In philosophy, hyle (/ˈhl/; from Ancient Greek: ὕλη) refers to matter or stuff.[1] It can also be the material cause underlying a change in Aristotelian philosophy.[2] The Greeks originally had no word for matter in general, as opposed to raw material suitable for some specific purpose or other, so Aristotle adapted the word for "wood" to this purpose.[3] The idea that everything physical is made of the same basic substance holds up well under modern science, although it may be thought of more in terms of energy [4] or matter/energy.[5]

Aristotle's conceptEdit

Aristotle's concept of hyle is the principle that correlates with eidos (form) and this can be demonstrated in the way the philosopher described hyle, saying it is that which receives form or definiteness, that which is formed.[6] Aristotle explained that "By hyle I mean that which in itself is neither a particular thing nor of a certain quantity nor assigned to any other of the categories by which being is determined."[5] This means that hyle is brought into existence not due to its being its agent or its own actuality but only when form attaches to it.[7] It has been described as a plenum or a field, a conceptualization that opposed Democritus' atomistic ontology.[2] It is maintained that the Aristotelian concept should not be understood as a "stuff" since there is, for example, hyle that is intellectual as well as sensible hyle found in the body.[5]

For Aristotle, hyle is composed of four elements - fire, water, air, and earth - but these were not considered pure substances since matter and form exist in a combination of hot, moist, dry, and cold so that everything is united to form the elements.[8]

The Latin equivalent of the hyle concept - and later its medieval version - also emerged from Aristotle's notion. The Greek term's Latin equivalent was silva, which literally meant woodland or forest.[5] However, the Latin thinkers opted for a word that had technical sense instead of the literal meaning so that it became understood as that of which a thing is made but one that remained a substratum with changed form.[5] The word materia was chosen instead to indicate a meaning not in handicraft but in the passive role that mother (mater) plays in conception.[4]


The matter of hyle is closely related to that of substance, in so far as both endure a change in form, or transformation. Aristotle defined primary substance as that which can neither be predicated nor attributed to something else,[9] and he explained the transformation between the four terrestrial elements in terms of an abstract primary matter that underlies each element due to the four combinations of two properties: hot or cold and wet or dry. He stipulated that transformations between opposing elements, where both properties differ, must be analyzed as two discrete steps wherein one of the two properties changes to its contrary while the other remains unchanged (see essence and hylomorphism). For the neo-Aristotelian theorists, a corporeal substance is a hylemorphic composite, which means it is a combination of primary matter and a substantial form.[10]

Modern substance theory differs. For example Kant's "Ding an sich", or "thing in itself", is generally described as whatever is its own cause, or alternatively as a thing whose only property is that it is that thing (or, in other words, that it has only that property). However, this notion is subject to the criticism, as by Nietzsche, that there is no way to directly prove the existence of any thing which has no properties, since such a thing could not possibly interact with other things and thus would be unobservable and indeterminate.[citation needed]

On the other hand, we may need to postulate a substance that endures through change in order to explain the nature of change—without an enduring factor that persists through change, there is no change but only a succession of unrelated events.[original research?] The existence of change is hard to deny, and if we have to postulate something unobserved in order to explain what is observed, that is a valid indirect demonstration (by abductive reasoning). Moreover, something like a prime substance is posited by physics in the form of matter/energy.

In KabbalahEdit

This kav descended towards the Halal HaPanui in stages. The kav, at its upper end was in contact with the Ohr Ein Sof, extending but not entirely towards the final extremity. Through that kav the Ohr Ein Sof was brought down and expanded. The flow of this Higher Light of Infinity spread and flowed downwards to transform into the worlds within the "Void"[11]

In Kabbalah, the original, spiritual matter from which everything derives is called Homer Hiyulih Hebrew: חומר היולי‎, lit. "hyle matter".[12]

Then Rabbi Shimon, interrupting him, said: “Eleazar, my son! Continue explaining the verse, because a profound mystery is to be revealed, which the children of the world have never known about until today". Rabbi Eleazar stopped speaking. Rabbi Shimon was silent for a moment, and then said: "Eleazar, my son, what is the meaning of the word Aleh ("these things")? It cannot mean the stars, constellations and other celestial planets which are always visible and seen by the eye of man and were created from Mah, as it is written, By the word of God the heavens were made. (Psalms. 33: 6). Aleh ("these things") cannot refer to invisible things, but to those that are seen." "The mysterious meaning of the word was revealed to me one day when I was standing by the sea, when Elijah, the prophet, suddenly appeared and said to me: "Rabbi! Do you know what Aleh ("these things") means?" And I answered and said that it meant the heavens and the celestial planets, the work of God ,the Holy... may He be blessed, that it behooves every man to study as it is written: When I consider your heavens, which are the work of your fingers (Psalms. 8: 3); Oh, Lord, our God, how great is your name in all the earth! (Psalms. 8: 9). Rabbi! [Said Elijah] this is an occult word, and was thus revealed and explained in the "Heavenly Yeshivah". When God wished to reveal Himself, He first created a "point"... and it became a "Divine Thought in which there were the ideas of all created things and the forms of all things, and also that holy, glorious sacred and mysterious Light", an "image" representing the most sacred mystery, a profound work that emerged from the Divine Thought: it was only the beginning of the building, existing without yet existing, hidden in the Name, and which up to that moment was called only Mi ("Who", i.e. God). Then, wanting to manifest Himself and be called by his name, God put on a precious and resplendent robe and He created Aleh which was added to his Name; for these words, joined and associated together, form "Alhim" (Elohim), which is composed of Aleh (these things), and Mi" ("Who", i.e. God)... [The word/name of God] "Alhim" did not "exist" before Aleh was created[13]

