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Monday, July 11, 2011

0181: The Thirteen Texts in which Aquinas Uses the Expression "Actus Essendi" (XI)




Entry 0181: The Thirteen Texts in which Aquinas Uses the Expression "Actus Essendi" (XI)

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


Text

Sed quia substantia Angeli non est suum esse -- hoc enim soli Deo competit, cui esse debetur ex seipso, et non ab alio --; invenimus in Angelo et substantiam sive quidditatem eius, quae subsistit, et esse eius, quo subsistit, quo scilicet actu essendi dicitur esse, sicut actu currendi dicimur currere. Et sic dicimus Angelum esse compositum ex quo est et quod est, vel secundum verbum Boetii ex esse et quod est. Et quia ipsa substantia Angeli in se considerata est in potentia ad esse, cum habeat esse ab alio, et ipsum esse sit actus; ideo est in eo compositio actus et potentiae; et sic posset in eo concedi materia et forma, si omnis actus debeat dici forma, et omnis potentia materia. Sed hoc non competit in proposito; quia esse non est actus qui sit pars essentiae, sicut forma; ipsa quidditas Angeli vel substantia est per se subsistens, quod materiae non competit.

Commentary

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

With respect to the Aristotelian composition of primary matter and substantial 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 substantial form that does not need primary matter to subsist. The substance of an angel is a substantial form that subsists by itself.

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

With respect to the 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 other words, in Aquinas' metaphysics, 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 the text unmistakably forces the term "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, all forms are 'potency' with respect to the 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.")