Akzidens (philosophy)

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The accident (of lat. Accidens ; plural: accidentals ), sometimes Akzidenz called not essential (not Essential ), which is altering that Random (Greek. Symbebêkos in contrast to) substance . All provisions attached to the substance, but not essential or necessary, are accidental .

Accident with Aristotle

The distinction between substance and accident was introduced into philosophy by Aristotle . He divides the predication into ten basic categories. He distinguishes the category of substance (in Aristotle: ancient Greek ' ousia ' ) as that to be determined from the other nine, the accidents quantity, quality, relation, time determination, location, activity, suffering, location and possession, which the substance through the Determine statement. The classic passage in Aristotle's writing about the categories reads:

“By 'in an underlying' I mean what is in something, not as a part, and cannot exist separately from what it is in. For example, the individual grammatical knowledge is in an underlying, the soul [...] and the individual white is in an underlying, the body. "

The underlying, Latin substantia or Latin substratum , corresponds with Aristotle to the substance and what is in it, to the properties or accidents. That the underlying actually means individual things in the sense of an ontological particularism becomes clear at the following point:

"Substance, however, is that which is mainly and first and foremost mentioned, which is neither predicated of an underlying nor is in an underlying, for example the individual person or the individual horse."

Grammatical knowledge is therefore an example of a property for Aristotle, whereas he describes the soul or the individual person as substance.

Scholasticism and Neuthomism

The term gained great importance in the context of scholastic philosophy with Thomas Aquinas . He says: “Accidentis esse est inesse” , ie: “For an Akzidens to be means to be with something.” His “Accidens non est ens sed entis” goes in the same direction , so: “An Akzidens is not Being, but something belonging to something being. "

A distinction is therefore made between real accident, which persists separately from substance through God's omnipotence , and accidental forms. However, these are not independent or autonomous from the substance, rather they are viewed as inseparable and attached to the substance.

In scholasticism as well as in Neuthomism , the relationship between accident and substance is also related to the relationship between body and soul , with the body representing the accident. An explanation of what happened during Holy Mass is derived from this in the Doctrine of the Eucharist . While the accidents, i.e. H. the properties of bread and wine are preserved, the substance changes or transforms, d. H. the essence (precisely not matter) of the Eucharistic gifts in the body and blood of the risen Christ . In theology, this view is called the doctrine of transubstantiation .

Change in the 17th century

In the 17th century the conception of the relationship between substance and accident and their separation changed. René Descartes , Thomas Hobbes a . a. rejected the existence of "real" accidents. The contrast between substance and accident disappeared or was increasingly interpreted materialistically.

For Spinoza there was only one infinite substance. The accidents become attributes or modes of this substance. This view still more or less persists today.


In one of his writings, Kant refers to a four-fold distinction between predicates in essentialia, attributes , modes and relations . Essentialia are assigned to the subject directly and a priori , attributes are indirect, but still a priori, modes are immediate properties but not a priori and relations are neither indirect nor a priori. Modes are "states" of a substance, "relations" are its relationships to other substances. Attributes are those predicates that are not an intensional component of the generic concept of substance. Insofar as an individual can have a special attribute that the other members of the genus do not share, all of these property classes, apart from the essentialia, are possibly accidents. According to Kant, there are also generally necessary attributes, it is precisely these that are assigned a priori to a subject in a synthetic judgment (cf. Immanuel Kant: AA VIII, 226–246).

Epistemologically, there is initially no difference between representations of substances and accidents in the mind. Both are equally important components of categorical judgments. “This ball is red.” And “This red is ball-shaped” are equally correct judgments about a red ball. Only through the scheme of the substance, the persistence in time, can substance and accident be sensibly differentiated (cf. Immanuel Kant: AA III, 137-138)

By generalizing the schema over all appearances, the first analogy of experience is the persistence of the matter of the appearance as the "original substance". However, human knowledge does not reveal their essential properties (cf. Immanuel Kant: AA III, 224). For accidents in the sense of changeable properties, the third principle from the analogies of experience is : Every change occurs according to the law of the connection of cause with effect, that is, out of causality and according to rules . This analogy is Kant's version of the principle of sufficient reason, which is limited to appearances .


  • Karl Bärthlein: On the origin of the Aristotelian substance-accident theory. In: Archive for the History of Philosophy 50 (1968) 196–253.
  • Cord Friebe: Substance / Accidental Ontology of Physical Objects. A transcendental philosophical interpretation of modern physics. Alber, Freiburg (Breisgau) and Munich, 2001.
  • Sang-Jin Kang: Predictability of the accident. On the theory of denominativa (nomina sumpta) in Abailard's category comment. Freiburg (Breisgau), Univ., Diss., 2000. Full text
  • Hans Stickelberger: Substance and Akzidens with Leontius of Byzantium. The change of a philosophical model of thought through Christology. In: Theologische Zeitschrift 36 (1980) [153] –161.

Web links

Wiktionary: Akzidens  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Immanuel Kant: About a discovery according to which all new criticism of pure reason is to be made dispensable by an older one , 1790.
  2. Immanuel Kant, Collected Writings. Ed .: Vol. 1-22 Prussian Academy of Sciences, Vol. 23 German Academy of Sciences in Berlin, from Vol. 24 Academy of Sciences in Göttingen, Berlin 1900ff., AA VIII, 226–246 .
  3. Immanuel Kant, Collected Writings. Ed .: Vol. 1-22 Prussian Academy of Sciences, Vol. 23 German Academy of Sciences in Berlin, from Vol. 24 Academy of Sciences in Göttingen, Berlin 1900ff., AA III, 137-138 .
  4. Immanuel Kant, Collected Writings. Ed .: Vol. 1-22 Prussian Academy of Sciences, Vol. 23 German Academy of Sciences in Berlin, from Vol. 24 Academy of Sciences in Göttingen, Berlin 1900ff., AA III, 224 .