Monthly Archives: October 2012

Art, Interpretation, and Understanding

Art, Interpretation, and Understanding

It is not uncommon these days to hear people say, when the subject arises, that there can be no answer to the question, “What is art?” If we begin by considering modern art, there does not seem to be any distinction between the sorts of objects that can be considered art objects and those that cannot. This is partly due to the fact that artists in the early 20th century set out to expand the public’s perception of what art can be. Is a urinal an art object? Duchamp thought so. Is a pile of newspapers in the MOMA art? Why not? Do objects become art objects by being placed in a museum? Cannot even simple everyday objects be seen as art?

And yet, is it plausible that there should be no way to differentiate art objects from others? I would like to approach this issue by first supporting the thesis that what fundamentally differentiates art objects from others is not a difference in the objects themselves, but a difference in our way of seeing them. It would follow that if we are to truly understand art, we must understand what constitutes an artistic point of view. In what follows, I will explore this thesis in an effort to lay the groundwork for answering a question that is sometimes taken to be intractable.

In the process, I will make a further attempt to set out what differentiates the project of interpreting art from that of acquiring scientific knowledge. These two components, which relate to answering the question of what kind of thing art is and how it may be differentiated from other things may be used to yield a working definition of art.  Moreover, the results of this investigation will have a bearing on the way that we view what it means to communicate, interpret and understand the world around us for ourselves and for others.

Generic considerations about the nature of art~

Consider a coffee cup. If I wish to understand it from a scientific standpoint, I will typically begin by bracketing all my feelings about it, such as whether it is pleasing to look at or whether it reminds me of a certain friend, or many other things that might occur to me but that are considered irrelevant to approaching it scientifically. Instead, I would typically focus on such things as its size, weight, chemical composition, its material components, etc.: in short, all the attributes that can be said to belong to it as an “object” that can be understood from an objective standpoint in the sense of a point of view that can be shared by others.

If I were to approach it as art, the same object that was being considered scientifically is now transformed by the simple act of looking upon it from an aesthetic standpoint, or aesthetically. I now pay attention to its colors, to its shape, whether they are pleasing or not, and whether it falls into a category of recognized artistic styles. Is it related to the Bauhaus school? Is it “modern”? Is it a “classic” style? What set of associations does it seem intended to invoke? Each style may bring about an aesthetically based response in me that would not arise from considering it from a scientifically trained point of view.

This example merely brings to our awareness the everyday experience that there is such a thing as an aesthetic or artistic point of view and that it differs from the scientific one.
But moreover, it seems that there is no obstacle to considering any object from an aesthetic standpoint if any object may be considered as art.

It seems that language, more than anything else (mistakenly) leads us into thinking that objects, by some intrinsic property they might possess, either are or not art. We are taught to refer to objects such as the Mona Lisa, or to a bronze sculpture as art; but, in truth, since we may consider any object as an art object, there does not seem to be any one property or set of properties in an object that makes it art, nor can any criterion be proposed that would prevent us from seeing an object as an art object.  If we seek for a general definition of art by examining the properties of an object in a scientific manner, there is nothing in an object can assist us in differentiating what is art from what is not art. In order to find the key to the differentiation one must look rather to the genesis of the way in which we see objects as objects as a certain kind of entity.  Understanding a way of seeing as a way of seeing, moreover, involves reflecting on the way in which we view the world interpretively as something more primary in us than either scientific method or an educated aesthetic viewpoint.

Toward a definition of Art: differentiating art from what is non-art~

In another way of speaking, the differentiation we are after will involve an awareness of an “adverbial” bias to our way of seeing and knowing.  We do not simply “see”, but see “scientifically” or experience an object “aesthetically”.  This realization suggests the conclusion that a basic part of understanding the world from a philosophically well grounded standpoint will involve an awareness of how objects stand to us once we have first become aware of ourselves as interpreting and not merely sensing observers.

To return to the main line of argumentation, we come now to an important question: what primarily differentiates the aesthetic point of view from other ways of seeing or being involved with objects around us? One might say that there are at least three basic characteristics: first, and most generally, the aesthetic standpoint can be distinguished from the scientific one by virtue of the fact that it involves, necessarily, an admittance of one’s affective responses (of the sort mentioned above) into one’s evaluation of an object as an art object. It shares this with other points of view such as when one views an object hungrily or thirstily.

