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Monday, January 26, 2015

0390: Commentary on Actus Essendi – Text no. 6



Entry 0390: Commentary on 

De veritatequestion 1, article 1, ad 1 


In De veritate, question 1, article 1, Aquinas explicitly uses the expression actus essendi five times: once in the corpus, once in the response to the first objection, and three times in the response to the third argument in the sed contra. In this post I shall comment on the context surrounding the text presented in the 
response to the first objection.

After having established in the corpus that the term verum expresses a modus essendi that the term ens does not express (see also De veritate, question 1, article 10, ad 2), Aquinas explains in his answer to the first objection that from the definition of Saint Augustine—“verum est id quod est”—one cannot conclude that “verum means exactly the same as ens.” In other words, the statement “verum est id quod est” and the statement “ens est id quod est” are not equivalent statements.

In the body of the article, Aquinas had already established that the res significata of the term ens is the metaphysical principle of actus essendi instantiated in the self-subisting things of nature. Now the reasoning presented in the present objection allows him to explain that this primary meaning of ens extends to the verb “est.”

In the statement “ens est id quod est,” the “est” of the “id quod est” has indeed the actus essendi as its primary meaning. But in the statement “verum est id quod est,” the “est” of the “id quod est” has a wider scope, since this “est” can by extension refer to the qualified esse of the second operation of the intellect.

The res significata which functions as the direct object of a particular act of intellection quite often is not a self-subsisting thing. However, the human intellect always attributes some sort of esse to any object of intellection and the intellect seeks to make this attribution correctly, that is to say, the intellect attributes esse in conformity with the reality of the apprehended object. Accidents, for example, are not subsisting entities, but when accidents are grasped as the res significata of an act of intellection, accidents are credited with esse in a qualified sense.

Aquinas understands that for the term “ens” in its meaning of “id quod est” there are two elements, the “quod” and the “est.” But Aquinas emphasizes that the composition thus signified does not possess the elements required for it to be a “composition which is susceptible of truth and falsity.” (See Jan A. Aertsen Medieval Philosophy and the Transcendentals: The Case of Thomas Aquinas [Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1996], 180.) Accordingly, in his answer to the present objection Aquinas explains that in the definition of verum given by Saint Augustine, the “est” of the “id quod est” does not refer to the unqualified esse which he calls actus essendi; in the definition of verum given by Saint Augustine, the “est” of the “id quod est” refers to a qualified esse to which the connotation of true and false applies (ut sit sensus: verum est “id quod est,” id est cum dicitur esse de aliquo quod est).

In explaining his understanding both of the res significata and of the ratio significata of the verb esse as used in the third person of the present indicative tense (the Latin “est”), Aquinas clearly demarcates two kinds of esse: (1) unqualified esse which is the actus essendi instantiated by the self-subisting things of nature, and (2) qualified esse which is the esse of anything that in any way whatsoever can be said to be. 

The human intellect directs its attention to the res significata through an intellectual conception, and the primary meaning of the verb “est” is indeed the actus essendi of a subsisting thing. But by extension the meaning of “est” can accommodate also the intellectual conception of any other perfection that inheres in a subsisting thing. Even the intellectual conception of lack of a perfection or figments of the imagination can by extension be accommodated under the meaning of “est.”

Here is the objection and the response in the words of Aquinas:

Objection: Augustinus in lib. Solil. (cap v) dicit, quod verum est id quod est. Sed id quod est, nihil est nisi ens. Ergo verum significat omnino idem quod ens.

Answer: Ad primum ergo dicendum quod definitio illa Augustini datur de veritate secundum quod habet fundamentum in re, et non secundum id quod ratio veri completur in adaequatione rei ad intellectum. Vel dicendum, quod cum dicitur verum est “id quod est,” li “est” non accipitur ibi secundum quod significat actum essendi, sed secundum quod est nota intellectus componentis, prout scilicet affirmationem propositionis significat, ut sit sensus: verum est “id quod est,” id est cum dicitur esse de aliquo quod est.

