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Monday, October 27, 2008

0042: Actus Essendi: Commentary on In III Sent., 11, 1, 2, ad 2

Entry 0042:

In this text Aquinas addresses the problematic issues that arise when one treats the terms “creature” and “man” as if they were concepts coming form the same kind of intellection.

The initial assumption is that the concept “man” is included within the category of “creatures.” But, if this were the case then, from the affirmation “Christ is man,” one would have to conclude “Christ is a creature.”

The response begins with a flat negation of the initial assumption. Simply expressed, the term “creature” cannot be conceived as a more general and wider category than the category of “man.”

The supporting argument is drawn from the two metaphysical principles “essence” and actus essendi.

The terms “creature” and “creation,” says Aquinas, are rooted on the metaphysical principle actus essendi; not on the metaphysical principle of “essence.” Due to this connection then, the term “creature” does not have the properties of a concept derived from ordinary abstraction.

In other words, just as we do not generate a genus from the metaphysical principle of actus essendi, because the individuals contained in a genus differt according to their actus essendi, so also we do not have a genus behind the term “creature.” The individuals contained within the term “creature” do not have something in common by virtue of having a univocally common “nature,” they are called “creatures” because of their actus essendi.

Christ is a man but Christ is not a creature. In Christ, the uncreated Divine Actus Essendi takes on a human nature and it is this Divine Actus Essendi what makes Christ a real existing human being. The Most Holy Humanity of Christ can be said to be a “creature” only as part of Christ in the uncreated Divine Actus Essendi. Compared to the human nature of ordinary men, the human nature of Christ is not instantiated on account of a substantial human actus essendi.

Monday, October 20, 2008

0041: On The Tenth Anniversary of the Publication of Fides et Ratio

Entry 0041:

Ten years after the publication of John Paul II’s Encyclical Fides et Ratio, the Pontifical Lateran University, in collaboration with the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the World Conference of Catholic University Institutions of Philosophy, organized a conference in Rome to commemorate the anniversary.

On 16 October 2008, the participants in the congress were received in audience by the Holy Father Benedict XVI. The Pope spoke of the “constant relevance” of the Encyclical, which, he said, “is characterised by its great openness to reason, especially in a period in which there is speculation about [reason's] weakness." Then the Pope added that in the Encyclical "John Paul II underlined the importance of uniting faith and reason in a reciprocal relationship, while respecting the autonomy proper to each.”

“Reason,” said the Pope, “discovers that beyond its own achievements and conquests there exists a truth that can never be discovered by using its own parameters, but only received as a gratuitous gift. The truth of Revelation is not superimposed on the truth achieved by reason; rather it purifies and exalts reason, enabling it to expand beyond its confines to become part of a field of research as unfathomable as the mystery itself.”

Benedict XVI concluded: “The passion for truth impels us to turn into ourselves to discover the profound meaning of our lives in the interior man. True philosophy must lead people by the hand and bring them to discover how fundamental knowing the truth of Revelation is for their own dignity.”

Monday, October 6, 2008

0039: Pope Benedict XVI on Aquinas (III)

Entry 0039:

On 17 January 2008, Pope Benedict XVI had intended to visit the University of La Sapienza in Rome. He was not able to make this trip. The Roman Pontiff, however, asked one of his collaborators to read the speech he had prepared for the visit.

As he has done on similar occasions when addressing University professors and students, the Holy Father chose to reflect on the relationship between faith and reason. An extensive part of the speech was devoted to praise the enduring originality of the thought of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Here is what the Holy Father said.

It is the historical merit of Saint Thomas Aquinas—in the face of the rather different answer offered by the Fathers, owing to their historical context—to have highlighted the autonomy of philosophy, and with it the laws and the responsibility proper to reason, which enquires on the basis of its own dynamic. Distancing themselves from neo-Platonic philosophies, in which religion and philosophy were inseparably interconnected, the Fathers had presented the Christian faith as the true philosophy, and had emphasized that this faith fulfils the demands of reason in search of truth; that faith is the “yes” to the truth, in comparison with the mythical religions that had become mere custom. By the time the university came to birth, though, those religions no longer existed in the West—there was only Christianity, and thus it was necessary to give new emphasis to the specific responsibility of reason, which is not absorbed by faith. Thomas was writing at a privileged moment: for the first time, the philosophical works of Aristotle were accessible in their entirety; the Jewish and Arab philosophies were available as specific appropriations and continuations of Greek philosophy. Christianity, in a new dialogue with the reasoning of the interlocutors it was now encountering, was thus obliged to argue a case for its own reasonableness. The faculty of philosophy, which as a so-called “arts faculty” had until then been no more than a preparation for theology, now became a faculty in its own right, an autonomous partner of theology and the faith on which theology reflected. We cannot digress to consider the fascinating consequences of this development. I would say that Saint Thomas’s idea concerning the relationship between philosophy and theology could be expressed using the formula that the Council of Chalcedon adopted for Christology: philosophy and theology must be interrelated “without confusion and without separation”. “Without confusion” means that each of the two must preserve its own identity. Philosophy must truly remain a quest conducted by reason with freedom and responsibility; it must recognize its limits and likewise its greatness and immensity. (Excerpt from the Lecture by the Holy Father Benedict XVI at the University of Rome ‘La Sapienza,’ 17 January 2008.)

The Pope identifies the birth of the faculty of philosophy as an independent faculty within the organization of the universities with the intervention of Aquinas who underscored a legitimate distinction between philosophical wisdom and theological wisdom as two complementary forms of learning. Significant in this regard is the fact that Benedict XVI credits Aquinas with this development.