What does, " the nature of a thing " mean?

Since this has been a hot subject of discussion in a current thread, it is well to bring it to the attention of all. It was Aristotle’s contention that , " Nature is the principle of motion and rest in those things which are such, per se. What he meant is that every substance which exists, which can be identified as a substance in its own right and not as an accident in some substance, has a nature which is an expression of its constituent principles of matter and form. And from this nature ( also called essence or substance flow all the physical elements of the substance as well as its natural and characteristic behaviors and powers.

Thus all living and non-living substances have a very specific nature which can be identified by the observation of those elements and behaviors and powers which are typical of a particular substance.

It is partially on this bases that the sciences typically categorize the substances it studies. But generally science does not call these substances natures. It typically gives them a name like iron, water, hydrogen, man, animal, cat, dog, etc. The name stands for a large group of individuals which can be grouped under this name. In other words, the name science gives stands for a type of nature which exists in numerous individuals. So the name or nature is used both universally and specifically as existing in individuals.

From the old Catholic Encyclopedia we have the following definition:

" In scholastic philosophy, nature, essence, and substance are closely related terms. Both essence and substance imply a static point of view and refer to constituents or mode of existence, while nature implies a dynamic point of view and refers to innate tendencies. Moreover, substance is opposed to accidents, whereas we may speak of the nature and essence not only of substances but also of accidents like colour, sound, intelligence, and of abstract ideals like virtue or duty. But when applied to the same substantial being, the terms substance, essence, and nature in reality stand only for different aspects of the same thing, and the distinction between them is a mental one. Substance connotes the thing as requiring no support, but as being itself the necessary support of accidents; essence properly denotes the intrinsic constitutive elements by which a thing is what it is and is distinguished from every other; nature denotes the substance or essence considered as the source of activities. "Nature properly speaking is the essence (or substance) of things which have in themselves as such a principle of activity (Aristotle, “Metaphysics”, 1015a, 13). By a process of abstraction the mind arises from individual and concrete natures to those of species and genera. "

Linus2nd.

No modern definition of nature matches the Aristotelean usage which you give (“Nature is the principle of motion and rest in those things which are such, per se”).

Oxford Dictionary and Merriam-Webster give a usage which has a loose overlap with the rest of your OP, which is when we speak of the basic/inherent features or fundamental characteristics/essence of something. The examples they give are ‘helping them to realize the nature of their problems’, ‘there are a lot of other documents of that nature’ and ‘acts of a ceremonial nature’.

When we speak of, say, human nature I don’t think we ever mean “a principle of motion and rest” about humans. The dictionaries don’t even mention that as an archaic usage.

Good morning. Yes, I am well aware that modern science does not recognize Aristotle’s/Aquinas’ definition of nature, especially as applied to individual substances. Nevertheless they unknowingly assume that each substance has such a nature which is the source of all its structure, behaviors, properties, and power. If each substance lacked such a nature science would be impossible, life would be impossible. Even at the atomic and subatomic level there is a reason why substances behave, etc. the way they do, it is because their nature, given by God at creation, and passed on through the secondary causality of material agents posseses the " directives " for their natural organization, structure, behavior, etc.

It does no good to say the atom is composed of so many protons, neutrons, electrons, etc. which " just happen ": to behave this way. Something has to cause them to behave this way. That something is their nature, the directive, organizing factor of their substance, and which makes classification and catagorizing possible, which makes uniform, or nearly uniform behavior, etc. within individuals of a genus and species possible.

A " principle of motion and rest " means exactly what I have described above. It is Aristotelian jargon that means what I have said.

I would be very surprised to find a dictionary that contained Aristotle’s definition of nature. But note that the Catholic Encyclopedia did.

Thank you.

Linus2nd

It is only form of mind and experience. What is matter if it is not a form of physical particles, and what is physical particles if they are not forms of physical sub-particles…?

They just have a nature or form. You cannot identify the nature or form by observation since form is not simply what appear to you as human body.

