View Articles

Monday, March 30, 2015

0399: Commentary on Actus Essendi
– Text no. 13 (C1)



Entry 0399: Commentary on Expositio in librum   

Boetii De hebdomadibuslecture 2, paragraph no. 5 


In his commentary on Boethius’s De Hebdomadibus Aquinas uses the expression actus essendi twice, in lecture 2: “Sicut possumus dicere de eo quod currit sive de currente quod currat inquantum subiicitur cursui et participat ipsum, ita possumus dicere quod ens sive id quod est sit inquantum participat actum essendi. (…) Sed id quod est, accepta essendi forma, scilicet suscipiendo ipsum actum essendi, est, atque consistit, idest in seipso subsistit; non enim ens dicitur proprie et per se nisi de substantia cuius est subsistere.

Since the publication of Cornelio Fabro’s works on participation (in 1939 and 1960), the In librum Boetii De hebdomadibus expositio has received considerable attention. Thus, before offering my own commentary on the context surrounding the text where Aquinas explicitly employs the expression actus essendi in his In De hebdomadibus, I shall first review some of the comments that have been offered by other authors in the relatively recent period since Fabro’s books.

C.1. Jan A. Aertsen

From the passages from Jan A. Aertsen’s “Thomas Aquinas: A First Model” reported below we take the following points:

(a) Aertsen argues that original to Aquinas is the foundational aspect with which he characterizes the transcendental notions in the commentary on Boethius’s De hebdomadibus. According to Aertsen, Aquinas endorses Aristotle’s reduction of the scientia to principles per se nota and Avicenna’s reduction of our concepts to primary notions, but goes one step further. For Aquinas that which is first in the order of concepts founds that which is first in the order of propositions.

(b) With reference to the two kinds of “common conceptions of the soul” that Boethius distinguishes in his De hebdomadibus, Aquinas introduces a distinction that is based on the reduction of these common principles to the terms of which they are composed. Some axioms are universally self-evident, because the terms of these propositions are known to all (omnibus). Other propositions are self-evident only to the learned, who understand the meaning of the terms of such propositions. Aquinas reduces Boethius’s first kind of ‘common conceptions’ to the transcendental terms ens, unum and bonum.

(c) According to Aertsen, Aquinas identifies the Boethian communis conceptio animi with the Aristotelian principium per se notum. Thus, the highlighted originality proves that Aquinas understands the axiom diversum est esse et id quod est as a self-evident principle of the kind that is self-evident to all.

In what follows I report passages form J. A. Aertsen’s “Thomas Aquinas: A First Model,” chapter VI in his Medieval Philosophy as Transcendental Thought: From Philip the Chancellor (ca. 1225) to Francisco Suárez (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2012).

“Thomas wrote commentaries on two works of Boethius, which was quite unusual in the century after the aetas Boetiana. He composed a commentary on De trinitate, which is a significant source for his epistemological and methodological views, and a commentary on De hebdomadibus, the most important metaphysical treatise of the Boethian age. Aquinas interprets the axiomatic structure of this treatise from the perspective of the transcendentals. The nine axioms put forward by Boethius can be reduced to ‘the most common conceptions’ (maxime communia) ‘being’ (axioms 2-6), ‘one’ (axioms 7-8) and ‘good’ (axiom 9). Through these three notions Aquinas is able to give an order and depth structure to Boethius’s axioms, which remain altogether implicit in De hebdomadibus itself” (Medieval Philosophy as Transcendental Thought, 209).

Footnote: Thomas Aquinas, Expositio libri De ebdomadibus, lect. 2 (ed. Commissio Leonina, in: Opera Omnia, Vol. L, Rome 1992, p. 270): “et ideo primo ponit hic Boetius quasdam conceptiones pertinentes ad ens, secundo quasdam pertinentes ad unum ex quo sumitur ratio simplicis et compositi (…); tercio ponit quasdam conceptiones pertinentes ad bonum.” For this commentary, cf. R. te Velde, Participation and Substantiality in Thomas Aquinas, LeidenNew York – Köln 1995 (Studien und Texte zur Geistesgeschichte des Mittelalters, 46), pp. 8-44.

“In his account of the transcendentals in De veritate q. 1, a. 1, Aquinas adopts Avicenna’s argument for the necessity of primary notions. The argument rests on an analogy between the order of demonstration and the conceptual order. Just as propositions, so the conceptions of the human intellect must be reduced to principles known per se. But in later writings, Aquinas goes a step further in comparison with both Avicenna and his own account in De veritate q. 1, a. 1.” There is not only an analogy between both orders, but also a relation of foundation: that which is first in the order of concepts founds that which is first in the order of propositions. This ‘foundational’ aspect of the transcendentals, an original element of Aquinas’s doctrine, will be analyzed in the present section” (Medieval Philosophy as Transcendental Thought, 239-240).

“The central moment in the search for foundation is the idea of a continuing reduction in addition to Aristotle’s reduction of the scientia to principles per se nota and Avicenna’s reduction of our concepts to primary notions: self-evident principles must be reduced to the terms of which they are composed. This idea was inspired by Boethius’s work De hebdomadibus, on which Aquinas wrote a commentary. He was not only interested in the metaphysical problem of this treatise, the relation between being and goodness, but also in its methodology” (Medieval Philosophy as Transcendental Thought, 240).

“In De hebdomadibus, Boethius puts forward nine axioms, of which the first one provides a general description of the cognitive status of these axioms: ‘a common conception of the soul (communis animi conceptio) is a statement that anyone approves as he hears it.’ Boethius adds that these conceptions are of two kinds. One is common in that all men possess it, as, for instance, the proposition ‘If you take equals from two equals, the remainders are equal’ (= the third axiom in Euclid’s Elements). The other kind of common conception is known only to the learned, as ‘Things which are incorporeal are not in space’” (Medieval Philosophy as Transcendental Thought, 240).

Footnote: Boethius, De hebdomadibus (ed. Moreschini, in: De Consolatione Philosophiae—Opuscula Theologica, Leipzig 2000 (Bibliotheca Teubneriana), p. 187): “Ut igitur in mathematica fieri solet ceterisque etiam disciplinis, praeposui terminus regulasque quibus cuncta quae sequuntur efficiam. (I) Communis animi conception est enuntiatio, quam quisque probat auditam. Harum duplex modus est. Nam una ita communis est, ut omnium sit hominum (…) Alia vero est doctorum tantum, quae tamen ex talibus communis animi conceptionibus venit.”

“In his commentary, Aquinas identifies the Boethian communis conceptio animi with the Aristotelian principium per se notum” (Medieval Philosophy as Transcendental Thought, 240).

Footnote: Cf. L. F. Tuninetti, ‘Per se notum.’ Die logische Beschaffenheit des Selbsverstāndlichen im Denken des Thomas von Aquin, LeidenNew York – Köln 1996 (Studien und Texte zur Geistesgeschichte des Mittelalters, 47), p. 19.

“What is also noteworthy is the way in which he interprets Boethius’s distinction between the two kinds of ‘common conceptions.’ The distinction can be explained by the terms of which such propositions are composed. A principle per se notum is a proposition whose predicate is included in the essence of the subject. Universally self-evident are therefore propositions that use terms understood by all human beings. That which falls in every intellect is what is most general (maxime communia), as ‘being,’ ‘one’ and ‘good’” (Medieval Philosophy as Transcendental Thought, 240-241).

Footnote: Thomas Aquinas, Expositio libri De hebdomadibus, lect. 2 (ed. Commissio Leonina, Vol. L, p. 270): “ille propositiones sunt maxime notae quae utuntur terminis quos omnes intelligent; ea autem quae in omni intellectu cadunt sunt maxime communia, quae sunt ens, unum et bonum.”

“Aquinas reduces Boethius’s first kind of ‘common conceptions’ to the transcendental terms, which are the first conceptions, because they are communissima. He names ‘being,’ ‘one’ and ‘good,’ since through these three notions he is able to give a depth structure to Boethius’s axioms” (Medieval Philosophy as Transcendental Thought, 241).

“A similar idea underlies Aquinas’s reflections in his Metaphysics commentary on the foundation of theoretical knowledge in general. In the fourth book of the Metaphysics, Aristotle states three conditions of the first and firmest principle of demonstration that ‘everyone, who wants to know something of that which is, must possess:’ No one can be mistaken or be in error regarding this principle; it must not presuppose anything—Aristotle employs the phrase anhypotheton that Plato attribute to the Idea of the Good—, but must be self-evident; and, finally, it is not acquired by demonstration. These conditions are met by the principle of contradiction: ‘the same thing cannot at the same time belong and not belong to the same thing in the same respect’” (Medieval Philosophy as Transcendental Thought, 241).

Footnote: Aristotle, Metaphysics, IV, c. 3, 1005b 14-20. Cf. K. H. Volkmann-Schluck, “Der Satz vom Widerspruch als Anfang der Philosophie,” in: G. Neske (ed.), Durchblicke (Festschrift zum 70 Geburtstag M. Heidegger), Pfullingen 1959, pp. 134-150.

“The fact that those making demonstrations reduce all their arguments to this axiom as the ultimate one in the analysis (resolvendo) shows that this principle does not presuppose anything” (Medieval Philosophy as Transcendental Thought, 241).

