The Identity Conditions of Prime Matter According to William of Ockham

Magali Roques


This paper is dedicated to William of Ockham’s metaphysics of matter. Its aim is to examine how William of Ockham accounted for the identity conditions of prime matter. The problem we will examine runs like this: if matter can be found in everything which can come into being and pass away, hence in you and me, how can I account that my matter is not yours? This problem is quite independent of the question of the ontological status of matter, one of the main focuses of recent studies on prime matter in later medieval Aristotelianism.

The medieval metaphysics of individuation has been the object of extensive studies. It is often highlighted that this metaphysics is centered on substances and accidents. The interest of the paper lies in the fact that it deals with another aspect of the metaphysics of individuation: how can we account for the individuation of stuff in medieval metaphysics? I will argue that Ockham switched from his well known view that individuality is intrinsic and irreducible to a version of the Leibnizian view that individuality reduces to uniqueness of properties, because Ockham’s standard theory of identity and distinction cannot account for the identity conditions of stuff.


William of Ockham, hylomorphism, matter, individuation, identity of indiscernibles.

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ISSN: 2281-3209                DOI Prefix: 10.7408

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