Hylemorphism is a modern term for a central tenet in the philosophy of Aristotle, after the finite substances consist of two different principles, namely the substance or matter (Greek hyle ) and form ( morphe in Greek ).

Conceptual history

The term hylemorphism comes from the modern neo-scholasticism. He appears to have been formed in the late 19th century and has prevailed during the 20th century in the philosophy of historical literature. In addition comes in German only sporadically the spelling Hylomorphismus before, which is well modeled in the language in the developed in the 17th century term hylozoism. In English the word analog form is hylomorphism common.


Aristotle proceeds from the issue of how to become possible. Under Will is to be understood in this sense, both formation and change. The Eleatic had argued that a Will can take place either from an absolute being nor non-existence of an absolute out. Therefore, Aristotle takes a middle between being and not as a prerequisite that can carry out a process of becoming in the dichotomy of being and Nichtseiendem. This medium, the evidence was becoming, so that out of which something will have to be something for Aristotle, which is only the possibility of. This becoming Enables end and him so Underlying he calls matter.

Thus, everything that is created or changes (whether by nature or by human art), have matter in itself. If to the matter joined by a certain shape and connects with her, creating a thing. Matter as that from which something is, the becoming, offers the opportunity to be or not to be. So ore is a material of which a statue may occur or may not occur. As abstract principles form and matter are uncreated and imperishable; real and concrete they exist on earth do not own, but only by working together in their various emerging and disappearing compositions which constitute things. These compositions are subjected to ceaseless change. Compositeness of matter and form is the same as for Aristotle with variability.

The four types of change that Aristotle distinguishes, corresponding to four kinds of matter. The substantiality change is the growth and decay. It is not that an existing substance adopts new provisions accidental, but that a new substance itself is created. This change corresponds to a matter of birth and death ( Hyle gennētḗ kai phthartḗ ). Similarly, the quantitative changes (growth and decline ), the qualitative change and the change of location corresponds to a related matter. For the heavenly bodies, which Aristotle ascribes substantiality immutability, though he takes a matter of locomotion ( Hyle Hyle topikḗ or kata Topon kinētḗ ) in order to explain their local movement, but not a matter of birth and death.

With the substantialen and decay, the other types of change are necessarily connected, but not vice versa. Therefore, the presence of matter of becoming substantialen exclude the presence of other kinds of matter with a. Where all kinds of matter are present, as they do not consist of reality alongside one another, but are separated from each other by the term. For the hylemorphism is only the substantiality of matter, matter in the true sense of importance.

The soul is the principle of movement for Aristotle. Therefore, the ' spiritual ' movements such as emotions, perceptions and intellect not really movements of the soul, which is invariably as a principle, but movements of animated people. The soul itself is unmoved, it is not created and does not pass. Therefore, you come in and of itself ( independently of the body ) does not matter to; it 's pure form, and its associated matter is that of the physical body. The hylemorphism thus extends in the philosophy of Aristotle, although to humans, but not to the soul as such.


Neoplatonism connects Platonic philosophy with a partially influenced Aristotelian way of thinking and terminology. For the ancient Neoplatonists the spiritual ( " intelligible " ) world really exists; you belong to the nous and the world soul. Even the immortal souls of men ( and in Plotinus also of animals) are in terms of their body free existence a part of the spiritual world. The spiritual world is the archetype of the sensible. Their existence is completely independent by the Neo-Platonic idea of ​​that of the physical, sensible matter by nature. Therefore, in Neoplatonism, the concept of a " spiritual" ( " intelligible " ) is inserted matter, with which both the ontological autonomy of the intellectual world in relation to the physical as well as the image character of the physical world is preserved. In this system, purely spiritual substances ( with the exception of the absolutely simple and uniform a ) of matter and form are assembled. To transfer the Neoplatonists the hylemorphism which Aristotle had assumed only for the physical world to the spiritual world and make it as a universal principle. Therefore, one speaks of " universal hylemorphism ".

The mental and physical matter are completely different in nature in Neo-Platonism. You have only the name of "matter" together, which refers to the fact that both the material principle, namely the indefinite and measureless ( apeiron ), combines with forms that limit it and make something specific. The spiritual matter is not like the physical something only the possibility of existing, but an unlimited power in itself; by joined by a limitation to her, an intelligible beings is constituted. Some Neoplatonists ( Porphyry, Iamblichus, Proclus ) assume a special spiritual matter of mathematics.

The Neoplatonic concept of matter has influenced the thinking of the Church Father Augustine, who was one of the most important authorities in philosophy and theology in the Middle Ages. This was an essential prerequisite for the medieval hylemorphism.

Middle Ages

A significant new lead in the High Middle Ages, a Muslim living in Spain Jewish philosopher Solomon ibn Gabirol and Isaac Israeli ( Avicebron ). They assume a universal matter, which is present both in the spiritual world (except by God himself ) as well as in the physical. This universal matter manifests itself ibn Gabirol in three ways. In the purely spiritual realm it connects only of substantial form ( without quantity). In the heavenly bodies it is determined by both of substantial form and the quantity. In the earthly bodies still is added the principle of contradiction. Form and matter can search ibn Gabirol opinion never exist separately, but only conceptually separated for purposes of analysis.

With this model ibn Gabirol was the Arabic written philosophical work had been " the source of life " translated into Latin in the 12th century, the most important driving force for the universal hylemorphism in Latin -speaking Christian scholars ( scholastics ) of the late Middle Ages. This direction belonged to the main scholars of the " Franciscan School". Prominent representatives of the universal hylemorphism were the Franciscan Alexander of Hales, Bonaventure and Roger Bacon, as well as the Dominican Robert Kilwardby. Opponents of this theory, both the Thomists, the followers of Thomas Aquinas, as well as the Averroists; these two directions, which otherwise fought each other, clung to the issue of intellectual matter on the traditional position of Aristotelianism. These opponents were not fighting the hylemorphism as such, they rather than Aristotelian representing themselves; they turned only against the universal variant, which awards its own spiritual matter of the soul and the " intelligences " ( angels ). Among the well-known opponents of universal hylemorphism included, inter alia, William of Auvergne, John of Rupella († 1245 ), Albert the Great and Henry of Ghent.