101. Physics. -- To explain the constitution of corporeal substances, St. Augustine admits the matter and form theory. Though in some places his idea of matter seems to be that of a chaotic mass brought forth from nothingness by an act of the Creator, still in several passages of his Confessions he refers to matter as to an undetermined something, incapable of existing without a form, -- in language that recalls the doctrine of Aristotle. Mindful of the matter and form starting-point he speaks of a quasi materia in referring to the angels. The relation of matter to the quantitative state of being is not referred to in St. Augustine's cosmology.
God has deposited in matter a hidden treasure of active forces, constituted according to the exemplars which correspond, in the eternal knowledge, with material essences. These are the seminal principles or rationes seminales (cf 62, 3), whose successive germination, in the womb of matter, when circumstances are favourable, -- acceptis opportunitatibus (De Gen. ad litt., vii., 28), -- produces the different species of corporeal beings. There is a distinct germ corresponding to each natural kind or species of body.
St. Augustine frankly subscribes to an esthetic and metaphysical optimism regarding the world, and assigns as a reason for such optimism the perfection of the Divine thought, which must necessarily have conceived harmonious relations between the various created essences.
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