Secondly, what is to be considered as art must be something that can be presented as art.  This presentation, in turn, functions as an invitation to view the object as art.  In the case of something like a pile of stones, something that is not made but only found in nature, the act of making may be nothing more than a “dubbing” or a pronouncement like “behold: this is art” that leads to the consideration of the object as an art object.

But, thirdly, the aesthetic viewpoint can be further differentiated according to a particular interpretive viewpoint that may arise in connection with it. I would like to propose that the aesthetic point of view is unique in that it admits (though it does not necessitate) an interpretive standpoint that does not arise in connection with other points of view or ways of being involved with things.  It will be the aim of what follows to describe this interpretive standpoint.  In doing so, a better sense of just what aesthetic seeing is will be brought to light.

Art and the sciences

Since the act of interpreting seems to have something in common with the scientific viewpoint and since, moreover, it was said that there was something unique about interpretation within the aesthetic viewpoint, it will be important to distinguish aesthetic interpretation as an aesthetic way of seeing from a scientific mode of seeing and interpreting, which has the aim of arriving at scientific knowledge.                  

An initial distinction has already been alluded to above.  Certainly, what modern scientific methodology sets apart as relevant data are the relevant objective facts, which can usually be circumscribed within the scope of quantifiable data (witness modern psychology).  The aesthetic standpoint, by contrast, seems to require a different apparatus, including one’s subjective reaction to the art object; and, at times, some concern with the intention of the artist or author in creating his artwork may play an important role.  Neither of these concerns are allowed to arise as legitimate kinds of data within a purely scientific standpoint.


This type of scientific viewpoint may be labeled the modern empirical-scientific standpoint, so as to distinguish it from a further kind of “scientific” standpoint that might be called the classical epistemic-scientific standpoint.  This latter point of view is one that was developed at what is often considered to be the infancy of western culture.  It is the kind of epistemic standpoint that Plato and Aristotle developed according to which anything, whether it be a goose, a rosebud, or even such things as justice and love, can be made accessible to the understanding through a process of classification and division.  The foundation and guiding principle of this classification and division is ultimately the goal of defining each thing in such a way that it can be distinguished from all other things.  This way of conceptualizing what it means to know or understand something is so deeply ingrained in our very way of discussing those terms that it is difficult to conceive of another way of understanding them that does not lead into it at some point.  Since understanding is usually held to be a matter of both relating one thing to other things and of telling them apart, we seem to be led inexorably into the whirlpool of episteme when we wish to discuss “understanding” and “knowledge”.

Aesthetic interpretation, especially if it involves an effort toward systematic interpretation, may find itself unavoidably drawn into this whirlpool, and with mixed results.  On the one hand, it allows for a systematic treatment of the affective elements (for example, the reader’s response to a novel) that the interpretation of art must accept and which the empirical-scientific standpoint cannot admit.  It accomplishes this by treating such elements as concepts that may be related to other concepts (for example, the reader’s response to various elements in the text).  A certain unity of meaning is, moreover, held to emerge from a blending of such elements with others that may be taken to be more or less the facts of what is presented.  For example, if one sets out to interpret Picasso’s Guernica, not only the figures presented and their historical context will be relevant to grasping a sense of the painting, but also a reflection upon the way in which one is affected by the way in which they are presented, and not only this, but perhaps some attempt to divine what Picasso must have intended in that presentation may be relevant to its interpretation.

An Image from Picasso’s Guernica

On the other hand, there is that within the aesthetic standpoint, something within affectivity itself that resists conceptualization, and to that extent resists the epistemic model of understanding.  Indeed, if the epistemic model is taken to be the only model for understanding, then there is that in art that cannot be understood.  This aspect of art, its affective element, has a greater importance for its interpretation than might at first be recognized.  One could not get very far in understanding Guernica without first grasping, at a very basic affective level, such things as shock, horror, and revulsion; nor could one truly comprehend Chekhov’s “Lady with a Dog” without first being able to relate to emotions such as the desire, desperation, and long sought fulfillment that make up the elements of his story of fin amor.  A good writer or artist may even be judged, as was the case with Tolstoy and others, to be a master of his art precisely because he understood such emotions and was able to make his audience feel them and weave them together into experiences perhaps hitherto unknown as such to his reader.

Yalta: the setting for Chekhov’s, “The Lady with the Dog”.

