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Monday, November 29, 2010

0150: John F. Wippel on Actus Essendi (II)

Entry 0150: Remarks by Professor John F. Wippel

“In the case of matter-form union, specification of the kind of being enjoyed by the composite essence, human being or canine being, for instance, is determined by the act principle within the essence, that is, by the substantial form.

“But in the composition of essence and esse within any finite entity, the specification or determination of the kind of being comes not from the side of the act principle – the actus essendi – but from the side of the potency principle, that is, from the essence.

“This is not surprising, of course, since the essence principle itself either is or at least includes a substantial form. While the form is an act principle within the line of essence, in the line of esse that same form, either in itself in the case of a separate substance or together with its matter in the case of a composite entity, is in potency with respect to its act of being.” (1)

(1) John F. Wippel, The Metaphysical Thought of Thomas Aquinas (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2000), 104-105.

Monday, November 22, 2010

0149: Stephen L. Brock on Actus Essendi

Entry 0149: Actus Essendi and Existence (III)

Remarks by Stephen L. Brock

"It is not nonsense to speak of the potential and actual existence of blindness. Its actual existence, of course, can hardly be an actus essendi. The lesson is rather that not every actual existence is an actus essendi.

"The extension comes quite naturally to our minds. And it serves to explain the broader notion of 'existence,' the one that applies both to real natures and to their privations and negations." (1)

(1) Stephen L. Brock, "Thomas Aquinas and 'What Actually Exists,'" Wisdom Apprentice, P.A. Kwasniewski, ed., (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2007) pp. 29 and 35.

Monday, November 15, 2010

0148: John F. Wippel on Actus Essendi (I)

Entry 0148: Remarks by Professor John F. Wippel

"If one finds limited instances of act, especially of the actus essendi, this can only be because in every such case the act principle [the actus essendi] is received and limited by a really distinct potency principle.

"It is also true, of course, that according to Aquinas, the essence principle and the act of being (actus essendi) of any creature are both created by God simultaneously, since the entire being is created, including both." (1)

(1) John F. Wippel, The Metaphysical Thought of Thomas Aquinas (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2000), 128.

Monday, November 8, 2010

0147: The Thirteen Texts in which Aquinas Uses the Expression "Actus Essendi" (X)

Entry 0147: The Thirteen Texts in which Aquinas Uses the Expression "Actus Essendi" (X)

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 X: De Potentia, 7, 2, ad 1


Ens et esse dicitur dupliciter, ut patet V Metaph. Quandoque enim significat essentiam rei, sive actum essendi; quandoque vero significat veritatem propositionis, etiam in his quae esse non habent: sicut dicimus quod caecitas est, quia verum est hominem esse caecum. Cum ergo dicat Damascenus, quod esse Dei est nobis manifestum, accipitur esse Dei secundo modo, et non primo. Primo enim modo est idem esse Dei quod est substantia: et sicut eius substantia est ignota, ita et esse. Secundo autem modo scimus quoniam Deus est, quoniam hanc propositionem in intellectu nostro concipimus ex effectibus ipsius.


"Ens and esse may be taken in two ways (Metaph. X, 13, 14). Sometimes they signify the essence of a thing and the ‘act of being,’ and sometimes they denote the truth of a proposition even in things that have no being: thus we say that ‘blindness is’ because it is true that a man is blind. Accordingly when Damascene says that God’s existence is evident to us, the esse of God is taken in the second sense and not the first. For in the first sense God's esse is the same as his essence, and as his essence is unknown so also is his esse. In the second sense we know that ‘God exists,’ because we conceive this proposition in our mind from his effects."


Although the text begins with an explicit reference to ens as the present active participle of esse, no mention is made of the fact that ens is more than just a verbal adjective. The stress is placed rather on the fact that esse has two well-defined meanings.

The text from De Potentia unequivocally differentiates esse in its restricted meaning of actus essendi from esse in its wider meaning of “the truth of a proposition.”

With the example of “blindness,” the text sends us back to the conception of “existence,” which I previously described as the consequence of an actual “state of affairs.”

A person lacking sight is a real person, an actual “state of affairs.” And “blindness” connotes the absence of a quality.

Thus, when we say that 'blindness exists,' 'caecitas est,' we are simply translating our knowledge of the fact of existence into a true statement. The statement is true because we affirm the existence of “that which is.”

This aspect of the verb est does not refer to the metaphysical principle of actus essendi; it refers to an actual “state of affairs,” to the fact of existing.

In its wider meaning, esse refers to “the truth of a proposition” which may simply state something about the absence of being.

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.")

Monday, November 1, 2010

0146: Progress in the Beatification Process of Pope John Paul II (I)

Entry 0146: Progress in the Beatification Process of Pope John Paul II (I)

The beatification process of Pope John Paul II began on June 28, 2005, two months after the death of the Roman Pontiff thanks to a dispensation granted by Pope Benedict XVI.

The Holy Father Benedict XVI waived the normal five-year waiting period before beginning the cause of beatification and canonization of Pope John Paul II on April 28, 2005.

The dispensation waived the normal period of time that the Roman Catholic Church requires before a cause for canonization can be opened after a person dies.

The cause was officially opened by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar general for the diocese of Rome, on June 28, 2005.

The decree proclaiming Pope John Paul II’s life of heroic virtue was prepared by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and authorized by Pope Benedict XVI on 19 December 2009.

With the approval of the decree on heroic virtue, the servant of God Pope John Paul II qualified for the title "Venerable" and may be beatified with the approval of a miracle.