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Monday, November 26, 2012

0253: Pope Benedict XVI on Aquinas (XIX)

Entry 0253: Pope Benedict XVI on Aquinas (XIX)

The Reasonableness of Faith

The contribution of Saint Augustine to the systematization of knowledge by belief was well known to Saint Thomas Aquinas.

In the General Audience of 21 November 2012, Pope Benedict XVI addressed the issue of the reasonableness of faith and he credited Saint Thomas Aquinas for having shown the benefits derived for reason when the human mind applies itself to the comprehension to God’s truth. Saint Thomas showed "how much new fruitful vitality comes to rational human thought from the ingrafting of the principles and truths of the Christian faith."

Monday, November 19, 2012

0252: Science and the Philosophy of Being

Entry 0252: Science and the Philosophy of Being

In his Address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on 8 November 2012, the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, commented on the value of analogy for the philosophical, theological, and scientific understanding of nature. Here are excerpts from the Holy Father’s Address:

“An interdisciplinary approach to complexity shows that the sciences are not intellectual worlds disconnected from one another and from reality but rather that they are interconnected and directed to the study of nature as a unified, intelligible and harmonious reality in its undoubted complexity.

“Such a vision has fruitful points of contact with the view of the universe taken by Christian philosophy and theology, with its notion of participated being, in which each individual creature, possessed of its proper perfection, also shares in a specific nature and this within an ordered cosmos originating in God’s creative Word.

“It is precisely this inbuilt ‘logical’ and ‘analogical’ organization of nature that encourages scientific research and draws the human mind to discover the horizontal co-participation between beings and the transcendental participation by the First Being.

“It is within this broader context that I would note how fruitful the use of analogy has proved for philosophy and theology, not simply as a tool of horizontal analysis of nature’s realities, but also as a stimulus to creative thinking on a higher transcendental plane.

“Precisely because of the notion of creation, Christian thought has employed analogy not only for the investigation of worldly realities, but also as a means of rising from the created order to the contemplation of its Creator, with due regard for the principle that God’s transcendence implies that every similarity with his creatures necessarily entails a greater dissimilarity: whereas the structure of the creature is that of being a being by participation, that of God is that of being a being by essence, or Esse subsistens” (Pope Benedict XVI, Address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Rome, 8 November 2012).

Monday, November 12, 2012

0251: God’s existence versus God’s Actus Essendi

Entry 0251: God's Existence versus God's Actus Essendi 

It is well known that the question “Does God exist?” had an affirmative answer before the time of Saint Thomas Aquinas. The discovery of the notion of actus essendi was not needed to put to rest the issue of God’s existence. The historical path of the philosophical demonstration of the existence of God is the historical path of a judgment of existence applied to God.

The issue of the definition of the essence of God in terms of the metaphysical principle of actus essendi, on the other hand, is not only an issue different from the issue of God’s existence, it is also an issue that took a different historical path in its development. Aquinas was indeed able to express the human intellect’s awareness of the real in the technical terminology of the actus essendi, but there is no question that before the discovery of the notion of actus essendi, answers to the question “Does God exist?” had been given in terms of a judgment of existence.

In his understanding of esse, Aquinas distinguished clearly between the esse that answers the question of existence (the question an sit) and the esse that connotes the metaphysical principle of actus essendi. And here something that may seem obvious needs to be emphasized. After the discovery of the notion of actus essendi, the issue of how to reason and conclude correctly about God’s actus essendi is not to be confused with the issue of how to reason and conclude correctly about God’s existence.

Monday, November 5, 2012

0250: Actus Essendi and the Second Operation of the Intellect (II)


Entry 0250: Actus Essendi and the Second Operation of the Intellect (II)

There is no question that according to Aquinas the notion of being possesses a duality. The notion of ens (quod est) signifies a “thing” by the expression quod and “existence” (esse) by the expression est.

On this issue, Jan A. Aertsen puts Etienne Gilson and Cornelio Fabro in the same category: “An important element in the interpretation of Fabro and Gilson is that ‘being’ possesses a certain duality. Ens means ‘what is’ (quod est). It cannot, therefore, be attained by simple apprehension, which abstracts only the essence or quiddity of something.” At this point Aertsen adds, “Yet Thomas’ conclusion seems to be a different one” (J. A. Aertsen, Medieval Philosophy and the Transcendentals: The Case of Thomas Aquinas [Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1996], 179-180).

Aertsen seems to be aware that Fabro does not place the apprehension of ens and esse in the second operation of the intellect. Thus Aertsen writes: “If the notion of being, Fabro argues, includes in itself two elements, namely essence or content and the act of being, this notion cannot be the effect of ‘ordinary’ abstraction, which abstracts only essence. The origin of the notion of being requires a form of ‘conjoint apprehension’ of content on the part of the mind and of act on the part of experience” (Ibid. 175). But this explanation, according to Aertsen, is not a satisfactory one.

Aertsen argues more forcefully against the thesis of ‘Existential Thomism’ that ‘being’ is attained only in judgment, the second operation of the intellect.

Aertsen examines carefully Aquinas’ understanding of the two operations of the intellect: “Thomas claims that what is first in the first operation of the intellect, being, is the foundation of what is first in its second operation: the principle ‘it is impossible for a thing to be and not to be at the same time’ is dependent on the understanding of being. Here he clearly affirms that the concept of being belongs to simple apprehension.” Aertsen then stresses that “This statement contradicts the contention of ‘Existential Thomism’ that the concept of being is a judgment or proposition” (Ibid. 179).

Ens names a thing from the formality of its act of being: it primarily signifies ‘what is.’ Thus,” Aertsen continues, “the concept of being does not signify the judgment ‘something exists,’ the kind of composition which is susceptible of truth or falsity” (Ibid. 180).

“Our conclusion is that the thesis of ‘Existential Thomism,’ that ‘being’ is attained only in judgment, the second operation of the intellect, is incorrect. ‘Being’ is attained in simple apprehension. The concept principally signifies ‘what has being,’ ‘what is,’ a phrase that does not entail a judgment” (Ibid.).

Aertsen stresses that the name “being” signifies “what is” but does not signify a mode of being (an essence or a quiddity) determined by the genera. “This generalness and indeterminateness,” Aertsen affirms, “is one of the reasons Thomas advances for his view that ‘being’ (Qui est) is the most proper name of God. Summa Theologiae, part I, question 13, article 11: Quolibet enim alio nomine determinatur aliquis modus substantiae rei, sed hoc nomen Qui est nullum modum essendi determinat, sed se habet indeterminate ad omnes” (Ibid. 180, n. 55).

Aertsen explains that in Aquinas’ De veritate, in question 1, article 1, ad sed contra 3, “in answer to an objection that cites an axiom from Boethius’ De hebdomadibus, ‘to be (esse) and what is (quod est) are diverse,’ the ratio of being is explicitly formulated. Thomas’ explanation of the axiom is that the act of being (esse) is distinguished from that which that act belongs. ‘The ratio entis, however, is derived from the act of being, not from that to which the act of being belongs’” (Ibid. 185).

Aertsen shows clearly that ens and esse are the object of simple apprehension.

Among others, Antonio Millan Puelles endorses Jan A. Aertsen’s assessment of Existential Thomism. See A. Millan Puelles, La Logica de los Conceptos Metaf√≠sicos: Tomo I - La Logica de los Conceptos Trascendentales (Madrid: Ediciones Rialp, 2002), 154.