It is not that the epistemic approach fails, so much as the fact that its success depends upon what cannot revealed by pure episteme alone.  In this respect, its projected definitions of love, loss, etc. fall short in a crucial respect.  It even seems quite reasonable to say that inasmuch as a definition for such terms fails to invoke the essential affective qualities, the kind of approach to knowledge classical episteme involves leads away from its essential attributes.  Hence, art comes to have what appears to be a doxastic, open-endedness with respect to the extent to which the interpretation of it can be said to be conclusive.

On the other hand, inasmuch as art can be said to reveal, of itself, what is essential to such inner experiences, it may be said to get nearer to what is essential to them than a purely conceptual approach can reveal.  Herein may be seen certain limitations of both Platonic and Aristotelian approaches to knowledge.  More than this, the present discussion can be linked to contemporary debates on the nature of consciousness that affirm it to be something inaccessible from a purely scientific standpoint.  Thomas Nagel’s “What’s it like to be a bat” and David Chalmer’s discussion of zombies are two prominent examples.  According to these lines of argument, the qualitative aspects of our inner experiences  are said to be inaccessible from an empirical-scientific standpoint precisely because that qualitative aspect in some ways resists objectification.  More precisely, it falls short of being able to answer the question of “what it is like” to have such experiences as smelling a rose or hearing a pleasant melody.

It seems that this epistemic failure is due not only to the fact, that there is that in art which resists objectification.  The empirical-scientific approach fails to a certain degree, due to the fact that (as was explained above) even within the conceptual sphere, such affects cannot be made into conceptual objects as Plato’s Forms and their Aristotelian descendants may be said to have been.  It seems rather that what is essential to them must be invoked within the subject and experienced on a bodily level in some way by art itself and in those who would understand art-to the extent that it can be “understood”.

Finally, to the extent that aesthetic interpretation, properly understood, uniquely involves an attempt to “understand” in terms of affectivity (inasmuch as it must involve an interpretive standpoint which acknowledges the fundamental role of the affective side of art), we may be said to have arrived at an aspect of the interpretation of art that sets it apart not only from purely “scientific” perspectives, but differentiates it from other ways of grasping or “understanding” something.

This critique of an over-reliance on the empirical-scientific point of view that has become so second nature to us in our age may be summed up by saying that we lack access, from that point of view, to what is revealed by a properly aesthetic point of view.  But, moreover, it may be seen that these two viewpoints represent two distinct aspects of human experience.  In what follows, the idea will be explored that art has a unique role in bringing together these two aspects of human experience, and subsequently, in teaching us what it means to be human in the fullest sense: a sense that projects toward overcoming alienation from oneself and from humanity by reunifying these two sides of our experience.


The harmonious composition of the aesthetic and epistemic that arises when we feel we have “understood” a work of art may be termed “interpretation”.  As was said above, because the purely aesthetic is that which resists a purely epistemic approach to “understanding” or grasping a work of art, interpretation will have an element of doxastic open-endedness.  Thus, for example, if one reads Tolstoy’s “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” one cannot be said to have grasped the “meaning” of the story fully by simply arranging its plot in the proper order; nor could one do so by understanding all the words Tolstoy uses on a literal level; nor would even a full understanding of all the historical facts relevant to the story suffice.  It is, rather, something that surpasses all these that eludes the epistemic approach and provides art with its field of openness that is essential to its being art.  This field of openness, moreover, can only be grasped from an aesthetic viewpoint, and cannot be contemplated or accessed from a purely epistemic or scientific point of view.

This description of interpretation may be seen to have a certain allegiance to a Kantian approach to what occurs when one attempts to understand, in some sense, what is presented in the field of aesthetics.  Although it does not have any pretentions toward a transcendental viewpoint, it might be said to provide a foundation for a way to look at art as something that transcends the self.  Rationalists have traditionally attempted to transcend the self on a purely conceptual basis.  But part of the difficulty with this approach is that it does not allow the self (for example, the archetypal, isolated Cartesian self) to get beyond its own concepts.  Art provides for a fuller transcendence of the self by introducing a form of communication that requires an “understanding” of its terms to take hold on an affective, as well as an intellectual level.

Consider the process of creating a work of art.  If one were to set out to create a love story like Chekhov’s “Lady with a dog”, one would ordinarily have to combine epistemic elements that provide a basic sense of the facts upon which the story is based with elements that call up the affective side of what it means to fall passionately in love.  This may be called a form of communication.  Communicating on such a level requires a shared inner experience if it is to be effective.  It requires communication not only on a conceptual level that invokes a certain intended response in the reader on an affective level.

