G. BERGHIN-ROSÈ, Elementi di filosofia, vol. 5 (Ontologia), Marietti, Turin, 1961, n. 190, p. 150.
11
B. SPINOZA, op. cit., I, definition 3.
12
‘Præter Deum nulla datur neque concipi potest substantia,’ Ethica, Pars I, Prop, XIV; and ‘Quidquid est, in Deo
est, et nihil sine Deo esse neque concipi potest,’ ibid., Prop. XV.
13
R. P. PHILLIPS, Modern Thomistic Philosophy, vol. 2 (Metaphysics), The Newman Bookshop, Westminster,
MD, 1935, p. 207.

4
taught the real existence of finite, created substances.14 Yet Spinoza’s definition of substance is
applicable only to such a being that our concept of this being shows forth the actual existence of
the latter as absolutely explained and accounted for by reference to the essence of this being
itself, and independently of any reference to other being. In other words, it applies only to the
Necessary Being. This conception of substance is the starting-point of Spinoza’s pantheistic
philosophy.

“Now, the scholastic definition of substance and Spinoza’s definition embody two
entirely distinct notions. Spinoza’s definition conveys what scholastics mean by the Self-Existent
Being, Ens a se ; and this the scholastics distinguish from caused or created being, ens ab alio.
Both phrases refer formally and primarily, not to the mode of a being’s existence when it does
exist, but to the origin of this existence in relation to the being’s essence; and specifically it
marks the distinction between the Essence that is self-explaining, self-existent, essentially actual
(‘a se’), the Necessary Being, and essences that do not themselves explain or account for their
own actual existence, essences that have not their actual existence from themselves or of
themselves, essences that are in regard to their actual existence contingent or dependent,
essences which, therefore, if they actually exist, can do so only dependently on some other being
whence they have derived this existence (‘ab alio’) and on which they essentially depend for its
continuance.

“Not the least evil of Spinoza’s definition is the confusion caused by gratuitously
wresting an important philosophical term like substance from its traditional sense and using it
with quite a different meaning; and the same is true in its measure of the other mistaken notions
of substance which we have been examining. By defining substance as an ens in se, or per se
stans, scholastic philosophers mean simply that substance does not depend intrinsically on any
subjective or material cause in which its actuality would be supported; they do not mean to imply
that it does not depend extrinsically on an efficient cause from which it has its actuality and by
which it is conserved in being. They assert that all created substances, no less than all accidents,
have their being ‘ab alio’ from God; that they exist only by the Divine creation and conservation,
and act only by the Divine concursus or concurrence; but while substances and accidents are
both alike dependent on this extrinsic conserving and concurring influence of a Divine,
Transcendent Being, substances are exempt from this other and distinct mode of dependence
which characterizes accidents: intrinsic dependence on a subject in which they have their
actuality.15

14
But from Descartes’ doctrine of two passive substances so antithetically opposed to each other the transition to
Spinozism was easy and obvious. If mind and matter are so absolutely opposed as thought and extension, how can
they unite to form one human individual in man? If both are purely passive, and if God alone puts into them their
conscious states and their mechanical movements respectively, what remains proper to each but a pure passivity that
would really be common to both? Would it not be more consistent then to refer this thought-essence or receptivity of
conscious activities, and this extension-essence or receptivity of mechanical movements, to God as their proper
source, to regard them as two attributes of His unique and self-existent substance, and thus to regard God as
substantially immanent in all phenomena, and these as only different expressions of His all-pervading essence? This
is what Spinoza did; and his monism in one form or other is the last word of many contemporary philosophers on the
nature of the universe which constitutes the totality of human experience. – Cf. HÖFFDING, Outlines of
Psychology, ch. ii., and criticism of same apud MAHER, Psychology, ch. xxiii.
15
“Esse substantiæ non dependet ab esse alterius sicut ei inhærens, licet omnia dependeant a Deo sicut a causa
prima”

5
“…By saying that substance exists ‘in itself’ we mean to exclude the notion of its
existing ‘in another’ thing, as an accident does.”16

Charles A. Hart’s Critique of Descartes on Substance. “Erroneous Views of Substance…


Descartes’ Views. Descartes defines substance as follows: ‘By substance we mean nothing else
than a thing which so exists that it needs no other thing for existence.’17 This sounds Scholastic,
but actually it introduces an absolute independence into the notion of substance as such which is
applicable only to the substance of God.

