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Monday, May 21, 2012

0226: Actus Essendi and Aristotelian forms

Entry 0226: Actus Essendi and Aristotelian forms 

In his Hans Urs von Balthasar and Protestantism, Rodney Howsare writes:
“Aquinas’s treatment of Aristotle is incomprehensible apart from his distinctively Christian understanding of creation.

“Gilson never tired of ponting out the transformation of Aristotle’s thought at the hands of Thomas. (Etienne Gilson, Being and Some Philosophers (Toronto, Canada: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1949), 154: ‘The better to recapture his message, we must first consider the essential transformation which the Aristotelian notion of metaphysics underwent in Thomas Aquinas’ own doctrine.’)

“For Aristotle, the most primal category is essence, or what makes a thing belong to a certain category. For instance, what is most important about a bear is its ‘bear-ness’. This essence is what persists in spite of any accidental differences between individual bears.

“But this is not true for Aquinas: building on God’s revelation of his name to Moses in the book of Exodus – ‘I am’ – Aquinas understands the act of being (esse) as the most important aspect of a thing.

“For instance, although a bear is a bear because its essence dictates that it should be, a bear is because of an act of being.

“For Aristotle, ‘form’ determines what a thing is; he knows of no act superior to form.

“But Aquinas posits above the form and act of that form, and is, to this degree, no longer an Aristotelian. (See, Gilson, Being and Some Philosophers, 154-89, and the discussion of analogy in Edward T. Oakes, Pattern of Redemption: The Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar (New York: Continuum, 1994), 15-44.)” (1)


(1)  Rodney Howsare, Hans Urs von Balthasar and Protestantism (New York: T & T Clark International, 2005), 80.