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Monday, June 30, 2014

0359: Quod Cadit in Intellectu per Modum Actualitatis Absolute

Entry 0359: Quod Cadit in Intellectu per Modum
Actualitatis Absolute 

The text from Aquinas’s Commentary In I Periheremenias (lecture 5) where he affirms that the “actualitas quam principaliter significat hoc verbum est, est communiter actualitas omnis formae, vel actus substantialis vel accidentalis,” refers to esse in its restricted meaning of the intrinsic actus essendi principle of subsisting extramental things. According to Aquinas, “aliquid dicitur esse ens absolute propter suum esse substantiale, sed propter esse accidentale non dicitur esse absolute” (De veritate, question 21, article 5, corpus); that is to say, “a thing is called a being in an absolute sense because of its substantial esse; but because of its accidental esse it is not said to be absolutely.”

Actualitas per prius invenitur in subiecto formae accidentalis, quam in forma accidentali, unde actualitas formae accidentalis causatur ab actualitate subiecti” (Summa Theologiae, part I, question 77, article 6, corpus).

That is to say,

“Actuality belongs to the subject of the accidental form prior to its belonging to the accidental form; wherefore the actuality of the accidental form is caused by the actuality of the subject.” 

Monday, June 23, 2014

0358: Owens, Wippel and Fabro on the Distinction
between Actus Essendi and Existence

Entry 0358: Owens, Wippel and Fabro on the Distinction
between Actus Essendi and Existence

Addressing the issue of the relationship beween the intrinsic actus essendi principle of extramental subsisting things and the esse expressed in judgments, John F. Wippel writes: “In Thomas’s metaphysics , if a given substance actually exists, this is owing to the presence within that thing of an intrinsic act principle (actus essendi) which actualizes its essence, is distinct from it, and enters into composition with it.”

Then Wippel raises this question: “In which of these two closely related senses is Thomas using esse when he writes that it is grasped through the intellect’s second operation (judgment) rather than through its first first operation (simple apprehension)? Does he simply intend to signify by esse the fact that something actually exists (its facticity)? Or does he also have in mind the thing’s distinct intrinsic act of being (actus essendi)?

In the footnote attached to these remarks Wippel first explains that Joseph “Owens seems to be uneasy about admitting this distinction, though he [Owens] raises his doubts in the context of criticizing [Cornelio] Fabro’s way of presenting it: existence as actuality would be distinguished from existence as ‘result.’ For Owens see ‘Aquinas on Knowing Existence,’ [Review of Metaphysics 29 (1976), pp. 670-90]. For Fabro see his ‘The Intensive Hermeneutics of Thomistic Philosophy,’ Review of Metaphysics 27 (1974), pp. 449-91, especially p. 470. Also see the sympathetic but critical comments of F. Wilhelmsen in his ‘Existence and Esse,’ New Scholasticism 50 (1976), pp. 20-45.”

Wippel then concludes the footnote with the following comment: “[W]ithout endorsing Fabro’s way of presenting it, I regard this distinction as extremely important.”

See John F. Wippel, The Metaphysical Thought of Thomas Aquinas (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2000) 31. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

0357: Existence versus Actus Essendi (II)

Entry 0357: Existence versus Actus Essendi (II) 

In a brief reflection on the issue of our knowledge of the real, Leo J. Elders begins by pointing out some examples of existential judgments:

“There are judgments which do not concern the intimate being of something such as e.g. our statements about God, whose being as it really is remains concealed from us.  

“There are statements such as ‘Socrates is wise’ and others such as ‘Socrates exists’” (p. 197; for full reference, see Leo J. Elders below).

About these examples Elders then raises these questions:

“What is the meaning of ‘existence’ in the second statement [‘Socrates exists’]? Is there a fundamental difference between the being of things, on the one hand, and being (existence) which is expressed by the existential judgment, on the other?” (pp. 197-198).