Footnote: Thomas Aquinas, In IV Metaphysicorum, lect. 6, nn. 603-604 (ed. Cathala, p. 167): “Et propter hoc omnes demonstrationes reducunt suas propositiones in hanc propositionem, sicut in ultimam opinionem omnibus communem: ipsa enim est naturaliter principium et dignitas omnium dignitatum (…) inquantum in hanc reducunt demonstrantes omnia, sicut in ultimum resolvendo.”

“This axiom Aquinas had in mind, when in De veritate q. 1, a. 1, he stated that in demonstrable matters a reduction must be made to self-evident principles” (Medieval Philosophy as Transcendental Thought, 241).

“In his commentary on the Metaphysics, Aquinas goes far beyond the littera of the text and gives Aristotle’s anhypotheton a philosophical foundation. His argument is a different version of the reduction of propositions to the knowledge of concepts. Aquinas’s point of departure is the Aristotelian view (De anima III, c. 6) that the intellect has two operations. The first is the operation by which the intellect knows ‘what something is,’ the other the operation by which it composes and divides, that is, by which it forms affirmative and negative propositions. In both operations there is something first. In the first operation the first that the intellect conceives is ‘being’—nothing can be conceived by the mind unless ‘being’ is understood. The principle ‘it is impossible for a thing to be and not to be at the same time’ depends (dependet) on the understanding of ‘being’ and is therefore by nature the first in the second operation of the intellect” (Medieval Philosophy as Transcendental Thought, 241-242).

Footnote: Ibid., n. 605 (pp. 167-168): “Ad huius autem evidentiam sciendum est, quod, cum duplex sit operatio intellectus: una, qua cognoscit quod quid est (…); alia, qua componit et dividit: in utroque est aliquod primum: in prima quidem operatione est aliquod primum, quod cadit in conceptione intellectus, scilicet hoc quod dico ens; nec aliquid hac operatione potest mente concipi, nisi intelligatur ens. Et quia hoc principium, impossibile est esse et non esse simul, dependet ex intellectu entis, (…) ideo hoc etiam principium est naturaliter primum in secunda operatione intellectus, scilicet componentis et dividentis.” Cf. R. Imbach, “Primum Principium. Anmerkungen zum Wandel in der Auslegung der Bedeutung und Funktion des Satzes vom zu vermeidenden Widerspruch bei Thomas von Aquin, Nikolaus von Autrecourt, Heymericus de Campo und Nikolaus von Kues,” in: M. Pickave (ed.), Die Logik des Transzendentalen. Festschrift für Jan A. Aertsen, Berlin – New York 2003 (Miscellanea Mediaevalia, 30), pp. 600-616.

“Aquinas gives what we might call a ‘transcendental’ foundation to the first principle of demonstration as the beginning of theoretical science—he himself uses the term fundatur in Summa theologiae I-II, q. 94, a. 2. He grounds the Aristotelian anhypotheton on ‘being’ as the first conception of the intellect. Its implication is that the consideration of this principle belongs to metaphysics, since it is the office of this science to consider being as such and its properties” (Medieval Philosophy as Transcendental Thought, 242).

Footnote: Thomas Aquinas, In I Posteriora Analytica, lect. 5 (ed. Commissio Leonina, in: Opera Omnia, Vol. I*/2, Rome 1989, p. 25): “sciendum est quod quelibet propositio cuius predicatum est in ratione subiecti est inmediata et per se nota, quantum est in se. Sed quarundam propositionum termini sunt tales quod sunt in notitia omnium, sicut ens et unum et alia quae sunt entis in quantum ens: nam ens est prima conceptio intellectus (…) Unde et huiusmodi principia omnes sciencie accipiunt a metaphisica, cuius est considerare ens simpliciter et ea quae sunt entis.”

“Aquinas gives a ‘transcendental’ foundation not only to theoretical knowledge, but also to practical knowledge. (…) Aquinas develops a structure for practical science that is analogous to that of theoretical science. (…) His argument proves to be a synthesis of the different moments that played a role in his foundation of theoretical thought” (Medieval Philosophy as Transcendental Thought, 242-243).

“The starting point of Thomas’s exposition is an analogy of proportionality between theoretical and practical reason that concerns their relation to first principles. (…) The analogy is indicative both of the structural agreement between theoretical and practical reason and of their difference. Practical and theoretical science have the same formal structure of rationality, insofar as scientific knowledge in both domains has to be reduced to self-evident principles. At the same time, the analogy is an indication of the autonomy of ethics, insofar as practical reason has its own first principles distinct from those of theoretical reason. Just as man possesses a natural habitus, the intellectus principiorum, through which he knows the theoretical principles, so he possesses a natural habitus of the first practical principles that is called synderesis” (Medieval Philosophy as Transcendental Thought, 243-244).

Footnote: Thomas Aquinas, De veritate, q. 16, a. 1 (ed. Commissio Leonina, Vol. XXII/2, p. 504): “Sicut autem animae humanae est quidam habitus naturalis quo principia speculativarum scientiarum cognoscit, quem vocamus ‘intellectum principiorum’; ita in ipsa est quidam habitus naturalis primorum principiorum operabilium, quae sunt universalia principia iuris naturalis; qui quidem habitus ad ‘synderesim’ pertinent”. Cf. Summa theologiae I, q. 79, a. 12. The origin of the curious term synderesis rests on a corrupted transliteration of the Greek word syneidesis (“conscience”). For the complex history of the concept, cf. O. D. Lottin, “Syndérèse et conscience aux XIIe et XIIIe siècles”, in: id., Psychologie et morale aux XIIe et XIIIe siècles, Vol. II/1: Problèmes de morale, Louvain-Gembloux 1948, pp. 101–349. C. Trottmann, Vers la contemplation. Etudes sur la syndérèsis et les modalités de la contemplation de l’Antiquité à la Renaissance, Paris 2007 (Le savoir de Mantice, 13).

“Aquinas goes on to discuss the nature of the principia per se nota, from which theoretical and practical reason start. With an explicit reference to Boethius’s work De hebdomadibus, which had distinguished two kinds of ‘common conceptions of the soul,” he introduces a distinction with respect to these principles that is based on their reduction to the terms of which they are composed. Some propositions are self-evident only to the learned, who understand the meaning of the terms of such propositions. Other axioms are universally self-evident, because the terms of these propositions are known to all (omnibus)” (Medieval Philosophy as Transcendental Thought, 244).

Footnote: Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, I–II, q. 94, a. 2 (ed. Commissio Leonina, Vol. VII, p. 169): “sicut dicit Boetius, in libro De hebdomad., quaedam sunt dignitates vel propositiones per se notae communiter omnibus: et huiusmodi sunt illae propositiones quarum termini sunt omnibus noti (. . .). Quaedam vero propositiones sunt per se notae solis sapientibus, qui terminos propositionum intelligunt quid significent.”

Thus, Thomas enters the domain of the transcendentals by reducing the universally self-evident principles to the first conceptions of the intellect” (Medieval Philosophy as Transcendental Thought, 244).

The next part of the argument draws a conclusion from the so far purely formal exposition. Among the most common notions there exists a conceptual order, in which ‘being’ has primacy. That which the intellect first conceives is ‘being,’ for its understanding is included in all things whatsoever a human being apprehends. Aquinas establishes a relation of foundation between ‘being’ and the first principle of theoretical reason, which we already know from his commentary on the Metaphysics. ‘Therefore, the first indemonstrable principle, the proposition “the same thing cannot be affirmed and denied at the same time,” is founded (fundatur) on the notions of “being” and “not-being;” all other propositions are founded on this principle,’ the anhypotheton of human thought” (Medieval Philosophy as Transcendental Thought, 244-245).

Footnote: Ibid. (pp. 169–170): “In his autem quae in apprehensione omnium cadunt, quidam ordo invenitur. Nam illud quod primo cadit in apprehensione, est ens, cuius intellectus includitur in omnibus quaecumque quis apprehendit. Et ideo primum principium indemonstrabile est quod non est simul affirmare et negare, quod fundatur supra rationem entis et non entis: et super hoc principio omnia alia fundantur, ut dicitur in IV Metaphys.”

Similar remarks can also be found in two other works by Aertsen: Medieval Philosophy and the Transcendentals: The Case of Thomas Aquinas (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1996), 146-151 and 326-330; and “What is First and Most Fundamental? The Beginnings of Transcendental Philosophy,” a contribution to Was ist Philosophie im Mittelalter? ed. Jan A. Aertsen and Andreas Speer (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co., 1998), 177-192.


Monday, March 23, 2015

0398: Commentary on Actus Essendi
– Text no. 13 (B)



Entry 0398: Commentary on Expositio in librum   

Boetii De hebdomadibuslecture 2, paragraph no. 5 


In his commentary on Boethius’s De Hebdomadibus Aquinas uses the expression actus essendi twice, in lecture 2: “Sicut possumus dicere de eo quod currit sive de currente quod currat inquantum subiicitur cursui et participat ipsum, ita possumus dicere quod ens sive id quod est sit inquantum participat actum essendi. (…) Sed id quod est, accepta essendi forma, scilicet suscipiendo ipsum actum essendi, est, atque consistit, idest in seipso subsistit; non enim ens dicitur proprie et per se nisi de substantia cuius est subsistere.”

