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Francis Garden - 1878 - Table of contents

Diccionario filosófico
Complete edition

Diccionario de Filosofía
Brief definition of the most important concepts of philosophy.


A Dictionary of English Philosophical Terms Francis Garden

Vocabulary of Philosophy, Psychological, Ethical, Metaphysical
William Fleming

Biografías y semblanzas Biographical references and lives of philosophers

Brief introduction to the thought of Ortega y Gasset

History of Philosophy Summaries

Historia de la Filosofía
Explanation of the thought of the great philosophers; summaries, exercises...

Historia de la Filosofía
Digital edition of the History of Philosophy by Jaime Balmes

Historia de la Filosofía
Digital edition of the History of Philosophy by Zeferino González

Vidas, opiniones y sentencias de los filósofos más ilustres
Complete digital edition of the work of Diogenes Laertius

Compendio de las vidas de los filósofos antiguos

A brief history of Greek Philosophy
B. C. Burt


A Short History of Philosophy




Subsistence, Substance

Subsistence, Substance. The former of these words is derived from the verb subsisto, which among its shades of meaning signifies to remain. A thing subsistens per se is therefore something which has endurance in itself. Substance is derived by St. Augustine from the same verb; but by the majority from substo, to stand under. A thing substans therefore is that which is standing under attributes or accidents, that of which they are the attributes or accidents.


"Aucun homme jouissant de son bon sens ne contestera cette règie de grammaire: Tout adjectif se rapporte à un substantif; ou cet axiome de logique: Tout attribut suppose un sujet. Mais ces deux propositions ne sont, l'une dans la langage l'autre dans la forme générale de nos jugements, que l'expression d'un principe métaphysique: toute phénomène, toute qualité, toute maniere d'être se rapporte à une substance."(1)

"The word substance (substantia) may be employed in two, but in two kindred, meanings. It may be used either to denote that which exists absolutely and of itself; in this sense it may be viewed as derived from subsistendo, and as meaning ens per se subsistens; or it may be viewed as the basis of attributes, in which sense it may be regarded as derived from substando, and as meaning id quod substat accidentibus, like the Greek ὑποστσις, ὑποκείμενον. In either case it will, however, signify the same thing, viewed in a different aspect. In the former meaning, it is considered in contrast to, and independent of, its attributes; in the latter as conjoined with them, and as affording them the condition of existence." (2)

There would seem, therefore, to be no great difference between the meanings of the words subsistence and substance. A difference in their use, however, there is. Substance is, and from the first was, the Latin term for the Greek ὀυσία. Consequently the far-famed Homoousion of Nice was expressed in the West by consubstantial, "of one substance with." Now the Greeks were wont, not uniformly indeed at first, but universally at last, to speak of the Persons of the Trinity as three Hypostases, of which, in point of etymological force, three Substances would have been the exact rendering. From this, however, the Latin was debarred by his appropriation of substance to the expression of ὀυσία. There did not, however, seem to be the same objection to speaking of three subsistences in the Godhead, the word subsistence answering to ὑπόστασις as well as to ὑποκείμενον, and applying to the Persons of the Trinity, if we are to mean anything by ascribing to them abiding personality. But three substances in the Latin sense of the word would have been language altogether inadmissible. While the Greeks and Latins were thus thrown on different and almost contradictory terms to denote this sacred mystery, the great luminaries of East and West saw and announced that the same truth was intended by both.

Leaving divinity, and returning to the first category, that of ὀυσία or substance, we find derived from the latter term the grammatical titles noun substantive and verb substantive, the connection of both with the expression of that category being abundantly obvious. Similarly too we have the phrases the substance of the case, and substantially the same.


(1) FRANCE, Dictionnaire des Sciences Philosophiques, vol. VI. p. 796, ed. 1852.

(2) Sir W. HAMILTON, Metaphysics, vol. I. p. 149.



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