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Monday, January 12, 2015

0388: Commentary on Actus Essendi – Text no. 4



Entry 0388: Commentary on 

In III Sententiarumdistinction 11, question 1, article 2, ad 2 


In this article Aquinas asks whether Christ can be said to be creatura. In answering the question Aquinas structures an argument based on the primary signification of the analogous term esse.


With the expression simpliciter et per se (as opposed to secundum quid et per accidens) Aquinas emphasizes that the primary meaning of the term esse refers to the esse that belongs to the subsisting suppositum. Aquinas explains that esse can be said to belong to form (forma) because the subsisting suppositum is essentially composed of matter and form; and for the same reason, esse can be said to belong to matter. In the material world, matter and form are the essential principles of a subsisting suppositum, that is, the composite. Similarly, esse can be said to belong to accidents because accidents inhere in the subsisting suppositum. Thus when esse is said of form, or when esse is said of matter, or when esse is said of accidents, esse is said in a qualified sense. Only of the subsisting suppositum is esse affirmed simpliciter et per se. And it is only because of the relation of matter, form, and accidents to the esse of the subsisting suppositum that matter, form, and accidents can be said to possess esse in a qualified sense.

The esse of the subsisting suppositum is said to come into existence per modum creationis. But the esse of the quiddity (which is the material nature composed of matter and form) and the esse of accidents, are said to come into existence per modum informationis. According to Aquinas, Aristotle postulated that the world always existed with a constant uninterrupted flow of generation and corruption of things, and that it was through such beginningless and endless chain of perishable pre-existing materials that Aristotle understood how things come into existence in the visible world per modum informationis. While preserving some elements of such conception of the world, Aquinas understood things differently, since for Aquinas a subsisting suppositum ultimately comes into existence per modum creationis.

Now in the case of human beings, the simpliciter et per se meaning of esse refers to the esse of the person. Thus, the affirmation Christus est signifies the personal esse of Christ, not the esse of His nature, nor the esse of His accidents, and certainly not the esse of any of the essential principles of His Most Holy Humanity, all of which can be said to possess esse only in a qualified sense.

The union of the divine nature and the human nature takes place in only one suppositum which is the divine suppositum, the only suppositum that Christ has. In Christ there is no human suppositum. In Christ there is no human person. Christ is only one person, the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, the person in whom the hypostatic union of two natures, the human and the divine, takes place.

Therefore, Christ cannot be said to be creatura. The esse of Christ is only one, that is, the divine, uncreated esse. Christ is not creatura, but just as esse can be said in a qualified sense of matter, form, and accidents, some things can be said to be created in Christ.

Thus Aquinas writes:

“Respondeo dicendum, quod creatio proprie respicit esse rei: unde dicitur in Lib. De Causis, quod esse est per creationem, alia vero per informationem. Esse autem simpliciter et per se est suppositi subsistentis; alia vero dicuntur esse, inquantum suppositum in eis subsistit, vel essentialiter, sicut materia et forma, et sic natura ipsa dicitur esse; vel accidentaliter, sicut accidentia dicuntur esse. Esse ergo dictum simpliciter de supposito significat esse personale ipsius; esse vero, secundum quod convenit parti vel accidenti, non dicitur simpliciter de supposito, sed suppositum dicitur esse in eo; unde cum dico: ‘Christus est,’ significatur esse ipsius, non autem esse ipsius naturae, vel accidentis, vel partis. Cum autem fiat unio naturarum in esse suppositi secundum secundam opinionem, esse, secundum quod Christus simpliciter esse dicitur, est esse increatum; unde non potest dici creatura, non tantum ad evitandum errorem Arii, ut quidam dicunt, sed etiam ad vitandum falsitatem. Potest tamen dici, quod aliquid creatum est in Christo, scilicet humana natura; quia esse quamvis sit unum, tamen respectum habet ad naturam et ad partes ejus, secundum quas humana natura dicitur esse in Christo, vel partes aut accidentia ejus, ut supra, dist. 6, dictum est. Unde sicut esse aliquo modo ad naturam pertinet, et ad partes et accidentia ejus, ita et creatio” (In III Sententiarum, distinction 11, question 1, article 2, corpus).

With this background Aquinas proceeds to answer the following objection: When there are lower categories contained in a higher category, things that are contained in a lower category are also contained in the higher. Now the category of man (homo), and several other categories, belong to the wider category of creatura. Therefore, if we affirm that Christ is man, as we do when we confess our faith, we should also affirm that Christ is creatura.

To this objection Aquinas responds with a flat negation of the assumption that creatura is a wider category than the category of man (homo). One reason is that what comes into existence per modum creationis is the esse of the subsisting suppositum, not its quiddity. Now the esse of the subsisting supposita do not generate a category or genus as their quidditas does: what is common to things contained in a category or genus is their quiddity, not their esse. Or better explained, the intellectual conception expressed by the term creatura cannot be said to be superior to the intellectual conception expressed by the term man (homo) on account of the way these conceptions relate to the quiddity of man. The activity of creation, Aquinas affirms, does not relate to quiddity except through the actus essendi which is the first of created things (primus terminus creationis). Therefore, on the side of the quiddity, Christ may be said to have a created humanity, but on the side of the actus essendi, the person of Christ does not come into existence per modum creationis. The actus essendi of the person of Christ is the uncreated actus essendi of God.

Here is the objection as Aquinas wrote it, and the response in his own words:

“Praeterea, de quocumque praedicatur inferius, et superius. Sed creatura est superius ad hominem. Ergo cum homo praedicetur de Christo, creatura de ipso praedicabitur” (In III Sententiarum, distinction 11, question 1, article 2, argument 2).

“Ad secundum dicendum, quod creatura non est superius ad hominem: quia creatio magis respicit esse quam naturam. Esse autem non est genus, nec inducitur in significatione alicujus generis, ut dicit Avicenna, cum ea quae sunt in uno genere, non conveniant in uno esse, sed in natura communi. Vel dicendum, quod creatura non est superius ad hominem, significans quid est homo: quia creatio non respicit naturam vel essentiam, nisi mediante actu essendi; qui est primus terminus creationis. Humana autem natura in Christo non habet aliud esse perfectum, quod est esse hypostasis, quam esse divinae personae; et ideo, simpliciter loquendo, creatura dici non potest: quia intelligeretur quod esse perfectum hypostasis Christi per creationem esset acquisitum” (In III Sententiarum, distinction 11, question 1, article 2, ad 2).

This text is important because it explicitly manifests how Aquinas conceived the connection between the notion of creation and the notion of actus essendi: (1) “Creatio proprie respicit esse rei,” and (2) Actus essendiest primus terminus creationis.”

For Aquinas esse, in its meaning of actus essendi, belongs properly to that which has esse, that is, to what subsists in its own esse. Thus, properly speaking what comes into existence per modum creationis is the subisting things of nature. Accordingly, in the Summa Theologiae Aquinas writes: “Proprie vero creata sunt subsistentia” (part I, question 45, article 4, corpus.)

There is no room for doubt that in this text the res significata of the term actus essendi is taken to be the absolute actuality of the subsisting suppositum. And clear as well is the fact that the intellectual conception signified by the term "creation" is understood through the ratio significata of the expression actus essendi.