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Section 13

13. Are we asked to accept as the substratum some attribute or quality present to all the elements in common?

Then, first, we must be told what precise attribute this is and, next, how an attribute can be a substratum.

The elements are sizeless, and how conceive an attribute where there is neither base nor bulk?

Again, if the quality possesses determination, it is not Matter the undetermined; and anything without determination is not a quality but is the substratum- the very Matter we are seeking.

It may be suggested that perhaps this absence of quality means simply that, of its own nature, it has no participation in any of the set and familiar properties, but takes quality by this very non-participation, holding thus an absolutely individual character, marked off from everything else, being as it were the negation of those others. Deprivation, we will be told, comports quality: a blind man has the quality of his lack of sight. If then- it will be urged- Matter exhibits such a negation, surely it has a quality, all the more so, assuming any deprivation to be a quality, in that here the deprivation is all comprehensive.

But this notion reduces all existence to qualified things or qualities: Quantity itself becomes a Quality and so does even Existence. Now this cannot be: if such things as Quantity and Existence are qualified, they are, by that very fact, not qualities: Quality is an addition to them; we must not commit the absurdity of giving the name Quality to something distinguishable from Quality, something therefore that is not Quality.

Is it suggested that its mere Alienism is a quality in Matter?

If this Alienism is difference-absolute [the abstract entity] it possesses no Quality: absolute Quality cannot be itself a qualified thing.

If the Alienism is to be understood as meaning only that Matter is differentiated, then it is different not by itself [since it is certainly not an absolute] but by this Difference, just as all identical objects are so by virtue of Identicalness [the Absolute principle of Identity].

An absence is neither a Quality nor a qualified entity; it is the negation of a Quality or of something else, as noiselessness is the negation of noise and so on. A lack is negative; Quality demands something positive. The distinctive character of Matter is unshape, the lack of qualification and of form; surely then it is absurd to pretend that it has Quality in not being qualified; that is like saying that sizelessness constitutes a certain size.

The distinctive character of Matter, then, is simply its manner of being- not something definite inserted in it but, rather a relation towards other things, the relation of being distinct from them.

Other things possess something besides this relation of Alienism: their form makes each an entity. Matter may with propriety be described as merely alien; perhaps, even, we might describe it as "The Aliens," for the singular suggests a certain definiteness while the plural would indicate the absence of any determination.

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