View Articles

Monday, October 29, 2012

0249: The Self-Evident Connotation of the Actus Essendi (XV)





Entry 0249: The Self-Evident Connotation of the Actus Essendi (XV)


Noted scholars on Aquinas have offered their own accounts of how the human intellect grasps the notion of ens which, according to Aquinas, prevents human knowledge from falling into an infinite regress. Many of them, including John F. Wippel, are inclined to think that ens and esse are grasped through the so called second operation of the intellect or judgment. I have indicated in this blog that the position of Cornelio Fabro, on the other hand, is that ens and esse are grasped through the operation of simple apprehension.

The issue is not an easy issue to elucidate and proof of this are the following remarks by Wippel, which I interpret to express support for Fabro’s position.

“What one discovers through original judgments of existence can be summed up, as it were, under the heading being, or reality, or something similar.

“This may be expressed in explicit terms such as ‘This x is,’ or ‘This man is,’ or perhaps in some other way. 

In any event, one will now be intellectually aware that the thing in question is real in the sense that it actually exists.

“This procedure would seem to be presupposed for any intellectual awareness on our part of something as real, whether or not we spell this out in so many words by saying ‘this thing exists.’”

See John F. Wippel, The Metaphysical Thought of Thomas Aquinas (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2000), 38 and 44.

Monday, October 22, 2012

0248: Actus Essendi – Point of Departure for the Existence of God (II)



Entry 0248: Actus Essendi  Point of Departure for the Existence of God (II)



John Wippel remarks that “For the philosopher, who must begin with finite beings and only eventually reason from what he finds in them to knowledge of God as their cause, participation in esse commune comes first in the order of discovery.” 

Then Wippel immediately suggests that
Along with this comes recognition of one way of reasoning to the distinction and composition of essence and esse (act of being) within such entities.”

And finally, in a parenthesis, Wippel adds that for Aquinas, “demonstration of real distinction between essence and esse within finite beings need not presuppose prior knowledge of the existence of God.”

See John F. Wippel,
The Metaphysical Thought of Thomas Aquinas (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2000), 131.






Monday, October 15, 2012

0247: Actus Essendi – Point of Departure for the Existence of God (I)



Entry 0247: Actus Essendi  Point of Departure for the Existence of God (I)


John Wippel writes that “in the order of discovery one may move from one’s discovery of individual beings as participating in
esse commune to the caused character of such beings, and then on to the existence of their unparticipated source (esse subsistens). Once this is established, one can then speak of them as actually participating in esse subsistens as well.”


Wippel then explains that “in the order of philosophical discovery the first [kind of participation, i.e., participation in esse commune] should ultimately lead to the second, [participation in esse subsistens].” Accordingly,  Wippel remarks that “in the order of nature, on the other hand, the second, [participation in esse subsistens], is the ultimate metaphysical foundation for the first. If finite natures or substances do in fact participate in esse commune, this is ultimately because they participate in esse subsistens.”


See John F. Wippel, The Metaphysical Thought of Thomas Aquinas (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2000), 117 and 121.










Monday, October 8, 2012

0246: Cornelio Fabro on Existence



Entry 0246: Cornelio Fabro on Existence



Acording to Cornelio Fabro, there are three ways of knowing that a thing exists:

(1) Sometimes the existence of a thing is self-evident. For this, the thing has to be present here and now to the knower and exhibit some sensible qualities that the external senses of the knower can grasp.

(2) Sometimes the existence of a thing is known through reasoning from effects to causes. In this case something related to the thing has to be accessible to the senses, as when someone through the observation of smoke detects the existence of fire.

(3) The existence of certain things can be known through one’s consciousness. This can happen, for example, when a person, reflecting on its own acts, becomes aware of its own existence.

See Cornelio Fabro, “Il Fondamento Metafisico della IV Via,” Esegesi Tomistica (Roma: Libreria Editrice della Pontificia Universita Lateranense, 1969), 388: “Tre sono anche i modi di conoscenza dell’esistenza di qualche cosa: ‘Similiter an res sit [intellectus noster] tripliciter cognoscit. Uno modo quia cadit sub sensu. Alio modo ex causis et effectibus rerum cadentibus sub sensu, sicut ignem ex fumo perpendimus. Tertio modo cognoscit aliquid in seipso esse ex inclinatione quam habet ad aliquos actus: quam quidem inclinationem cognoscit ex hoc quod super actus suos reflectitur, dum cognoscit se operari’ (In III Sententiarum, distinction 23, question 1, article 2, corpus).”





Monday, October 1, 2012

0245: Transcendental Perfections and Actus Essendi (III)



Entry 0245: Transcendental Perfections and Actus Essendi (III)

Cornelio Fabro on the Fourth Way



In his analysis of Aquinas' Fourth Way, Cornelio Fabro indicates that there is a profound difference between the formulation of the proof given in Summa Theologiae (I, 2, 3, c) and the formulation given in the Prologue of the Commentary on the Gospel of Saint John:

“Of particular importance is the observation that Saint Thomas conceived the Fourth Way as a proof whose validity depended not on either the demonstration of creation or on the demonstration of the real distinction between essence and esse in creatures. It is to be noted, however, that this is the case for the formulations of the proof given in Summa Contra Gentiles and in the Summa Theologiae. The observation does not apply to the formulation of the proof given in the Prologue of the Commentary on the Gospel of Saint John. Not taking this into account leads to misunderstanding of the meaning of the proof.” (1)

(1) Cornelio Fabro, “Il Fondamento Metafisico della IV Via,” Esegesi Tomistica (Roma: Libreria Editrice della Pontificia Universita Lateranense, 1969), 390: “Una osservazione di particolare importanza nella nostra discussione e che S. Tommaso concepisce certamente questa prove [la IV via] come valida in sé cosi da ‘precedere’ la dimostrazione sia della creazione come quella della distinzione di essenza ed esse nelle creature. Ma si puo osservare che se questo almeno (forse) vale per i due loci solemniores di C.G., I, 13 e S.Th., I, 2, 3, non si applica invece con rigore a molti altri testi e particolarmente a quello solenne (e ultimo tra I solenni) del Prologus della Lectura in Joannis Evangelium. Indugiare troppo in sifatte preclusioni porta a fraintendere o almeno diminuire l’autentico significato della prova tomistica.”