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Monday, February 22, 2010

0110: The ‘Aristotle of Aquinas’ and the notion of Actus Essendi (III)

Entry 0110: The ‘Aristotle of Aquinas’ and the notion of Actus Essendi (III)

There is valid point in the inference “If the world is eternal, then it was not created.”

Indeed, the Christian notion of "creation" indicates that the world had a definite beginning. Revelation teaches that the world is not eternal.

Here is how Mortimer Adler explains the Christian notion of "creation."


The word ‘creation’ is used to mean both the causation of being and the definite origin of what is thus caused. It is contradictory to speak of a ‘created eternal world,’ for if created is what has a definite beginning, it cannot also be everlasting or without beginning.

For analytical clarity, it is absolutely necessary to use the word ‘creation’ with these two notes in its signification: (a) to create is to cause being; (b) to create is to cause to begin to be – understanding such ‘beginning,’ of course, as neither a change nor a motion of any kind.

In terms of such verbal usage, there should be no difficulty about understanding what is meant by saying that God can be the cause of being of either an everlasting world or a world with beginning.

(M. J. Adler, “The Demonstration of God’s Existence,” in The Maritain Volume of the Thomist, Sheed and Ward, New York, 1943, pp 188-218.)


How can God be the "cause of being" of an everlasting world?

It is instructive to observe here that, when it is a question of the most radical sense of being, the causation of the beginning of the existence of "something" and the holding of that "something" into existence are inseparable actions springing from one and the same cause.

Evidently an everlasting world does not need to account for its beginning. But how does an everlasting world hold itself into existence?

Here is how Aquinas explains it.

Concerning the "cause of being" one must distinguish two kinds of causation, (1) a causation which is “preservative of being with a beginning in time,” in the sense that there was nothing before the material world was brought into existence; and (2) a causation which is “preservative of being without a beginning in time,” in the sense that the world is eternal and there was never a time when there was nothing in existence.

The first type of causation of being is properly speaking creation. The second type of causation means only conservation 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'être," into Spanish as "acto de ser," and into German as "Akt des Seins" ("Seinsakt.")

Monday, February 15, 2010

0109: The Thirteen Texts in which Aquinas Uses the Expression "Actus Essendi" (II)

Entry 0109: The Thirteen Texts in which Aquinas Uses the Expression "Actus Essendi" (II)

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

Text

Hoc quod dico, ‘ens non est in subjecto,’ non dicit aliquod genus: quia in quolibet genere oportet significare quidditatem aliquam, ut dictum est, de cujus intellectu non est esse. Ens autem non dicit quidditatem, sed solum actum essendi, cum sit principium ipsum; et ideo non sequitur: ‘est non in subjecto:’ ergo ‘est in genere substantiae.’


Commentary

In this text Aquinas analyzes the expression ens non est in subjecto, to say that it refers to ‘beings’ which exist by themselves, that is to say, ‘beings’ which do not depend on another ‘being’ to subsist. Ens non est in subjecto means “a being that subsists in itself and not in another subject.”

As such, the meaning of ens does not include other ways of ‘being’ in which the reality signified is meant to exist as inhering in another subject. The latter meaning of ens applies to realities that fall within the Aristotelian categories of accidents; the former, to realities that fall within the category of substance.

The text is meant to show that from ens non est in subjecto one cannot conclude, therefore est in genere substantiae. In other words, from “an existing thing that does not need another subject on which to inhere” one cannot conclude that “it falls within the category of substance.”

To establish this Aquinas makes use of the two fundamental metaphysical principles of ‘essence’ and actus essendi.

Although properly speaking ‘substance’ cannot be defined, Aquinas proceeds as if one were able to define substance. When trying to explain what ‘substance’ is, Aquinas says that he is providing only a quasi definitio of substance. ‘Substance,’ as one of the supreme categories, cannot be defined by indicating its genus and specific difference.

In the present text, substance is first considered from the side of the metaphysical principle of 'essence' and then from the side of the metaphysical principle of actus essendi.

Thus, in trying to define substance from the side of the metaphysical principle ‘essence,’ Aquinas reasons that in this approach the emphasis falls on “that which has a quiddity” regardless of whether or not that quiddity actually exists in individual things.

From the side of the ‘essence,’ therefore, substance is conceived as “that which has a quiddity, a quiddity meant to be instantiated in something that does not inhere in another subject.” But the actual existence of individual things under that quiddity is irrelevant to conceive an answer to what substance is in this way.

Whereas, in trying to define substance from the side of the actus essendi, Aquinas reasons that in this other approach the emphasis falls on the actual existence of an individual thing.

Substance is still regarded as “that which has a quiddity” but now substance is more narrowly conceived.

From the side of the actus essendi, substance is ens, substance is something actually existing, it is an individual existing thing “which subsists in itself and not in another subject,” regardless of what exactly that thing is.

A key point is this. It is not on account of the actus essendi that individual things fall within a genus. The singular things contained in a genus are different in as much as one considers them from the side of their actus essendi. Contrariwise, the singular things contained in a genus are similar when considered from the side of their quiddity.

The metaphysical rigor of the philosophy of being makes known to us that the quiddity of a material thing is not its actus essendi. Thus quiddities can be conceived without making reference to actus essendi.