Thus, one may imagine a model, from the standpoint of the speaker, writer, or artist that begins with his own affective experiences, gets packaged in language that is epistemically accessible (or readily understood on a conceptual level), and, if understood properly, is interpreted in the appropriate way by being “understood” on both an aesthetic and epistemic level.  In this way, art may be said to perform the unique function of bridging a gap between self and other that occurs on an aesthetic level.  In this way, art may also be said to hold out the promise of enabling the self to transcend itself.  A successful case may be said to arise when one feels oneself to have interpreted properly not only what the artist intended to communicate, but also, inasmuch as the story is open to many interpreters, to something that applies to humanity in general and may be said to characterize what it means to fall passionately in love as a human experience.

And yet, there seems to be that in art which surpasses, or transcends even the intention of the artist.  This can occur in a number of ways.  For example, the artist may work without any explicit intention; or again, the meaning of a work of art may shift over time according to the standpoint of its interpreters; or, in general, the artist may not be aware of the full implications of their work.  In such cases, interpretation is no longer tied to intention in any straightforward way.  In such cases one may look for an “intention” that transcends the artist and may be said to belong to the artwork itself as something that it communicates.  But this type of “communication”, which is no longer interpersonal, reaches a level where it might be said to be transpersonal: i.e. to transcend the intention of the artist and to signify in such a way that its meaning transcends (although it does not absolutely exceed) the level of communication between persons.  In this way it attains the status of a symbol.

Moreover, as a symbol, the meaning of a work of art is always in some way relative to an interpreter inasmuch as its perceived meaning may be grounded in many different contexts.  I would like to call this capacity of a work of art to belong to many different contexts its meta-contextuality.  Any artwork may be said to have this quality inasmuch as it is looked upon as a symbol, with a concomitant implication of meta-contextuality.

The perceived meta-contextual quality of a work of art comes close to being at the core of what makes it truly a work of art.  The only thing lacking to such a characterization is that it does not exclude the possibility of meta-contextuality on a purely conceptual basis.  Some highly rationalistic conceptions of religion seem to come close to fitting this criterion.  What is needed as an addition to this characterization to make it fit the conceptual area that art occupies more precisely is the further differentiation that art necessarily involves the aesthetic, non-epistemic side of human experience.

Some final thoughts toward a definition of art~

As was said at the beginning of this section, art involves a form of communication in which the epistemic aspects of language are used to communicate non-epistemic, aesthetic ones.  It is the epistemic aspects of language that may be said to present us with regular examples of words being associated with referents.  According to an epistemic point of view, of which Quine, for example, might approve, such associations would be communicated with a minimal degree of vagueness.  But in the aesthetic realm, the ideal of pure referentiality and removal of all vagueness is impossible due to the privacy (i.e. the non-objective quality) of aesthetic intentions when they arise. Thus, inasmuch as a work of art may be said to necessarily involve such aesthetic intentions, art my be said to be essentially something that may be viewed as a meta-contextual symbol, which has the capacity to communicate to us, in a sense, not only on a conceptual level, but also on an aesthetic one.

This capacity, moreover, has the potential to educate us about the aesthetic aspects of what makes us human.  Inasmuch as its proper interpretation must involve a harmonizing of the epistemic and aesthetic, it will involve some attempt to harmonize both of these aspects of human experience, and thus assist us in discovering a complete, harmonious vision of what it means to be human.


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Opinion on the notion of substratum

Opinion: there is no need for the concept of “substratum” and a viable alternative may be posed to it.

 The Issue~


Do everyday objects need a a property-less substratum to be sufficiently grounded in their existence?  Well, the reasoning can be taken as proceeding like this:

  1. When we look at everyday objects, we can see that they have certain attributes, such as a certain height or color or weight.
  2. These attributes can be said to have a certain order of dependence one upon another: for example, an object has a color only if it first has extension in space.  Only if an object is extended in space, having at least two dimensions, it might be said, can it thereby have a color.  This is true even in one’s imagination.  Necessarily, if an object has a color it has a height and width, if not a depth and weight at a certain time.  These are necessary conditions for an object to be perceived as existing.
  3. But, the advocate of substrata would claim, extension is not enough to establish an object as a real entity by itself.  Being a mere attribute of an object and not a substance itself, it cannot exist on its own.
  4. The justification for #3 is related to #2 in the sense that it involves ontological dependence.  This  dependence is often spoken of in terms of “inherence”.  The argument goes as follows: (a) the qualities of an object such as its colors, which are a type of accident (see #1) cannot exist on their own without belonging to or inhering in a substance; (b) in the same way, the quantitative accidental attributes of a substance, such as its height or weight or length cannot exist apart from an object.  Moreover, (c) the qualities and quantitative attributes of an object make up the sum total of an object’s internal attributes (i.e. those that are not relative and depend upon its internal attributes).  But (d) all such attributes must inhere in something since they cannot exist on their own (see a-c).  Hence (e) all such attributes must depend upon a further something that might ground their existence.  That further something is what the Aristotelian would call a substratum.

