substance, in philosophy, term used to denote the changeless substratum presumed in some philosophies to be present in all being. Aristotle defined substance as that which possesses attributes but is itself the attribute of nothing. Less precise usage identifies substance with being and essence. The quest of philosophers for the ultimate identity of reality led some to define substance as one (see monism). Frequently the monist has identified substance with God, an absolute existing within itself and creating all other forms (Spinoza). According to dualism there are two kinds of substance. Descartes, for example, held that mind and matter constitute the two kinds of finite substance. Others have defined substance as material (Hobbes) or mental (Lotze), as static (Parmenides) or dynamic (Heraclitus), as knowable (Aristotle) or unknowable (Hume). Kant argued that our cognitive faculties require that we conceive of the world as containing substance, i.e., something that remains constant in the face of continuous change.
See D. Wiggens, Sameness and Substance (1980).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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