In answer to these questions Elders inserts this comment:

“[F]or Saint Thomas the verb (the copula) and the predicate together constitute one single predicate. A judgment consists of only two essential elements. Hence in a judgment such as ‘Socrates exists’ the verb alone is the predicate. [Footnote:] In II Perihermeias, I.2, n. 212: ‘…hoc verbum est quandoque in enunciatione praedicatur secundum se; ut cum dicitur, Socrates est: per quod nihil aliud intendimus significare, quam quod Socrates sit in rerum natura. Quandoque vero non praedicatur per se, quasi principale praedicatum, sed quasi coniunctum principali praedicato ad connectendum ipsum subiecto; sicut cum dicitur, Socrates est albus, non est intentio loquentis ut asserat Socratem esse in rerum natura, sed ut attribuat ei albedinem mediante hoc verbo, est; et ideo in talibus, est, praedicatur ut adiacens principali praedicato. Et dicitur esse tertium, non quia sit tertium praedicatum, sed quia est tertia dictio posita in enunciatione, quae simul cum nomine praedicato facit unum praedicatum, ut sic enunciatio dividatur in duas partes et non in tres’” (p. 198).

And then Elders offers the following remarks:

“With regard to the question  whether there is a difference between the existence (which is expressed by the judgment) and the ‘being real’ of things—a question to which Fabro replies affirmatively—our answer must be that the basic meaning of the verb ‘to be’ is that of the reality of every form, whether this is a substantial or an accidental essence, and that in the second place (ex consequenti) the verb expresses the composition of the subject and the predicate. [Footnote:] In I Perihermeneias, I,5,no. 73: ‘…hoc verbum est consignificat compositionem, quia non eam principaliter significat, sed ex consequenti; significat enim primo illud quod cadit in intellectu per modum actualitatis absolute: nam est, simpliciter dictum, significat in actu esse; et ideo significat per modum verbi. Quia vero actualitas, quam principaliter significat hoc verbum est, est communiter actualitas omnis formae, vel actus substantialis vel accidentalis, inde est quod cum volumus significare quamcumque formam vel actum actualiter inesse alicui subiecto, significamus illud per hoc verbum est, vel simpliciter vel secundum quid: simpliciter quidem secundum praesens tempus; secundum quid autem secundum alia tempora. Et ideo ex consequenti hoc verbum est significat compositionem.’ … [T]he term ‘actualitas,’ which signifies the proper meaning of the verb to be, is always connected to one or another thing of which it expresses the reality. …” (p. 198).

“Precisely because being expresses reality (actualitas) it means all reality, thus also accidental composition which is expressed in many of our judgments. …” (pp. 198-199).

“This means that the verb ‘to be’ really has one basic meaning, in which that of the reality of a composition is implied (as this is expressed in statements in which the predicate is joined to the subject). Usually in our daily language this composition coincides with, i.e., follows logically on reality as it is given” (p. 199).

“But in some cases there is no ‘being real’ to correspond without more to the composition of terms expressed in our judgment. This happens when we speak affirmatively of a privation, as in the sentence “Peter is blind,” but also in our statements about God: the judgment that God exists is certainly true, but because we cannot make any statement about God’s most intimate reality, which we do not know, ‘is’ in ‘God is’ means that our judgment is true but does not express God’s being as such. …” (p. 199).

The quotations are from Leo J. Elders, The Metaphysics of Being of St. Thomas Aquinas in a Historical Perspective (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1993), 197-199.

Elders seems not to give enough importance to Aquinas’s emphatic remarks about the two meanings of ens and esse:

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 (Summa Theologiae, part I, question 3, article 4, ad 2).

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.”

For Aquinas the constant counterpart of the metaphysical principle of actus essendi is the essence of the substance, that is to say, the essence of extramental subsisting things. Of course, in addition to the essence of the substance Aquinas also talks about the essence of the accidents. And regarding this John F. Wippel raises the following question: “Are there accidental acts of being which correspond to each accidental essence and which are distinct from the substantial act of being of their subject? Does he [Aquinas] defend a distinction of accidental being (esse) from accidental essence which parallels in some way the distinction between a substantial act of being and substantial essence?” (John F. Wippel, The Metaphysical Thought of Thomas Aquinas [Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2000] 253).

