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The problem which Suarez discusses in this place may be popularly stated thus: According to the scholastic philosophy every natural body has two components—the one its “matter” (materia prima), the other its “substantial form * (forma. substantialis). Of these the matter is everywhere the same, the matter of one body being indistinguishable from the matter of any other body. That which differentiates any one natural body from all others is its substantial form, which inheres in the matter of that body, as the human soul inheres in the matter of the frame of man, and is the source of all the activities and other properties of the body.
Thus, says Suarez, if water is heated, and the source of heat is then removed, it cools again. The reason of this is that there is a certain “ontomius principium ” in the water, which brings it back to the cool condition when the external impediment to the existence of that condition is removed. This intimius principium is the “substantial form * of the water. And the substantial form of the water is not only the cause (radia) of the coolness of the water, but also of its moisture, of its density, and of all its other properties.
It will thus be seen that “substantial forms” play nearly the same part in the scholastic philosophy as “forces” do in modern science; the general tendency of modern thought being to conceive all bodies as resolvable into material particles and forces, in virtue of which last these particles assume those dispositions and exercise those powers which are characteristic of each particular kind of matter. But the Schoolmen distinguished two kinds of substantial forms, the one spiritual and the other material. The former division is represented by the human soul, the anima rationalis; and they affirm as a matter, not merely of reason, but of faith, that every human soul is created out of nothing, and by this act of creation is endowed with the power of existing for all eternity, apart from the materia prima of which the corporeal frame of man is composed. And the anima orationalis, once united with the materia prima of the body, becomes its substantial form, and is the source of all the powers and faculties of man—of all the vital and sensitive phenomena which he exhibits—just as the substantial form of water is the source of all its qualities. The “material substantial forms” are those which inform all other natural bodies except that of man; and the object of Suarez in the present Disputation, is to show that the axiom “ew nihilo nihil fit,” though not true of the substantial form of man, is true of the substantial forms of all other bodies, the endless mutations of which constitute the ordinary course of nature. The origin of the difficulty which he discusses is easily comprehensible. Suppose a piece of bright iron to be exposed to the air. The existence of the iron depends on the presence within it of a substantial form, which is the cause of its properties, e.g. brightness, hardness, weight. But, by degrees, the iron becomes converted into a mass of rust, which is dull, and soft, and light, and, in all other respects, is quite different from the iron. As, in the scholastic view, this difference is due to the rust being informed by a new substantial form, the grave problem arises, how did this new substantial form come into being Has it been created 2 or has it arisen by the power of natural causation? If the former hypothesis is correct, then the axiom, “ew nihilo nihil fit,” is false, even in relation to the ordinary course of nature, seeing that such mutations of matter as imply the continual origin of new substantial forms are occurring every moment. But the harmonisation of Aristotle with theology was as dear to the Schoolmen, as the smoothing down the differences between Moses and science is to our Broad Churchmen, and they were proportionably unwilling to contradict one of Aristotle's fundamental propositions. Nor was their objection to flying in the face of the Stagirite likely to be lessened by the fact that such flight landed them in flat Pantheism. So Father Suarez fights stoutly for the second hypothesis; and I quote the principal part of his argumentation as an exquisite specimen of that speech which is a “darkening of counsel.”
** 13. secundo de omnibus aliis formis substantialibus [sc. materialibus] dicendum est non fieri proprie ex nihilo, sed ex potentia præjacentis materiæ educi: ideoque in effectioneharum formarum nil fieri contra illud axioma, Ex nihilo nihil fit, si recte intelligatur. Hæc assertio sumitur ex Aristotele 1. Physicorum per totum et libro 7. Metaphyss. et ex aliis auctoribus, quos statim referam. Et declaratur breviter, nam fieri ex nihilo duo dicit, unum est fieri absolute et simpliciter, aliud est quod talis effectio fit ex nihilo. Primum propriè dicitur dere subsistente, quia ejus est fieri, cujus est esse: id autem proprie quod subsistit et habet esse ; nam quod alteri adjacet, potius est quo aliud est. Ex hac ergo parte, formæ substantiales materiales non fiunt ex nihilo, quia proprie non fiunt. Atque hanc rationem reddit Divus Thomas 1 parte, quæstione 45, articulo 8, et quæstione 90, articulo 2, et ex dicendis magisexplicabitur. sumendo ergo ipsum fieri in hac proprietate et rigore, sic fieri ex nihilo est fieri secundum se totum, id est nulla sui parte praesupposita, ex quo fiat. Et hac ratione res naturales dum de novo fiunt, non fiunt ex nihilo, quia fiunt ex præsupposita materia, ex qua componuntur, et ita non fiunt, secundum se totae, sed secundum aliquid sui. Formæ autem harum rerum, quamvis revera totam suam entitatem de novo accipiant, quam antea non habebant, quia vero ipsæ non fiunt, ut dictum est, ideo neque ex nihilo fiunt. Attamen, quia latiori modo sumendo verbum illud fieri negari non potest: quin forma facta sit, eo modo quo nunc est, et antea non erat, ut etiam probat ratio dubitandi posita in principio sectionis, ideo addendum est, sumpto fieri in hac amplitudine, fieri ex nihilo non tamen negare habitudinem materialis causæ intrinsecè componentis id quod fit, sed etiam habitudinem causæ materialis persecausantis et sustentantis formam quæ fit, seu confit. Diximus enim in superioribus materiam et esse causam compositi et formæ dependentis ab illa: ut res ergo dicatur ex nihilo fieri uterque modus causalitatis negari debet ; et eodem sensu accipiendum est illud axioma, ut sit verum : Ex nihilo nihil fit, scilicet virtute agentis naturalis et finiti nihil fieri, nisi ex præsupposito subjecto per se concurrente, et ad compositum et ad formam, si utrumque suo modo ab eodem agente fiat. Ex his ergo rectè
concluditur, formas substantiales materiales non fieri ex nihilo, quia fiunt ex materia, quae in suo genere perse concurrit, et influit ad esse, et fieri talium formarum; quia, sicut esse non possunt nisi affixae materiae, a qua sustententur in esse: ita nec fieri possunt, nisi earum effectio et penetratio in eadem materia sustentetur. Et haec est propria et per se differentia inter effectionem ex nihilo, et ex aliquo, propter quam, ut infra ostendemus, prior modus efficiendi superat vim finitam naturaliam agentium, non vero posterior. “14. Ex his etiam constat, proprie de his formis dici non creari, sed educi de potentia materiae.”
If I may venture to interpret these hard sayings, Suarez conceives that the evolution of substantial forms in the ordinary course of nature, is conditioned not only by the existence of the materia prima, but also by a certain “concurrence and influence " which that materia exerts; and every new substantial form being thus conditioned, and in part, at any rate, caused, by a pre-existing something, cannot be said to be created out of nothing.
But as the whole tenor of the context shows, Suarez applies this argumentation merely to the evolution of material substantial forms in the ordinary course of nature. How the substantial forms of animals and plants primarily originated, is a question to which, so far as I am able to discover, he does not so much as allude in his “Metaphysical Disputations." Nor was there any necessity that he should do so, inasmuch as he
* Suarez, loc. cit. Disput. xv. § ii.