“Substance and Independence. Actually the only independence possessed by the


substance, simply as substance, in the traditional view, is that it does not require existence in
something else as a subject. As such it does not necessarily imply that existence is proper and
intrinsic to its nature. All the customary distinction between substance and accident is broken
down by Descartes. As might be expected of a man who was one of the most famous
mathematicians in the history of that discipline which concentrates on quantity, material
substance was made identical with its proper accident of quantity. It was defined as a res extensa,
an extended thing. Similarly, spiritual substance was identified with the accident of thought, a
res cogitans, a being whose essence is thought. Both kinds of substance are absolutely inert. All
motion in such material substances is entirely from without, ultimately from God. Spirit likewise
receives infused ideas and volitions. Thus the soul and the body of man are two mutually
exclusive things. Yet Descartes, with sound intuition, maintains the substantial unity common
experience demands, despite his initial views of substance which make such unity impossible.18

“Criticism of Cartesian Substance. In view of such a completely unrealistic report of


substance, it is no wonder that certain modern and contemporary philosophers and psychologists,
such as Wundt, Paulsen, and others,19 should feel they must vigorously deny the substantiality of
the human soul to save its enormously dynamic character. The same is true in contemporary
positions on material substances. The notion of an inert material substance is completely
unacceptable. Such a view as that of Descartes is rightly condemned. But it will be readily seen
as entirely different from the Thomistic view of substance, where substance as the essence of the
being in its character of requiring existence in itself (as opposed to the dependent type of
existence of accidents) is really potential existence. Thus the Thomistic substance not only
makes provision in the very metaphysical structure of the finite being for all possible changes in
the being but actually demands such a dynamic career for it. Potentiality is ordered or directed
toward actuality (Potentia dicitur ad actum) is a universal Thomistic principle that simply
emphasizes the dynamic character of every kind of finite substance, material or spiritual, simply
because it is a finite substance. Thus in Thomism the modern scientific view of reality is
anticipated. As for infinite substance it is Pure Act. In it being and act are identical.

“Dynamism of Substance in Thomistic Philosophy. It is true we may conceive an abstract


notion of substance, what we have called second or generic substance, apart from its concrete
existence as an active agent. But St. Thomas never made the mistake, apparent in Descartes, of

16
P. COFFEY, Ontology, Longmans, Green and Co., London, 1926, pp. 230-232.
17
R. DESCARTES, Principles of Philosophy, Adams and Tannery, I, c. 51-52.
18
6e Meditation, IX.
19
Cf. C. W. MORRIS. Six Theories of Mind, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1932.

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transferring this abstract notion of substance to the real order. As a principle of being, substance
is always presented as the ultimate principle or source of all the actions of the being and identical
with the latter: Actiones sunt suppositorum, Actions are ultimately of the supposit. Looked at in
this way, the essence or substance as source of activities received the name of nature. Substance
or essence is then commonly reserved for the static aspect of the being without, of course, any
implication that the being as such is necessarily static.20 Certainly in a metaphysics of existence,
in which the whole finite essence or substance is identified as a principle of potential existence,
Thomism joins, by anticipation, with modern and contemporary philosophy in rejecting with
equal emphasis the inert substance of Descartes. But Thomism does not make the common
contemporary mistake of going to the other extreme of completely rejecting the whole notion of
substance.