For Aquinas, the real composition of actus essendi and essence is found in the subsisting subject, not in the accidents. When applied to accidents, the esse/essence composition is not a real composition, it is only a compositio rationis:

Omne quod est in genere substantiae, est compositum reali compositione; eo quod id quod est in praedicamento substantiae est in suo esse subsistens, et oportet quod esse suum sit aliud quam ipsum, alias non posset differre secundum esse ab illis cum quibus convenit in ratione suae quidditatis; quod requiritur in omnibus quae sunt directe in praedicamento: et ideo omne quod est directe in praedicamento substantiae, compositum est saltem ex esse et quod est. Sunt tamen quaedam in praedicamento substantiae per reductionem, ut principia substantiae subsistentis, in quibus praedicta compositio non invenitur; non enim subsistunt, ideo proprium esse non habent. Similiter accidentia, quia non subsistunt, non est eorum proprie esse; sed subiectum est aliquale secundum ea; unde proprie dicuntur magis entis quam entia. Et ideo, ad hoc quod aliquid sit in praedicamento aliquo accidentis, non requiritur quod sit compositum compositione reali, sed solummodo compositione rationis ex genere et differentia” (De veritate, question 27, article 1, ad 8).

That is to say,

“Everything that is in the genus of substance is composite with a real composition, because whatever is in the category of substance is subsistent in its own esse, and its own act of being must be distinct from the thing itself; otherwise it could not be distinct in its esse from the other things with which it agrees in the formal character of its quiddity; for such agreement is required in all things that are directly in a category. Consequently everything that is directly in the category of substance is composed at least of the act of being and the subject of being. Yet there are some things in the category of substance reductively, such as the principles of a subsistent substance, in which the composition in question is not found; for they do not subsist, and therefore do not have their own act of being. In the same way, because accidents do not subsist, they do not properly have esse, but the subject is of a particular sort as a result of them. For this reason they are properly said to be “of a being” rather than beings. For something to be in some category of accident, then, it does not have to be composite with a real composition, but may have only a conceptual composition from genus and differentia.”

Anything that falls within any of the ten predicaments is composed of esse et quod quid est, idest essentia. This composition, however, is entirely different for things that fall within the predicament of substance and for things that fall within any of the other nine predicaments, the accidents. For in the predicament of substance the composition esse and essentia is a real composition, whereas in the accidents the compostion esse and essentia is only a conceptual composition. Wippel writes: “As he [Brown] sees things, Thomas rather is implying that presence in any genus, including the various predicamental accidents, requires a distinction between the essence and esse of that which falls therein” (John F. Wippel, The Metaphysical Thought of Thomas Aquinas [Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2000] 262. Wippel is referring to Barry F. Brown, Accidental Being: A Study in the Metaphysics of Saint Thomas Aquinas [Lanham, Md., 1985] 245-246). 

For Aquinas, in the case of accidents, the esse/essence composition is only conceptual. The esse accidentis is not a metaphysical principle, the esse substantiae is.

Elders fails to take into account the distinction between substantial essence (essentia substantiae) and accidental essence (essentia accidentis) in terms of their respective relationship to esse. In other words the concept of ‘being real’ that the accidents transmit is the being real of the subject in which the accident inhere. And regardless of whether or not the substantial essence of the subject is known, it is through the interaction with the accidental perfections of the things of nature that the human intellect begins to know the being real of the subject in which the accidents inhere.

In the history of one’s intellectual life, the experience of real things begins with the external senses. These experiences are stored in one’s memory. And it is well known that a child begins to discriminate the being real of his mother from the being real of others as early as four to six months of age. It is from these early experiences that in due course intellectual awareness of the real emerges in the soul.

