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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."