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Monday, May 26, 2014

0354: Actus Essendi and the Ipsum Esse Subsistens

Entry 0354: Actus Essendi and the Ipsum Esse Subsistens 

The meaning of the word “esse” in the phrase
ipsum esse subsistens

The word “esse” in the phrase “ipsum esse subsistens” refers to God’s actus essendi. Aquinas explicitly affirms that the actus essendi of God is not known by the human intellect. In De Potentia, question 7, article 2, ad 2, for example, one reads that

Ens et esse dicitur dupliciter, ut patet V Metaphysicorum. Quandoque enim significat essentiam rei, sive actum essendi; quandoque vero significat veritatem propositionis, etiam in his quae esse non habent: sicut dicimus quod caecitas est, quia verum est hominem esse caecum. Cum ergo dicat Damascenus, quod esse Dei est nobis manifestum, accipitur esse Dei secundo modo, et non primo. Primo enim modo est idem esse Dei quod est substantia: et sicut eius substantia est ignota, ita et esse. Secundo autem modo scimus quoniam Deus est, quoniam hanc propositionem in intellectu nostro concipimus ex effectibus ipsius.

That is to say,

Ens and esse can be taken in two ways (Metaph. X, 13, 14). Sometimes they signify the essence of a thing and the actus essendi, and sometimes they denote the truth of a proposition even in things that have no being: thus we say that blindness is because it is true that a man is blind. Accordingly when Damascene says that the esse of God is evident to us, the phrase esse Dei is taken in the second sense and not the first. For in the first sense the esse Dei is the same as His essence, and as His essence is unknown so also is His esse. In the second sense we know that God is, because we conceive this proposition in our mind from His effects.”

The same doctrine is explicitly stated in Summa Theologiae, part I, question 3, article 4, ad 2:

Ad secundum dicendum quod esse dupliciter dicitur, uno modo, significat actum essendi; alio modo, significat compositionem propositionis, quam anima adinvenit coniungens praedicatum subiecto. Primo igitur modo accipiendo esse, non possumus scire esse Dei, sicut nec eius essentiam, sed solum secundo modo. Scimus enim quod haec propositio quam formamus de Deo, cum dicimus Deus est, vera est. Et hoc scimus ex eius effectibus, ut supra dictum est.

That is to say,

“Reply to Objection 2: ‘Esse’ can mean either of two things. It may mean the actus essendi, or it may mean the composition of a proposition effected by the mind in joining a predicate to a subject. Taking ‘esse’ in the first sense, we cannot understand the esse of God nor His essence; but only in the second sense. We know that this proposition which we form about God when we say ‘God is,’ is true; and this we know from His effects.”

Aquinas states clearly that we do not know God’s actus essendi. But Aquinas states clearly as well, as in the conclusion of the Quinque Viae, that we do know God’s existence. Therefore, Aquinas teaching that “God’s actus essendi is God’s essence,” cannot be translated by saying that “the existence of God is His essence.” For the latter statement would lead to the following: Since we do not know God’s essence, we do not know God’s actus essendi, and therefore, we do not know God’s existence. Or, since we do know God’s existence, we know God’s essence (or part of His essence), and therefore we know God’s actus essendi (or part of His actus essendi).

When Aquinas uses phrases like “cum esse Dei sit eius essentia,” or “essentia Dei est ipsum esse eius,” or “cum esse Dei sit ipsa eius essentia,” the word “esse” refers to the Ipsum Esse Subsistens, to God’s actus essendi. In these phrases the word “esse” does not mean “existence” as if God’s existence were equivalent to God’s essence.

The human intellect does not have the power to comprehend the Ipsum Esse Subsistens, yet it does have the power to reach God’s existence:

Relinquitur ergo quod cognoscere ipsum esse subsistens, sit connaturale soli intellectui divino, et quod sit supra facultatem naturalem cuiuslibet intellectus creati, quia nulla creatura est suum esse, sed habet esse participatum. Non igitur potest intellectus creatus Deum per essentiam videre, nisi inquantum Deus per suam gratiam se intellectui creato coniungit, ut intelligibile ab ipso.

That is to say,

“It follows therefore that to comprehend the ipsum esse subsistens is natural to the divine intellect alone; and this is beyond the natural power of any created intellect; for no creature is its own esse, forasmuch as its esse is participated. Therefore the created intellect cannot see the essence of God, unless God by His grace unites Himself to the created intellect, as an object made intelligible to it” (Summa Theologiae, part I, question 12, article 4, corpus).

In the definition of God as Ipsum Esse Subsistens, Aquinas uses the word “esse” to mean actus essendi

Monday, May 19, 2014

0353: Heidegger and Actus Essendi

Entry 0353: Heidegger and Actus Essendi 

In his reflections on the encyclical letter Fides et Ratio, Mario Enrique Sacchi points out that Fides et Ratio “contains an unusual exaltation of metaphysics on the part of the Church’s teaching” (M. E. Sacchi, “The Exaltation of Metaphysics in John Paul II's Fides et Ratio,” Thomistic Institute of the Jacques Maritain Center, 1999).

