Defining Material Substance: A reading of Aristotle's Metaphysics Z.10-11

Fabián Mié, Jorge Mittelmann*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper presents a reading of Metaphysics Z.10-11 according to which both chapters outline two main definienda: forms and material substances or compounds, each of which is governed by its own peculiar constraints. Forms include formal parts alone; furthermore, they are the main definable items and enjoy the strictest possible unity. However, this does not preclude Aristotle from upgrading material compounds (whose essence is stated in hylomorphic terms) to the status of definable items in their own right. Z.10 explains this contention by making the compound's sensible functional matter dependent on its form. This dependence affords the resulting compound an unusually tight form-matter relationship, strong enough to ensure its definability, despite falling short of the highest kind of unity that only forms display.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)58-93
Number of pages36
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors gratefully acknowledge financial and institutional support coming from a number of sources: Research Fellowship for experienced researchers of the Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung, hosted by Prof. Dr. Christof Rapp at the LMU-München; ANPCyT 2016–2128 (Argentina); Fondecyt Research Program, Project number 1200465 (ANID, Chile); Universidad de los Andes’ fund for scholarly exchange (FAI, Chile). This paper has also benefited from the generous help of several scholars who offered their insightful criticism over the last few years: among them, Andreas Anagnostopoulos, Lucas Angioni, Timothy Clarke, Klaus Corcilius, Colin Guthrie King, Pieter Sjoerd Hasper, Marko Malink, Stephen Menn, Christian Pfeiffer, Christof Rapp, Simone Seminara, Raphael Zillig, Marco Zingano, Breno Zuppolini, deserve special thanks. Last but not least, the detailed comments provided by Rhizomata’s anonymous reviewers and copy-editor proved essential to the drafting of this final version.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston.


  • Definition
  • Dependence
  • Essence
  • Form
  • Hylomorphism
  • Material substance
  • Matter
  • Unity


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