Archive for the ‘De Ente et Essentia’ Category

DE&E: Chapter 6:9 — The Conclusion

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

And here we are: the final, ultimate paragraph of De Ente et Essentia:

We have thus made clear how essence is found in substances and in accidents, and how in composite substances and in simple ones, and in what way the universal intentions of logic are found in all of these, except for the first being, which is the extreme of simplicity and to which, because of its simplicity, the notions of genus, species, and thus definition do not apply; and having said this we may make an proper end to this discourse. Amen.

I’ve not much to add to this, except to note that this seems a clearer statement of Thomas’ goals in writing De Ente et Essentia than I got from his introduction.

And so, back to the Compendium Theologiae…except that I have this nagging feeling that if I’m to retain anything of what I’ve learned, I really need to read through De Ente et Essentia a couple of more times. I should outline the work, perhaps make a glossary of the terms, and so forth. I’m off work for the next few days, and I might take some time and give this a try. We’ll see.

DE&E: Chapter 6:8

Monday, November 24th, 2008

Here we are, with the penultimate paragraph of the discourse.

The differences in accidents are taken from the diversity of principles by which they are caused.

This statement baffled me for a moment; but then I went back to the definitions of the terms.
Logically, a species is a genus and a difference. So the implied question is, what differentiates one accident from another? The “diversity of principles by which they are caused.” And remember that a “principle” is the first cause of something. That’s an important distinction between philosophy and experimental science. Experimental science is usual looking for the immediate, or proximate cause of something; philosophy is looking for the ultimate cause. When we say, (as I seem to have been saying repeatedly for months now) that “matter is the principle of individuation”, I’m saying that matter is what causes individuals to be individual.

Since passions are properly caused by the proper principles of the subject, the subject is placed in the definition of the passion in place of the difference if the passion is being defined in the abstract and properly in its genus, as when we say that having a snubnose is the upward curvature of the nose.

A property of a substance is something inessential that is nevertheless always true, i.e., something that follows necessarily from the substance’s nature. I would surmise, then, that the proper principles of a subject are the principles, the most important causes, of the subject’s properties.

The term passion confuses me; it doesn’t mean what we usually think of when we think about passion. If I understand it correctly, a passion is something that a substance does passively. Since they are “properly caused” by the “proper principles”, one imagines that passions are indeed properties of the substance, so I’ll go with that.

Thomas says, “the subject is placed in the definition of the passion in place of the difference if the passion is being defined in the abstract….” In the example, the genus is “upward curvature” and the difference, or in this case, the subject, is “the nose”. A snubnose has an upward curvature, indeed, and it always has it; this is a property, a passion, of a snubnose.

But it would be the converse if the definition of the passion were taken according to its concrete sense; in this way, the subject is placed in the definition as a genus, for then the passion is defined in the mode of composite substances in which the notion of the genus is taken from the matter, as when we say that a snubnose is an upwardly curving nose.

In the abstract sense, we’re talking about snubness of noses; in the concrete sense, we’re talking about noses that are snub. So here, the genus is nose and the difference is upwardly curving.

The case is similar when one accident is the principle of another, as the principle of relation is action and passion and quantity, and thus by reference to these the Philosopher divides relation in V Metaphysicae cap. 15 (1020b26-32).

A relation consists of, is caused by, an action, a passion, and a quantity. I’d like to hear an explanation of that.

But because the proper principles of accidents are not always manifest, we sometimes take the differences of accidents from their effects, as we do with the concentrative and the diffusive, which are called the differences of color and which are caused by the abundance or the paucity of light, which cause the different species of color.

What makes all of this so hard is that there’s so much of it that we can’t directly perceive, and things that we can know in theory we can’t know in practice. We can know that accidents have proper principles…but we can’t necessarily know what they are. And so we go with what we can know, such as the effect of the accidents.

DE&E: Chapter 6:7

Friday, November 21st, 2008

Long one tonight. But on the bright side, there are only two more paragraphs after this.

We should further note that in accidents, the genus, difference, and species are taken in a way different from that in substances.

Duly noted. How so?

For in substances, from the substantial form and the matter there is made something one per se, a certain single nature resulting from the conjunction of these two, and this nature is properly placed in the predicament of substance.

That is, the category of substance.

Hence, in substances, the concrete terms that signify the composite are properly said to be in the genus, in the manner of the species or the genus, as, for example, man or animal. But in this way neither the form nor the matter is in a predicament except by means of reduction, as when we say that the principles of a thing are in its genus.

OK, I’m lost again. What does he mean “in the genus, in the manner of the species or the genus”? And then, “neither the form or the matter is in a predicament except by means of reduction…” Is this because the essence is a composite, and so the composite is in a predicament but the form and matter individually are not? That would make sense, I think….

Clearly, this last bit is intended to be review. Unfortunately, while I might have understood it a couple of weeks OK, I’ve moved on, and it’s all fading.

