Aristotelian Matter in an Evolutionary Cosmos
I have been formed in Aristotle’s thought since my youth and managed to imbibe with it a hostile attitude towards the theory of evolution. Likely this arose in part from my early logical studies, beginning with Porphyry’s distinction between genus, species and difference and Aristotle’s Categories. Without doubt, the biggest change that Aristotelian physics has to undergo in the face of modern developments is the loss of the celestial spheres, those eternally moving, never-corrupting corporeal instruments of the divine powers. But this might be a great blessing. For now we are free to see the real good in the natural processes of coming to be and passing away.
Do Material Things Have Forms?
Do material things really possess this thing we call a form, a form which makes them to be what they are? What science proves over and over again is not just that quality and substance depend on form externally, as it were, but that they depend on it much more internally, which is to say structurally. In material things, to a surprisingly large extent, form IS structure. And so a conception of form which unifies things to the exclusion of a structure is a false conception. As we hold fast to the ancient non-historical world view, the implications of most of contemporary thought since around the 17th century must remain hidden to us. Yet it should be noted that there is one very significant strain of life and thought which tends very strongly in the same direction as much of modern thought, but greatly predates it in its origin. That strain is Christianity.
This lecture was given by our Executive Director, David Quackenbush, at Thomas Aquinas College on March 11th, 2011. Aristotle and St. Thomas understood the causal order of the world to be embodied, literally, in a naturally eternal, spherical universe. De Koninck thought we are tempted by this situation to do one of two things: either we abandon crucial parts of the philosophy which appeared to be incarnate in their now surpassed image of the cosmos, or we abandon the conviction that such philosophy depended in any way for them on that image. De Koninck, Quackenbush argues, thought we could do better. In this he spoke out of the heart of the true perennial tradition.