“Error of Demanding Image of Substance. Perhaps no single false notion concerning a


prime metaphysical concept has done more than Cartesian philosophy to further the current so-
called phenomenalism with its complete discarding of the traditional notion of substance in the
ultimate intellectual consideration of reality. Perhaps the overemphasis upon the secondary, and
strictly speaking, unessential note of substance as a mere substrate or support of accidents may
also have had a part in encouraging this error. Actually Descartes never possessed any proper
notion of being, as his views on substantial being reveal. Accidents as being supported, or
sustained by, or inhering in, substance in no way implies any juxtaposing or superimposing of
entities upon a concrete substance as a central core. This is simply an attempt of a mathematician
to force metaphysics into the mathematical mould by trying to reduce purely metaphysical
notions to the level of physical images. This generally means the death of metaphysics as a
distinct intellectual report of reality in terms of the intellect’s own object.

“Substance and Stability. Cartesianism has certainly been one of the most powerful
influences in bringing about the irrational antimetaphysical bias of the contemporary mind.
Rather are accidents lesser actualizations of a subject which is itself constantly changing within
the limits imposed by its essence or substance because the latter is at the same time the being’s
principle of limitation. The appearance or disappearance of the accidents...therefore never take
place in exactly the same concrete subject. When we say the substance subject is essentially or
fundamentally the same we simply mean that the substantial form is still able to coordinate and
integrate all such changes within the essence without giving way to a substantial change.

“Strictly speaking, of course, it is never identically the same substance from one moment
to the next. Absolute permanence is true only of the Infinite Substance whose Esse is to be
entirely in act. Identity of a being with itself must have analogical predication. Only such a Pure
Act Being, which would be absolutely unchanging, would have such perfect identity with itself.
Indeed the time comes in the history of the substances of our experience, which have a material
principle for their individuation, when the number of accidental changes becomes so great as to
make it impossible for the substantial form to maintain the required essential unity in the being.
Substantial change becomes inevitable. Thus when an organism begins to live and act it literally
also begins to die.”21

20
De Ente et Essentia, ch. 1.
21
C. A. HART, Thomistic Metaphysics, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1959, pp. 190-192.

7
Henri Grenier’s Critique of Descartes’ Definition of Substance: “False Definitions of
Substance …Descartes defined substance: a thing which so exists that it needs no other thing in
order to exist. This definition is ambiguous, and therefore untenable: in its obvious meaning, it is
applicable only to God, not to finite being, for it excludes being, as efficient cause, by which a
thing exists.”22

Henri Renard’s Critique of Descartes’ Definition of Substance: “It is obvious that those
philosophers who admit only sensible impressions can never concede the existence of a
substance, the knowledge of whose essence transcends sensible cognition. In the first place we
find Descartes, who, although by no means an empiricist (indeed he would have been
embarrassed to find himself mentioned with the empiricists, for he himself holds substance and
defends a spiritual faculty of knowledge, namely, the intellect), nevertheless by his exaggerated
dualism prepared the way for empiricism. For, if there be a complete division between matter
and form, as between being and being; if, moreover, extension constitute corporeal substance,23
and thought be thinking nature,24 then sooner or later the natural deduction will be that the
knowledge of the senses which is in the world of corporeal substance can never reach the
‘thinking thought.’ This would mean that our knowledge must be limited to sensible impressions.
Descartes, it is true, did not make this deduction, but it was made by those who came after him.

“Being a mathematician, Descartes naturally reduced all material substance to extension


(quantity). Moreover, if accidents are beings – and by this Descartes understood not principles of
being, but something existing in its own right – and really distinct from substance, then he
argued they should be able to exist separated from substance. To his mind separation, or at least
separability, is the only criterion for a real distinction. In consequence, he concludes that there
are no accidents really distinct from their substance.25 Hence his definition of substance: ‘A thing
which exists in such a manner as to require no other thing for its existence.’26 This is an
ambiguous definition, to say the least, which in a strict sense, as Descartes himself readily
admits, could be said only of God.27”28

