Belief in ‘Substance’ is properly basic

I was asking a friend yesterday, while discussing philosophy of mind which of two concepts was more intuitively primitive – matter or substance. He answered Substance, and I heartily agreed. This led to a reflection about what kind of person would say that matter was more fundamentally inferred – I think it can only be somebody who is confusing matter for a substance (a thing) and/or somebody who doesn’t properly understand what a substance is supposed to be. I think we can probably demonstrate even with cognitive science and evolutionary psychology that the belief in subjects related to predicates (which just is the linguistic equivalent of a ‘substance’ in metaphysics) is developed sooner and more fundamental to human cognition than the belief in ‘matter’ as some indiscriminate ‘stuff’ of the world which has form imposed on it by substances, or else exhibits the appearance of substance precisely because it happens to have form. I think the belief in substance is not only an inference from form, but is actually a priori precisely because we are conscious or self aware, and thus we naturally cognize at least one subject distinct ‘conceptually’ from all its predicates: ourselves. If this line of thinking is not mistaken, then it seems that belief in substances qualifies as a properly basic belief, a foundational belief, and one for which John Locke’s famous argument against substances (used later by Hume) is just not sufficient to act as a defeater, especially given Leibniz’ response. John Locke argued that once one takes away all the properties or predicates of a thing and is asked to imagine what this ‘sub-stance’ (that which stands under the appearances) is, we find ourselves unable to coherently imagine anything. Of course Leibniz points out that by the very nature of the case substances can only be understood according to the sum of all their predicates (that’s just how we conceptually apprehend substances). Yet, Leibniz is quick to note, that it is philosophically absurd to do away with substances altogether, and I agree. No response to Leibniz has ever been given by those who oppose substance realism, at least none which I have ever heard.


About tylerjourneaux

I am an aspiring Catholic theologian and philosopher, and I have a keen interest in apologetics. I am creating this blog both in order to practice and improve my writing and memory retention as I publish my thoughts, and in order to give evidence of my ability to understand and communicate thoughts on topics pertinent to Theology, Philosophy, philosophical theology, Catholic (Christian) Apologetics, philosophy of religion and textual criticism.
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