View Articles

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.