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Monday, August 29, 2011

0188: Knasas and Fides et Ratio

Entry 0188: Knasas and Fides et Ratio

In his review of John F. X. Knasas’ Being and Some Twentieth-Century Thomists (New York: Fordham University Press, 2003, 313 pp), Anthony Dean Traylor writes:

Knasas has admirably heeded the call of John Paul II’s encyclical Fides et Ratio not to allow the actus essendi to become eclipsed as we enter into the twenty-first century.

The Review of Metaphysics 58 (2004): 447-449.

Monday, August 22, 2011

0187: Philosophy of Actus Essendi -- One Universally Valid Philosophy Recommended by Fides et Ratio (XII)

Entry 0187: The Philosophy of the Actus Essendi -- The One Universally Valid Philosophy Recommended by Fides et Ratio (XII)

Thomas J. White writes:

Do we lack foundations or necessarily binding starting points through which natural reason might convey a universally compelling vision of the tasks of human thought?

Perhaps, in our frail and fallen state, it is only under the stimulating and strengthening effects of grace that weakened reason is healed.

It does not follow that there are no such things as essentially necessary rational arguments, but only that in the openness to a philosophical argument more is at work than the operation of a mere neutral rationality.

For I am more likely to consider arguments that I have a soul if at the same time I am otherwise seeing, through the eyes of faith, that the spiritual person who I am needs his soul to be saved.

The opposite is true as well, however: Even if by faith I believe in the reality of the soul, if I cannot see the rationality of the belief, the faith remains something extrinsic to reason and therefore inherently unstable for me, and potentially painful to embrace.

For without recourse to the explicit practice of philosophical study in its own right, Christians are unable to receive from the tradition they espouse its own classical practices of thought.

Ignorance of philosophy sterilizes the intellectual reception of the Christian tradition. [1]

[1] Thomas J. White, “Whether Faith Needs Philosophy,” in First Things August/September, 2011, pp. 47-51.

Monday, August 15, 2011

0186: Aquinas as Guide and Model for Philosophical Thinking

Entry 0186: Aquinas as Guide and Model for Philosophical Thinking

Cardinal Georges Cottier has explicitly affirmed that, in the Encyclical Letter Fides et Ratio, Saint Thomas Aquinas is presented as a model not only for those who have the vocation of theologians, but also for those who have the vocation of philosophers:

San Tommaso e presentato come modello sia per quanti hanno la vocazione di teologo, sia per quanti hanno la vocazione di filosofo. [1]

Here I report some excerpts from Fides et Ratio which confirm Cottier’s affirmation:

The Magisterium's intention has always been to show how Saint Thomas is an authentic model for all who seek the truth. In his thinking, the demands of reason and the power of faith found the most elevated synthesis ever attained by human thought, for he could defend the radical newness introduced by Revelation without ever demeaning the venture proper to reason. (no. 78)

This insistence on the need for a close relationship of continuity between contemporary philosophy and the philosophy developed in the Christian tradition is intended to avert the danger which lies hidden in some currents of thought which are especially prevalent today. (no. 86)

A renewed insistence upon the thought of the Angelic Doctor seemed to Pope Leo XIII the best way to recover the practice of a philosophy consonant with the demands of faith. "Just when Saint Thomas distinguishes perfectly between faith and reason," the Pope writes, "he unites them in bonds of mutual friendship, conceding to each its specific rights and to each its specific dignity." (no. 57)

If it has been necessary from time to time to intervene on this question, to reiterate the value of the Angelic Doctor's insights and insist on the study of his thought, this has been because the Magisterium's directives have not always been followed with the readiness one would wish. (no. 61)

The Church has been justified in consistently proposing Saint Thomas as a master of thought and a model of the right way to do theology. (no. 43)

Although he made much of the supernatural character of faith, the Angelic Doctor did not overlook the importance of its reasonableness; indeed he was able to plumb the depths and explain the meaning of this reasonableness. Faith is in a sense an “exercise of thought”; and human reason is neither annulled nor debased in assenting to the contents of faith, which are in any case attained by way of free and informed choice. (no. 43)

Precisely in the light of this consideration, and just as I have reaffirmed theology's duty to recover its true relationship with philosophy, I feel equally bound to stress how right it is that, for the benefit and development of human thought, philosophy too should recover its relationship with theology. (no. 101)

