Is prime matter nothing but pure potentiality for reception of form or does it have some minimal degree of actuality? I believe, for reasons I will not get into now, in the former view. However, I came across an argument today for the latter view which I admit moved me. The argument is from 13.5.9 of the Metaphysical Disputations of the Jesuit Aristotelian philosopher Francisco Suarez (d. 1617), who held the latter view, and is directed at Aquinas and his followers, who held the former view. I’m not sure how to respond to it. It has persuasive force, but I’m not sure if it is demonstrative; I have to reflect more on it.
Suarez’ argument can be stated in this way:
What gives some perfection to x has some actuality
Prime matter gives some perfection to x
Proof of the minor: material substances are composites of prime matter and form; as such, form without matter cannot constitute a complete material substance. From this it follows that prime matter, as constituent of a composite, gives some perfection to it that form by itself does not, in order that it exist as a complete material substance. And the conclusion follows.
The proof is both elegantly simple and powerful, but is it also sound? If not, where does it go wrong?