The Nature of Substance

Cogito 2 (2):17-19 (1988)
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Modern physics has cast doubt on Newton's idea of particles with definite properties. Do we have to go back to Aristotle for a new understanding of the ultimate nature of substance? If we ask, `what is the nature of substance?', we might be told that this substance is salt, that one is copper, or that the atomic nucleus is a mixture of protons and neutrons. But what are all these substances? What do they have in common which makes them substances? We don't seem to think that such things as colours, numbers, or shapes are by themselves `substantial enough' to be substances in their own right. We therefore change our question to `what is it to be a substance?', or to `what is the ultimate nature of the simplest substances?'.

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Ian J. Thompson
Livermore Laboratory

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