Please help support the mission of New Advent and get the full contents of this website as an instant download. Includes the Catholic Encyclopedia, Church Fathers, Summa, Bible and more all for only $19.99...
(Greek poson; Latin quantitas, quantum, correlate to tantum)
Aristotle, in his "Categories" places quantity (with which he deals at length from the logical standpoint in the sixth chapter) first in his enumeration of the nine accidents. His list of the possible heads of classification of predicates has reference to a concrete, material subject, and, as shown by the last two predicaments (jacere and habere), principally to man. Quantity does not, therefore, as philosophy is at present divided, fall properly under the treatment of ontology, but of cosmology. It presupposes the material. In "Metaphysics", IV, the concrete quantum is described as "that which is divisible into the parts included in it, of which any and each is potentially one and hoc quid". By this description the inexistent parts of the quantum are discriminated from the elements in the compound, the matter and the form, which are not each potentially "one and hoc quid".
Quantity is distinguished into (1) continuous, and (2) discrete. Continuous (geometrical) quantity is that which consists of parts having position in reference to each other, so that the limit of the one is the limit of the next. These parts, each potentially "one and hoc quid", do not form a multitude, an aggregate of units, but one divisible quantum, or measurable size. They are not actual entities. (This doctrine is not unanimously held in the School.) Continuous quantity is further subdivided into:
An important question is raised as to the nature of the distinction to be drawn between substance and quantity. The School generally, following Aristotle, holds that, as quantity is that reality which makes the indivisible substance potentially divisible (Physics, 1. 2), the distinction to be admitted is a real one. There is considerable diversity of opinion as to whether this can be demonstrated by arguments of natural reason. Aristotle's own argument lies in the consideration that length, breadth, and depth are quantities, but are not substances. But against this it has been urged that these things do not exist as such at all. They are abstractions formed by the dissociation produced by varying concomitants. Francisco Suárez, Pesch, De San, Nys, and others hold that the distinction is demonstrable; but most of the arguments advanced are negative ones. For Descartes and his school, quantity, or extension, is the essence of corporeal substance. The distinction to which allusion has just been made has no place in the system (cf. DESCARTES). The definition of the Council of Trent, however, teaches that quantity is really distinct from substance. It is of faith that the substances of bread and wine in the Eucharist are changed at the consecration (Sess. XIII, cap. iv); but the quantity remains sensibly unaltered. To escape this difficulty, the Cartesians had recourse to several explanations, none of which seems to be in any way satisfactory. Continuous quantity is seen to be, in the philosophy of the School, an attribute and accident of body. Corporeal substance, as such, is not quantitatively divisible. When actuated by quantity it becomes so; but is not yet spatially displayed. The accident is thus distinguished by Scholastics from the further accident of formal extension which is complementary to it, and by which the parts, already rendered distinct by quantity, are localized in space. Through the aptitude to being determined by this accidental form, matter is held to be individuated; the principle of individuation of corporeal beings is materia quantitate signata.
GROTE, Aristotle (London, 1872); HAAN, Philosophia naturalis (Freiburg, 1898); LORENZELLI, Philosophi Theoretic Institutiones (Rome, 1896); MERCIER, Ontologie (Louvain, 1902); NYS, Cosmologie (Louvain, 1906); ST. THOMAS AQUINAS, Opera (Parma, 1852). (Cf. especially De principio individuationis, De natura materia et dimensionibus interminatis, De natura generis, De natura accidentis.)
APA citation. (1911). Quantity. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12591a.htm
MLA citation. "Quantity." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12591a.htm>.
Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Douglas J. Potter. Dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ.
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. June 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.
Contact information. The editor of New Advent is Kevin Knight. My email address is webmaster at newadvent.org. Regrettably, I can't reply to every letter, but I greatly appreciate your feedback — especially notifications about typographical errors and inappropriate ads.