The claim that this argument can be taken as a synopsis of the Aristotelian view on “Substance” perhaps needs some defense.  This can be presented briefly, but I think conclusively, as follows.

The word Aristotle uses that is usually translated as “substrate” in the Categories is to hypokeimenon, or literally, “the underlying (something)”, which is often translated as “subject” (as in the grammatical subject of predicates).  It should be seen at the outset that the term does double duty in the Categories as a term for a  grammatical subject (as a subject for predicates) and for a subject in the sense of substance: e.g. Aristotle writes in Chapter 2 of the Categories, “By being ‘present in a subject’ I do not mean present as parts are present in a whole, but being incapable of existence apart from the said subject.”  By introducing the notion of accidents as existing in a substance (the Greek word here is hypokeimenon as above) Aristotle is in effect shifting the ontological ground of his discussion from the consideration of the role of a subject as a bit of grammar to subject as a countable entity.

The effect is such that the discussion of the hypokeimenon-subject of the second chapter of the Categories naturally bridges over into Aristotle’s further discussion of ousia-subject in the fifth chapter.  It is significant that Aristotle has an entitative sense of “subject” in mind in the second chapter because it lays the foundation for a dualism between substance and accident that follows from his claim (quoted above) that accidents cannot exist on their own (chapter 2), although a substance can (implicit in chapter 2 where he identifies subjects as unitary things, such as individual horses and men, in contrast to things that are present in a subject, and explicit in chapter 5 where Aristotle says that the ability to subsist is one of the primary differentiating characteristics of a substance).

The non-reducibility of accident to substance follows from this duality: one subsists while the other merely “exists in” (see 4 a and b above) some further thing.  But this in turn yields the further result that no collection of accidents can yield a substance.  This reasoning is, quite arguably, implicit in Aristotle’s distinction between accidental and substantial change in the first Chapter of his lectures on Physics.  It is this non-reducibility that provides the basis for the Lockean critique of Aristotle’s notion of substance.

It is, of course, fairly well established that Locke, in the end, decides to keep substrata in his inventory of “the things that are”.  But he does so only after presenting a very compelling counterargument that has left many wondering whether he could actually be serious about maintaining that there are such things as substrata in the universe.  His counterargument can be related to the dualism between substance and accident mentioned above.

Essentially, Locke’s argument works on the irreducability of accident to substance that underlies that dualism.  In Book II, ch. xxiii of his “Essay” Locke points out that if it were asked wherein qualities (secondary qualities) inhere in a substance one could answer that they inhere in the quantitative features of an object (in Locke’s terminology, their primary qualities).  But if one were to press further and ask wherein the primary qualities of an object inhere, one could only answer that it must be an unknown something-something the senses do not perceive.  It can be seen here that Locke is attempting to be a consistent empiricist in drawing up such arguments: since substratum cannot be sensed, it violates the basic criterion for what any good empiricist would accept into his or her ontology.



Thus, the issue substratum theory poses comes to this:  one can either say with Aristotle that a substratum is necessary as a ground or support for things that cannot exist on their own, or one can side with Locke in saying that no such entity can be admitted into one’s ontology on empiricist grounds.  Moreover, to admit substrata into one’s ontology is implicitly to move from a monistic position (materialism or phenomenalism) to a dualistic one (materialism plus an immaterial entity): since only “qualities” in Locke’s terminology, or “accidents” in Aristotelean usage can by their very nature, be perceived, substrata, or substances without attributes must be taken to be basically imperceptible and therefore immaterial.  Hence it follows that for the substratum theorist, there must be at least two basic kinds of things: those that are perceptible and those that are imperceptible by their very nature.  In admitting substrata into his ontology, Locke basically affirmed his commitment to a kind of dualism that in many respects mirrored Cartesian dualism, and for similar reasons (e.g. non-reducibility), has engendered dissatisfaction ever since.



