Physics: Form and Matter

This is an overview of the dilogic diagram of Form and Matter, or Form and Content. This summarizes another ancient debate that began in classical Greece, c. 500 BC. Although it is not strictly speaking a theological debate, its conclusion provided conceptual material that was useful in the development of the Christian theology of nature.

The exaggerations were proposed first, as follows:

(Exaggerated) Form: Nature can only be described in terms of fixed forms, or ideas. These must be permanent and eternal, and therefore are higher and more valuable than the rude matter of earth. (Platonic idealism).

(Exaggerated) Matter: Nature is ultimately one or a few simple substances, whether water, or air or fire. All things are made of this ultimate substance, so forms are temporary and unimportant.

Aristotle resolved these two opposing concepts of physical being in terms of a composite, or synalon, of both form and matter. Form is necessary to give a shape or structure to matter, while matter is necessary to provide something to be formed. Both concepts are simultaneously necessary to describe reality. Until this and similar debates were resolved, there could be no further progress in understanding nature.

Return to dilogic diagram