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Monday, November 28, 2011

0201: Science, Actus Essendi, and Revealed Truth -- Remarks on Methodology

Entry 0201: Article in PDF format

Orestes J. Gonzalez, “Science, Actus Essendi, and Revealed Truth: Remarks on Methodology,” Actus Essendi Electronic Journal.

Pope John Paul II explicitly identified some fundamental aspects of the 'philosophy of being' as reference point for the different philosophical schools.

A most authoritative statement in this regard is recorded in his encyclical letter Fides et Ratio when he says that "The 'philosophy of being' is strong and enduring because it is based upon the very 'act of being itself' (ipse actus essendi) which allows a full and comprehensive openness to reality as a whole." [1]

Earlier the Pope had explained that "The basis and source of this openness lie in the fact that the philosophy of Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) is a 'philosophy of being,' that is, of the 'act of being' (actus essendi); it is the philosophy of the proclamation of being." [2]

[1] Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Fides et Ratio, 14 September 1998, Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 1999, vol. 91, pp. 5-88, no. 97.

[2] John Paul II, "Address at the Angelicum, The Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas in Rome," 17 November 1979. The original, in Italian, was published in Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 1979, vol. 71, pp. 1472-1483. English translations are available in Angelicum, 1980, vol. 57, pp. 133-146; and in L'Osservatore Romano English Weekly Edition, December 17, 1979, pp. 6-8.

Monday, November 21, 2011

0200: Kant and Aquinas on Non-Contradiction

Entry 0200: Kant and Aquinas on Non-Contradiction

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) does not deny the principle of non-contradiction. Kant, however, postulated that our knowledge of the principle of non-contradiction is a priori knowledge.

Albert L. Blackwell endorses Kant’s position in the following terms:
Kant is searching for a rational basis for natural science and moral philosophy, and he is correct in asserting that one must begin with the principle of non-contradiction as an a priori assumption. [1]

Aquinas’ position is different. For Aquinas (1225-1274), the human intellect, before it exercises its functions, is tamquam tabula rasa. The intellect, before it has access to the truth, is always “like a clean tablet on which nothing is written.” [2]

And with respect to the first principles in particular Aquinas expressly affirms that “it is from the sensible things of nature that we receive the knowledge of the first principles.” [3] Aquinas often accentuates that there is no access to these principles except through the sensible faculties in direct contact with the sensible things of nature. [4]

Aquinas grants that “the sensible faculties enjoy a certain superiority in regard to the capacity of acting on the intellect and causing knowledge. And this is due to their greater proximity to the exterior things of nature which are the cause and measure of our knowledge.” [5]

Aquinas is unyielding in this point as is seen, for example, when he reasons as follows: “the very habit of first principles is derived from the sensible things of nature, and thus, this habit is the effect of the agent intellect whose function is to act on the phantasm.” [6]

Kant does not postulate the existence of innate knowledge in the human intellect, but only a priori forms.

But the fact that we are able to reach external reality through the intellectual conception of it does not justify the conclusion that thoughts and intellectual conceptions were present in our minds prior to our interaction with reality.

Our knowledge of the principle of non-contradiction is a knowledge caused by the sensible things of nature.


[1] Albert L. Blackwell, Schleiermacher’s Early Philosophy of Life: Determinism, Freedom, and Phantasy, Harvard Theological Studies, no. 33 (Chico, California: Scholars Press, 1982) p. 48.

[2] ST.1.79.2: “Intellectus autem humanus in principio est sicut tabula rasa in qua nihil est scriptum, ut Philosophus dicit in III De Anima.” Also: “Intellectus noster comparatur tabulae in qua nihil est scriptum;” De Ver.8.9. “Anima enim, secundum se considerata, est in potentia ad intelligibilia cognoscenda: est enim sicut tabula in qua nihil est scriptum;” ST.3.9.1.

[3] Q. disp. De anima,4,ad 6: “Cognitio enim principiorum a sensiblilibus accipitur.” Also: “Sed ipsorum principiorum cognitio in nobis ex sensibilibus causatur;” SCG.2.83.