What science claims is more than that. It claims that any being is build of some irreducible beings so called micro (assuming that this claim is correct) and the behavior of any macro which is simple constitute of micros can be explained in term of micro only. There are problem here: 1) It does not exist any irreducible micro, 2) there exist a set of emergent phenomenas that cannot be explained in term of micro, example, consciousness, free will, emotion, etc. In simple word if matter is really insentient then how there could be a alive being which means that you have to accept the emergence of new phenomena which is contradictory with very basic assumption of science that micro can explain macro.

Mental is not different than form of mind hence mental can only changes when form changes. You cannot have same person with different mental at different time they are in fact different, the only thing which is constant is the sense of Iness.

What is definition of science?

They claim more: “There exist a set of laws so called laws of nature which is laws in which micro act upon.” and that is why science is precise.

It’s etymology is from a word meaning “knowledge.” In modern times it could be generally defined as the study of the physical world.

The forms of the word “nature” as used in the sciences seems to mean “not by human intervention.”

[LIST]
*]**Natural Ageing **- change in physical characteristics that occur over time at ambient temperature. If temperature is raised then then the Ageing is artificial.
*]Natural Antibody - antibody present but not from immunization
*]Natural Classification - classification based on characteristics likely to have predictive value
*]Natural Gas - any gas found in the earth
*]Natural Selection - Selective pressures imposed on a population by it’s environment. Intentional selection by humans is considered artificial selection.
*]Fundamental Forces of Nature - strong interaction, weak force, gravity, and electromagnetic force
*]Natural phenomenon - a non-man made event (sun rise, geological events, so on)
[/LIST]

Here is an article which will explain the four causes of Aristotle/Aquinas: newadvent.org/cathen/03459a.htm

The form exists in conjunction with matter as the formative principles of every nature ( a.k.a. essence or substance ). Matter has two meanings in Aristotle/Aquinas. It is the underlying material principle, which along with form, constitute a nature or essence. Since it is a constituent of the nature or essence it cannot be seen or " measured. " But it, along with the form, cause a particular type of matter which can be seen and " measured , " since it has extension, quantity, etc. Physical particles are physical manifestations of the underlying form, they are not the form itself. Thus, in Aristotelean/Thomistic philosophy, they are called accidents, because they exist in the underlying substance.

They just have a nature or form. You cannot identify the nature or form by observation since form is not simply what appear to you as human body.

Right and wrong. You cannot see the nature or form but you see its " accidents, " its manifestations, the material and behavior which flow out of it. These " accidents " moderns would tend to call form. But this is philosophically incorrect. So you are correct, our body, which we can see, is not our form. Our form ( more properly called a substantial form ) is our spiritual soul.

What science claims is more than that. It claims that any being is build of some irreducible beings so called micro (assuming that this claim is correct) and the behavior of any macro which is simple constitute of micros can be explained in term of micro only.

Yes, I am aware of that. But science does not give a complete explanation because it is the job of science to study and evaluate the relationships of the physicality of substances only. It is not the job of science to explain the underlying metaphysical realities. So it should refrain from making statements about these.

There are problem here: 1) It does not exist any irreducible micro, 2) there exist a set of emergent phenomenas that cannot be explained in term of micro, example, consciousness, free will, emotion, etc.

My purpose is to discuss Nature. However, to answer you. Consciousness, free will, emotion, thought, are properties of our spiritual soul and they are not explained by the micro physicalities of man’s body or brain. Yet we know from experience that all men have them. Therefore they point to our human nature.

I don’t know what you mean by " …it does not exist any irreducible micro…"

In simple word if matter is really insentient then how there could be a alive being which means that you have to accept the emergence of new phenomena which is contradictory with very basic assumption of science that micro can explain macro.

There is no such thing as anything which is simply matter. Material being is composed of the two principles of matter and form, which Aristotle/Aquinas call a nature or essence or substance. Some natures are insentient, some are only sentient, and some are sentient and intelligent. When you speak of the " emergence of new phenomena " you are making a value judgment that the sentient and the intelligent are products of evolution. That is a forbidden topic at C.A., so lets not get into that. I will just say that God created all levels of being, sentient and incentient and human nature, which is both sentient and intelligent, and the angelic which is purely intellictual.

