What is the difference between an essence and a substance?


#1

What is the difference between an essence and a substance?


#2

Essence is that which makes something what it is.
Substance is that out of which something is made.

A wooden chair is made of wood so the wood is its substance, but the wood isn't its essence. The design of the chair together with the wood is what makes it what it is, its essence.

But in God, essence and substance have to be one because he is simple and supremely one. He is pure act. That is, he is what he does. He loves and is love. He knows and is knowledge. Etc Etc.

While we can't understand this fully it must be true or we wouldn't be here to talk about it. The universe didn't create itself.


#3

TRANSUBSTANTIATION:

The APPEARANCES of bread and wine remain after the bread and wine have been changed into the body and blood of Christ. By the APPEARANCES we mean the color, shape, flavor, weight, hardness or softness, etc.

In every creature we distinguish between APPEARANCE and SUBSTANCE.
A piece of wax may be shaped as a cube or cylinder, it may be solid or liquid. Its shape is a mere APPEARANCE. What remains under those changes is the SUBSTANCE.

Johnny was once a small boy with rosy cheeks and black hair. Now he is an old man with a wrinkled face and grey hair or no hair. His size, color or complexion, kind or hair, weight, etc, are APPEARANCES. The SUBSTANCE of Johnny remains the same. He is still the same person now as was when he was a young boy.
The APPEARANCE has changed. The SUBSTANCE remains the same.

We can change the APPEARANCE of something but we cannot and never will change the SUBSTANCE. ONLY GOD CAN CHANGE THE SUBSTANCE.

When bread and wine are changed by God's omnipotence into the body and blood of Christ the SUBSTANCE of the bread and wine completely vanishes in order to make way for the SUBSTANCE of the body and blood of Christ which instantly succeeds it--- or,
rather the two acts are simultaneous.

Although the body and blood of Christ are now truly, really and SUBSTANTIALLY present,
the APPEARANCE of bread and wine---the size, weight, color, flavor , solid or liquid condition---remain. These APPEARANCES are kept in existence solely by God's almighty power. They should have completely disappeared with the SUBSTANCE which supported
them. It is only by a miracle that they continue.


#4

Correct me if I'm wrong, but in Thomistic (Aristotelian, to a great degree, which is also Scholastic to a great degree) thought: a substance is an individuated thing, such as a chair or dog or human person, whereas an essence is its nature: chairness, doginess, humanness.


#5

Essence is, as Empter said, is what makes a thing what it is. It is what distinguishes one thing from another thing.

For example,

The essence of human beings is humanity. Humanity is distinguished from the essence of animals in that the definition of what it means to be a human being includes rationality.

The essence of a triangle has three points.

The essence of a square has four points and, although it includes all the three points of a triangle, it is essentially different from a triangle because of that fourth point.

An essence is what must belong to a substance for it to remain that substance. For example, if I take a square and remove its fourth point and one of its lines, then join up the third line with the second point, there has been a substantial change in the form of the square so that it can no longer be considered a square, but must now be considered a triangle.

As you may have noticed, I have just brought in the concept of a substance. Substances can be composites of form and matter, or form alone. For composite substances, the matter is what designates one instance of an essence from another instance of an essence. For example, I share all it means to be a human being with you, but my designate matter is different. Not only that, I have a unique rational soul (that cannot be reduced to matter, but I'll come to that later). One Apple tree may share the same nature as another apple tree, but is differentiated from each other by their designate matter. Or, one triangle may share all the same essential qualities of the essence of a triangle (e.g. triangularity) but one may be much larger than another.

Here you will notice I introduced the concept of size. That you may be taller than I am makes no difference to the fact that we both share the same essence. Tallness, fatness, the fact I have brown hair, the fact that you have red hair, the fact that I am in this location as opposed to that location, all of these are called accidents. They exist only on account of being associated to a specific substance. Scientists only study designate matter, and all we can see from designate matter is its accidents.

Aristotle came up with ten categories by which you could categorize all things that exist. The first category is that of substance. It defines the essence of a thing on account of which that thing falls into a specific nature according to genera and species. The other nine categories all have to do with accidents that accrue in different ways in a substance.