Looking unreservedly to truth, the realism of Thomas could recognize the objectivity of truth and produce not merely a philosophy of “what seems to be” but a philosophy of “what is.” (no. 44)

Set within the Christian metaphysical tradition, the philosophy of being is a dynamic philosophy which views reality in its ontological, causal and communicative structures. It is strong and enduring because it is based upon the very act of being itself (ipsum actus essendi,) which allows a full and comprehensive openness to reality as a whole, surpassing every limit in order to reach the One who brings all things to fulfilment. (no. 97)

I have judged it appropriate and necessary to emphasize the value of philosophy for the understanding of the faith, as well as the limits which philosophy faces when it neglects or rejects the truths of Revelation. (no. 100)

In itself, the term [Christian philosophy] is valid, but it should not be misunderstood: it in no way intends to suggest that there is an official philosophy of the Church, since the faith as such is not a philosophy. The term seeks rather to indicate a Christian way of philosophizing, a philosophical speculation conceived in dynamic union with faith. (no. 76)


[1] Georges Cottier, “Tommaso D’Aquino, Teologo e Filosofo, nella Fides et Ratio,” in Fede e Ragione: Opposizione, Composizione?, Mauro Mantovani, Scaria Thuruthiyil, and Mario Toso, eds. (Rome: Libreria Ateneo Salesiano, 1999), 187-194.

Monday, August 8, 2011

0185: The Self-Evident Connotation of the Actus Essendi (IX)

Entry 0185: The Self-Evident Connotation of the Actus Essendi (IX)

In the article on Saint Thomas Aquinas in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy professor Ralph McInerny writes:

“Thomas accepts from Boethius that it is self-evident that what a thing is and its existing differ (diversum est esse et id quod est).” [1]

And earlier, in his Boethius and Aquinas, Ralph McInerny had made the following remark:

“That the diversity between esse and id quod est is self-evident is one of the great overlooked claims of De hebdomadibus and of Thomas's commentary on it.” [2]


[1] Ralph McInerny and John O’Callaghan, “Saint Thomas Aquinas,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Edward N. Zalta (ed.). (First published online Mon Jul 12, 1999; substantive revision Wed Sep 30, 2009; accessed August 3, 2011.)

[2] Ralph McInerny, Boethius and Aquinas, (Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 1990), p. xiv.

Monday, August 1, 2011

0184: Actus Essendi and Participation

Entry 0184: Actus Essendi and Participation

The two fundamental metaphysical principles of essence and actus essendi are not instantiated in isolation in the real world. A subsisting extramental thing cannot not possess these two metaphysical principles.

However, in a subsisting extramental thing, the instatiation of the essence is not the same as the instatiation of the actus essendi.

In the line of essence, things that possess the same essence are said to possess the fulness of that essence. There are no degrees of horseness, for example, because the essence of horseness is shared by horses by way of a univocal predicamental participation. One individual horse is as much of a horse when compared to another individual horse.

In the line of actus essendi, on the other hand, only God instantiates the fulness of the metaphysical principle of actus essendi. All other subsisting extramental things receive their actus essendi with the limitations imposed by the particular essence which defines what the thing is. The essence of God is the only essence which does not limit the actus essendi.

Participation in actus essendi is therefere said to be a non-univocal transcendental participation because the perfection which is being participated is instantiated only up to a certain degree of participation in the individual thing.

In the words of Aquinas, “Nothing is assigned to a genus by reason of its act of being but by reason of its essence; and this is clear from the fact that the act of being of a thing is proper to that thing and distinct from the act being of anything else” (De Potentia, question 7, article 3, corpus.)

The essence principle of humanity is the same in two different human beings, but the act of being principle of Plato is not the same as the act of being principle of Socrates for it is impossible that there not be, of one thing, one act of being. And, again, in Aquinas words, “each thing has within itself its own act of being, distinct from all other things” (Summa Contra Gentiles, book I, chapter 14, no. 2.)

Thus, participation in essence is not the same as participation in actus essendi. In a subsisting extramental thing there always is a particular essence instantiated by way of a univocal predicamental participation and some degree of actus essendi instantiated by way of a non-univocal transcendental participation.