Since the publication of Cornelio Fabro’s works on participation (in 1939 and 1960), the In librum Boetii De hebdomadibus expositio has received considerable attention. Thus, before offering my own commentary on the context surrounding the text where Aquinas explicitly employs the expression actus essendi in his In De hebdomadibus, I shall first review some of the comments that have been offered by other authors in the relatively recent period since Fabro’s books.

B. Rudi A. te Velde

From the passages from Rudi A. te Velde’s Participation and Substantiality in Thomas Aquinas reported below we take the following points:

(a) R. te Velde stresses that Aquinas explains his understanding of the diversity of esse and id quod est (or ens) first in terms of the diverse logical functions that these terms possess. Esse and id quod est (or ens) refer to one and the same reality, but they signify this reality according to distinct modes of signification. Esse signifies abstractly what id quod est (or ens) signifies concretely. Both terms are defined in relation to one another: ens = ‘id quod habet esse,’ esse = ‘id quo aliquid est ens.’

(b) Regarding Aquinas’s affirmation that id quod est (or ens) participates in actus essendi in the way something concrete participates in something abstract, R. te Velde notes that here Aquinas tacitly introduces a new mode of participation, distinct from the ones previously described, namely, participation of the subject in its accidents, of matter in form, of the particular in the universal, and of the effect in its cause.

(c) According to R. te Velde, it is from the analysis of composite things that Aquinas extends the Boethian axiom diversus est esse and id quod est to angelic creatures. Just as in composite things the diversity between esse and id quod est (or ens) is a real diversity, so also in the separate substances esse and id quod est (or ens) are really distinct.

Here are excerpts from Rudi A. te Velde’s  Participation and Substantiality in Thomas Aquinas (Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1995):

“In his tractate De hebdomadibus Boethius first sets  down a number of axioms by means of which he intends to prove the thesis that whatever is is good insofar as it is. The most interesting axiom is the statement that diversum est esse et id quod est, ‘to be and that which is are diverse.’ Boethius accounts for this diversity as follows: ‘Being-as such is not yet, but that which is, once it has received the form of being, is and subsists. That which is can participate in something else, but being-as-such participates in no way. For participation comes about when something already is; but something is when it has received being” (Participation and Substantiality, 76-77).

Footnote: De hebd. (ed. Steward/Rand, p. 40): “diversum est esse et id quod est; ipsum esse nondum est, at vero quod est accepta essendi forma est atque consistit. Quod est participare aliquo modo potest, sed ipsum esse nullo modo participat. Fit enim participatio cum aliquid iam est; est autem aliquid, cum esse susceperit.” See for detailed analysis, McInerny, “Boethius and St. Thomas Aquinas,” in Being and Predication, pp. 97-110.

“This passage leads Thomas to dwell in his commentary on the meaning of ‘participare’ and to distinguish different modes of participation. Thus he is able to explain the rather enigmatic axiom of Boethius. The proposition ‘diversum est esse et id quod est’ formulates a truth about the notion of being, ens. With regard to the term ‘being’ one can distinguish between the abstractly signified ‘to be’ (esse) and the concretely signified ‘that which is’ (id quod est). They are two logical forms of the term ‘being’ which correspond with two different modes of signifying. The infinitive ‘to be’ (esse) is signified as something common and indeterminate; seen from a logical point of view, this ‘to be’ is made finite in two ways, either on the side of the subject which has being (quod esse habet), or on the side of the predicate, as when we say of man not simply that he is but that he is such-and-such, for example, white or black” (Participation and Substantiality, 77).

Footnote: In de hebd., lect. 2, n. 21: “Circa ens autem consideratur ipsum esse quasi quiddam commune et indeterminatum: quod quidem dupliciter determinatur; uno modo ex parte subiecti, quod esse habet; alio modo ex parte praedicati, utpote cum dicimus de homine, vel de quacumque alia re, non quidem quod sit simpliciter, sed quod sit aliquid, puta album vel nigrum.”

“The indeterminate actuality expressed by the infinitive thus becomes determined by the subject to ‘that which is’ (e.g. ‘man is’) and by the predicate to ‘that which is such-and-such’ (e.g. ‘man is white’)” (Participation and Substantiality, 77).

“We are now particularly interested in the first way in which the infinitive ‘to be’ is made finite and determined. According to Thomas, the diversity of ‘to be’ and ‘that which is’ must be interpreted in the light of the relation between being in its infinitive form and the subject which has being (secundum comparationem esse ad id quod est). The subject which has being is different from that being itself. In what way? Not because they refer to diverse things, but because they have different mode of signifying and accordingly a different logical function. A comparison can be drawn with the different forms of the verb ‘to run.’ Just as ‘to run’ (currere) and ‘that which runs’ (currens) differ, so ‘to be’ (esse) and ‘that which is’ (ens) are different: the one signifies abstractly what the other signifies concretely” (Participation and Substantiality, 77-78).

Footnote: Ibid., n. 22: “Dicit ergo primo, quod diversum est esse, et id quod est. Quae quidem diversitas non est hic referenda ad res, de quibus adhuc non loquitur, sed ad ipsas rationes seu intentiones. Aliud autem significamus per hoc quod dicimus esse, et aliud per hoc quod dicimus id quod est; sicut et aliud significamus cum dicimus currere, et aliud per hoc quod dicitur currens. Nam currere et esse significantur in abstracto, sicut et albedo; sed quod est, idest ens et currens, significantur sicut in concreto, velut album.”

“So when Boethius says that “being-as-such is not yet,” this means that the infinitive ‘to be’ does not have the required logical form of a subject of which it can be said that it is. We cannot properly say of the infinitive form ‘to be’ that it is, just as ‘to run’ cannot be said to run. ‘To run’ signifies the activity of running, which is the activity of someone who is running. In a similar way, ‘being’ is the actuality belonging to ‘that which is.’ The expression ‘that which is’ signifies in the mode of a subject. Just as ‘that which runs’ can be said to run, in the sense that it is the bearer of the act of running, so ‘that which is’ or ‘being’ (ens) can be said to be, inasmuch as it participates in the act of being (inquantum participat actum essendi)” (Participation and Substantiality, 78).

Footnote: Ibid., n. 23: “…ipsum esse non significatur sicut ipsum subiectum essendi, sicut nec currere significatur sicut subiectum cursus: unde, sicut non possumus dicere quod ipsum currere currat, ita non possumus dicere quod ipsum esse sit: sed sicut id ipsum quod est, significatur sicut subiectum essendi, sic id quod currit significatur sicut subiectum currendi: et ideo sicut possumus dicere de eo quod currit, sive de currente, quod currat, inquantum subiicitur cursui et participat ipsum; ita possumus dicere quod ens, sive id quod est, sit, inquantum participat actum essendi.”

“So far the analysis seems to be mainly logical in character. There is only a diversity with respect to the intentiones according to which they signify. What ens signifies concretely, by way of subject, esse signifies abstractly or, grammatically, in the infinitive mode” (Participation and Substantiality, 78).

“Thomas’s next step in his exposition is to clarify the statement of Boethius that ipsum esse participates in no way, whereas id quod est is aid to be able to participate in something else. Ipsum esse is unable to participate, either in the way the subject participates in the accident (or matter in form) or in the way the particular participates in the universal. The first mode of participation is excluded because ipsum esse is signified as something abstract and not as subject. And what prevents the second mode of participation—of the particular in the universal—is that there is simply nothing more universal than ipsum esse. As such, as the most universal, it is shared in or participated in by everything else, but does not itself participate in something more universal” (Participation and Substantiality, 78-79).

Footnote: Ibid., n. 24: “Praetermisso autem hoc tertio modo participandi, impossibile est quod secundum duos primos modos ipsum esse participet aliquid. Non enim potest participare aliquid per modum quo materia vel subiectum participat formam vel accidens: quia, ut dictum est, ipsum esse significatur ut quiddam abstractum. Similiter autem nec potest aliquid participare per modum quo particulare participat universale: sic enim ea quae in abstracto dicuntur, participare possunt, sicut albedo colorem; sed ipsum esse est communissimum: unde ipsum quidem participatur in aliis, non autem participat aliquid aliud.”

“By contrast, the concretely said ens, though as universal as esse, does participate, namely in esse. That which is participates in being, not in the way the less universal participates in the more universal, but in the way the concrete is said to participate in the abstract” (Participation and Substantiality, 79).

Footnote: Ibid., n. 24: “Sed id quod est, sive ens, quamvis sit communissimum, tamen concretive dicitur; et ideo participat ipsum esse, non per modum quo magis commune participatur a minus communi; sed participat ipsum esse per modum quo concretum participat abstractum.”

“It seems to me that Thomas has tacitly introduced a new mode of participation here. The participation of the concrete in the abstract does not fall under any of the three modes mentioned earlier. This point has frequently been overlooked in the literature. McInerny, for instance, identifies the way ens is said to participate in esse with the second mode of participation mentioned by Thomas, namely the subject-accident type” (Participation and Substantiality, 79).