Essence is an abstract concept. Abstraction is something only rational creatures can do. When we are born, Aristotle and Aquinas, believed that our minds are blank slates (tabula rasa). When we start to grow, we start to observer our environment and the substances around us. We see things, and start to group them according to the ten categories. For example, I can imagine, as a baby, that the square I am gumming and feeling with my hands has the exact same shape of the much larger square across the room. The moment the concept of squareness comes into my baby mind is the moment my rational nature starts to assert itself. I have created a universal in my mind. A essential truth about the nature of all squares. The more I grow, the more I grasp the essential and accidental nature of things. Here we move out of the world of sensible forms and into the world of intelligible forms.

It is at this point that Aristotle and Aquinas can make an case for the immateriality of the soul. Because the universal concept of square can exist only in the mind, but it must be something, and the truth that a square must have four sides and four points, is always true, then it must be something real and eternal. If we can apprehend something of this nature, something real and eternal, then our rational nature must also share in that immateriality.

I hope this helps,
God bless,
Ut


#6

I think I understand now. Thank you.


#7

Correct me if I'm wrong, but in Thomistic (Aristotelian, to a great degree, which is also Scholastic to a great degree) thought: a substance is an individuated thing, such as a chair or dog or human person, whereas an essence is its nature: chairness, doginess, humanness.

Er........hunh? :blush: :shrug:

Take a wooden chair apart and it's just a pile of wooden sticks. So by your definition of substance and essence there is no longer either substance or essence,
but the wood remains. What's the wood?


#8

Every substance will have an essence.
Not everything that has an essence will be a substance (e.g., a pheonix or an elf).

The difference is largely in thought: essences are what we abstract from substances, but no substance will ever lack an essence. Frequently it can take a good deal of thought, reflection and effort to define the essence (or nature) of a substance such that the definition includes all that is fundamental and necessary while not including anything accidental. Giving a universally valid definition of man took some time: according to legend, the philosophers in the Academy entertained defining man as a “featherless biped”; however, a cynic walking by overheard this, went home, plucked a chicken, and tossed it over the walls of the Academy into the philosophers’ court.

And as others have said, an essence is the nature of any given individual thing (substance).


#9

[quote="utunumsint, post:5, topic:334834"]
Essence is, as Empter said, is what makes a thing what it is. It is what distinguishes one thing from another thing.

For example,

The essence of human beings is humanity. Humanity is distinguished from the essence of animals in that the definition of what it means to be a human being includes rationality.

The essence of a triangle has three points.

The essence of a square has four points and, although it includes all the three points of a triangle, it is essentially different from a triangle because of that fourth point.

An essence is what must belong to a substance for it to remain that substance. For example, if I take a square and remove its fourth point and one of its lines, then join up the third line with the second point, there has been a substantial change in the form of the square so that it can no longer be considered a square, but must now be considered a triangle.

As you may have noticed, I have just brought in the concept of a substance. Substances can be composites of form and matter, or form alone. For composite substances, the matter is what designates one instance of an essence from another instance of an essence. For example, I share all it means to be a human being with you, but my designate matter is different. Not only that, I have a unique rational soul (that cannot be reduced to matter, but I'll come to that later). One Apple tree may share the same nature as another apple tree, but is differentiated from each other by their designate matter. Or, one triangle may share all the same essential qualities of the essence of a triangle (e.g. triangularity) but one may be much larger than another.

Here you will notice I introduced the concept of size. That you may be taller than I am makes no difference to the fact that we both share the same essence. Tallness, fatness, the fact I have brown hair, the fact that you have red hair, the fact that I am in this location as opposed to that location, all of these are called accidents. They exist only on account of being associated to a specific substance. Scientists only study designate matter, and all we can see from designate matter is its accidents.

Aristotle came up with ten categories by which you could categorize all things that exist. The first category is that of substance. It defines the essence of a thing on account of which that thing falls into a specific nature according to genera and species. The other nine categories all have to do with accidents that accrue in different ways in a substance.

Essence is an abstract concept. Abstraction is something only rational creatures can do. When we are born, Aristotle and Aquinas, believed that our minds are blank slates (tabula rasa). When we start to grow, we start to observer our environment and the substances around us. We see things, and start to group them according to the ten categories. For example, I can imagine, as a baby, that the square I am gumming and feeling with my hands has the exact same shape of the much larger square across the room. The moment the concept of squareness comes into my baby mind is the moment my rational nature starts to assert itself. I have created a universal in my mind. A essential truth about the nature of all squares. The more I grow, the more I grasp the essential and accidental nature of things. Here we move out of the world of sensible forms and into the world of intelligible forms.

