Monday, September 15, 2014

Dating of the Texts in which Aquinas
Uses the Expression actus essendi

Text no. 12

Entry 0370: Dating of the Texts in which Aquinas
Uses the Expression actus essendi 

Aquinas uses the expression actus essendi only once in his Commentary on Aristotle’s Metaphysics, in the commentary on book 4, lecture 2, paragraph no. 6.

 Text no. 12: Commentary on Aristotle’s Metaphysics, book 4, lectio 2.

Aquinas’s Commentary on the Metaphysics seems to have been written between 1270 and 1272. Here are some remarks concerning the date of composition of this work.

Commenting on the derivation of the predicaments reported in the Commentary on Aristotle’s Physics and in the Commentary on Aristotle’s Metaphysics, John F. Wippel notes that “While there is no substantial disagreement between these two attempts on Thomas's part to derive the ten predicaments, we may wonder which comes later in time. It is as difficult to answer this question with certainty as it is to determine whether the Commentary on the Metaphysics is prior to the Commentary on the Physics, or perhaps vice versa. In fact, Weisheipl suggested that Thomas may have been working on the two commentaries at approximately the same time -- the Physics (at Paris from 1270 to 1271) and the Metaphysics (at Paris, and possibly at Naples, from 1269 to 1272). As Weisheipl also warns, we should not assume that Thomas composed his Commentary on the Metaphysics, at least in its final version, in the order in which we number its books today. While accepting this final point, Torrell places the Commentary on the Physics during the earlier part of Thomas's second teaching period at Paris, ca. 1268-1269. Although he acknowledges the uncertainties surrounding the dating of the Commentary on the Metaphysics, he suggests that its beginning may date from the academic year 1270-1271, with the Commentary on Books VII-XII falling after mid-1271 but before 1272-1273. Since Torrell has been able to take into account more recent research concerning this, he should be followed on this point. Consequently, it now appears that Thomas's derivation of the predicaments in his Commentary on the Metaphysics expresses his most mature thought on this issue” (John F. Wippel, The Metaphysical Thought of Thomas Aquinas [Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2000], 223-224).

Torrell points out that by the end of 1271, Thomas had adopted the numbering of the books of the Metaphysics of William of Moerbeke’s translation. This fact,” Torrell explains, is too little known by the average reader of Saint Thomas, but its importance is great. Until Moerbeke’s translation, one referred to the Metaphysics according to the translation by Michael Scot or according to the Translatio media, which was anonymous; both having omitted book Kappa, the book designated Lambda was referred to as book XI. William of Moerbeke is the first to translate book Kappa, which in his translation will become XI, while the book Lambda will become book XII. This criterion has permitted us to divide Saint Thomas’s works into two series, the one which dates before the Moerbecana, where the book Lambda is called XI, the other which dates from after the Moerbecana, when book Lambda is called XII. … The key date, which is to say the date when Saint Thomas knew the Moerbecana of the Metaphysics, is situated towards the middle or the end of 1271” (Jean-Pierre Torrell, Saint Thomas Aquinas: The Person and His Work - Volume 1, trans. Robert Royal [Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2005], 225, n. 2).

Torrell, however, affirms that “The date and place of composition for the commentary on Aristotle’s Metaphysics pose numerous problems. The designation of Book Lambda as Book XII, a title that Thomas adopted toward the middle of 1271, invites us to date the commentary on Books VII-XII after that date. The beginning of the commentary may date from the academic year 1270-71. The commentary on Books II and III may be the fruit of self-correction or of later editing. Begun in Paris, the composition of this work may have been finished in Naples. The only sure thing, in the current state of research, is that this text is earlier than the De caelo et mundo, probably composed in Naples, 1272-73” (Torrell, Saint Thomas Aquinas, 344).