MATTER

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MATTER ; that which occupies space, or that which the human mind considers as the substratum of bodies occupying space. As matter is perceived by us only in as far as it affects us, we must consider it as something effective in space, which, by its extension and motion, operates according to laws. From early times, the most various notions have been maintained of the essence of matter and the mode of its operation on the mind. In the most ancient times, powers, not unlike the soul, were conceived to exist in matter, by means of which it operated on mind. Leucippus and Democritus considered the universe as consisting of empty space and atoms, and explained all living nature by the influence of external powers. In later times, Descartes made a total difference between the material and the simple, or intellectual, and conceived extension to be the only essential property of matter. According to him, matter is not simple but composed of parts, which, in reality, are indivisible atoms, but, in idea, are still divisible, and have still extension. Newton, who did not enter into metaphysical investigations on the subject, only states that he considers matter as an aggregate of the smallest parts, which again are material and extended, and, by an unknown power, are strongly connected with each other; whence it follows, that he also belongs to the atomists. The dualism of Descartes (q. v.) involved the metaphysicians, on account of the union of the spiritual with the material, in great difficulties, and thus caused different metaphysical systems. One of the most remarkable is the ideal theory (q. v.), which absolutely denies the existence of matter, and declares all our notions of material things to be but ideas or images, which the Deity implants in the soul of man ; whereupon, Malebranche founded the opinion, that we see all things in God, and that we are authorized to deny the existence of all things except God and the spirits in general. He considers the effect of matter on our mind as an influence of God. Spinoza and Hume went still further in the ideal theory. The former supposed a single substance, whose properties are infinite power of thought and extension, and explained all spiritual and material phenomena as states of this one power of thought and extension. Hume, who neither allows substances, nor subjects, nor any independent beings, considers all things, spiritual and material, as a series of passing phenomena. Leibnitz (q. v.), who felt how very difficult it was to explain the influence of matter on the mind by dualism, idealism, or materialism, proposed the doctrine of monads, (q. v.) Priestley developed further the opinion of Boscovich, that matter consists merely of physical points, which attract and repel eaph other, and said that matter is a mere attraction and repulsion, which has a relation to certain mathematical points in space. Notwithstanding the many systems which have ex isted, matter is still the great riddle of man ki nd. It will always be asked, If mind and matter are essentially different, how could they possibly influence each other? and,on the other hand, we cannot reason away the many phenomena which indicate such a difference. In philosophy, matter is also opposed to form. Material is that which belongs to matter, as impenetrability, motion, extension and divisibility, and is opposed to spiritual.