Question about Hylomorphism

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cmichaellofton

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Jan 1, 2013, 11:39:07 AM1/1/13
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Hello,
 
I was wanting to know if Aristotle's view of hylomorphism is compatible with modern physics and science.  If it is not compatible, does that affect the Catholic Church in anyway?
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Alan Aversa

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Jan 4, 2013, 1:13:09 PM1/4/13
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This is a fascinating question. The best beginnings of answers to it that I am aware of come from
Here are the parts of Fr. Hugon's work that address your question:
X. - Difficulties Resolved; Whether there is a Contradiction Between the Scholastics and the Scientists. […] 3rd Objection. Apart from the Scholastics who are ignorant of natural things, no one else professes hylemorphism. Therefore, it is prudent to mistrust this system. Reply. In this question we must believe the philosophers more so than the physicists and the chemists, as is evident from the previous reply. Further, the greatest philosophers, Aristotle, St. Augustine, and St. Thomas, adhered to this system. Even today many outside of of the Scholastics support it. Barthélemy Saint-Hilaire presents this testimony of the Aristotelian doctrine: "For me, I find it to be simple and true, and it does not have the fault of being obscure; at most, I will grant that it has a certain subtlety, without being in any way sophistical. Matter and form are the logical and real elements of being." (Préface de la Physique, p. 28).
One can only imagine what Hugon would have written had he published this book after the rise of quantum mechanics. It would only further confirm what Hugon cited of Duhem:
Meanwhile, let it be clear that scientists that are true to their name do not contradict hylemorphism: "Current physics tends to recover a certain form of peripateticism' [i.e., Aristotelianism]." (P. Duhem, Le mixte {English translation: Mixture and chemical combination}).
Hugon cites modern spectral analysis to support that the
Explanation of many things that are necessary for the complete understanding hylemorphism […] [include explaining] the Permanence of Elements in the Mixture. […] 3rd Objection. From spectral analysis it has been established that that in the composite there appear the colors of the simple elements. But this fact shows that the powers of elements remain in act in the composite. Therefore. Reply. I distinguish the major. That the colors of the elements appear in the composite while the composite remains at rest in the compound state, I deny; that these colors appear while the mixed body begins to be resolved through the action of light or heat, I concede. I contradistinguish the minor: that this fact shows that there are powers in act in the mixed body, if this happens in the compound state itself, I concede; but that this shows there are powers in act in the mixed body if this happens only when the mixed body begins to be resolved and destroyed, I deny. And I deny the conclusion. That only implies that the powers persist in similar entities.
Following this, Hugon gives an extended quotation of Duhem:
Most recently, P. Duhem has said:
"For Aristotle, all philosophical research was based on a very minute logical analysis of the concepts that perception has made to germinate in our understanding. Each notion is appropriately stripped down to the exact contribution of experience, that which essentially constitutes the notion, and the parasitic ornaments with which fantasy dresses it up are strictly rejected. What has this to do, for example, with philosophising on mixts? It will require, above all, an exact analysis bringing out the distinction between elements, which cease to exist at the moment when the mixt is created, and the homogeneous mixt whose smallest part contains the elements potentially and can regenerate them by the appropriate corruption. In the view of the atomists, these necessary and sufficient conditions for the constitution of the notion of a mixt are substituted by hypotheses about the persistence and juxtaposition of atoms. These hypotheses, whose objects are not in any way perceptible by our legitimate means of knowing, should be relentlessly banished to the realm of pipe dreams.
"Contemporary physics, too, puts an exact logical analysis of the notions furnished by experience at the foundations of all theory. It endeavours by such analysis not only to mark with precision the essential elements that compose each of these notions but also to meticulously eliminate all parasitic elements that mechanical hypotheses have gradually introduced." (P. Duhem, Le mixte {English translation: Mixture and chemical combination}).
Praising Duhem, Hugon says
IV. - The Scholastic System is Substantially Retained Today […] It is also appropriate to write the following testimony of the most learned P. Duhem: "Little by little, however, by the very effect of this development, mechanical hypotheses came up against obstacles on all sides which were more and more numerous and difficult to surmount. The atomic, Cartesian, and Newtonian systems gradually lost favour with physicists and made way for methods analogous to those advocated by Aristotle. Present-day physics is tending to return to a peripatetic form." (P. Duhem, Le mixte {English translation: Mixture and chemical combination}). 
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