Régis Jolivet’s Critique of Descartes’ Definition of Substance: “Cartesio introduce una


nozione della sostanza che, a rigore, condurrebbe diritto al panteismo. «Per sostanza, egli dice,
noi non possiamo intender nient’altro che la cosa che esiste, in tal modo ch’essa non abbia
bisogno di nient’altro per esistere» (Principes de la Philosophie, op. cit., I, 51). Questa
definizione non si può applicare che a Dio, e Cartesio lo osserva subito, aggiungendo: «La
sostanza che non ha assolutamente bisogno di nient’altro per esistere può essere intesa solo come
unica». Nota ancora che non si può applicare univocamente la nozione di sostanza a Dio e alle
creature: a queste essa conviene analogicamente e bisogna dire che le sostanze create «sono cose
che, per esistere, non hanno bisogno che del concorso di Dio». Sennonché da ciò consegue che
gli enti finiti sono sostanze solo impropriamente. L’errore di Cartesio proviene dal fatto ch’egli

22
H. GRENIER, Thomistic Philosophy, vol. 3 (Metaphysics), St. Dunstan’s University, Charlottetown, 1950, no.
630, p. 173.
23
Cf. R. DESCARTES, Principles of Philosophy, I, 53.
24
Cf. R. DESCARTES, op. cit., I, 60-62.
25
Cf. R. DESCARTES, Meditations, 6 Resp.
26
R. DESCARTES, Principles of Philosophy, I, 51.
27
Ibid.
28
H. RENARD, The Philosophy of Being, Bruce, Milwaukee, 1950, pp. 209-210.

8
definisce la sostanza mediante una nozione che le è estranea, cioè mediante l’aseità, mentre le
conviene solo la perseità. E così Spinoza, che parte dalla definizione cartesiana (Ethica, ed. a
cura di G. Gentile, Bari, 2a ed., 1933, I, Definitiones, 3), ne deduce immediatamente il panteismo
(lbid. I, propositio 8).”29

Paul-Bernard Grenet’s Critique of Descartes’ Definition of Substance: “Eccesso


sostanzialista. Cartesio attenua tutte le distinzioni. Egli tende ad identificare la sostanza con la
sua esistenza, e con il suo attributo principale: Per substantiam nihil aliud intelligere possumus,
quam rem quae ita exsistit, ut nulla alia re indigeat ad exsistendum (Principia philosophiae, I
parte, c. 51: ‘Per sostanza non possiamo concepire null’altro che una cosa che esiste in modo tale
da non aver bisogno di altra cosa per esistere’); l’esistenza indipendente definisce dunque la
sostanza. È vero che Cartesio vuol mantenere la dipendenza della sostanza creata di fronte al
concorso divino: Et quidem substantia quae nulla plane re indigeat, unica tantum potest intelligi,
nempe Deus (Principia philosophiae, I parte, c. 51: ‘La sostanza che non ha bisogno di
alcun’altra cosa non può esser concepita che unica, ed è Dio’). Che cosa allora definisce la
sostanza creata? Et quidem ex quolibet attributo substantia cognoscitur; sed una tamen est
cuiuscumque substantiae praecipua proprietas quae ipsius naturam essentiamque constituit, et
ad quam omnes aliae referuntur (ibid., c. 53: ‘Benché ogni attributo basti a far conoscere la
sostanza, vi è tuttavia in ognuna una proprietà che costituisce la sua natura e la sua essenza e
dalla quale tutte le altre dipendono’): l’estensione costituisce la natura della sostanza corporea, il
pensiero quella della sostanza pensante. Si può dire che il cartesianesimo preconizza la
sostantificazione dell’esistenza e dell’accidente. L’esse cessa di essere l’atto ultimo della
sostanza, l’accidente cessa di esserne l’atto secondario.”30