Now the expression ens non est in subjecto, as indicated, does not signify substance as “that which has a quiddity” because the expression ens non est in subjecto comes from the side of the metaphysical principle of the actus essendi, not from the side of ‘essence.’

And the fact is that the expression ens non est in subjecto include some things which are not substance at all, as is the case of the sacramental species remaining without a subject after the words of the consecration during holy Mass.

Therefore when going from ens non est in subjecto to ergo est in genere substantiae, Aquinas concludes with a non sequitur.


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'être," into Spanish as "acto de ser," and into German as "Akt des Seins" ("Seinsakt.")

Monday, February 8, 2010

0108: Pope Benedict XVI on Aquinas (V)

Entry 0108: Pope Benedict XVI on Aquinas (V)

On 28 January 2010, the feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas, the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, granted an audience to the members of the Pontifical Academies who had gathered in Rome for the 14th Public Session of the academies. In his address to the participants the Pope remarked:

One of the Pontifical Academies is named after Saint Thomas Aquinas, the Doctor Angelicus et Communis, an always relevant model to inspire the activity and dialogue of the Pontifical Academies with the different cultures.

In fact, he succeeded in establishing a fruitful confrontation both with the Arab and the Jewish thinking in his time, and while setting store by the Greek philosophical tradition, he produced an extraordinary theological synthesis, fully harmonizing reason and faith.

He already left his contemporaries a profound and indelible memory, precisely on account of the extraordinary refinement and acuteness of his intelligence and the greatness and originality of his genius, quite apart from the luminous sanctity of his life.

His first biographer, William of Tocco, emphasized the extraordinary and pervasive pedagogical originality of Saint Thomas, with expressions that could also inspire your activities.

He wrote: "Fra Tommaso introduced new articles into his lectures, resolved questions in a new and clearer way with ‘new’ arguments. Consequently, those who heard him teach ‘new’ theses, treating them with ‘new’ methods, could not doubt that God had enlightened him with a ‘new’ light: indeed, could one ever teach or write new opinions if one had not received ‘new’ inspiration from God?" (Vita Sancti Thomae Aquinatis, in Fontes Vitae S. Thomae Aquinatis notis historicis et criticis illustrati, ed. D. Prümmer M.-H. Laurent, Tolosa, s.d., fasc. 2, p. 81).

“Address of his Holiness Benedict XVI to Participants in the 14th Public Session of the Pontifical Academies,” Clementine Hall, Thursday, 28 January 2010, in L’Osservatore Romano English Weekly Edition, 3 February 2010, p 5.


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'être," into Spanish as "acto de ser," and into German as "Akt des Seins" ("Seinsakt.")

Monday, February 1, 2010

0107: The Thirteen Texts in which Aquinas Uses the Expression "Actus Essendi" (I)


Entry 0107: The Thirteen Texts in which Aquinas Uses the Expression "Actus Essendi" (I)


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

Text

Cum in omni quod est sit considerare quidditatem suam, per quam subsistit in natura determinata, et esse suum, per quod dicitur de eo quod est in actu, hoc nomen res imponitur rei a quidditate sua, secundum Avicennam, hoc nomen qui est vel ens imponitur ab ipso actu essendi. Cum autem ita sit quod in qualibet re creata essentia sua differat a suo esse, res illa proprie denominatur a quidditate sua, et non ab actu essendi, sicut homo ab humanitate. In Deo autem ipsum esse suum est sua quidditas: et ideo nomen quod sumitur ab esse, proprie nominat ipsum, et est proprium nomen ejus: sicut proprium nomen hominis quod sumitur a quidditate sua.


Commentary

In the text Aquinas addresses the issue of whether or not Qui est (He Who Is) is the proper name of God. The text highlights the familiar contrast between the metaphysical principle of actus essendi and the metaphysical principle of ‘essence.’ Here Aquinas begins with the things of nature where the 'essence' of the thing limits the actus essendi.

Accordingly, it is not on the basis of the actus essendi of the things of nature that we say what a thing is. It is the metaphysical principle of ‘essence’ what allows us to say what a thing of nature is.

God, however, is the only one in whom there is just one metaphysical principle, the actus essendi, and this metaphysical principle is his ‘essence.’

Names related to the principle of actus essendi are therefore most properly said of God because in Him and only in Him ‘essence’ puts no limit to the actus essendi—in God ‘essence’ and actus essendi are one and the same metaphysical principle.

Thus, just as the name ‘man’ is the proper term to refer to certain ‘living beings’ because the name ‘man’ is taken from their ‘essence,’ Qui est is the proper name of God because, as far as we are able to do so, with the expression Qui est we refer to God’s ‘essence,’ to His actus essendi.

As explained earlier, the Latin est has more than one meaning, and when applied to the things of nature, if there is direct and immediate contact with an individual real sensible thing, est signifies the actus essendi, not the ‘essence’ of the thing.

Now in the case of God we ordinarily do not have direct and immediate experience of Him, but still, the name Qui est, when applied to God, is applied in the way est is applied to the things of nature, that is to say, it is applied to God as coming from His actus essendi.

And properly so, because it turns out that this is equivalent to saying what God is, as if the name Qui est were taken as coming from His ‘essence.’ Qui est is the proper term to refer to God because ultimately the reference of Qui est is God's 'essence,' His 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'être," into Spanish as "acto de ser," and into German as "Akt des Seins" ("Seinsakt.")