Actualitas per prius invenitur in subiecto formae accidentalis, quam in forma accidentali, unde actualitas formae accidentalis causatur ab actualitate subiecti” (Summa Theologiae, part I, question 77, article 6, corpus).

That is to say,

"Actuality belongs to the subject of the accidental form prior to its belonging to the accidental form; wherefore the actuality of the accidental form is caused by the actuality of the subject." 

Monday, June 9, 2014

0356: The Self-Evident Connotation of the
Actus Essendi (XVIII)

Entry 0356: The Self-Evident Connotation of the
Actus Essendi

What exactly does the human intellect grasp as self-evident
in its interaction with the actus essendi
of subsisting extramental realities?

Important clues towards an answer to this question are provided by Leo Elders in his reflections on being in chapter 1 of his The Metaphysics of Being of St. Thomas Aquinas. Thus Elders writes:

“The being that presents itself immediately to human experience is created being; it is, however, known by means of an abstract concept which does not explicitly indicate that it is created being. [Footnote]: I, 44,1, ad 1: Being caused does not belong to the notion of being as such; nevertheless, it is consequent upon those things which belongs to its notion” (Leo J. Elders, The Metaphysics of Being of St. Thomas Aquinas in a Historical Perspective [Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1993], 38).

The complete answer to objection 1 of Summa Theologiae, part I, question 44, article 1, reads as follows: “Ad primum ergo dicendum quod, licet habitudo ad causam non intret definitionem entis quod est causatum, tamen sequitur ad ea qua sunt de eius ratione, quia ex hoc quod aliquid per participationem est ens, sequitur quod sit causatum ab alio. Unde huiusmodi ens non potest esse, quin sit causatum; sicut nec homo, quin sit risibile. Sed quia esse causatum non est de ratione entis simpliciter, propter hoc invenitur aliquod ens non causatum.”

Elders then continues:

St. Thomas confirms emphatically that being is the first concept that enters the human mind. He recalls that Avicenna taught this, but he finds it already in Proclus. [Footnote]: In I Metaph., lectio 2, n. 46; In Librum de causis, prop.6, n.174. Cf. Avicenna, Metaphysica I 6,f.72,r.2” (L. J. Elders, The Metaphysics of Being, 39).

“The insight that being is the first concept, also implies that things and the world are experienced by us directly, i.e. it is the basis of Thomist realism which excludes all doubt about what is immediately perceived and asserts that the position of critical realism is untenable. [Footnote]: Critical realism asserts that one must first investigate whether our knowledge  can really grasp reality. — However, if it is not immediately evident to us that we  do so right away, how can we ever be certain about it? See E. Gilson, Realisme thomiste et critique de la connaissance, Paris 1939, 77” (L. J. Elders, The Metaphysics of Being, 39).

“Thus the first concept we acquire is general and as yet indeterminate. But ‘indeterminate’ does not mean empty or bereft of meaning and reality, as was suggested by Nietzsche who called concepts like being ‘the last puff of smoke of evaporating reality.’ [Footnote]: Gotzen-Dammerung VIII 78.

On the contrary, being means all that is real and stores within itself the reality of everything that exists in one way or another. Given that ‘being’ is the first thought we have, we cannot clarify or define it by means of something else. We can only say that being means ‘that which is.’ Apparently there is a kind of duality in our concept of being which we explicitate by this expression. That which is most proper to and most profound in being is not [sic] ‘THAT which is’ but ‘BEING REAL.’ Aquinas states this repeatedly and emphatically: ‘The meaning and kernel of being lies in the act of being and not in that to which the act of being is attributed’ [Footnote]: veritate 1, 1 ad sed contra 3: ‘Ratio entis ab actu essendi sumitur, non ab eo cui convenit actus essendi.’

‘Being states no essence but merely the act of being’ [Footnote]: In VI Metaph., lectio 2, n. 553: ‘Ens autem non dicit quidditatem sed solum actum essendi;’ ‘Ens imponitur ab actu essendi.’