Louis de Raeymaeker’s Critique of Descartes on Substance. Non-scholastic philosophers


of the modern era reject the real distinction between substance and accidents. Actually it is to the
concept of substance, bandied about by decadent Scholasticism, that they are opposed, but they
do not know any other concept than this; and the identity which they establish between the
activity and the complete reality of the being does not allow them to make a stand against
insuperable difficulties. This was, first of all, the attitude of Descartes,31 who speaks of things or
of substances.32 Between a substance and the attribute which makes us know it33 there is not a

29
R. JOLIVET, Trattato di filosofia, vol. 4 (Metafisica II), Morcelliana, Brescia, 1960, no. 233.
30
P.-B. GRENET, Ontologia, Paideia, Brescia, 1967, pp. 148-149, 323.
31
“The constituent elements of the idea of substance such as Descartes had received from the scholastic instruction
of La Flèche, were the same as are met with in Suarez but stripped of the subtleties of the Spanish Jesuit, and
reduced to a rough sketch where the difference between the Thomistic and the Suarezian substance was no longer
sensible.”(R. JOLIVET, La notion de substance, Paris, 1929, pp. 128-129. Cf. Étienne Gilson, Index scolastico-
cartésien, Paris, 1913, pp. 275-281.
32
“But what is it therefore that I am? A thing which thinks, that is to say, a thing which doubts, which understands,
which conceives, which affirms, which denies, which wills, which does not will, which imagines, and which
senses.”(Lettre à…[6 mars, 1638), édit. Adam-Tannery, t. II, Paris, 1898, p. 38. Cf. IIe Méditation; Réponses aux
troisième objections, t. IX, Paris, 1904, p. 136).
“Now I frankly avow that to signify a thing or a substance…I have availed myself of terms as simple and as
abstract as I could.”(Op. cit., t. IX, p. 135). “I knew that I was a substance.”(Discours de la méthode, 4e partie, t. VI,
p. 33).
33
“But if after this we wished to strip this same substance of all its attributes which make us know it, we would
destroy all the knowledge which we have of it, and thus we could in truth say something of substance, but all that we
would say of it would consist merely in words, whose meaning we would not conceive clearly and

9
real but only a logical distinction.34 Thus it is that material substance is nothing other than
extension, and spiritual substance is not really distinct from thought.35 The other properties of
matter and spirit are merely modifications of these substantial attributes.

“This point of view is not without difficulties. What becomes of the unity of the thinking
substance during the succession of the acts of thought? If all matter is reduced to extension how
are we to explain the transient activity of material things? Where are we to find the fundamental
unity of man, if he is composed of a corporeal substance and of a substance which thinks?”36

Tomas Tyn, O.P.’s Critique of Descartes on Substance: “L’assolutizzazione della


sostanza. L’affermazione dell’essenza torna in pieno onore nel razionalismo di Descartes senza
tuttavia che per questo venga riscoperto il suo realismo epistemologico, giacché, prima di essere
legata all’ordine dell’esistere reale, l’essenza e la sostanza sono legate al pensiero che ne coglie
l’attributo costitutivo. Riproposizione dell’universale dunque, ma in chiave soggettivistica senza
abbandono delle posizioni tendenzialmente nominaliste.

“Ciò appare già dalla definizione stessa della sostanza37 «Per sostanza non possiamo
intendere altro che una cosa che esiste in tal modo da non aver bisogno di nessun’altra cosa per
esistere». Che l’indipendenza nell’essere sia una, e anche decisiva, determinazione della
sostanza, è fuori dubbio, ma tale indipendenza può riferirsi all’essere in sé come all’essere
nell’ordine delle sue partecipazioni. Solo se si ha presente quest’ultimo riferimento, la sostanza
potrà essere concepita come un concetto veramente e profondamente analogico. Cartesio non fa
simili distinzioni, ma postula subito l’indipendenza nell’essere in assoluto. In tal modo scompare
del tutto il problema della sussistenza che si colloca nell’ambito dell’essenza, mentre viene
tematizzato il rapporto dell’essenza all’essere come tale.