It is at this point that Aristotle and Aquinas can make an case for the immateriality of the soul. Because the universal concept of square can exist only in the mind, but it must be something, and the truth that a square must have four sides and four points, is always true, then it must be something real and eternal. If we can apprehend something of this nature, something real and eternal, then our rational nature must also share in that immateriality.

I hope this helps,
God bless,
Ut

[/quote]

This is good! :thumbsup:


#10

[quote="vlf7973, post:1, topic:334834"]
What is the difference between an essence and a substance?

[/quote]

What does Webster's say? Isn't it pretty much the same thing.

I hear people struggle needlessly to split such medieval hairs on these posts so much that I wonder, at times, if there is any "substance" or "essence" to what is being said. For example, "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin" might have made for interesting debating in the mid 15th century, but, I hardly think it was ever productive.

Wittgenstein's commentaries on the use of language might be helpful to some, it seems to me.


#11

[quote="WmJackP, post:10, topic:334834"]
What does Webster's say? Isn't it pretty much the same thing.

I hear people struggle needlessly to split such medieval hairs on these posts so much that I wonder, at times, if there is any "substance" or "essence" to what is being said. For example, "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin" might have made for interesting debating in the mid 15th century, but, I hardly think it was ever productive.

Wittgenstein's commentaries on the use of language might be helpful to some, it seems to me.

[/quote]

I have not read Wittgenstein, but can surely state that debating the definition of things is the essence of philosophy. It is the search for meaning.

I also seem to recall that the debates about 'how many angels can dance on a pin' was a myth invented by detractors from the scholastic tradition.

Aquinas, in his Commentary on Aristotle's Metaphysics defines substance as the 'intelligible content' of a thing. You could almost understand it as the individuated essence of a thing or the essence as realized in this individual thing.

As others have said, essence is the universal concept of a thing as abstracted from individual instances. It is what is common to things sharing a nature and excludes individual accidents. An essence is an abstraction without precision, so that it does not exclude what it does not include.

To the poster that insists that substance is the underlying material cause, I submit that that conception of substance is a rather modern conception, and not quite on target with Thomas' understanding.


#12

Wouldn’t wood be “matter” (as opposed to “form”) in this case…?

And, yes, as far as I understand, in this case chair would be a “substance”. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2013/entries/substance/#AriAccSub) writes: “Thus, Fido is a primary substance, and dog—the secondary substance—can be predicated of him.”…


#13

No. " substance " a;nd " accident " are philosophical terms used by the Greek and Catholic philosophers. You have to take their meaning from those sources, especially from Thomas Aquinas. See what Ut. says above, that should help you understand the terms in the correct sense. The Church used Thomas’ definitions of these terms.

Linus2nd


#14

In philosophy, essence is the attribute or set of attributes that make an entity or substance what it fundamentally is, and which it has by necessity, and without which it loses its identity. Essence is contrasted with accident: a property that the entity or substance has contingently, without which the substance can still retain its identity. The concept originates with Aristotle, who used the Greek expression to ti ên einai, literally ‘the what it was to be’, or sometimes the shorter phrase to ti esti, literally ‘the what it is,’ for the same idea. This phrase presented such difficulties for his Latin translators that they coined the word essentia (English “essence”) to represent the whole expression. For Aristotle and his scholastic followers the notion of essence is closely linked to that of definition (horismos).

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Essence


#15

In philosophy, essence is the attribute or set of attributes that make an entity or substance what it fundamentally is, and which it has by necessity, and without which it loses its identity. Essence is contrasted with accident: a property that the entity or substance has contingently, without which the substance can still retain its identity. :hey_bud: :hey_bud:

:sleep:

In other words,
the chair’s color is not part of its essence, its “chairness”,
unless somebody says, “Make me a green chair”.

You see how the most complicated ideas can be expressed in simple, plain English by those who know what they’re talking about and aren’t here to impress people or cast doubt into their beliefs? :smiley:


#16

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