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Monday, October 25, 2010

0145: Aquinas on Catholic Anchor Online

Entry 0145: Anchorage presentation on the “Angelic Doctor” Saint Thomas Aquinas


On 8 October 2010, the Catholic Anchor Online, the Newspaper of the Archdiocese of Anchorage, reported the following:

Saint Thomas Aquinas is the famous 13th century Dominican philosopher, theologian and “Angelic Doctor” of the Catholic Church. According to Pope Benedict XVI, St. Thomas Aquinas’s work has had “fundamental importance” in philosophy, theology, as well as for history and culture.

Among other achievements, explained the Pope in June, “Thomas Aquinas showed that a natural harmony exists between Christian faith and reason… He created a new synthesis which formed the culture of the centuries to come.”

Monday, October 18, 2010

0144: The Uniqueness of the Transcendental Perfection of Actus Essendi

Entry 0144: Actus Essendi and Existence (II)

The Uniqueness of the Transcendental Perfection of Actus Essendi


The transcendental perfection of actus essendi has something unique to it, namely, that it cannot be conceived other than as pertaining to what actually exists as a subsisting extramental thing.

The notion of any other transcendental perfection, on the other hand, remains logically coherent regardless of whether or not the perfection has being, regardless of whether or not the perfection is instantiated in the real world—in what has actual existence.

By contrast, the notion of actus essendi changes radically if it is not understood as the innermost perfection of what actually exists as a subsisting extramental thing.

In other words, ‘existence’ is inseparable from the perfection of actus essendi.

Any of the transcendental perfections can be made the object of thought without considering whether or not the perfection exists in the real world. Not with actus essendi.

The perfection of actus essendi cannot be made the object of thought without considering that this perfection is the perfection of the real world.

The notion of actus essendi forces the mind to think of the real. No other notion, none of the notions of the other transcendental perfections, is so tied to the real as to be, even in thought, inseparable from the thought of the real itself.

And yet the notion of actus essendi cannot be reduced to ‘existence.’ ‘Existence’ is not something in which a thing can participate.


See Battista Mondin, “L’Oggeto e il metodo della metafisica secondo Aristotele e secondo S. Tommaso,” Sapienza, vol. 55, no. 2, 2002, pp. 129-153.

Monday, October 11, 2010

0143: The Thirteen Texts in which Aquinas Uses the Expression "Actus Essendi" (IX)

Entry 0143: The Thirteen Texts in which Aquinas Uses the Expression "Actus Essendi" (IX)

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


Text

Ad secundum dicendum quod esse dupliciter dicitur, uno modo, significat actum essendi; alio modo, significat compositionem propositionis, quam anima adinvenit coniungens praedicatum subiecto. Primo igitur modo accipiendo esse, non possumus scire esse Dei, sicut nec eius essentiam, sed solum secundo modo. Scimus enim quod haec propositio quam formamus de Deo, cum dicimus ‘Deus est,’ vera est. Et hoc scimus ex eius effectibus, ut supra dictum est.

Translation

"The Latin verb ‘esse’ can mean either of two things. It may mean the ‘act of being,’ or it may mean the composition of a proposition effected by the mind in joining a predicate to a subject. Taking ‘esse’ in the first sense, we cannot understand God’s ‘esse’ nor His ‘essence;’ but only in the second sense. We know that this proposition which we form about God when we say ‘God is,’ is true; and this we know from His effects, as said above in Question 2, Article 2."

Commentary

Reading the works of Aquinas one finds that he used the Latin verb esse to signify in more than one way. In his Summa Theologiae (I, 3, 4, ad 2,) he is clear on this. Thus he writes,

It must be said that esse applies to a thing in two ways. In one way, it means the act of being, actus essendi. In another way, it means the composition of a proposition effected by the mind in joining a predicate to a subject.

In the first sense God’s esse is His actus essendi; in the second sense, esse applied to God means ‘God exists.’

By means of demonstration and reasoning one can prove the ‘existence’ of a thing without having to have recourse to the sense experience of an existing exemplifying individual. The grasping of the ‘act of being’ of a particular thing is indeed the strongest evidence that the thing exists, but the knowledge of the ‘existence’ of a particular thing and the grasping of its ‘act of being’ are entirely different issues. The grasping of the ‘act of being’ requires direct and immediate contact with individual, real sensible things. On the other hand, to answer the question of whether or not a thing exists, one does not have to interact directly with existing sensible things.

See also (a) This Journal, Entry 0048; and (b) Stephen L. Brock, "Thomas Aquinas and 'What Actually Exists,'" Wisdom Apprentice, P.A. Kwasniewski, Ed., The Catholic University of America Press, Washington, D.C., 2007, pp 13-39.



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, October 4, 2010

0142: The Self-Evident Connotation of the Actus Essendi (VI)

Entry 0142: The Self-Evident Connotation of the Actus Essendi (VI)


Aristotle maintains in the Posterior Analytics that it would not be possible to know the essential nature of anything and yet be ignorant of its existence: “Thus it follows that the degree of our knowledge of a thing’s essential nature is determined by the sense in which we are aware that it exists” (Post. Anal., 93a 28.) Such essential natures are known without mediation, i.e., without demonstration. Their existence, likewise, is known without mediation—as self-evident.

Our knowledge of the existence of any individual thing which comes under the purview of our immediate experience is self-evident. To Aristotle, “it would be absurd to try to prove that nature exists” (Physics, 193a 8.)

(Ralph J. Masiello, “A Note on Essence and Existence,” The New Scholasticism 45 [1971]: 491-494.)



It should be noted here that while actus essendi is inseparable from existence, existence as such is separable from actus essendi. There are in the external world things which are self-subsisting and things which are not self-subsisting.

The actus essendi of a self-subsiting extramental thing is what causes the thing—and everything in it—to stand actually present in the real world. And the presence of a self-subsiting extramental thing in the real world, the fact of its existence, is inseparable from the actus essendi of the thing.

In the real world, however, there are many things which are not self-subsiting. Things which are not self-subsisting, despite the fact of their actually existing in the real extramental world and that their actuality is real, do not possess actus essendi. And yet their existence is a fact.

The point I want to stress is this, that the connotation of existence is self-evident in both, in things which are not self-subsiting things and in the self-subsiting extramental things of nature. And more importantly, that in the self-subsiting extramental things of nature not only is existence self-evident, their actus essendi is also self-evident.