Footnote: Cf. his Boethius and Aquinas, p. 205; however, in the chapter “Boethius and St. Thomas Aquinas” from his book Being and Predication McInerny seems to acknowledge that the participation of the concrete in the abstract, of ens in esse, cannot be reduced to any of the three modes of participation (p. 104). Geiger too identifies the participation of the concrete in the abstract with that of subject in form (La participation, p. 78). See also Wippel (Aquinas and Participation, p. 127) who rightly emphasizes the distinct character of the participation in esse; cf. “…in order for a subject to participate in its accidents, Thomas has noted, the subject must first exist. And it exists only insofar as it participates in esse. Participation in esse is clearly more fundamental than that of a substance in its accidents. The same may be said of participation of matter in form.”

“It is this type of participation which comes first in Boethius. For him participation is only possible if something already exists. But Thomas does not just say (with Boethius): only on the condition that something exists is it able to participate in something else, in other words, a subject (an actual substance) can receive something else in addition to what it is in itself. He goes a step further: that which is (ens) participates, namely in being (ipsum esse). It is clear that the concrete ens includes esse and cannot be conceived without it. In ens there is nothing else to understand besides the esse it has; it is not yet determined by something else which differs from esse. So if ‘ens’ is said to signify in the mode of a subject, it cannot be the subject of ‘esse’ in the sense of something which has some being of its own over against the property it is subjected to, as matter is the subject with respect to the form and substance with respect to the accident. The reason for this is that both terms are defined in relation to one another: ens = ‘id quod habet esse,’ esse = ‘id quo aliquid est ens’” (Participation and Substantiality, 79-80).

Footnote: Cf. McInerny, “Boethius and St. Thomas Aquinas,” op. cit. p. 101.

“Their diversity is a matter of signifying the same in diverse ways, according to different intentiones” (Participation and Substantiality, 80).

“Further on in his commentary Thomas comes to discuss another axiom of Boethius which says that ‘in every composite entity esse is different from what is.’ This time a real difference is meant, a difference in reality itself between that which is and its esse” (Participation and Substantiality, 80).

Footnote: De hebd. (ed. Steward/Rand, p. 42): “Omne simplex esse suum et id quod est unum habet. Omni composito aliud est esse, aliud ipsum est.” Cf. In de hebd., lect. 2, n. 31: “Deinde cum dicit, ‘Omni composito,’ ponit conceptiones de composito et simplici, quae pertinent ad rationem unius. Est autem considerandum, quod ea quae supra dicta sunt de diversitate ipsius esse et eius quod est, est secundum ipsas intentiones; hic autem ostendit quomodo applicetur ad res.”

“When something is conceived as a being, this way of conceiving admits of a difference in that thing, a difference which must be assumed in the case of composite things. Why is it that in the case of composite things the esse is different from the id quod est? It was found, Thomas explains, that ipsum esse does not participate in anything else. For it cannot be reduced to something more universal, nor can it be mixed up with something external in the sense of being composed with an accident. Ipsum esse is therefore not composed, it is logically simple and pure. From this one must conclude that a composite thing cannot be its esse, otherwise it would not be composed” (Participation and Substantiality, 80).

Footnote: In de hebd., lect. 2, n. 32: “Est ergo primo considerandum, quod sicut esse et quod est differunt in simplicibus secundum intentiones, ita in compositis differunt realiter: quod quidem manifestum est ex praemissis; dictum est enim supra, quod ipsum esse neque participat aliquid, ut eius ratio constituatur ex multis; neque habet aliquid extraneum admixtum, ut sit in eo compositio accidentis; et ideo ipsum esse non est compositum. Res ergo composita non est suum esse: et ideo dicit, quod in omni composito aliud est esse, et aliud ipsum compositum, quod est participatum ipsum esse.”

“So far Thomas simply clarifies the meaning of Boethius’s statement. Composite things cannot be identical with their being, as being itself is something simple” (Participation and Substantiality, 80-81).

“For Boethius composition here refers to material things. What he means is the composition of matter and form. But Thomas extends the composition even to forms without matter, separate forms which from a physical point of view are simple. Even in separate forms there is a difference between that which is and its being. And this is because separate forms are still different from each other, each determined according to its own species; therefore, the esse which they have in common must be determined differently in each of them according to a different form. As each of these forms determines the esse which is proper to it (determinativa ipsius esse), none of them coincides with its esse, but is something which has esse” (Participation and Substantiality, 81).

Footnote: Ibid., n. 34: “Si ergo inveniantur aliquae formae non in materia, unaquaeque earum est quidem simplex quantum ad hoc quod caret materia (..); quia tamen quaelibet forma est determinativa ipsius esse, nulla earum est ipsum esse, sed est habens esse.”

“Thus as regards to the composition in reality, not only are material things composite, but even pure forms count as composite from a metaphysical point of view. In order to account for the multiplicity of separate forms, each form must be distinguished from the other; and since it has no matter, each form must be distinct by itself, as a special form of being. Each form plays the role of id quod est, but in each case it must be a different id quod est, thus a different way of having esse. So it is clear that id quod est must be different from its esse; in each id quod est the esse is differently determined. And therefore none of the forms is absolutely simple, but they participate, each in a different way, in being” (Participation and Substantiality, 81).

Footnote: Ibid., n. 34: “manifestum erit quod ipsa forma immaterialis subsistens, cum sit quiddam determinatum ad speciem, non est ipsum esse commune, sed participat illud: (…) unaquaeque illarum, inquantum distinguitur ab alia, quaedam specialis forma est participans ipsum esse; et sic nulla earum erit vere simplex.”

“What is the significance of the participative structure of ‘being’ as described in the commentary on the De hebdomadibus? This tractate is the source of one of the ways in which Thomas conceives the essence-esse distinction. The Boethian pair of ‘id quod est’ and ‘esse’ is especially applied by Aquinas to the mode of being of separate substances (angels). In the angel, and a fortiori in every creature, ‘that which is’ differs from its ‘be-ing,’ for ‘that which is’ is the subsistent form and its ‘be-ing’ is that by which the substance of the angel is” (Participation and Substantiality, 82).

Footnote: S.Th. I, q. 50, a. 2 ad 3. This text will be discussed in detail in chapter 8.3 (part II).

“This difference articulates the fact that an angel, as a fully determinate being, is in a determinate way distinguished from other beings, and therefore distinguished in a determinate way from its being. The scheme of id quod est—esse points out that the angel cannot be understood as a distinct essence, which subsequently is a subject of being. Precisely as something which has being (id quod est) it must be distinct from its being, since in each case the id quod est assumes a different character. Thus the difference is not prior to the unity of id quod est and esse, it is a difference in the way forms are related to their esse. The difference does not pertain to the subject considered in itself, prior to the being it receives” (Participation and Substantiality, 82).


Monday, March 16, 2015

0397: Commentary on Actus Essendi
– Text no. 13 (A)



Entry 0397: Commentary on Expositio in librum   

Boetii De hebdomadibuslecture 2, paragraph no. 5 


In his commentary on Boethius’s De Hebdomadibus Aquinas uses the expression actus essendi twice, in lecture 2: “Sicut possumus dicere de eo quod currit sive de currente quod currat inquantum subiicitur cursui et participat ipsum, ita possumus dicere quod ens sive id quod est sit inquantum participat actum essendi. (…) Sed id quod est, accepta essendi forma, scilicet suscipiendo ipsum actum essendi, est, atque consistit, idest in seipso subsistit; non enim ens dicitur proprie et per se nisi de substantia cuius est subsistere.”

Since the publication of Cornelio Fabro’s works on participation (in 1939 and 1960), the In librum Boetii De hebdomadibus expositio has received considerable attention. Thus, before offering my own commentary on the context surrounding the text where Aquinas explicitly employs the expression actus essendi in his In De hebdomadibus, I shall first review some of the comments that have been offered by other authors in the relatively recent period since Fabro's books.

A. John F. Wippel

From the passages from John F. Wippel’s The Metaphysical Thought of Thomas Aquinas reported below we take the following points:

(a) Wippel states clearly that the general consensus among scholars is that Aquinas’s notion of actus essendi is completely missing from Boethius himself. It is to be recognized therefore that Aquinas transforms the Boethian axiom diversus est esse and id quod est into the axiom diversum est actus essendi and id cui convenit actus essendi.

(b) In Aquinas’s explanations of the Boethian axiom, Wippel finds an argumentation for the real distinction between essence and act of being.

(c) Regarding the participation of ens in actus essendi, which Aquinas describes as a case of the concrete participating in the abstract, Wippel insists on saying that this participation is a case of the participation of the effect in its cause. Wippel considers the participation of ens in actus essendi as a more fundamental kind of participation than any of the other kinds mentioned explicitly by Aquinas, namely, the participation of the subject in accidents, the participation of matter in form, the participation of the particular in the universal, and the participation of the individual in the species. According to Wippel the participation of ens in actus essendi is not at all reducible to anyone of these.

(d) In addition to calling attention to the participation of a particular ens in its own actus essendi, Wippel also elaborates on the participation of ens in esse commune, and on the participation of ens in Ipsum Esse Subsistens. Wippel suggests that all of these ways of participating in esse are instances of the participation of the effect in its cause.

