As human beings we have the capabilities of thought and reasoning, which is why we have evolved the way we have. However one can never be to sure that what we think and what we reason is really truth. And that idea can lead a person asking certain questions; What is the nature of existence? What is the nature of reality and its principles? but then more questions follow within These; What are we touching? What are we looking at? What are these things interfering and altering our lives? Are they the same in reality as they are in our mind? What are these substances? Are they even substances? If they are real then why are they, and what are they? Many great philosophers tackled these questions. Philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Spinoza, and Berkeley. All of them came up with an idea of what substance is.
Platos whole idea of the forms are what would be considered substance. The form is the standard pattern or ideal model of the object or action thats being named or mentioned. In order to understand the natural world and or the material world, we need to associate them with the substance we find in the intelligible world. Sensory perception attends merely to a thing's superficial appearance, and is therefore worthless for comprehending the world. These forms are required not only to comprehend the material world, but even to understand language itself. These forms of substance are a good way of explaining what we understand of the natural and material world.
Aristotle refuted Platos idea of the forms. He felt that the forms caused neither movement nor change, nor helped to understand what is real and what is knowable. Aristotle presents the concept of substance in his work The Categories. He states that substance is the fusion of matter and form. Matter is that out of which the substance arises and form is that into which the matter develops. In building a table, the wood, nails, etc., are the matter. The idea of a table is the form, and the construction is the fusion, and the end result is the substance.
Rene Descartes started out doubting everything. For Descartes, reason was both the foundation and guide for pursuing truth. He wanted to fulfill some certainty into his life. Therefore he started fresh. He rejected everything he had been taught. He rejected God, the Church, Aristotle, all the other philosophers and even ancient literature were ditched in the search for rational principles from which to construct a secure system of knowledge. He became a solipsist. After long meditations he came back to reality with the statement I think therefore I am. He saw everything to be substance but he categorized them and explained the relevance of each. The first few which are considered the (summa genera), which means the two highest kinds of things. Are the secondary and primary substances. For Descartes, secondary qualities arise from what he calls "objects of the senses," and primary qualities from "objects of mathematics." The following shows the connection:
Secondary |objects hardness, heat,
|of light, odor, color,
Primary|objects quantity, shape
|of time, magnitude,
The substance that exists that of which no other would exist, but do not coexist in the same sense, is God. However God is a substance univocally to the mind and the body, but it is how we have a known knowledge of substance. Therefore, there is a created substance, and a corporeal substance. These two substances prove reason enough that they both exist.
Baruch Spinoza refuted Descartes belief that God, mind, and body were all different substances and said that God and Nature existed as one. Spinoza believed that God is identical to the universe as a whole which expresses his pantheism.Spinoza clearly gives a definition of what he means by substance. He states
By substance, I mean that which is in itself, and is conceived through itself: in other words, that of which a conception can be formed independently of any other conception.
He clearly expresses his views on God and Nature as substance in four propositions:
1.That there is no finite substance, but that every substance must be infinitely perfect in its kind, that is to say, that in the infinite understanding of God no substance can be more perfect than that which already exists in Nature.
2.That there are not two like substances.
3.That one substance cannot produce another.
4.That in the infinite understanding of God there is no other substance than that which is formaliter in Nature.(3)
Similar to Descartes, Spinoza believes that God cannot exist without nature, and that nature cannot exist without God. God is the substance and the things in nature are the attributes, therefore they are the same.
Berkeley expresses the fact that he knows he is his own being, a being that that can think, perceive, knows, and operates about ideas. As well as the others before, he believes that god is the reason for substance. But because of that fact that there is no difference between spiritual substance and material substance. He believes that God is perceiving everything including what we are perceiving, therefore we have a notion of that substance but not a factual idea of that substance. Its like our mind is thinking off predictions of what the spirit is creating.
All come up with clear ideas of what substance is. The first two relate substance to intelligible ideas through the mind. The last three relate substance all through God and perception. The philosopher that I can come close to agreeing with is Aristotle. I can agree that substance is the creation of our own thoughts and works. I cannot relate to the idea of god creating everything and he being the reason for everything. I believe things are what they are without any reason. I dont see why there has to be one. I am what I am and thats all there is to it, however I enjoy the fact that my mind can expand to newer and brighter ideas, so maybe I may think differently in time and experience.
1.The Internet encyclopedia of Philosophy 1997
2.The Ethics (1677) by Benedict de Spinoza Scanned and proof-read by Edward A. Beach, Department of Philosophy and Religion, University of. Evansville (http://www.knuten.liu.se/~bjoch509/)
3.Levenson, Carl; Jonathan Westphal. Reality. Indianapolis, Indiana Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. 1994