Two Theories of Substance

  • Michael J. Loux
Part of the Philosophical Studies Series in Philosophy book series (PSSP, volume 14)


In this section of the book, I want to investigate the topic of substance. It is notorious that philosophers have employed the term ‘substance’ in a variety of ways. My use of the term will be tied to a long tradition (one stemming from Aristotle) in which the term ‘substance’ is used in contrast with the term ‘attribute’, so that substances are particulars that can exemplify attributes, but cannot themselves be exemplified. In this tradition the paradigmatic substances are familiar concrete objects — material bodies, plants, animals, and human beings.1 They are contingent beings: they come into being, persist through time, and then pass out of existence. Furthermore, they take up space, and they are subject to a variety of changes through which they remain numerically the same. Philosophers in this tradition have sometimes wanted to extend the term ‘substance’ to apply to objects with no corporeal characteristics at all; sometimes they have even claimed that God is a substance, although in an analogous sense of that term. But while philosophers in this tradition may have occasionally extended the concept in these ways, they have been in general agreement that the things an account of substance should in the first instance characterize are ordinary objects of the spatio-temporal sort. In what follows, I shall limit my use of the term ‘substance’ to the familiar objects that provide the paradigms for the traditional Aristotelian notion of substance.


Material Body Bare Substratum Substratum Theory Ordinary Object Bundle Theorist 
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  1. 9.
    A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, paragraph 1; p. 22 in Principles, Dialogues, and Correspondence, ed. by C. M. Turbayne, (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill), 1965, p. 22Google Scholar
  2. 12.
    A Treatise of Human Nature, Book I, Part IV, section vi; p. 302 in A Treatise of Human Nature, ed. by D. G. C. Macnabb (London: Collins), 1962.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael J. Loux
    • 1
  1. 1.The University of Notre DameNotre DameUSA

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