Regarding the way Aquinas interprets the definition of verum given by Saint Augustine, John F. Wippel writes:

“[I]n replying to the first objection, Thomas suggests, as he had already done in the corpus, that Augustine’s first-mentioned definition of truth as ‘that which is’ might be taken as referring only to truth’s foundation in reality, not to its nature as perfected through an adequation of a thing to an intellect. Or it might be reinterpreted much as Thomas had previously suggested in his Commentary on I Sentences so as to refer not to a thing’s act of being (actus essendi) but only to the being produced by the intellect when it judges (composes and divides). In other words, it might be shifted from truth of being to truth of the intellect” (J. F. Wippel, Metaphysical Themes in Thomas Aquinas II [Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2007], 80).

In the footnote to this paragraph Wippel quotes the Leonine edition (Leon. 22.1.6.), and then adds: “Note from the second solution: ‘Vel dicendum quod cum dicitur verum est id quod est, li est non accipitur ibi secundum quod significat actum essendi sed secundum quod est nota intellectus componentis, prout scilicet affirmationem propositionis significat … ut sic in idem redeat definitio Augustini cum definitione Philosophi supra inducta’ (lines 205-213). Note Thomas’s explicit reference to est as not signifying the act of being on this reading. This would suggest that in referring to truth as grounded in a thing’s esse in In I Sent., d. 19, q. 5, a. 1, Thomas may also have in mind a thing’s intrinsic act of being rather than its mere facticity (nn. 6-7 above). Cf. my The Metaphysical thought, pp. 31-33.)”

J. A. Aertsen for his part points out that the central place that Aquinas gives to the definition of truth as adaequatio in his arrangement of the definitions of truth in the corpus of the article implies a criticism to the definition of Augustine. Aertsen writes: “Thomas arranges the various definitions of truth from the tradition on the basis of the three elements contained in the conformity formula: the thing, the intellect, and the relation between these two” (J. A. Aertsen, Medieval Philosophy and the Transcendentals: The Case of Thomas Aquinas [Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1996], 253).

The adaequatio relation, Aertsen explains, is a relation between the intellect and the extra-mental thing, which means that the intellect pertains to the essence of truth. Thus, Aertsen stresses that Augustine’s definition is too limited and is imperfect because it concerns only the foundation of truth. Aertsen then continues: “Thomas criticizes Augustine’s definition (‘that which is’) that it does not express the complete concept of truth, which consists in the conformity of thing and intellect. He also proposes an alternative interpretation that understands Augustine’s definition in an Aristotelian sense. When truth is defined as ‘that which is,’ this ‘is’ must be taken as signifying the affirmation of a proposition; its meaning then is that there is truth when that-which-is is said to be. Augustine’s definition is transformed into the sense of intra-mental being [being as verbal copula], which the Philosopher called ‘that which is true’” (Aertsen, Medieval Philosophy and the Transcendentals, 256).

The conclusion of Aertsen is that “Augustine’s definition does not express fully the essence of truth; it is in relation to the intellect that a thing is called true according to what it is and false according to what it is not.” In support of this Aertsen refers to De veritate, question 1, article 10, ad 1: “Ad primum ergo dicendum, quod ista definitio, verum est id quod est, non perfecte exprimit rationem veritatis, sed quasi materialiter tantum, nisi secundum quod li esse significat affirmationem propositionis, ut scilicet dicatur id esse verum quod sic esse dicitur vel intelligitur ut in rebus est; et sic etiam falsum dicatur quod non est, id est quod non est ut dicitur vel intelligitur; et hoc in rebus inveniri potest.” (See Aertsen, Medieval Philosophy and the Transcendentals, 279.)

There is no room for doubt that in De veritate, question 1, article 1, ad 1, the res significata of the expression “actus essendi” is the intrinsic metaphysical principle which accounts for the being real of an extramental subsisting thing.