“La sostanzialità non è indotta tramite un pensiero che si sottomette alla realtà
sensibilmente percepibile, bensì a priori definita in base a un pensiero che la vuole cogliere in
chiave di se stesso come un che di semplicemente pensabile quale indipendente da altro
nell’essere. Ma se così è, l’unica vera sostanza sarà quell’essenza che ha in sé la ragione

distinctly.”(Réponses aux quatrièmes objections, t. IX, p. 173. Cf. Les principes de la Philosophie, Ie partie, ch. 60,
63, t. IX, pp. 51, 53).
34
Descartes does not recognize any other real distinction than the distinction between things. “The real (distinction)
exists properly…between two or more substances…There are two sorts of modal distinction, scil., the one between
the mode which we have called manner (façon) and the substance on which it depends and which it diversifies; and
the other between two different manners (façons) of one and the same substance…Finally, the distinction which is
made by thought, consists in this that we at times distinguish a substance from any one of its attributes, without
which nevertheless it is not possible for us to have a distinct knowledge of it. Or it consists in this that we strive to
separate from one and the same substance two such attributes, by thinking of the one without thinking of the
other.”(Les principes de la Philosophie, 1e partie, cc. 60-62, t. IX, pp. 51-53).
35
“But even though every attribute is sufficient to make us know substance, there is nevertheless one in every
substance which constitutes its nature or its essence, and on which all the others depend. For example, extension or
length, width and depth, constitute the nature of the corporeal substance; and thought constitutes the nature of the
substance which thinks. For everything else besides which can be attributed to body, presupposes extension, and it is
only a dependence on this which is extended. Similarly, all the properties which we find in the thing which thinks,
are only different manners of thinking.”(Op. cit., ch. 53, p. 48).
36
L. DE RAEYMAEKER, The Philosophy of Being, B. Herder, St. Louis, 1957, pp. 184-185.
37
R. DESCARTES, I principi della filosofia, Ed. Laterza, Bari, 1926, lib. I, 51, p. 87.

10
sufficiente del suo essere, l’Essenza incausata che è Dio. Cartesio stesso trae con consapevole
lucidità questa conclusione riduttiva dell’ente sostanziale all’Ente per sé sussistente, che sarà
destinata a fondare in seguito il panteismo spinoziano, ma ne avverte immediatamente le
pericolosità e tenta di rifugiarsi nell’analogia.

“Senonché tale ricorso, in sé l’unico possibile, è destinato al fallimento, dato che, sin
dall’inizio, dalla stessa definizione della sostanza, viene già posta la sua univocità, la sua
applicabilità esclusiva a quella realtà che possiede connaturalmente l’essere senza averlo mai
ricevuto da altro. Il passaggio da tale realtà ad altre, anch’esse «sostanziali», sarà dunque detto
«analogico» ma di fatto non potrà essere che del tutto equivoco. In breve, data la definizione
univocamente riduttiva della sostanza, tra l’Essere sussistente e l’essere partecipato si apre un
vero abisso che separerà il Creatore dalle creature in modo tale che solo il primo sarà «Sostanza»
propriamente, mentre per applicare tale nome alle creature, occorrerà cambiarne la stessa
definizione.

“Non c’è allora una «ratio substantiae» relativamente comune alla Sostanza prima e a
quelle derivate, ma «non è possibile pensare distintamente alcun significato di questa parola (=
sostanza) che sia comune a Dio e alle creature».38 La coincidenza dell’essenza con il concetto
chiaro e distinto impedisce la comunanza relativa di due realtà essenzialmente diverse in un’altra
essenzialmente una e quindi toglie di mezzo ogni analogia propria e intrinseca.

