Form (Latin forma, " shape, figure" ) is a philosophical term basis and provides a translation of the Greek words eidos or morphe dar. The concept of form has played an important role, especially as antonym of "matter " (Greek hyle ) in the philosophy of hylemorphism where "form" and "matter" were referred to as principles of beings.


The transition from the general to the philosophical use of the concept of form is found in Plato in his early dialogue Euthyphro. There, Socrates asks for the " form ( eidos ) through which the pious is pious " ( 6D10 ). All actions, of which the predicate is " pious" testified, shall have a common form. The late dialogues Sophist and Statesman ask for a form ( idea) or form ( eidos ), the different individuals to the unity of a class connects ( Statesman 258c3 -8).

In Aristotle, the form is as an ontological concept one of the causes of becoming. He first distinguishes the man-made things between matter and form. From a present material as a matter of human "culture things," about a house made of bricks or a statue of brass formed Unlike the matter, the determinable " power ", the form is what the resulting whole ( synholon ) in his character as a private housekeeper determined ( " actuated "). Both the "type" as the essence (to ti en einai, " Wesenswas " ) will be supported by Aristotle with the same word ( eidos ) referred to as the shape. On the form refers to Aristotle, the definition of a term.

From the works of human artistry Aristotle transfers the matter - form structure on the products resulting from natural processes, substances, bodies and beings. From the first matter, which is still without form, arise (hot - dry, hot - wet, cold - wet, cold - dry) by the change of Paired tactile qualities the four earthly elements (fire, air, water, earth). Mixing of elements arise the mixing body ( mikta ). The first matter represents indeed the raw material for all forms of body is, but is not directly the suitable material ( hyle oikeia ) for taking any shape. Rather, there is a hierarchical order of the materials and shapes, so that each kind of an already formed fabric, in turn, is material for another form.

Aristotle transmits the matter - form schema also on the mind-body relationship. Soul and body are conceived as complementary matter and form, and not as two separate, completely heterogeneous substances. The soul is in the mind of Aristotle, the realization of an appropriate institutional body ( De anima B 1, 412b 5f).

Middle Ages

In the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas form and matter only the natural and composite substances to come. Of them different are the simple and immaterial substances, such as angels and celestial bodies that are not in another, the matter, but in itself subsist as pure and higher forms ( formae in se subsistentes ).

In his early work De ente et essentia, the "form " appears in two different meanings: as another name for the essence or the " Wesenswas " ( quod quid erat esse, to ti en einai ) and as part of the essence of the body. The shape as the whole being comprised in the physical realities, the forms ( part ) and matter - shared by all the individuals of the same species regulations. For since the essence of which is "what is expressed by the definition ," the definition but only from the general is always possible is the essence or " quiddity " a universal. The individual form presupposes, according to Thomas, the " designated matter" ( materia quantitate signata ), by which it is individuated. While Thomas the substantial form is absolute being, gives the accidental form only to a coming " Suchness " ( esse tale ) - such as the Warmsein. The form is to matter in an act - potency ratio. Similarly, the His acts to the essence, which is why Thomas being " the most form -like" calls ( maxime formal ).

In contrast to Thomas for John Duns Scotus regarding the separate thing not matter, but the form of the principle of individuation. The " this mind" ( haecceitas ) of a thing is the last and highest form.

Renaissance and modern times

During the Renaissance, a detachment of philosophy from the form -matter thinking takes place. Thus, for Giordano Bruno only matter reality; because the forms have no existence without matter, the matter must be recognized as the " only substantive principle ", while the form are only different provisions of the matter. Bruno called the matter " the omnipresent God." For Francis Bacon, the forms are no longer the essential substance of things, but the qualities of nature, which are detected by an inductive research. Descartes breaks with his two substances doctrine definitively with the form -matter philosophy. The only attributes of the body are for him extension and motion. The assumption of simple, unexpanded forms is an anthropomorphic, animistic interpretation of nature for him.

Kant feels his study of human cognition, the conceptual pair form and matter again - which now are no longer the principles of being, but reflection terms for him. The experience contains for him, " two very dissimilar elements ", " namely, a matter to the knowledge of the senses, and a certain form, arrange it, from the inner source of pure perception and thought" ( CPR, A 86 / B 118).

Even in Hegel's Science of Logic are form and matter are mutually presupposing provisions of reflection.