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Monday, February 27, 2012

0214: Actus Essendi and Participation

Entry 0214: 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 at once and at all times.

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 full essence and not some degree 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 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.

Monday, February 20, 2012

0213: Actus Essendi and Existence

Entry 0213: Actus Essendi and Existence

The connotation of existence and the notion of actus essendi are closely related, but they are not equivalent concepts. In the present context it should suffice to say that existence applies to that which exists in any way whasoever, whereas actus essendi applies only to that which exists as a subsisting extramental thing.

The notion of existence reflects the facticity of any state of affairs. Of anything that in any way whatsoever exists, one can say that its existence is a fact.

Actus essendi, on the other hand, refers to an innermost principle which serves as the ultimate ground of all the actuality, perfection, and knowability instantiated in a subsisting extramental thing of nature.

The possession of actus essendi necessarily results in having existence, but among existing things there are many which are not subsisting extramental things.

With reference to God, for example, Aquinas explains that knowledge of the existence of God is not the same as the knowledge of His act of being, that while we cannot know God’s act of being nor His essence, we are able to know the existence of God.

Monday, February 13, 2012

0212: Russell Hittinger on Actus Essendi

Entry 0212: Russell Hittinger on Actus Essendi

In First Things, Professor Russell Hittinger writes,

“Speaking at his alma mater, the Angelicum, on the anniversary of Aeterni Patris in 1979, he [Pope John Paul II] said that ‘the philosophy of St. Thomas is a philosophy of being, that is, of the “act of existing” (actus essendi) whose transcendental value paves the most direct way to rise to the knowledge of subsisting Being and pure Act, namely to God.’ In his 1998 encyclical Fides et Ratio, he again warned that theology needs both analytic rigor and a sapiential dimension drawn from a philosophy of being” (June/July 2008 issue, p. 38).

Monday, February 6, 2012

0211: The Self-Evident Connotation of the Actus Essendi (VIII)

Entry 0211: The Self-Evident Connotation of the Actus Essendi (VIII)

In the history of thought, the discovery of a new concept often represents a major step for the advancement of knowledge.

Blessed Duns Scotus (1266-1308,) for example, introduced into theology the concept of “redemption by preservation,” according to which the Blessed Virgin Mary was redeemed in an even more wonderful way: not by being freed from sin, but by being preserved from sin. [1]

Similarly, Saint Thomas Aquinas discovered the notion of actus essendi in his Christianizing of Aristotle. In the Wikipedia article Actus Essendi, one reads that “In fact, the contribution of Aquinas to the philosophy of being is precisely this, that he discovered that all Aristotelian acts were in reality ‘potency’ with respect to the actus essendi.”

The discovery of the notion of actus essendi equipped Aquinas with the metaphysical principle he needed to formulate an original and incisive argument for the existence of God. The Actus Essendi Way developed by Aquinas sets him apart from all other philosophers, including Aristotle.


[1] John Paul II, General Audience, 5 June 1996.