View Articles

Monday, December 15, 2014

0384: Actus Essendi and the Second Operation
of the Intellect (IV)

Entry 0384: Actus Essendi and the Second Operation 

of the Intellect (IV) 

Jan A. Aertsen opposes the contention of “Existential Thomism” that the concept of ens entails a judgment.

See J. A. Aertsen, Medieval Philosophy and the Transcendentals: The Case of Thomas Aquinas (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1996), 179-183.

Thus Aertsen writes:

“[Thomas Aquinas] distinguishes, following Aristotle, two operations of the intellect. The first is the operation by which the intellect apprehends the quiddity of something, that is, simple apprehension; the other is the operation by which the intellect composes and divides, that is, judgment. Thomas claims that what is first in the first operation of the intellect, being, is the foundation of what is first in its second operation: the principle ‘it is impossible for a thing to be and not to be at the same time’ is dependent on the understanding of being. Here he clearly affirms that the concept of being belongs to simple apprehension” (Aertsen, Medieval Philosophy and the Transcendentals, 179).

Aertsen then remarks: “This statement contradicts the contention of ‘Existential Thomism’ that the concept of being is a judgment or proposition” (Aertsen, Medieval Philosophy and the Transcendentals, 179).

“When something is apprehended as ens,” Aertsen continues, “it is grasped that it has being. Ens names a thing from the formality of its act of being: it primarily signifies ‘what is.’ Thus the concept of being is indeed complex, but not in the way a proposition is complex. The concept does not signify the judgment ‘something exists,’ the kind of composition which is susceptible of truth or falsity. Thomas explicitly denies this kind of composition in the concept of being” (Aertsen, Medieval Philosophy and the Transcendentals, 180). 

Aertsen refers here to Aquinas’s commentary on Aristotle’s Perihermeneias (lecture 5, no. 20).

According to Aertsen, “the notion of ‘being’ is immediately conceived at the moment when the human intellect begins to act, for the intellect is directed by nature to ‘being’” (Aertsen, Medieval Philosophy and the Transcendentals, 183).