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Section 26

26. But the error in this theory is fundamental. To set Matter the potential above everything, instead of recognising the primacy of actuality, is in the highest degree perverse. If the potential holds the primacy among the Existents, its actualization becomes impossible; it certainly cannot bring itself into actuality: either the actual exists previously, and so the potential is not the first-principle, or, if the two are to be regarded as existing simultaneously, the first-principles must be attributed to hazard. Besides, if they are simultaneous, why is not actuality given the primacy? Why is the potential more truly real than the actual?

Supposing however that the actual does come later than the potential, how must the theory proceed? Obviously Matter does not produce Form: the unqualified does not produce Quality, nor does actuality take its origin in the potential; for that would mean that the actual was inherent in the potential, which at once becomes a dual thing.

Furthermore, God becomes a secondary to Matter, inasmuch as even he is regarded as a body composed of Matter and Form- though how he acquires the Form is not revealed. If however he be admitted to exist apart from Matter in virtue of his character as a principle and a rational law [logos], God will be bodiless, the Creative Power bodiless. If we are told that he is without Matter but is composite in essence by the fact of being a body, this amounts to introducing another Matter, the Matter of God.

Again, how can Matter be a first-principle, seeing that it is body? Body must necessarily be a plurality, since all bodies are composite of Matter and Quality. If however body in this case is to be understood in some different way, then Matter is identified with body only by an equivocation.

If the possession of three dimensions is given as the characteristic of body, then we are dealing simply with mathematical body. If resistance is added, we are no longer considering a unity: besides, resistance is a quality or at least derived from Quality.

And whence is this resistance supposed to come? Whence the three dimensions? What is the source of their existence? Matter is not comprised in the concept of the three-dimensional, nor the three-dimensional in the concept of Matter; if Matter partakes thus of extension, it can no longer be a simplex.

Again, whence does Matter derive its unifying power? It is assuredly not the Absolute Unity, but has only that of participation in Unity.

We inevitably conclude that Mass or Extension cannot be ranked as the first of things; Non-Extension and Unity must be prior. We must begin with the One and conclude with the Many, proceed to magnitude from that which is free from magnitude: a One is necessary to the existence of a Many, Non-Magnitude to that of Magnitude. Magnitude is a unity not by being Unity-Absolute, but by participation and in an accidental mode: there must be a primary and absolute preceding the accidental, or the accidental relation is left unexplained.

The manner of this relation demands investigation. Had this been undertaken, the thinkers of this school would probably have lighted upon that Unity which is not accidental but essential and underived.

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