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Monday, March 8, 2010

0112: The Thirteen Texts in which Aquinas Uses the Expression "Actus Essendi" (IV)

Entry 0112: The Thirteen Texts in which Aquinas Uses the Expression "Actus Essendi" (IV)

I. In I Sent., 8, 1, 1, c

II. In I Sent., 8, 4, 2, ad 2

III. In I Sent., 8, 5, 2, c

IV. In III Sent., 11, 1, 2, ad 2

V. De Veritate, 1, 1, c

VI. De Veritate, 1,1, ad 1

VII. De Veritate, 1, 1, ad sc 3

VIII. De Veritate, 10, 8, ad 13

IX. Summa Theologiae, I, 3, 4, ad 2

X. De Potentia, 7, 2, ad 1

XI. Quaestiones Quodlibetales, 9, 4, 1, c

XII. In Metaphysicorum, 4, 2, No. 6

XIII. In De Hebdomadibus, 2

Commentary on Text IV: In III Sent., 11, 1, 2, ad 2


The text addresses the following argument:

(1) De quocumque praedicatur inferius, et superius.
(2) Sed creatura est superius ad hominem.
(3) Ergo cum homo praedicetur de Christo, creatura de ipso praedicabitur.
And here is how Aquinas responds:

Creatura non est superius ad hominem: quia creatio magis respicit esse quam naturam. Esse autem non est genus, nec inducitur in significatione alicujus generis, ut dicit Avicenna, cum ea quae sunt in uno genere, non conveniant in uno esse, sed in natura communi. Vel dicendum, quod creatura non est superius ad hominem, significans quid est homo: quia creatio non respicit naturam vel essentiam, nisi mediante actu essendi; qui est primus terminus creationis.

Humana autem natura in Christo non habet aliud esse perfectum quod est esse hypostasis, quam esse divinae personae; et ideo, simpliciter loquendo, creatura dici non potest: quia intelligeretur quod esse perfectum hypostasis Christi per creationem esset acquisitum.


In this text Aquinas addresses the 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.

Both the term “creature” and the term “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.

Note on Translation: The expression "actus essendi" is translated into English as "act of being," into Italian as "atto di essere," into French as "acte d'ĂȘtre," into Spanish as "acto de ser," and into German as "Akt des Seins" ("Seinsakt.")