“Della sostanza non c’è perciò una definizione unica, indice dell’unità essenziale,
relativamente (analogicamente) differenziata, ma definizioni diverse, sicché la prima e propria
definizione compete propriamente solo a Dio ed equivocamente alle creature; mentre la seconda
non compete per nulla a Dio, ma è fatta in modo tale da convenire univocamente alle creature.
Un’altra volta si è dinanzi alla spaccatura dell’analogo in univoco-equivoco. «Invece la sostanza
creata – e quella corporea, e quella cogitativa o spirito – può essere ricompresa sotto un unico
concetto: quella di cosa che, per esistere, non ha bisogno di altro che del concorso di Dio».39

“Il passaggio dalla sostanza divina a quella creata è significativamente deduttivo, in


quanto configurato come una transizione dall’essenza che ha l’essere in sé a quella che lo riceve
da altro; ma da uno solo «altro», che è appunto Dio. Ma l’essere come tale in ogni modo (anche
quello accidentale) non può derivare che da Dio, il che manifesta con schiacciante evidenza
come Cartesio non riesca a tenere distinto l’essere in sé dall’essere nelle sue partecipazioni.
L’accidente creato (e l’accidente non può essere che creato) differisce secondo la concezione
cartesiana dalla sostanza creata in quanto non dipende nell’essere solo da Dio, ma anche dalla
sostanza.

“Senonché la duplice dipendenza non è identica: rispetto a Dio avviene quanto all’atto di
essere simpliciter; rispetto al soggetto invece, quanto al modo di essere partecipato cui conviene
l’essere in sé o l’essere in altro, cosa, questa, che riguarda non già l’esistenza, ma l’essenza come
soggetto di partecipazione dell’essere. In ultima analisi, ancora una volta, una concezione
veramente analogica dell’ente viene impedita dalla incapacità di distinguere tra essenza ed
essere.

38
Ibid.
39
Op. cit., I, 52, p. 88.

11
“La sostanza identificata col suo attributo. Come Scoto divideva l’ente univoco in
infinito e finito in un modo che, per mantenere la sua univocità e quindi evitare il suo
assorbimento nell’abissale voragine dell’infinito, ne assottigliava lo spessore fino a farlo
scomparire e nel contempo, per evitare l’altro scoglio, quello di dover ammettere l’estrinsecità
delle differenze (infinito-finito) riguardo al «genere» (ente), non poteva fare a meno di dividerlo
in due blocchi in fondo estranei l’uno all’altro, così Cartesio mantiene, un può artificiosamente il
nome di sostanza per significare due tipi di indipendenza nell’essere che sono ben più
profondamente diversi l’uno dall’altro di quanto la tenue denominazione «sostanza» sia in grado
di gettare un ponte dall’uno all’altro: una infatti è sostanza divina, l’altra è quella creata; una
incausata, l’altra causata; una essere non ricevuto, l’altra essere ricevuto.

“In fondo, l’errore che distrugge l’analogia tanto dell’essere quanto della sostanza sta nel
non distinguere l’esistere da quel suo modo particolare che è il sussistere in sé. Infatti mentre il
problema dell’ente è anzitutto quello dell’essere, il problema della sostanza è in primo luogo
quello del sussistere.

“Ma il mancato senso delle sfumature non si ferma qui. L’ambito della sostanza creata
forma un blocco a sé, univocamente applicabile a spiriti e corpi. Le differenze tra gli uni e gli
altri, la differenza tra sostanza e sostanza, è data dalla differenza di ciò che Cartesio chiama
«attributo» (termine, anche questo, che avrà molta fortuna nello spinozismo), ossia dalla
proprietà fondante e costitutiva dell’essenza. Tuttavia, e la cosa non è priva di significato se si
tiene conto del razionalismo cartesiano tendente alla riduzione dell’essere al pensiero, la
questione della costituzione ontologica coincide perfettamente con quella della intelligibilità:
«Sebbene, a dir vero, un qualsiasi attributo basti a far conoscere la sostanza, ve n’è tuttavia uno,
che, come proprietà precipua di ogni sostanza, ne costituisce la natura e l’essenza; e a cui tutti gli
altri si riferiscono».40 Il carattere fondante della proprietà-attributo poggia ancora sulla sua
intelligibilità; le altre proprietà non sono pensabili senza l’attributo, mentre questo è pensabile
senza quelle. Si tratta dunque di un qualcosa da cui non si può «astrarre» intendendo poi col
termine «astrarre», (e la svolta cartesiana si farà sentire particolarmente in Kant) la separazione
non più d’una proprietà dal soggetto, bensì d’una proprietà dall’altra.