Here are excerpts from John F. Wippel’s The Metaphysical Thought of Thomas Aquinas (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2000):

Concerning Aquinas’s interpretation of the axiom diversum est esse et id quod est, Wippel affirms that “As Aquinas interprets him, Boethius here distinguishes between esse and ‘that which is’ as between that which is signified abstractly, for instance by an expression such as ‘to run,’ and the same thing when it is signified concretely, as by an expression such as ‘one who runs’ (currens). Thus while esse and ‘to run’ are signified abstractly, like whiteness, ‘that which is’ or being (ens) and ‘one who runs’ are signified concretely, like a white thing” (The Metaphysical Thought, 99).

Footnote: Leon. 50.270:39-271:45: “Aliud autem significamus per hoc quod dicimus esse et aliud per hoc quod dicimus id quod est, sicut et aliud significamus cum dicimus currere et aliud per hoc quod dicitur currens. Nam currere et esse significantur in abstracto sicut et albedo; sed quod est, idest ens et currens, significantur sicut in concreto, velut album.”

“Nonetheless, Thomas also finds Boethius spelling out the distinction between these two, that is, between esse and ‘that which is,’ in three ways, each of which Thomas develops far more fully than does Boethius” (The Metaphysical Thought, 99).

“First of all, esse is not signified as the subject of being, just as the act of running (‘to run’) is not signified as if it were the subject which runs. Just as we cannot say that the act of running (‘to run’) itself runs, neither can we say that esse itself exists. And if ‘that which runs’ is signified as the subject of running, so do we signify ‘that which is’ as the subject of being (subjectum essendi). And if we can say of one who runs that he does so insofar as he is subject to running and participates in it, so we can say that a being, or ‘that which is,’ exists insofar as it participates in the act of being” (The Metaphysical Thought, 99).

Footnote: Leon. 50.271:48-49. Note in particular: “…et ideo sicut possumus dicere de eo quod currit sive de currente quod currat inquantum subiicitur cursui et participat ipsum, ita possumus dicere quod ens sive id quod est sit inquantum participat actum essendi.” As Fabro points out, Thomas here introduces one of the most original insights into his Commentary on the Boethian text, and one which is completely missing from Boethius himself, that is, his identification of esse as it is realized in a finite being as the act of being: “…sed id quod est, accepta essendi forma, scilicet suscipiendo ipsum actum essendi, est, atque consistit, idest in seipso subsistit” (Leon. 50.271:61-63). For Fabro see Participation et causalite selon S. Thomas d’Aquin, p. 270. For different medieval and contemporary ways of understanding the meaning of esse in Boethius himself see Fabro, La nozione metafisica, pp. 100-103. Also see Geiger, La participation, pp. 46-45; P. Hadot, “La distinction de l’etre et de l’etant dans le De Hebdomadibus de Boece,” Miscellanea Mediaevalia 2: Die Metaphysik im Mittelalter (Berlin, 1963), pp. 147-53; S. Schrimpf, Die Axiomenschrift des Boethius (De Hebdomadibus) als philosophisches Lehrbuch des Mittelalters (Leiden, 1966). The general (if not universal) consensus is that however Boethius may have understood and contrasted esse and id quod est—and there is much disagreement concerning this—he did not distinguish them in Thomistic fashion as act of being and essence. However, for a different reading, see R. McInerny, “Boethius and Saint Thomas Aquinas,” Rivista di Filosofia neo-scolastica 66 (1974), pp. 219-45, and more recently, Boethius and Aquinas, pp. 161-253.

“Hence in this immediate context, Thomas understands by esse the act of being” (The Metaphysical Thought, 99).

“Secondly, Boethius states that ‘that which is’ can participate in something, but esse itself cannot. It is in explaining this second difference that Thomas introduces the description and divisions of participation we have been considering. Thomas immediately turns from this description of participation to explain why esse (the act of being) itself cannot participate in anything else, even though ‘that which is’ or the subject which exists can. Precisely because esse is signified in abstract fashion, it cannot participate in anything else in the second general way Thomas has singled out, that is, as a substance participates in its accident or as matter participates in form. This is so, we may presume, because both a substantial subject and matter are signified concretely, and, as we have seen, esse is signified abstractly” (The Metaphysical Thought, 99-100).

Footnote: “Non enim potest participare aliquid per modum quo materia vel subiectum participat formam vel accidens quia ut dictum est ipsum esse significatur ut quiddam abstractum” (Leon. 50.271:87-91).

“Neither, continues Thomas, can esse participate in anything else in the first general way, that is, as a less universal concept participates in one which is more universal. (Thomas does acknowledge in passing that in this general way some things which are signified abstractly may be said to participate in others, for instance, whiteness in color.) This kind of participation will not apply in the case of esse itself because there is nothing more general than esse in which it could participate. Esse itself is most universal (communissimum). Therefore esse is participated in by other things, but cannot itself participate in anything else” (The Metaphysical Thought, 100).

Footnote: “Similiter autem nec potest aliquid participare per modum quo particulare participat universale … sed ipsum esse est communissimum, unde ipsum quidem participatur in aliis, non autem participat aliquid aliud.” (Leon. 50.271:91-97).

“On the other hand, being (ens), even though it too is most universal, is expressed in concrete fashion. Therefore while being cannot participate in anything in the way the less universal participates in the more universal, it does participate in esse in the way something concrete participates in something abstract. Thomas comments that this is what Boethius has in mind in another of his axioms to the effect that ‘what is’ can participate in something, but that esse itself cannot do so in any way” (The Metaphysical Thought, 100).

Footnote: See Leon. 50.271:97-105. Note especially: “Sed id quod est sive ens, quamvis sit communissimum, tamen concretive dicitur, et ideo participat ipsum esse, non per modum quo magis commune participatur a minus communi, sed participat ipsum esse per modum quo concretum participat abstractum.”

“We shall pass over Thomas’s discussion of the third difference between esse and ‘that which is’ as he finds this in Boethius’s text. Of greater interest for our immediate purposes is Thomas’s acknowledgment that being (ens) can participate in esse in the way in which something taken concretely participates in something taken abstractly. If we were to stop at this point, we would not yet be justified in thinking that he here defends any kind of real diversity or real composition of esse (act of being) and ‘that which is’ within participating beings. We should note that in the following context Thomas writes that for something to be a subject in the unqualified sense, that is, a substance, it must participate in esse itself” (The Metaphysical Thought, 100).

Footnote: “Dicit, quod ad hoc quod aliquid sit simpliciter subiectum participat ipsum esse. … Nam aliquid est simpliciter per hoc quod participat ipso esse; sed quando iam est, scilicet per participationem ipsius esse, restat ut participet quocumque alio, ad hoc scilicet quod sit aliquid” (Leon. 50.272:180-195).

“This is important because it indicates that if something is to serve as a subject for an accident, it must itself exist. And in order for it to exist, it must participate in esse, or as Thomas has also phrased it, in the actus essendi (act of being). Here, then, we find Thomas very deftly inserting his own metaphysics of esse taken as act of being into his Commentary on Boethius” (The Metaphysical Thought, 100-101).

Footnote: In addition to other passages from the Commentary on the De Hebdomadibus (see n. 14 above [: Leon. 50.271:48-49 and Leon. 50.271:61-63]), one may consider a later text such as Quaestiones disputatae De anima, q. 6, ad 2: “Ad secundum dicendum quod ipsum esse est actus ultimus qui participabilis est ab omnibus, ipsum autem nihil participat; unde si sit aliquid quod sit ipsum esse subsistens, sicut de Deo dicimus, nihil participare dicimus. Non autem est similis ratio de aliis formis subsistentibus, quas necesse est participare ad ipsum esse et comparari ad ipsum ut potentiam ad actum” (Leon. 24.1.51:268-275). Here we have in outline form the elements of Thomas’s mature doctrine of participation of beings in esse, and a confirmation of the views expressed in his Commentary on the De Hebdomadibus: esse is the ultimate act which can be participated in by all; esse itself does not participate in anything; if there is a subsisting esse—God—this participates in nothing; other subsisting forms (angels) must participate in esse and be related to it (their act of being) as potency to act.

“This becomes even clearer as Thomas turns to another Boethian axiom: in every composite, esse and the composite itself differ. Here Thomas finds Boethius formulating axioms which pertain to the nature of the one (unum) rather than of being (ens), as had until now been the case. And, comments Thomas, at this point Boethius has shifted from diversity in the order of intentions to diversity in the order of reality: “… just as esse and that which is differ in the order of intentions, so in composite entities do they differ really [realiter]” (The Metaphysical Thought, 101).

Footnote: Leon. 50.272:196-198. Note “… et est considerandum quod ea quae supra dicta sunt de diversitate ipsius esse et eius quod est, est secundum ipsas intentiones. Hic ostendit quomodo applicetur ad res… Est ergo primo considerandum quod sicut esse et quod est differunt secundum intentiones, ita in compositis differunt realiter” (Leon. 50.272:196-273:206).

“In order to support this, Thomas first recalls a point which we have already considered—that esse itself does not participate in anything else so that its intelligible content (ratio) might consist of different factors. He also recalls another point which until now we have not mentioned—that esse does not admit of the addition of anything extrinsic to its formal content. Therefore, he quickly concludes, esse itself is not composed. But if it is not, then a composite or composed entity cannot be identified with its esse (act of being). Here, then, we seem to have an argument for the real distinction between essence and act of being in composite entities, although not one of Thomas’s more usual arguments for that conclusion” (The Metaphysical Thought, 101).

