Here are the first three paragraphs of my New School talk. All hell breaks loose from there, replete with Spinozist and dynamic systems theorist goodness.
Objects are improbabilities and are improbabilities in at least two ways. First, they are improbable in terms of the arrangement of their elements. Second, they are improbable in terms of the continuation of this arrangement across time and space. As improbabilities objects therefore share a special relationship to entropy. The greater the entropy of a system, the higher the probability that an element in that system will appear anywhere within that system. Thus, for example, a system composed of a distribution of gas particles that have diffused throughout a chamber is highly entropic because there is a high probability that any particular element that exists within that system will be located anywhere within the chamber. By contrast, a low entropic system is a system in which there is a low probability of appearing anywhere within the system. When our gas particles are first pumped into the system they exist in a state of low entropy because they are localized in a particular place within the system. That is, there is a high degree of probability that they will appear at a particular place within the chamber.
All objects are low entropy systems, yet not all low entropy systems are substances or objects. Even though the gas particles in our chamber begin in a state of low entropy by virtue of being localized or concentrated at one particular place in the chamber, these particles quickly evolve into a high entropy state as they diffuse throughout the chamber. The dividing line between substances and crowds of substances lies, I argue, between whether or not a system maintains its order across time and whether this order evolves into a high entropy state. Low entropy systems where elements are arranged in a particular way, such that the elements of the system are related to one another in a particular way and that strive to maintain these ordering relations across time are negentropic systems. Systems that strive to maintain the ordering relations between their elements across time are negentropic.
All substances or objects are thus low entropy, negentropic systems. Rocks, planets, armies, political groups, families, classrooms, governments, hurricanes, tornadoes, aardvarks, and giraffes, for example, are thus substances, while piles of rocks, crowds of people on a subway car, armies routed on the field of battle that are fleeing in terror, and so on are not. The latter are not objects in their own right, but rather are highly entropic crowds of objects. Thus, following Aristotle in Metaphysics Z, we can say that the substantiality of substances consists in the substance’s substantial form. Following the Lucretian declaration, all objects are material, but it is not the materiality of the object that constitutes its substantiality. Proof of this lies in the fact that objects can gain and lose material elements while remaining that substance. Cells in my body perpetually die and new cells are born, yet I remain this substance. Rather, the substantiality of substance consists in its substantial form, or the pattern and relationships between elements in that substance. My cats liver cells are located in this particular part of her body, her heart there, her nerve cells throughout the body in this or that way, bone cells in this way. These elements are organized in a particular way and located in particular portions of her body. Moreover, these ordering relations are maintained across time. I refer to this organization as the “endo-consistency” of a substance.