According to Sacchi, Aquinas is the only philosopher to whom the well-known criticism of Heidegger concerning the metaphysics of being does not apply. In this regard Sacchi stresses that

“It is certainly unquestionable that Aquinas put the act of being in the vertex of his metaphysical speculation. He has demonstrated that the esse, or the actus essendi, is the first act of the being by participation and also the nature of God, the uncaused cause ... The being composed of essence and act of being is an effect of the causality of the ipsum esse subsistens, which can be known metaphysically starting from the intellection of created things, but being as such is not predicated of these things and of the divine being in a univocal sense. The finite being receives the act of being within the limits of its essence, whereas God is the esse irreceptum whose nature exceeds entirely the entity commonly predicated of the creatures whose essences are not their act of being” (Ibid.)

See Mario Enrique Sacchi, “The Exaltation of Metaphysics in John Paul II's Fides et Ratio,” in Faith and reason: The Notre Dame symposium 1999, ed. Timothy L. Smith, (South Bend, IN: St. Augustin’s Press, 2000), 57-66

Monday, May 12, 2014

0352: The Self-Evident Connotation of the
Actus Essendi (XVII)

Entry 0352: The Self-Evident Connotation of the
Actus Essendi

In the De veritate, question 1, article 1, Aquinas affirms that the notion of ens is the most self-evident notion (notissimum) for the human intellect. In one of his explanations of this affirmation Aquinas remarks that

Sicut in demonstrabilibus oportet fieri reductionem in aliqua principia per se intellectui nota, ita investigando quid est unumquodque; alias utrobique in infinitum iretur, et sic periret omnino scientia et cognitio rerum.

That is to say,

“When investigating the nature of anything, one should proceed in the same way one proceeds in demonstrations: Just as in the demonstration of a conclusion one must ultimately begin from a self-evident principle that requires no demonstration, so also in the establishing of the nature of something one must ultimately begin from a self-evident notion. Otherwise, both types of knowledge will become involved in an infinite regress, and science and our knowledge of things will perish” (De veritate, question 1, article 1, corpus).

It is after this remark that Aquinas proclaims:

Illud autem quod primo intellectus concipit quasi notissimum, et in quod conceptiones omnes resolvit, est ens.

That is to say,

“That which the intellect first conceives as, in a way, the most self-evident, and that which the intellect links as prior (or simultaneous) knowledge to the knowledge of all other concepts, is ens” (De veritate, question 1, article 1, corpus).

The observation that the primary conceptions of ens and of the first indemonstrable principle prevent knowledge form falling into an infinite regress goes all the way back to Aristotle.

Here I want to focus briefly on the issue of infinite regress by quoting an insightful comment by William A. Wallace:

“The use of the term ‘foreknowledge’ (praecognitio) when speaking of the requirements for demonstration arises from one of Aristotle’s statements at the beginning of the Posterior Analytics wherein he asserts that one cannot communicate knowledge to another without presupposing that the latter knows something beforehand. Such previous knowledge must be gained independently of the demonstration being proposed, since anyone who lacks a sufficient fund of information to assent to (or disagree with) the premises will be unable to pass from them to the conclusion they imply. Not only this, but at least some preexistent knowledge will have to be attained independently of any demonstration whatever, since the very nature of demonstration as generating true and necessary knowledge requires that not everything that is known can be demonstrated. Were this so, one could never demonstrate anything at all, since every premise would in turn have to be demonstrated, setting up an infinite regress, and nothing could ever be known as true” (W. A. Wallace, Galileo and His Sources [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984], 101)

Monday, May 5, 2014

0351: Science, Actus Essendi, and Revealed Truth
Remarks on Methodology

Entry 0351: Science, Actus Essendiand Revealed Truth
Remarks on Methodology

(Reflection on statements dealing with the philosophy of being
made by Saint John Paul II during his pontificate

Abstract: It is generally recognized that both modern natural science and the theology of the Magisterium contain methodologies by which sound and unsound developments in the disciplines can be distinguished. However, it is controversial whether the knowledge afforded by philosophical discourse also contains such a methodology. In this paper, it is argued that, despite the emergence across history of a variety of philosophical approaches, any sound philosophy is and must be conducted according to the methodology of the actus essendi (act of being). This methodology is founded on the principle that every existent thing ultimately has its source in the actus essendi and so cannot be said both to be and not to be at the same time and in the same respect. Importantly, it is argued that the methodology of the actus essendi does not constitute a particular philosophical school; rather, it is the transcendental ground for all philosophical schools, supplying external guidelines for their legitimate development. Furthermore, the methodology of the actus essendi sets the proper epistemic order between philosophy and other disciplines, particularly science and theology.