Footnote: “Quod quidem manifestum est ex praemissis. Dictum est enim supra quod ipsum esse neque participat aliquid ut eius ratio constituatur ex multis, neque habet aliquid extraneum admixtum, ut sit in eo compositio accidentis; et ideo ipsum esse non est compositum; res ergo composita non est suum esse…” (Leon. 50.273:206-213). For the point that esse admits nothing extrinsic into its formal content see Leon. 50.271:114-272:146. For further discussion of this argumentation see Ch. V below nn.80, 81. Cf. McInerny, Boethius and Aquinas, pp. 211-15.

In chapter V, n. 80, Wippel writes: “Leon. 50.273:206-213, cited above in Ch. IV, n. 21[: ‘Quod quidem manifestum est ex praemissis. Dictum est enim supra quod ipsum esse neque participat aliquid ut eius ratio constituatur ex multis, neque habet aliquid extraneum admixtum, ut sit in eo compositio accidentis; et ideo ipsum esse non est compositum; res ergo composita non est suum esse…’]. For the concluding remark—[which in the body of the chapter is translated as follows: ‘And therefore {Boethius} says that in every composite esse is one (thing) and the composite itself which is by participating in esse (ipsum esse) is something other’]—see 273:213-215: ‘et ideo dicit, quod in omni composito aliud est esse [ens] et aliud ipsum compositum, quod est participando ipsum esse.’ Brackets mine. In interpreting this passage I have omitted the term ens [highlighted in brackets] since in the immediately preceding and following context Thomas compares and contrasts esse and quod est, and the omission of ens seems to be required by the philosophical sense of the text. Owing to the hospitality of Fr. J. E. Hinnebusch of the Washington, D.C. Leonine Commission, C. Bazán, K. White and I were recently able to review the microfilms of the manuscripts containing this part of Thomas’s treatise which are housed here in Washington. While the vast majority of the nine manuscripts we could consult do include ens and therefore support the Leonine reading, two of them, each constituting an independent witness in the manuscript tradition, omit ens (L4=Leipzig, Universitatsbibliothek 482, f. 99ra, 14th century; and V6=Vatican Library 808, f. 44va, early 15th century). But the strongest evidence pointing to omitting ens is, in my opinion, philosophical and contextual. For the point that esse admits of nothing extraneous to its intelligible content see Leon. 50.271:114-272:146. In brief Thomas bases this on the fact that esse is considered abstractly.”

In chapter V, n. 81, Wippel writes: “McInerny denies that Thomas intends for this to be a demonstration of a real distinction between esse and quod est. It is true that one might expect Thomas to introduce another step after writing that esse itself is not composed, i.e., that esse itself cannot be identified with any composite thing, and then by conversion reach the conclusion that a composite thing is not esse. But as McInerny notes, Thomas writes that a composite thing is not its esse. See McInerny, Boethius and Aquinas, pp. 213-14. I would suggest, however, that Thomas reasons as follows: If ipsum esse cannot be identified with any composite thing because esse itself is not composed, then no composite can be identified with esse, whether it (esse) is taken abstractly or as realized in a concrete existing composite entity.”

“One might immediately ask, however, about finite or caused simple entities. Will essence and esse be distinct in them? It seems that some other kind of argumentation will be required to establish this. In apparent anticipation of our query, Thomas insists that in any simple entity, esse and ‘that which is’ are really identical. Otherwise the entity would not really be simple. In explaining this Thomas notes that something is simple insofar as it lacks composition. Since something may lack a given kind of composition without lacking all composition, it may be simple in a qualified sense without being completely simple. Thus fire and water, two of the elements for Thomas and his contemporaries, are called simple bodies because they are not composed of contraries, as are mixtures. But each is still composed both of quantitative parts and of matter and form. Should we find certain forms which do not exist in matter and which are simple in the sense that they lack matter-form composition and quantitative parts, it will not immediately follow that they are perfectly simple. Since any such form must still determine its esse, it follows that no such form is esse itself. It simply has esse” (The Metaphysical Thought, 101-102).

Footnote: See Leon. 50.273:216-235. Note in particular: “Quia tamen quaelibet forma est determinativa ipsius esse, nulla earum est ipsum esse, sed est habens esse…”

“Here Thomas has introduced one of his favorite ways of expressing the fact that created entities, in this case, created separate substances, participate in esse (the act of being). They have esse, but are not their esse (act of being). By saying that every such form must determine its esse, I take Thomas to mean that because every such form enjoys a given kind of being, the determination or specification of its kind of being must come from the side of its form or essence, not from the side of its act of being (esse)” (The Metaphysical Thought, 102).

“In fact, in an interesting thought experiment, Thomas argues that even if, for the sake of discussion, we grant with Plato that there are certain subsisting immaterial forms or ideas such as a form for human beings and another for horses, every such form will still be determined with respect to its kind or species. Hence no such subsisting form could be identified with the act of being in general (esse commune). Each such form would only participate in esse commune. The same will hold, continues Thomas, if with Aristotle we defend the existence of separate and immaterial substances above the world of sensible things. Each of these, insofar as it is distinct from the others, is a given specific kind of form and therefore participates in esse. No such substance, whether it be a Platonic form or an Aristotelian separate substance, will be perfectly simple” (The Metaphysical Thought, 102).

Footnote: Leon. 50.273:236-249. Note especially: “…manifestum erit quod ipsa forma immaterialis subsistens [a Platonic form], cum sit quiddam determinatum ad speciem, non est ipsum esse commune, sed participat illud ... unaquaeque illarum [Aristotelian separate substances], inquantum distinguitur ab alia, quaedam specialis forma est participans ipsum esse, et sic nulla earum erit vere simplex.”

“Each will be composed of itself—form—and of the esse (act of being) in which it participates. There can be only one completely simple being, continues Thomas, and this does not participate in esse, but is subsisting esse. This, of course, is God” (The Metaphysical Thought, 102).

Footnote: Leon. 50.273:249-258. Note Thomas’s reason here for saying that such a being can only be one: “…quia si ipsum esse nihil aliud habet admixtum praeter id quod est esse, ut dictum est, impossibile est id quod est ipsum esse multiplicari per aliquid diversificans … ”

“This discussion is helpful for a number of reasons. First of all, here Thomas has clearly distinguished between a diversity of esse and ‘that which is’ which applies only to the order of intentions, and a real distinction between them. Secondly, he has offered two ways of establishing real distinction between them, one directed to composite entities taken in the usual sense of matter-form composites, and another which applies to finite simple entities such as pure spirits. Even the latter cannot be identified with the act of being taken in general (esse commune), since every such being is a given kind of being and must, therefore, determine and specify the esse it has. In this text, therefore, Thomas has closely connected participation in esse with his theory of real distinction between essence and act of being. In fact he has so closely linked them that he immediately moves from the fact that such entities merely participate in esse to the conclusion that no such entity is truly simple (which is to say it is composed)” (The Metaphysical Thought, 103).

Footnote: See the texts cited in nn. 22 and 23 above. {Note 22 reads as follows: See Leon. 50.273:216-235. Note in particular: “Quia tamen quaelibet forma est determinativa ipsius esse, nulla earum est ipsum esse, sed est habens esse…” And Note 23 reads:  Leon. 50.273:236-249. Note especially: “…manifestum erit quod ipsa forma immaterialis subsistens [a Platonic form], cum sit quiddam determinatum ad speciem, non est ipsum esse commune, sed participat illud ... unaquaeque illarum [Aristotelian separate substances], inquantum distinguitur ab alia, quaedam specialis forma est participans ipsum esse, et sic nulla earum erit vere simplex.”}

“This text also tells us that in speaking of participation of beings in being, on some occasions at least, Thomas means thereby that they participate in the act of being in general or in esse commune. With these thoughts in mind, we may now attempt to see how Thomas’s understanding of participation of beings in esse fits into his earlier threefold division of participation” (The Metaphysical Thought, 103).

“We may immediately conclude from the above that the participation of beings in esse cannot be reduced to the first kind of participation singled out by Aquinas, whereby a less universal notion or concept participates in one that is more general or universal. Such participation belongs to the logical or intentional order, and does not entail real distinction between the participant and that in which it participates. But, as we have now seen, participation of beings in esse clearly does” (The Metaphysical Thought, 103).

“What, then, of the second kind of participation, wherein a subject participates in its accidents, or a given instance of matter participates in substantial form? This, too, evidently involves real participation and real diversity between the participating subject and the participated perfection, that is, between substance and accident, or between prime matter and substantial form. Nonetheless, it seems clear enough that for Thomas, participation of beings in being (esse) cannot be reduced to this kind of participation any more than to the first kind” (The Metaphysical Thought, 103).

“First of all, in order for the subject to participate in accidents, Thomas has noted that the subject itself must exist. And it exists only insofar as it participates in esse. Participation in esse is clearly more fundamental than that of a substance in its accidents. The same may be said of participation of matter in form. Indeed, according to Aquinas, if a matter-form composite is to exist, it must participate in esse” (The Metaphysical Thought, 103).