[4]Cognitio principiorum accipitur a sensu;” In Boet. De 4. “Cognitio principiorum provenit nobis ex sensu;” ST.1-2.51.1. “Sic igitur intellectus humanus habet aliquam formam, scilicet ipsum intelligibile lumen, quod est de se sufficiens ad quaedam intelligibilia cognoscenda: ad ea scilicet in quorum notitiam per sensibilia possumus devenire;” ST.1-2.109.1. “Oportet quod in intellectu nostro sint quaedam quae intellectus noster naturaliter cognoscit, scilicet prima principia, quamvis etiam ista cognitio in nobis non determinetur nisi per acceptionem a sensibus;” De Ver.8.15. “Quamvis intellectu sit superior sensu, accipit tamen aliquo modo a sensu, et eius objects prima et principalia in sensibilibus fundantur;” 1. “In nobis perfectum iudicium intellectus habetur per conversionem ad sensibilia, quae sunt prima nostrae cognitions principia;” ST.2-2.73.3. “Primorum autem principiorum cognitio a sensibus (ex sensibilibus) ortum habet;” De Ver.10.13. "Prima autem principia scientiarum speculativarum sunt per sensum accepta;” ST.1-2.3.6.

[5] De 3: “Vel dicendum, quod inferiores vires quantum ad aliqud superiores sunt, maxime in virtute agendi et causandi, ex hoc ipso quod sunt propinquiores rebus exterioribus, quae sunt causa et mensura cognitionis nostrae.” Also: “Illa quae habent deficiens esse, secundum hoc deficiunt a cognoscibilitate intellectus nostri, quod deficiunt a ratione agendi;” 12.

[6] SCG.2.78.n. 7: “Nec tamen intelligendum est quod intellectus agens sit habitus per modum quo habitus est in secunda specie qualitatis, secundum quod quidam dixerunt intellectum agentem esse habitum principiorum. Quia ille habitus principiorum est acceptus a sensibilibus (II Posteriorum) et sic oportet quod sit effectus intellectus agentis, cuius est phantasmata, quae sunt intellecta in potentia, facere intellecta in actu.”

Monday, November 14, 2011

0199: Transcendental Perfections and Actus Essendi

Entry 0199: Transcendental Perfections and Actus Essendi

Concerning Aquinas’ treatment of the transcendental perfections, Edward A. Synan directs attention towards a distinction proposed by Aquinas in the Proemium of the Exposition of pseudo-Dionysius’ Divine Names. Synan attributes to Aquinas the view that

"Despite the superiority of an Aristotelian understanding of things in this world over that of the Platonists, Plato’s followers had done better on what is above this world: an implicit acceptance of Aristotelian earthly science but an explicit rejection of his views on higher things."

Here is the text on which Synan based his conclusion:

This reasoning of the Platonists, therefore, with respect to what it contains concerning separate, natural, specific forms, is in harmony with neither faith nor reason; but with respect to what they were accustomed to say about the First Principle of things, their opinion is the highest of truth and in harmony with the Christian faith. (Haec igitur Platonicorum ratio fidei non consonat nec veritati, quantum ad hoc quod continet de speciebus naturalibus separatis, sed quantum ad id quod dicebant de Primo rerum Principio, verissima est eorum opinio et fidei Christianae consona [Thomas Aquinas, In librum Beati Dionysius De divinis nominibus expositio, prooemium, 2.])

Edward A. Synan, “Albert and the Two Burleys: Citations and Allusions,” American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 70, (1996): 168-169.

Monday, November 7, 2011

0198: The Notions of Existence and Actus Essendi (IV)

Entry 0198: Actus Essendi and Existence (IV)

The Notions of Existence and Actus Essendi

"Modern philosophers have failed to take seriously the difference between

(a) the kind of existence implied whenever we make a statement about a logical subject, e.g., about blindness, about a hole, about a colour or a number, or about a set, viz. that blindness exists, that the hole exists, that there is such a colour or number or set, and

(b) existence in the sense of the present actuality of something real enough to 'act.'

"In this sense they have ceased to talk about existence in the sense which most concerned Saint Thomas: 'esse in the sense of actus essendi.'

"Yet, this is the key to 'what is metaphysics' as the Pope [John Paul II] refers to it." [1]

[1] David Braine, “The Relationship Between Philosophy and Cultures,” “Reflections on the Encyclical Fides et Ratio,” no. 14, in L'Osservatore Romano English Weekly Edition, 4 August 1999, pp. 5-6.