The argument I would like to advance in response to this issue is that it is unnecessary to suppose substrata as a ground for accidents/qualities.  This position prompts two lines of inquiry: firstly, can the quantitative features of an object exist on their own or do they require something wherein they may exist?  I.e., how does one overcome the common sense view that says things like a particular height or weight must inhere in an object in order to have any reality?  Does this not inescapably prompt the need to suppose the existence of a substrate wherein their existence may be grounded?  Secondly, if the quantitative features of an object can somehow be taken to be the fundamental ground of being of an object and this in turn implies either a materialistic or phenomenalistic monism, can such a monism do all the metaphysical work the alternative dualism with its supposed substratum was able to do?  An affirmative answer to the latter question can be justified through resolving the problems posed by the first line of inquiry: basically, a satisfactory monism will be able to do all the metaphysical work that the alternative dualism was able to do without supposing a fundamentally imperceptible substratum.  Since substrata have this characteristic, they would seem to deserve the title of “occult entity” as much as any others of the same ilk and their elimination would seem to be desirable from both an epistemic and an empirical point of view if one happens to be committed to empirical principles in drawing up the inventory of one’s ontology.  Let’s proceed then to see what can be done to eliminate substrata.

Supporting arguments~

Simply put, the key to eliminating substrata is to let the term “substance” indicate an entity that essentially includes all its attributes (or qualities or accidents) in its concept.  This might be taken to be a Leibnizian view of substance.  The next move is to see that, taking on the idea of the attributes of a substance as fundamentally dependent beings, they imply a substance.  Thus, we are left with the following set of logical relationships between substances and their attributes: necessarily, if there is an attribute, then there is a substance; but, moreover, only if there is a substance can there be an attribute.  If one wants to know wherein an attribute exists, it may be answered that it exists in or belongs to a substance; but only if there is a substance may there be an attribute at all.  The latter justifies the idea that substance can function as the ground of existence for attributes, while the former affirms the basic desire to say that attributes must exist in something other than themselves.

This view of things fits perfectly well with any empiricist/phenomenalist view of perception that begins with particular percepts as a basic epistemic starting point.  Consider an object; let’s say, a book, for example: the book may be considered a substance, while its color or height may be considered as belonging to it as a substance.  The substance in this case is an independent entity but not one that is devoid of attributes.  Indeed, as above, the existence of substance can be taken to pre-suppose the existence of attributes in a non-circular manner.  Here again, the perceptible phenomenal attributes belong to the book as to a substance that grounds their existence; but that substance in turn sufficiently implies the existence of at least one attribute.

This may seem rough and ready given the long standing persistence of this metaphysical issue.  But it should be enough merely to ask the reader to consider the logic that prompts the series of moves presented above.  Consider that in posing the definition of substance presented here (seemingly out of thin air?) as an alternative to substratum theory, what has been shown is the non-necessity of substratum theory, provided that the version of the relationship between substances and their attributes is not self contradictory and can be said to be basically sound.  The two paragraphs immediately above can be taken as answering to both of those requirements.

The desire to reify substance, to make it into a separate entity apart from its attributes, seems to follow from a mistake in thinking that whatever substance is, it must be something independent not only from other substances but also from its own attributes.  It might be thought, for example, that since a substance may undergo a change in its attributes (for example changing from short to tall) it must be independent from its attributes.  But this assumption is non-necessary from a logical standpoint: it may be said, alternatively, that substance sufficiently implies the existence of at least one attribute while the existence of an attribute necessarily implies a substance.  Moreover, the irreducibility arguments above for an independent substance need only lead to the conclusion that a substance should be distinguished from its attributes from a conceptual standpoint: clearly, attributes must be fundamentally different from substances in some way, but that need not imply a total independence in re from one another.  The above way of construing their inter-relationship allows for conceptual dependence on a logical basis with greater fidelity to the epistemological basis for that dependence than substratum theory offers.

In conclusion, the definition of substance presented above allows for a way to conceive of substance that satisfies the demand for both irreducibility required by Aristotelians and other substance dualists and the epistemological grounding in perception sought by phenomenalists or materialists.  It makes the two compatible by simply distinguishing conceptual independence from interdependence in re in a way that is logically valid and, arguably, sound.  As a viable alternative, it argues against the need to construe substances as substrata.

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