So it is not contrdictory but we are not going to discuss evolution. And I would advise you to stop hinting at it, it might get you banned.

Mental is not different than form of mind hence mental can only changes when form changes. You cannot have same person with different mental at different time they are in fact different, the only thing which is constant is the sense of Iness.

Have no idea what you are attempting to say. Please take time to express yourself clearly.

Linus2nd

And these " laws " flow out of the Nature of each substance. Well " precise " is rather strong. Let’s say it is pretty good at what it does as far as it has been verified. Does it explain more? That is a value judgment. Let’s just say science explains some things and metaphysics explains other things, there is room for both at the door of truth.

Linus2nd

Off until this evening gang.

Thanks for a lively morning.

Linus2nd

I’m going to give this a try again. Probably, the concept of “nature” is a way in.

The way I see it, Aristolelian and modern scientific understandings are very difficult, if possible at all, to translate into one another. It isn’t even a matter of the jigsaw puzzle being cut up in different ways. There seems to be a difference in the puzzle - the “world” itself.

I am interested because I see at least two glaring problems with the scientific approach:

  • The major one has to do with the actual Ground/Foundation of Reality. I use capitals to recognize that the Ground is the Creator Himself, transcending creation, which comes into being from the Word. That science would hold that this universe is founded on physical processes only reflects our ignorance and an inability to comprehend a simpler reality that is what it is.

  • The second issue has to do with the idea of “substances”, of which one example, is a dog. The problem is that if you start from a scientific perspective, mentally dissecting this “dog”, you lose the dog. The dog is not a subjective event in some solipsistic reality, with its true nature revealed in the activity of subatomic particles/waves/quanta/whatever, but an actual being with whom I can relate.

So, is it possible to understand what constitutes the reality, that is obvious as itself, of this world in any communicable way? I’m going to give this another try. I get easily bogged down and there are some youtube video that need some slogging through. I am interested in people’s understanding.

Aloysium et al. Here is another look at Nature beginning with its symnomym Essence from the old Catholic Encyclopedia.

" Essence
Essence is properly described as that whereby a thing is what it is, an equivalent of the to ti en einai of Aristotle (Metaph., VII, 7). The essence is thus the radical or ground from which the various properties of a thing emanate and to which they are necessarily referred. Thus the notion of the essence is seen to be the abstract counterpart of the concrete entity; the latter signifying that which is or may be (ens actu, ens potentiâ), while the former points to the reason or ground why it is precisely what it is. As furnishing in this manner an answer to the question What? (Quid?) — as, e.g., What is man? — essence is equivalent to quiddity; and thus, as St. Thomas remarks (I, Q. iii, a. 3), the essence of a thing is that which is expressed by its definition.

Synonyms
Nature

Essence and nature express the same reality envisaged in the two points of view as being or acting. As the essence is that whereby any given thing is that which it is, the ground of its characteristics and the principle of its being, so its nature is that whereby it acts as it does, the essence considered as the foundation and principle of its operation. Hence again St. Thomas: “Nature is seen to signify the essence of a thing according as it has relation to its proper operation” (De ente et essentia, cap. i).

Form

Furthermore, essence is also in a manner synonymous with form, since it is chiefly by their formal principle that beings are segregated into one or other of the species. Thus, while created spiritual things, because they are not composed of matter and form, are specifically what they are by reason of their essences or “forms” alone, the compounded beings of the corporeal world receive their specification and determination of nature, or essence, principally from their substantial forms.