“È facile constatare quanto tale concezione cartesiana privi la sostanza proprio di ciò che
essa ha di più caratteristico, cioè della sua sussistenza, facendola alla fin fine coincidere con
l’attributo; un’operazione, questa, che costituisce l’anima stessa di ogni essenzialismo: «But
Descartes went on to assign to each kind of substance a principal attribute which he proceeded to
identify to all intents and purposes with the substance itself».41

“Come la radice dell’analogia dell’ente consiste nella differenza reale tra essenza ed
essere, così quella dell’analogia e della struttura partecipativa nell’ambito dell’ente
predicamentale consiste nella differenza tra sostanza e accidente, tra supposito ed essenza e
infine, nelle sostanze corporee, tra materia e forma e quindi tra forma ed essenza. Ora, Cartesio
riduce tutta questa ricchezza di dimensioni ontologiche a una semplice proprietà, alla quale non
si richiede altro che il fatto di essere fondante rispetto alle altre. Di fatto il costitutivo formale
d’un’essenza appare, certo, in una proprietà (accidente-predicamento), ma non s’identifica con

40
Op. cit., I, 53, p. 88.
41
F. COPLESTON, op. cit., p. 118.

12
essa (ad. es. la razionalità dell’essenza umana non coincide con la facoltà intellettiva che il
soggetto umano certamente possiede). Infatti il predicamento si aggiunge al soggetto in cui
sussiste, mentre il proprio fa parte del soggetto che costituisce.

“Non meno grave è la riduzione della sostanza al suo costitutivo che viene fatto
coincidere con l’essenza. Infatti l’essenza non è ciò che sussiste, bensì ciò per mezzo di cui il
sussistente è precisamente ciò che è. Si tratta di dimensioni inseparabilmente legate nella
sostanza, ma anche di dimensioni diverse con funzione non solo diversa ma addirittura
complementare. Infine la forma costitutiva dell’essenza non è sempre l’essenza stessa, ma
talvolta ne è solo parte, mentre l’essenza esprime il tutto d’un determinato ente, per quanto
anch’essa lo faccia sul piano costitutivo e formale. Così nella sostanza corporea risultante da
materia e forma, la forma costituisce l’essenza come la parte che dà forma al tutto e l’essenza
costituisce la sostanza come il tutto formale rispetto al sostrato sussistente comprendente anche
la materia individuale. Ovviamente quest’ultima considerazione è del tutto preclusa nell’ottica
cartesiana, poiché degli attributi in fondo non ce ne sono che due, e tali da escludersi a vicenda:
quello dell’estensione, costitutivo dei corpi, e quello del pensiero, costitutivo degli spiriti.

“Dinanzi a tale dualismo radicale svaniscono tutte le ulteriori differenziazioni specifiche


e individuali e ci si trova dinanzi non già una coordinazione analettica, bensì una opposizione
manifestamente e violentemente dialettica. Il crollo della partecipazione sottrae dal cuore
dell’unità il principio della diversità e, ponendolo assoluto, ne fa un principio dissolutore. Sono
conseguenze che dovrà trarre più tardi G. W. F. Hegel, conseguenze che tuttavia non sono prive
di premesse nella riduzione cartesiana della sostanza a una dualità di essenze opposte.”42

42
T. TYN, Metafisica della sostanza, Fede & Cultura, Verona, 2009, pp. 319-323.

13