Book II of Aristotle’s Physics, offered an interesting passage about whether matter or form is more primary. Aristotle debates both sides, but eventually settles with the idea that form is indeed the more primary of the two. He has his reasons but this caught my attention because of the possible argument for both sides.

In Chapter 1, Aristotle established that everything we ever encounter is matter and form. The next step was to determine which of the two is more fundamental. He first offered the idea that matter was the more primary by relating it to substantial change. Then, Aristotle followed that up by giving the perspective of why form is actually more primary. Form decides what the thing is and the restrictions of what something can become. An example of this is an acorn where it can only become an oak tree. This is because the thing it comes from (an oak tree), initially limits what that acorn can ever become.

This claim was at first confusing to me as I wondered how something could have form without it first having matter. One would initially think that in order for some kind of object to have a certain form, it must first have matter in place. It now makes sense as in order for that object to be what it is, the initial step must be to have form. This form will determine how the matter is shaped and the limitations to it. A claim like this is important to explain everything around us in the natural world. It does challenge my belief that matter would be more fundamental, however with the reasons Aristotle provides, I can see how this is false.

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