I have been following Graham Harman’s blog of late, and one of his repeated refrains is that we must recover the Aristotelian concept of “substance” — the common dismissal of the concept among contemporary philosophers is short-sighted and doesn’t adequately reflect the richness, weirdness, and appeal of Aristotle’s notion of “substance.”
Fair enough! It does seem to be the case that many people who would reject a substance metaphysics, myself included, do not engage in detail with Aristotle’s development of the concept of “substance.” There may be a reason for that, however. People have been working through Aristotle’s thought for well over two milennia at this point, including many centuries when he was the single most dominant intellectual influence in both Europe and the Islamic world. Many of the greatest minds in history — Maimonides, Avicenna, Aquinas, etc. — basically devoted their lives to understanding and applying his philosophy.
If after all that work it turns out that we don’t understand the concept of substance, maybe it’s because it just doesn’t make sense. If people grappled with it for milennia and then the whole thing fell apart after the rise of modern science, maybe it’s because it’s not compatible with what science tells us about nature. It’s not like we just dug up some manuscripts of this guy named Aristotle a few weeks ago, after all. There’s been plenty of time to think things through, and on the question of “substance,” there’s an amazingly broad concensus that Aristotle’s concept is lacking. I don’t see why anyone needs to relitigate this.