Species

A further synonym of essence is species; but it is to be carefully noted that essence in this connexion is used rather with a logical or metaphysical connotation than with a real or physical one. This distinction is of considerable importance. The real or physical essence of compound entities consists in, or results from, the union of the constituent parts. Thus if we consider man as a being composed of matter and form, body and soul, the physical essence will be the body and soul. Apart from any act of abstraction, body and soul exist in the physical order as the constituents of man. On the other hand, we may consider man as the result of a composition of genus proximum and differentia ultima, i.e. of his animality and his rationality. Here the essence, humanity, is metaphysical or logical. Thus, while the real essence, to speak still only of composite beings, consists in the collection of all those physical component parts that are required to constitute the entity what it is, either actually or potentially existent, without which it can be neither actual nor potential, the logical essence is no more than the composition of ideas or notions, abstracted mentally and referred together in what are known as “second intentions”.

newadvent.org/cathen/05543b.htm

End part 1

Linus2nd

Aloysium et al. Continuation of last post.

" Distinction between metaphysical and physical essence
This consideration provides a basis for the distinction of essences according to the degree of physical and metaphysical complexity or simplicity which they severally display. The Supreme Being has — or rather is — a unique and utterly simple essence, free from all composition, whether physical or metaphysical. Moreover, in God — otherwise, as we shall see, than in creatures — there is no distinction of any kind between His essence and His existence. Spiritual created beings, however, as free from the composition of matter and form, have physically simple essences; yet they are composite in that their essences are the result of a union of genus and differentia, and are not identical with their existence. In the angel the essence is the species consequent on this union. Corporeal creatures not only share in metaphysical complexity of essence, but have, on account of their material composition, a physical complexity as well.

The characteristic attributes of the essence are immutability, indivisibility, necessity, and infinity.

Immutability.— Since the essence of anything is that whereby the thing is what it is, it follows directly from the principle of contradiction that essences must be immutable. This, of course, is not true in the sense that physical essences cannot be brought into being or cease to exist, nor that they cannot be decomposed into their constituent parts, nor yet that they are not subject to accidental modification. The essence of God alone, as stated above, is so entirely free from any sort of composition that it is in the strictest sense immutable. Every essence, however, is immutable in this, that it cannot be changed or broken up into its constituent parts and yet remain the same essence. The attribute is transcendental and is applied to essence precisely as it is essence. Thus, while the essence of any given man may be broken up into body and soul, animality and rationality, man as man and humanity as humanity is changeless. One individual ceases to exist; the essence itself, whether verified or not in concrete actuality, persists. The definition, “man is a rational animal”, is an eternally immutable truth, verifiable whenever and wherever the subject man is given, either as a concrete and existent entity, or as a mere potentiality.
Indivisibility.— Similarly, essences are said to be indivisible; that is to say, an essence ceases to be what it is when it is broken up into its constituents. Neither body nor soul alone is man. Neither animality nor rationality, taken separately, is humanity. Therefore, precisely as essence, it is indivisible.

Necessity.— In like manner necessity is predicated of essences. They are necessary in that, though they may be merely possible and contingent, each must of necessity always be itself. In the order of actual being, the real essence is necessarily what it is, since it is that whereby the thing is what it is; in the order of the merely possible, it must necessarily be identical with itself.

Infinity.— Finally, essences are said to be eternal and infinite in the negative sense that, as essences, there is no reason for their non-existence, nor for their limitation to a given number of individuals in any species.

From what has been said, the distinction between essence considered as physical and as metaphysical will be apparent. It is the metaphysical essence that is eternal, immutable, indivisible, necessary, etc.; the physical essence that is temporal, contingent, etc. In other words, the metaphysical essence is a formal universal, while the physical essence is that real particularization of the universal that provides the basis for the abstraction. "

newadvent.org/cathen/05543b.htm

The rest of the article deals with modern notions of nature/essence, in which I am not primarily interested. If you have read this post and the previous and the O.P. you should have a good grasp of what Nature/Essence/Substance is.

The importance of defending the objective truth about Nature is because modern science pays little or no attention to it saying that it adds nothing to the accumulated successes or futhure successes of science and therefore is pointless. This is the same as saying philosophy, Theology, even Divine Revelation are pointless as well because they add nothing to the success of science.

