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Monday, March 9, 2009

0061: Commentary on Quaestiones Quodlibetales , 9, 4, 1, c

Entry 0061: Actus Essendi - Commentary on Quaestiones Quodlibetales 9, 4, 1, c

This segment addresses the issue of the metaphysical identity of the substance of an angel. Two reference points are highlighted, namely, the Aristotelian composition of primary matter and substantial form against Aquinas’ distinction between the metaphysical principles of “essence” and actus essendi.

With respect to the Aristotelian composition of matter and form, the substance of an angel is not at all the result of two components coming together to generate a composite.

The substance of an angel is a form that does not need matter to subsist. The substance of an angel is a form that subsists for itself.

In the material world, on the other hand, a substantial form does not have existence in itself. In the material world, a substantial form exists in the composite.

With respect to Aquinas’ distinction of “essence” and actus essendi, the substance of an angel is called “potency” in the most radical way: ipsa substantia Angeli in se considerata est in potentia ad esse, cum habeat esse ab alio. In Aquinas, angels can be thought of as not existing.

Of the two meanings of esse, in this context, Aquinas evidently is not referring to the truth of a proposition. The structure of text unmistakably forces esse to mean actus essendi.

Here Aquinas departs from Aristotle. For Aquinas, a substantial form is a “potency” with respect to the actus essendi.

Regardless of whether they are substantial or accidental, and of whether they belong to angels or to material things, for Aquinas all forms are “potency” with respect to the actus essendi.