A philosophical theory proposed by Albert Mitterer (1877–1966) as an alternative to hylomorphism for explaining the substantial composition of inorganic bodies. Instead of regarding elements and compounds as composed of primary matter and substantial form, Mitterer sees them as composed of "hylons," or matter-particles (e.g., electrons, positrons, protons, and neutrons), that form a "hylomeric" (from the Greek [symbol omitted]λη, matter, and μέρος, part or particle) system. Hylosystemism differs from hylomorphism in the following aspects: (1) it is pluralistic, as opposed to dualistic, in enumerating the essential constitutives of inorganic bodies; (2) it holds that the essential components of inorganic bodies are complete substances, as opposed to incomplete substantial principles; (3) it maintains a heterogeneity of structure within the inorganic body, as opposed to the homogeneous structure attributed to elements and compounds by medieval scholastics; and (4) it allows for empty space between hylons, as opposed to the continuity of matter usually associated with hylomorphic doctrine. Mitterer's ideas were popularized in the United States by C. N. Bittle (1884–1960) and enjoyed considerable vogue at a time when the Bohr-Rutherford model of the atom was regarded by scientists as an actual picture of matter's structure. They have not been generally adopted by scholastic philosophers, however, partly because of the naïve interpretation they place on hylomorphism, particularly by regarding it as irrevocably tied to the conceptual framework of medieval science, and partly because of the awkward dichotomy they introduce between explanations of substantial composition in the realm of the organic and in the realm of the inorganic.
See Also: matter and form; atomism.
Bibliography: a. mitterer, Wandel des Weltbildes von Thomas auf heute, 3 v. (v.1 Innsbruck 1935; v. 2 Bressanone 1936;v. 3 Vienna 1947). c. n. bittle, From Aether to Cosmos (Milwaukee 1941). l. a. foley, Cosmology: Philosophical and Scientific (Milwaukee 1962).
[w. a. wallace]