Footnote: See n. 14 above. On matter-form composites participating in esse see De substantiis separatis, c. 8 (Leon. 40.D55:210-218, 225-228). Cf. te Velde, Participation and Substantiality, p. 79, and n. 31 (for a reference to my earlier treatment of this). [Note 14 reads a follows: Leon. 50.271:48-49. Note in particular: “…et ideo sicut possumus dicere de eo quod currit sive de currente quod currat inquantum subiicitur cursui et participat ipsum, ita possumus dicere quod ens sive id quod est sit inquantum participat actum essendi.” As Fabro points out, Thomas here introduces one of the most original insights into his Commentary on the Boethian text, and one which is completely missing from Boethius himself, that is, his identification of esse as it is realized in a finite being as the act of being: “…sed id quod est, accepta essendi forma, scilicet suscipiendo ipsum actum essendi, est, atque consistit, idest in seipso subsistit” (Leon. 50.271:61-63). For Fabro see Participation et causalite selon S. Thomas d’Aquin, p. 270. For different medieval and contemporary ways of understanding the meaning of esse in Boethius himself see Fabro, La nozione metafisica, pp. 100-103. Also see Geiger, La participation, pp. 46-45; P. Hadot, “La distinction de l’etre et de l’etant dans le De Hebdomadibus de Boece,” Miscellanea Mediaevalia 2: Die Metaphysik im Mittelalter (Berlin, 1963), pp. 147-53; S. Schrimpf, Die Axiomenschrift des Boethius (De Hebdomadibus) als philosophisches Lehrbuch des Mittelalters (Leiden, 1966). The general (if not universal) consensus is that however Boethius may have understood and contrasted esse and id quod est—and there is much disagreement concerning this—he did not distinguish them in Thomistic fashion as act of being and essence. However, for a different reading, see R. McInerny, “Boethius and Saint Thomas Aquinas,” Rivista di Filosofia neo-scolastica 66 (1974), pp. 219-45, and more recently, Boethius and Aquinas, pp. 161-253.]

“Moreover, in the case where matter is said to participate in form, a third thing (res) or a tertium quid results, that is, the essence of the material thing which includes both its form and its matter. However, as Thomas brings out on other occasions—for instance, in his considerably later and very full discussion of participation in Quodlibet 2, q. 2, a. 1 of Advent 1269—it is not in this way that essence and esse (act of being) unite in a creature. No tertium quid results from their union. Essence and esse do not unite in a created separate substance—an angel—as if they were two different parts of the angelic substance. “Thus, therefore, in an angel there is a composition of essence and esse; this, however, is not a composition as of parts of substance, but rather as of substance and of that which unites with the substance (adhaeret substantiae)” (The Metaphysical Thought, 103-104).

Footnote: Quodlibet 2, q. 2, a. 1 is addressed to this question: “…utrum angelus substantialiter sit compositus ex essentia et esse.” See Leon. 25.2.214-15. Note in particular: “Sic ergo in angelo est compositio sicut ex essentia et esse, non tamen est compositio sicut ex partibus substantiae, sed sicut ex substantia et eo quod adhaeret substantiae” (p. 215:74-76). For the date see Leon. 25.1.ix*. But cf. pp. 111*-112*.

“And in replying to the same objection in this same article, Thomas notes that in some cases a third thing (res tertia) does result from things which are joined together, as humanity or human being results from the union of soul and body. But on other occasions this is not the case. Rather, something is composed of itself and of something else” (The Metaphysical Thought, 104).

Footnote: The first objection reasons that the essence of an angel is the angel itself. If, therefore, an angel were composed of essence and esse, it would be composed of itself and something else. This is rejected by the objection as unfitting (Leon. 24.2.214:13-18). Note from Thomas’s reply: “…aliquando autem ex his quae simul iunguntur, non resultat res tertia … et in talibus aliquid componitur ex seipso et alio …” (p. 215:81-86).

“Hence, we may conclude, in the case of an angel we have a composition of the angelic essence and of a distinct esse (act of being), which itself is neither an essence nor a ‘thing’ not even a part of an essence” (The Metaphysical Thought, 104).

Wippel summarizes his reflection as follows:

“At this point it may be helpful for us to sum up the various features of Thomas’s understanding of the participation of beings in esse which have so far emerged from our discussion. The participation of beings in esse is more fundamental than the other kinds of participation, for it alone accounts for the fact that a given entity actually exists. No tertium quid or third thing results from the union of the participating principle (essence) and that in which it participates (esse). The participated perfection—esse—cannot be predicated univocally of the various subjects which participate in it, but only analogically. The participating principle, or essence, specifies the kind of esse which is received, and therefore also establishes the kind of entity which results from this participation. The participating principle also limits esse, although as yet we have not developed this point. The participated perfection is not included in the nature or essence which participates in it, but is really distinct from the essence. Therefore essence and esse can only enter into composition with one another. While esse may be described as accidental insofar as it is not included within the essence of the participating subject, it is not to be regarded as if it were a predicamental accident. The participated perfection (esse) unites with the participating subject as act to potency, so as to result in a being that is not merely accidentally but essentially one, an unum per se. Finally, as we shall see below in Section 3 of this chapter, neither the participating principle (essence) nor the participated principle (esse) can exist without the other” (The Metaphysical Thought, 108-109).

“Granting all of this, however, one may still wonder how Thomas’s view of the participation of beings in esse can be fitted into his threefold division of participation. Since it is not reducible either to logical participation or to the kind of real participation whereby matter participates in form or a subject participates in its accidents, what remains? As we have seen above, in his Commentary on the De Hebdomadibus Thomas notes that being (ens) participates in esse in the way something concrete participates in something abstract. However, he has not identified participation of the concrete in the abstract with any of three divisions. Hence it seems that the only possible remaining member of that division is that wherein an effect participates in its cause, and especially if it is not equal to the power of its cause. As is well known, Thomas often refers to beings other than God as participating in esse. On some occasions he means by this that they participate in esse commune, as we have seen from his Commentary on the De Hebdomadibus” (The Metaphysical Thought, 109).

Footnote: See n. 17 above for the text. Cf. te Velde, Participation, p. 79, although I would not want to suggest, as he does, that participation of the concrete in the abstract is a new and fourth mode. Cf. L. Dümpelmann, Kreation als ontisch-ontologisches Verhaltnis. Zur Metaphysik der Schöpfungstheologie des Thomas von Aquin (Freiburg-Munich, 1969), pp. 24-27. [Note 17 reads as follows: See Leon. 50.271:97-105. Note especially: “Sed id quod est sive ens, quamvis sit communissimum, tamen concretive dicitur, et ideo participat ipsum esse, non per modum quo magis commune participatur a minus communi, sed participat ipsum esse per modum quo concretum participat abstractum.”]

“On other occasions, however, he seems to mean that creatures participate in self-subsisting esse, or in God” (The Metaphysical Thought, 109).

At least in three other occasions Wippel explains why he considers participation of the concrete in the abstract as a kind of participation of the effect in its cause. Here are these passages.

First, commenting on esse commune, Wippel writes:

“An extremely important discussion is contained in Thomas’s Commentary on the Divine Names, c. V, lect. 2, dating either from 1261-1265 or from 1265-1268. Here Thomas finds Pseudo-Dionysius (=Dionysius) drawing out certain implications from his conclusion that God is the universal cause of being, that is, by showing that he is the cause of all particular beings including the various levels or degrees of beings. These levels include, continues Thomas, angelic substances in their various degrees; substances which are not bodies but are united to bodies, i.e., souls; corporeal substances themselves; accidents insofar as they fall into the nine supreme genera or predicaments; and finally, things which do not exist in the nature of things but only in thought and which are called beings of reason (entia rationis), such as genera, species, mental states (here illustrated by opinion), and others of this kind” (The Metaphysical Thought, 114).

Footnote: In librum beati Dionysii de divinis nominibus expositio, C. Pera, ed. (Turin-Rome, 1950), c. V, lect. 2, p. 244, n. 655. On the dating see Torrell, p. 346. Earlier in his Commentary (see c. V, lect. 1) Thomas had commented on Pseudo-Dionysius’s view that God is the universal cause of being. See in particular p. 234, n. 629, where Thomas explains that all things other than God have “esse receptum et participatum et ideo non habent esse secundum totam virtutem essendi, sed solus Deus, qui est ipsum esse subsistens, secundum totam virtutem essendi, esse habet.” See pp. 234-35, n. 630, where he warns that Pseudo-Dionysius’s statement about God’s being the esse for existents (ipse est esse existentibus) should not be taken to mean that God himself is the formal esse of existents, but rather in a causal sense; p. 235, n. 631, where Thomas comments: “et iterum omnia Ipso participant, sicut prima forma exemplari; et non solum est causa quantum ad fieri rerum, sed et quantum ad totum esse et durationem. …”

“Shortly thereafter Dionysius shows that God is the cause of esse commune itself. As Thomas interprets this, Dionysius first shows that esse is common to all things; then he explains how esse commune stands in relation to God. Granted the diversity in levels of being, Thomas concludes his own discussion of the first step by noting that nothing can be described as an existent unless it has esse. This is what Thomas means, therefore, by referring to esse as common. It is that intrinsic principle, that act of being, found in every existing entity, that is, every substance, which accounts for the fact that it actually exists. As regards the second step, Thomas comments that esse commune is related to God and to other existents in very different fashion. In fact, Thomas spells out three such differences” (The Metaphysical Thought, 114-115).

