What If Only Matter Exists?
“If Matter is taken to be the only existent, and all other things as modifications of Matter, it is not legitimate to set up a single genus to embrace both the existent and the other things; consistency requires that Being (Substance) be distinguished from its modifications an that these modifications be duly classified. …
“The error in this theory is fundamental. To set Matter the potential above everything, instead of recognizing the primacy of actuality, is in the highest degree perverse. If the potential holds the primacy among the Existents, its actualization becomes impossible; it certainly cannot bring itself into actuality; either the actual exists previously, and so the potential is not the first principle, or, if the two are to be regarded as existing simultaneously, the first-principle must be attributed to hazard. Besides, if they are simultaneous, why is not actuality given the primacy? Why is the potential more truly real than the actual?
“Supposing then that the actual does come later than the potential, how must the theory proceed? Obviously, Matter does not produce form: the unqualified does not produce quality, nor does actuality take its origin in the potential; for that would mean that the actual was inherent in the potential, which at once becomes a dual thing.
“Furthermore, God becomes a secondary to Matter, inasmuch as even He is regarded as a body composed of Matter and Form.” ~Plotinus
If Only Matter Exists
It is hard to follow the archaic and convoluted style of Plotinus, but what he is saying quite simply is that it is not possible that Matter is the only thing that exists, and everything else (spirit, consciousness) is derived from Matter. While he may put it oddly, what he says is true.
We can add to this falsehood of the theory that only matter exists, a second one which says that matter existed before spirit or consciousness.
Actuality and Potential
What Plotinus is saying about actuality and potential means that matter, as he sees it as a potential. By itself, it has no form, no being. Being and form must be added to matter to create an actuality, such as an apple. So what Plotinus is saying is that something had to be added to matter to give it being and form, and that something cannot be simply more matter, but something that is not matter. But, he argues, if the actuality of the thing, with being and form, is no longer pure matter, it cannot be derived from matter, or at least not solely from matter. Continue reading “Only Matter Exists – a False Theory”