— Zohar

In Chasidism, Creation represents the realization of the divine will: it is referred to the theory that affirms the existence of developing from potential to actualization. Bereshit Rabbah asserts that the "light" was created in the early days and it was then concealed for the Tzadikim in Olam Ha-Ba; "Ohr Ein Sof" is the same divine light unchanged: the same form of the primordial light and the theory of "origin of Creation" indicates that this original unity[14] manifests itself in the "System-Order of Creation" even according to the bonds, the limits and connections.[15]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Smith, Anthony (2017). Laruelle: A Stranger Thought. Cambridge, UK: John Wiley & Sons. p. 201. ISBN 9780745671222.
  2. ^ a b Goli, Farzad (2016). Biosemiotic Medicine: Healing in the World of Meaning. Cham, Switzerland: Springer. p. 75. ISBN 978-3-319-35091-2.
  3. ^ Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, James Morris Whiton, A lexicon abridged from Liddell & Scott's Greek-English lexicon (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1891), 725.
  4. ^ a b Krois, John Michael; Rosengren, Mats; Steidele, Angela; Westercamp, Dirk (2007). Embodiment in Cognition and Culture. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing. p. 129. ISBN 9789027252074.
  5. ^ a b c d e Leclerc, Ivor (2004). The Nature of Physical Existence. Routledge. pp. 117, 122. ISBN 0-415-29561-0.
  6. ^ Leclerc, Ivor (2018). The Philosophy of Nature. Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press. p. 76. ISBN 9780813230863.
  7. ^ Pavlov, Moshe (2017). Abū'l-Barakāt al-Baghdādī's Scientific Philosophy: The Kitāb al-Mu'tabar. Oxon: Routledge. p. 149. ISBN 9781138640450.
  8. ^ Williams, Linda (2003). Chemistry Demystified. New York: McGraw Hill Professional. p. 3. ISBN 9780071433594.
  9. ^ Robinson, Howard (2009). "Substance". In Edward N. Zalta (ed.). The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2009 ed.).
  10. ^ Inman, Ross D. (2017). Substance and the Fundamentality of the Familiar: A Neo-Aristotelian Mereology. Oxon: Routledge. ISBN 978-1-351-66004-4.
  11. ^ Etz Chaim 1:2
  12. ^ Parashah Bereshit I:
    • Bohu, i.e. Avir (Hebrew אוויר) is a kind of filling of the "empty space" so that "light" can access it through the Kav. Primordial colors derive from Avir, then reflected in creation. In esoterism, Avir corresponds to the Ether; this theory is very similar to the scientific one on the possibility of movement of the orbits in the Universe. Beyond the famous saying of King Solomon according to which nothing new happens under the sun and jergal: "...from Moses to Moses no one was greater than Moses"... even throughout the Torah, it is possible to identify that intrastoric rational logic (cfr Hegel), so loved by modern philosophy, to the point of stating that it is possible to know God also through dynamics on Earth: Divine providence.
    • Tohu (Hebrew תֹהוּ) means "Chaos": this indicates "the primordium", which is "the indistinct origin that was forged by God to create"; this term is also present in the first verses of the Book of Genesis of the Pentateuch and the esoteric tradition of Kabbalah outlined its characteristics precisely with reference to the tzimtzum process". In other words, tohu is precisely "the primordial substance" of the ancient Greek: hyle, "Homer Hiyulih"
  13. ^ Zohar. Il libro dello splendore. Commentario sul Pentateuco: Versione integrale (Fogli 1-14) Parole d'Argento Edizioni
  14. ^ Since God established the four worlds according to the Sefirot, the Hyle, (Homer Hiyulih) corresponds also to the soul: the Anima mundi is in the Kabbalah the "knot" that unifies both creation and the human being as a whole; the Sefirot are in fact archetypes in which both the divine elements projected into Creation and the intrinsic modalities of the human being and of God can be recognized
  15. ^ Tikkun olam - Sefer Yetzirah

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