‘The noun being (ens) is derived from the being (esse) of the thing’ [Footnote]: In I Sent., d. 25, q. l, a. 4: ‘Nomen entis sumitur ab esse rei.’ This means that our first concept ‘that which is’ is derived from the things that are real and expresses this ‘being real’ common to all existing things. However, our concept of the verb ‘to be’ is derived from the noun ‘being’ as St. Thomas explicitly says” (L. J. Elders, The Metaphysics of Being, 39-40).

“In these statements Aquinas refers to the fact that our concept of being means in the first place and in its formal sense the being real of a thing and in the second place that to which this being real is attributed. [Footnote]: Silvester Ferrariensis calls this ‘ens particulariter sumptum’ (In I Contra Gentes, c.25, VIII). 

This concept, however, is not yet the concept of being as a verb (esse), which we acquire by a further abstraction from what we experience in our statements about reality – in the so-called second operation of the intellect” (L. J. Elders, The Metaphysics of Being, 40).

“The concept of being (something that is really) is abstracted by us from the concrete things with which our senses bring us into contact and which they present to us. The content of the concept of being is not this individual real thing, but the ‘being real’ of something thought in a general concept which as general exists only in our intellect, even though in forming this concept, we know, — because of the cooperation of the sense-faculties with the intellect, — that an individual reality is present. [Footnote]: S.C.G. I, 26: ‘Multo igitur minus et ipsum esse commune est aliquid praeter omnes res existentes nisi in intellectu solum’” (L. J. Elders, The Metaphysics of Being, 40).

In other words, the human intellect first abstracts the concept of “being real” as such, independent of any subject, and second, through the so-called second operation of the human intellect we express this being real through propositions and in relation to things which are concretely present to us in and by means of sense perception. (See ibid.) 

Monday, June 2, 2014

0355: Existence versus Actus Essendi (I)

Entry 0355: Existence versus Actus Essendi (I) 

Commentary on In I Sententiarum, distinction 8, question 5, article 2, corpus 

John F. Wippel remarks that in the text from In I Sententiarum, distinction 8, question 5, article 2, corpus, Aquinas uses the expression actus essendi to refer to the metaphysical principle which goes side by side with the metaphysical principle essence.

Here is the text from In I Sententiarum, distinction 8, question 5, article 2, corpus:

In compositis autem ex materia et forma ‘quo est’ potest dici tripliciter. Potest enim dici ‘quo est’ ipsa forma partis, quae dat esse materiae. Potest etiam dici ‘quo est’ ipse actus essendi, scilicet esse, sicut quo curritur, est actus currendi. Potest etiam dici ‘quo est’ ipsa natura quae relinquitur ex conjunctione formae cum materia, ut humanitas; praecipue secundum ponentes quod forma, quae est totum, quae dicitur quidditas, non est forma partis, de quibus est Avicenna.

Wippel explains that in this text Aquinas “contrasts the composition of quiddity and esse (actus essendi) in souls and angels with God’s simplicity… It is quo est taken in this sense (esse = actus essendi) which enters into composition with quiddity or essence in the soul and in angels: … Et hoc modo intelligo in angelis compositionem potentiae et actus, et de ‘quo est’ et ‘quod est’, et similiter in anima. Unde angelus vel anima potest dici quidditas vel natura vel forma simplex, inquantum eorum quidditas non componitur ex diversis; tamen advenit sibi compositio horum duorum, scilicet quidditatis et esse [In I Sent., 8, 5, 2, c]” (John F. Wippel, Metaphysical Themes in Thomas Aquinas II, [Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2007], 99).

According to Wippel, Aquinas does use the term esse to mean simple facticity, but at times Aquinas uses the term to signify “a thing’s intrinsic act of being esse (actus essendi) which is the ultimate intrinsic explanation for that fact” (Ibid.) In other words, there is in Aquinas “a unique view of esse as an intrinsic actus essendi which enters into composition with essence in finite beings and is really distinct from it” (Ibid., 98)