Footnote: See p. 245, n. 658: “…Ostendit quod Deus est causa ipsius esse communis; et circa hoc, duo facit: primo, ostendit quod ipsum esse est omnibus commune; secundo, ostendit qualiter ipsum esse commune se habeat ad Deum. …” Also see nn. 659-660. Note especially: “Et licet huiusmodi dignitates essendi superioribus tantum substantiis conveniant, tamen hoc ipsum quod est esse, ab omnibus existentibus non derelinquitur, quia nihil potest dici existens nisi habeat esse. …”

“First of all, other existents depend on esse commune, but God does not. Rather, esse commune itself depends on God. If we wonder how this can be, this becomes clearer as Thomas develops the second and third differences. Secondly, therefore, all other existents are contained under esse commune itself, but God is not. Esse commune itself rather falls under God’s power. For God’s power is more extended than is created esse. By this Thomas must mean that God can create many things which he does not actually create and to which esse commune does not actually extend” (The Metaphysical Thought, 115).

Footnote: “…primo quidem, quantum ad hoc quod alia existentia dependent ab esse communi, non autem Deus, sed magis esse commune dependet a Deo; et hoc est quod dicit quod ipsum esse commune est ipsius Dei, tamquam ab Ipso dependens, et non ipse Deus est esse, idest ipsius esse communis, tamquam ab ipso dependens. Secundo, quantum ad hoc quod omnia existentia continentur sub ipso esse communi, non autem Deus, sed magis esse commune continetur sub eius virtute, quia virtus divina plus extenditur quam ipsum esse creatum …” (p. 245, n. 660).

“As a third difference Thomas explains that all other existents participate in esse (esse commune, we may presume), but that God does not. On the contrary, created esse is a kind of participation in God and a likeness of God. This is Thomas’s way of explaining Dionysius’s statement that esse commune “has” God. He means that it, i.e., the entities that fall under it, participate in a likeness of God. And in saying that God does not “have” esse, he means that God does not participate in it. So understood, Thomas does not here contradict his claim in his Commentary on the De Hebdomadibus that esse itself does not participate in anything else, although being (ens) does. Thomas goes on to explain that God is an existent before every other substance and every other being and before every aevum, not only in terms of duration or order, but also in terms of causality. God is the cause of existence (causa subsistendi) for all things, and their principle of being (principium essendi). He is also the end to which all things tend” (The Metaphysical Thought, 115).

Footnote: Ibid. Note in particular: “Tertio, quantum ad hoc quod omnia alia existentia participant eo quod est esse, non autem Deus, sed magis ipsum esse creatum est quaedam participatio Dei et similitudo Ipsius; et hoc est quod dicit quod esse commune habet Ipsum scilicet Deum, ut participans similitudinem Eius, non autem ipse Deus habet esse, quasi participans ipso esse.” Cf. the texts from Thomas’s Commentary on the De Hebdomadibus cited above in nn. 15, 16, and 17. Cf. F. O’Rourke, Pseudo-Dionysius and the Metaphysics of Aquinas (Leiden-New York-Cologne, 1992), pp. 141-43.

“Two questions might be raised about this passage: How do other existents depend upon esse commune? And how does esse commune itself depend on God? As regards the first question, Thomas has indicated both that other existents are contained under esse commune, and that they participate in it. Here, then, we return to a theme we have already considered in other texts—other existents are said to participate in esse commune. This accounts for the fact that they are said to have esse, but are not identical with the esse (act of being) which they have or in which they participate. This should not be taken to imply, of course, that esse commune actually subsists as such apart from individual existents. It rather means that every individual created existent may be viewed as only sharing in or participating in esse, with the consequence that the esse (act of being) which is intrinsic to it is only a partial sharing in the fullness of esse commune when the latter is simply considered in itself” (The Metaphysical Thought, 115-116).

“As for our second question, in saying that esse commune depends upon God, Thomas has commented that it falls under God’s power. I take him to mean by this that every individual existent exists only insofar as it is caused by God. Moreover, created esse has also now been described as a likeness of God. Hence, in participating in the esse which is efficiently communicated to it by God, the creature may also be said to participate in some way in God, that is, in his likeness. God is its exemplar cause as well as its efficient cause and its final cause” (The Metaphysical Thought, 116).

“With this we have rejoined the third member of Thomas’s earlier division of participation in his Commentary on the De Hebdomadibus, that whereby an effect may be said to participate in its cause, and especially if it is less perfect than its cause. Even so, I would suggest that participation of beings in esse commune should also be placed under this same third part of Thomas’s division, both because it does not fall under either of the first two members, and because it is closely associated with participation in esse subsistens. In the case where a caused being participates in God, its first cause, it is clear enough that the effect is less perfect than the cause. It is also worth noting that Thomas often draws a close connection between being by participation and being caused. Thus in Summa theologiae I, q. 44, a. 1, he comments that if “something is found in some thing by participation, it must be caused in that thing by that to which it belongs essentially.” He recalls that earlier in the Summa he has already shown that God is self-subsisting being (I, q. 3, a. 4), and that esse subsistens can only be one. Therefore all things other than God are not identical with their esse, but participate in esse. But things which differ according to varying degrees of participation in esse, so as to be more or less perfectly, are caused by one first being, which is in most perfect fashion” (The Metaphysical Thought, 116).

Footnote: Leon. 4.455. Note in particular: “Si enim aliquid invenitur in aliquo per participationem, necesse est quod causetur in ipso ab eo cui essentialiter convenit. … Relinquitur ergo quod omnia alia a Deo non sint suum esse, sed participant esse. Necesse est igitur omnia quae diversificantur secundum diversam participationem essendi, ut sint perfectius vel minus perfecte, causari ab uno primo ente, quod perfectissime est.”

“In replying to the first objection within this same article, Thomas comments that it follows from the fact that something is being (ens) by participation that it is caused by something else” (The Metaphysical Thought, 116-117).

Footnote: According to the objection, a relationship of effect to cause does not seem to be included in the intelligible content (ratio) of beings. Certain things can be understood without this relation, and therefore they can exist without it. To this Thomas replies that while relationship to a cause is not included in the definition of a being which is caused, it does not follow from what is included in its intelligibility: “… quia ex hoc quod aliquid per participationem est ens sequitur quod sit causatum ab alio” (Leon. 4.455).

“This is important if we would follow the philosophical order in presenting Thomas’s metaphysics of participation. In the order of discovery one may move from one’s discovery of individual beings as participating in esse commune to the caused character of such beings, and then on to the existence of their unparticipated source (esse subsistens). Once this is established, one can then speak of them as actually participating in esse subsistens as well” (The Metaphysical Thought, 117).

Second, assessing Geiger’s and Fabro’s discussions on participation, Wippel writes:

“In reacting to this, I would first recall that neither the division of participation proposed by Fabro between transcendental and predicamental participation nor that offered by Geiger between participation by composition and participation by formal similitude appears as such with these exact titles in Thomas’s texts. Nonetheless, as we have seen from his Commentary on the De Hebdomadibus and from various other supporting texts, elements of each of the above can be found there. If I may now bypass the first member of Thomas’s threefold division, logical participation, and concentrate on the remaining two, I would recall that under the second division Thomas has offered two examples that clearly involve real composition between a participant and a participated perfection—that of matter in form, and that of a subject in its accidents. But I have also concluded from analyzing his texts that one should not place Thomas’s account of the participation of beings in esse under this member of Thomas’s division. I have rather suggested that it should fall under the third major division, that whereby an effect participates in its cause, especially when the cause is of a higher order than the effect. However participation in esse may be understood by Thomas in a particular context—whether as participation in esse commune, or in a finite being’s own actus essendi, or in esse subsistens—it seems to me that it should still be placed under this third division” (The Metaphysical Thought, 127-128).

“It should also be noted that if the examples of participation offered by Thomas in the second division (whether of matter in form or of a subject in its accident) involve real distinction and composition of participant and participated perfection, one should not automatically assume that all of the other conditions realized in these two instances must also apply to other cases where participation involves composition. As we have now seen in various contexts, composition is involved in Thomas’s account of the participation of beings in esse. A participant is united with that in which it participates (participatum) as potency to act. Within any participating being, its essence enters into composition with its act of being (esse). In addition to this, although I have not yet stressed this point, Thomas insists that act as such is not self-limiting. If one finds limited instances of act, especially of the actus essendi, this can only be because in every such case the act principle (esse) is received and limited by a really distinct potency principle. Hence composition with essence is necessary if one is to account for the limitation of esse within a given entity. On this point Fabro is surely correct” (The Metaphysical Thought, 128).

And third, in presenting God as the efficient cause of the actus essendi, Wippel writes:

“It is under this third kind [of participation, that whereby an effect participates in its cause], as we have seen, that participation of beings in esse is to be placed” (The Metaphysical Thought, 477 n. 93).