The Hylomorphic Library

“In truth, infinite Space-Time is not the substance of substances, but it is the stuff of substances. No word more appropriate to it than the ancient one of hyle. Just as a roll of cloth is the stuff of which coats are made but is not itself a coat, so Space-Time is the stuff of which all things, whether as substances or under any category, are made.”

Samuel Alexander,
Space, Time, and Deity

Medieval hylomorphism

Hylomorphism – the ontological theory claiming that corporeal bodies are composed of matter and form – has marked much of the premodern reflection on science and philosophy. The theory is still debated by contemporary metaphysicians. During the Middle Ages, an impressive number of different variants of hylomorphism were formulated. The best way to appreciate such richness is to dive into the historical actors’ own words, dissecting their stances and reconstructing their ontological systems – unspoken assumptions and unwanted implications included. This hylomorphic library collects some of them, offering the original text complemented by a few notes.

Looking for a substrate

The plan is to gradually upload more and more texts. However, not all texts on hylomorphism will be included. And many of them will only be partial, focusing on those aspects which are relevant to a rediscovery of medieval hylomorphism. Moreover, the selection implicitly focuses on those works and texts that are relevant for my own research. As a consequence, although “matter and form are always together”, the centre is on matter and its fragmentation into a plurality of epistemes.

Disciplinary collisions

Another aspect that is discussed by the selection of texts included in the hylomorphic library is a dual friction that marked the discussion on matter at different levels of the premodern debate. This friction characterised some aspects of the consideration of matter in metaphysics and natural philosophy. At the same time, similar frictions marked also the different consideration of the material world by natural philosophers and scientific practitioners. The long history of hylomorphism is also a history of disciplinary collisions which would lead to a general reassessment of both metaphysics and natural science in the early modern period.