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Monday, July 7, 2014

0360: The Question 'An Est' and Actus Essendi

Entry 0360: The Question An Estand Actus Essendi 

In Quodlibet 9, question 2, article 2, Aquinas presents the following objection when addressing the issue of whether there is only one esse in Christ:

Unicuique est attribuendum esse de quo convenienter quaeri potest an est. Sed de humana natura potest quaeri an est. Ergo humana natura habet esse proprium in Christo. Et sic est in eo duplex esse, cum etiam divina natura suum esse habeat.”

That is to say:

Esse must be attributed to each and every thing, about which we can fittingly ask an est (‘does it exist?’) But it is possible to ask whether human nature exists; therefore human nature has its own esse in Christ, and thus there is a two-fold esse in Him, since the divine nature also has its esse.”

In the body of the article Aquinas offers the following remark:

Dicendum, quod esse, dupliciter dicitur. … Uno modo, secundum quod est copula verbalis significans compositionem cuiuslibet enuntiationis quam anima facit: unde hoc esse non est aliquid in rerum natura, sed tantum in actu animae componentis et dividentis. Et sic esse attribuitur omni ei de quo potest propositio formari, sive sit ens, sive privatio entis; dicimus enim caecitatem esse. Alio modo esse dicitur actus entis in quantum est ens, idest quo denominatur aliquid ens actu in rerum natura” (Quodlibet 9, question 2, article 2, corpus).

That is to say:

“I answer that the term esse is used in two ways. … It is used in one way, insofar as it is a verbal copula signifying the composition of any enunciation which the mind produces, hence esse taken in this way does not signify something real in nature, but something that exists only in the mind in the act of composing and dividing; and in this sense being (esse) is attributed to everything about which a proposition can be formed, whether it is a subsisting thing in nature (ens) or a privation: for we say that there is blindness. In another way esse means the act of a being (actus entis) of something subsisting in nature (actus entis in quantum est ens), i.e. that by which something is called an actual being (ens actu) in reality.”

In answer to the objection Aquinas writes:

 “Obiectio illa procedit de esse quod in actu animae consistit, quia an est, etiam de caecitate quaeri potest” (Ibid., ad 4).

That is to say:

“That objection proceeds from that esse which consists in an act of the mind, since it is also possible to ask ‘an est’ (‘does it exist?’) of blindness.”

There is a fundamental distinction between (a) the being (esse) which responds to the question whether a thing exists (the question an est) and (b) the being (esse) which refers to the metaphysical principle of actus essendi. The distinction between these two senses of esse was very clear to Aquinas:

Being (esse) is twofold. In one way it is considered as signifying the actus essendi. In another sense esse conveys just the composition of a proposition effected by the mind in joining a predicate to a subject. In this second sense, being (esse) is what answers the question whether a thing exists.

Thus he writes:

Ad secundum dicendum quod ‘esse’ dupliciter dicitur: uno modo, significat actum essendi; alio modo, significat compositionem propositionis, quam anima adinvenit coniungens praedicatum subiecto” (Summa theologiae, part I, question 3, article 4, ad 2, Rome: Leonine edition, 1888, vol. 4, p. 42, lines 31b-35b).

Esse et est significant compositionem propositionis. … Unde veritas propositionis potest dici veritas rei per causam. Nam ex eo quod res est vel non est, oratio vera vel falsa est. … Sciendum est autem quod iste secundus modus comparatur ad primum, sicut effectus ad causam. Ex hoc enim quod aliquid in rerum natura est, sequitur veritas et falsitas in propositione, quam intellectus significat per hoc verbum ‘est’ prout est verbalis copula” (In V Metaphysicorum, lectio 9, paragraphs 11-12, Rome: Marietti edition, 1950, p. 239).

Ista compositio quam significat hoc verbum ‘est,’ non potest intelligi sine componentibus. … Ideo autem dicit quod 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 esse actu” (In I Perihermeneias, lectio 5, Rome: Leonine edition, 1989, vol. 1, p. 31, lines 386-396).

Alio modo dicitur ens, quod significat veritatem propositionis, quae in compositione consistit, cuius nota est hoc verbum ‘est,’ et hoc est ens quo respondetur ad quaestionem ‘an est’” (Summa theologiae, part I, question 48, article 2, ad 2, Rome: Leonine edition, 1888, vol. 4, p. 492, lines 10b-14b).

Esse autem pertinere videtur ad quaestionem an est” (De spiritualibus creaturis, article 8, ad 3, Rome: Leonine edition, 2000, vol. 24, p. 83, lines 344-345).

Cum omne quod est praeter essentiam rei dicatur accidens, esse quod pertinet ad quaestionem an est, est accidens” (Quaestiones quodlibetales, no. 2, question 2, article 1, corpus, Rome: Leonine edition, 1996, vol. 25, p. 215, lines 62-63).

Esse secundum quod significat ‘veritatem propositionis’ … potest dici non tantum de his quae sunt in re, sed de his quae sunt in intellectu” (In III Sententiarum, distinction 6, question 2, article 2, ad 5, Paris: M. F. Moos, ed., 1933, vol. 3, p. 240).

Obviously, the term actus essendi has for Aquinas a more restricted meaning than that of esse. Thus, when Aquinas explains what he means by the esse of accidents and by the esse of privations, it is clear that Aquinas is not introducing a second sense of the term actus essendi to be applied to accidents and privations. (See De veritate, question 27, article 1, ad 8. The text can be found in Entry 357, “Existence versus Actus Essendi (II).” See also comments therein.)