Subsistence, Substance. The former of these words is derived from the
verb subsisto, which among its shades of meaning signifies to remain. A
thing subsistens per se is therefore something which has endurance in
itself. Substance is derived by St. Augustine from the same verb; but by
the majority from substo, to stand under. A thing substans therefore is
that which is standing under attributes or accidents, that of which they
are the attributes or accidents.
"Aucun homme jouissant de son bon sens ne
contestera cette règie de grammaire: Tout adjectif se rapporte à un substantif; ou cet axiome de logique: Tout attribut suppose un sujet.
Mais ces deux propositions ne sont, l'une dans la langage l'autre dans la
forme générale de nos jugements, que l'expression d'un principe
métaphysique: toute phénomène, toute qualité, toute maniere d'être se
rapporte à une substance."(1)
"The word substance (substantia) may be employed in two, but in two
kindred, meanings. It may be used either to denote that which exists
absolutely and of itself; in this sense it may be viewed as derived from
subsistendo, and as meaning ens per se subsistens; or it may be viewed
as the basis of attributes, in which sense it may be regarded as derived
from substando, and as meaning id quod substat accidentibus, like the
ὑποκείμενον. In either case it
will, however, signify the same thing, viewed in a different aspect. In
the former meaning, it is considered in contrast to, and independent of,
its attributes; in the latter as conjoined with them, and as affording
them the condition of existence." (2)
There would seem, therefore, to be no great difference between the
meanings of the words subsistence and substance. A difference in their
use, however, there is. Substance is, and from the first was, the Latin
term for the Greek ὀυσία.
Consequently the far-famed Homoousion of Nice was expressed in the West
by consubstantial, "of one substance with." Now the Greeks were wont,
not uniformly indeed at first, but universally at last, to speak of the
Persons of the Trinity as three Hypostases, of which, in point of
etymological force, three Substances would have been the exact
rendering. From this, however, the Latin was debarred by his
appropriation of substance to the expression of
ὀυσία. There did not,
however, seem to be the same objection to speaking of three subsistences
in the Godhead, the word subsistence answering to
ὑπόστασις as well as
to ὑποκείμενον, and applying to the Persons of the Trinity, if we are to
mean anything by ascribing to them abiding personality. But three
substances in the Latin sense of the word would have been language
altogether inadmissible. While the Greeks and Latins were thus thrown on
different and almost contradictory terms to denote this sacred
mystery, the great luminaries of East and West saw and announced that
the same truth was intended by both.
Leaving divinity, and returning to the first category, that of
substance, we find derived from the latter term the grammatical titles
noun substantive and verb substantive, the connection of both with the
expression of that category being abundantly obvious. Similarly too we
have the phrases the substance of the case, and substantially the same.
Dictionnaire des Sciences Philosophiques, vol. VI. p. 796, ed.
(2) Sir W. HAMILTON,
Metaphysics, vol. I. p. 149.