This however is a very narrow, judgmental, incorrect view since all three add to the sum total of knowledge and man’s grasp of the genuine causes of all of creation. The philosophical view of Nature and science’s view are not competing but complementary. We both look at Nature from a different but valid points of view. Each has a truth to offer which is important to mankind. Philosophy, if I may say so, looks at Nature in an attempt to discover eternal varieties. Science looks at it for practical, this worldly explanations discoveries which hopefully will make life physically easier and more secure.

Linus2nd

It would seem that no one uses Aristotle’s/Aquinas’ definition. Science uses the same definition of nature as everyone else.

Nevertheless they unknowingly assume that each substance has such a nature which is the source of all its structure, behaviors, properties, and power.

The millions of scientists and philosophers of science in the world are indebted to internet forum posters such as your good self for putting them right on so many things.

*If each substance lacked such a nature science would be impossible, life would be impossible. Even at the atomic and subatomic level there is a reason why substances behave, etc. the way they do, it is because their nature, given by God at creation, and passed on through the secondary causality of material agents posseses the " directives " for their natural organization, structure, behavior, etc.

It does no good to say the atom is composed of so many protons, neutrons, electrons, etc. which " just happen ": to behave this way. Something has to cause them to behave this way. That something is their nature, the directive, organizing factor of their substance, and which makes classification and catagorizing possible, which makes uniform, or nearly uniform behavior, etc. within individuals of a genus and species possible. *

You have this back to front, as with your remark about assumptions. You’re falling into the trap of looking at what is known without considering how it became known. No assumptions are needed. If something has the properties of a hydrogen atom, it’s called a hydrogen atom, otherwise it’s called something else.

There’s no need for all that stuff about substances, secondary causality, material agents, " directives " and so on. It’s the difference between putting the Earth or the Sun at the center of the solar system. In the first case we have to explain why the planets have incredibly complicated motion, in the second we don’t. We can dispense with a lot of philosophical baggage by choosing a different point of view.

Thank you for your observations. I think you have made them before.

Linus2nd

I don’t believe so, as it only occurred to me today, although I guess it’s an example of the general argument that metaphysics follows physics, just as with Aristotle, so physics can’t depend on any given metaphysics.

Thank you for the link. I will look at it shortly.

The form could exist as manifestation of mind. This was what I was trying to explain. There is no matter since one has to prove that there exist irreducible beings which are self sustain. By this I mean if there is a elementary particle, then it does not constitute of anything. Take one electron and one positron and hit them together. They disappear and give you one photon. How electron and positron could be elementary?

So we are using different notation for form. Form to me exist as manifestation of mind and that is what you call accident. Things however to me is constitute of one thing so called mind. To you they are constitute of two entities matter and form. I have have a question however, why use two when one explain the subject matter well.

That is what they are claiming so called law of nature. They claim that law of nature is underlying metaphysical reality.

I have a problem with dualistic picture. To me everything is mind and these properties can be manifested from mind which is irreducible.

I meant that the assumption that there exist a micro which is not constitute of something else is wrong.

I was not talking about evolution. I was talking whether given a set of irreducible particle and the laws that they govern one can explain the existence of phenomena like consciousness?

In my language form exists as manifestation of mind hence any mental is a form of mind.

To me their claim that there exist a set of laws which explain the underlying nature of beings is a metaphysical assertion.

Now I think you are fibbing, you just forgot :D. Of course Metaphysics follows physics, in the Aritotilean order of knowledge, but physics in his day wasn’t what physics is today. In his day physics was more like a simple observation of the natural ( I know you love that wore :smiley: ) order. And this is still true, since the natural order has not changed, but science has.

And, as you know, what I said was that philosophy and science look at the same reality from a different point of view and that science does not have a corner on the search for causality and truth.

How’s that ;)?

Linus2nd

It’s not a claim though. A physical law isn’t an assertion, it’s a generalization. It just says that whenever certain conditions are present, a particular phenomenon has always been found to happen.

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