However, from the accident and the subject there does not result something that is one per se, and thus from the conjunction of these two there does not result a nature to which the intention of genus or species might be attributed.

If my son runs, he’s running; that’s accidental not essential, and it doesn’t change his genus or species. Some new thing doesn’t come to be when he starts running.

Therefore, the accidental terms taken concretely, like white or musical, cannot be placed in a predicament except by means of reduction; but they can be placed in a predicament when they are signified abstractly, as whiteness and music.

“Placed in a predicament…” should mean, “placed in a category.” A white dog is white, so “white” as a concrete term is a predicable; but it can’t be placed in a category. “Quality” is one of the ten categories, and so I presume, then, that “whiteness” is a quality, but “white” is not. You can think of “whiteness” as a thing in itself, at least as an object of thought; but “white” only applies to some other thing that has the quality of whiteness.

By reduction, then, I have to assume Thomas means a kind of decomposition, where the accident is removed from the substance and treated as, e.g., a quality.

And because accidents are not composed of matter and form, in accidents the genus cannot be taken from the matter, the difference from the form, as is the case with composite substances; rather, the first genus is taken from their very mode of existing, as being is said in different ways according to what is prior and what is posterior in the ten genera of predicaments, and thus we call the measure of a substance quantity, the disposition of a substance quality, and so on for the others, as the Philosopher says in IX Metaphysicae cap. 1 (1045b27-32).

OK; quantity exists in a substance in a different way than quality, and so we have two distinct genera. So what are the species within these genera?

DE&E: Chapter 6:6

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

Let the parade of accidents continue! (And isn’t that a vivid image!)

We should also note that some accidents are caused by the essential principles of a thing according to its perfect act, as heat in fire, which is always hot, while other accidents are the result of an aptitude in the substance, and in such cases the complete accident arises from an exterior agent, as transparency in air, which is completed through an exterior luminescent body. In such things, the aptitude is an inseparable accident, but the complement, which comes from some principle that is beyond the essence of the thing, or that does not enter into the constitution of the thing, is separable, as the ability to be moved, and so on.

So we’ve got the following:

  • Accidents based on the essential principles of a thing:
    • E.g., heat in fire: fire is always hot
  • Accidents resulting from an aptitude in the substance that is completed by some other agent
    • E.g., Air will always let light pass–if there’s light to pass.
    • E.g., an apple is moveable–if I choose to pick it up.

In the latter case, the aptitude is always present–it’s a property of the substance, I guess–but the aptitude is only manifest when some other agent takes advantage of it. For example, a book by Terry Pratchett always has the aptitude to induce laughter, but only does so if you read it.

DE&E: Chapter 6:5

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

More on accidents of matter vs. accidents of form:

Since everything is individuated by matter and is placed in its genus or species through its form, the accidents that follow from the matter are accidents of the individual, and by these accidents individuals of the same species differ one from another.

This makes sense, of course. If you and I share share the same essence, and yet we differ, we must differ in our accidents. And since matter is the principle of individuation, that’s where we must differ.

But the accidents that follow from the form are properly passions of the genus or species, and so they are found in all things participating in the nature of the genus or species, as risibility in man follows from the form, for laughter comes from a certain kind of understanding in the soul of man.

I’m not too clear on the word passions as used here. It seems to me that these accidents, or passions, are “properties” in the logical sense, characteristics that follow necessarily from the essence. I suppose risibility, or laughter, is an accident because we are not always laughing.

DE&E: Chapter 6:4

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

Thomas goes on about accidents that are a consequence of matter:

Among the accidents that are consequences of matter there is found a certain diversity.

I’m tempted to give some facetious examples here, but I’ll restrain myself.

Some accidents follow from the order the matter has to a special form, as the masculine and the feminine in animals, the difference between which is reduced to the matter, as the Philosopher says in X Metaphysicae cap. 9 (1058b21-23). Hence, the form of the animal having been removed, these accidents do not remain except in some equivocal sense.

I don’t really understand the phrase “the order the matter has to a special form”. In fact, I don’t really understand what it means for one thing “to be ordered to” something else. A “special form” is, presumably, the form of a species; but both the males and females of a species belong to the same species.

By “the form of the animal having been removed”: does Thomas mean, if the animal dies? The remaining body would then (for a time) have the remains of male or female organs, but would no longer truly be masculine or feminine?

Other accidents follow from the order the matter has to a general form, and so with these accidents, if the special form is removed, the accidents still remain in the thing, as the blackness of the skin of an Ethiopian comes from the mixture of the elements and not from the notion of the soul, and hence the blackness remains in the man after death.

And here, “general form” is presumably the form of a genus.

I vaguely remember that the species is related to the essence of a thing, and the genus to its matter. Is Thomas saying that there are no “black” souls, but that there are masculine souls and feminine souls?

I’m finding these examples to be unhelpful, as Thomas is clearly presuming upon a shared understanding that I’m not acquainted with.

DE&E: Chapter 6:3

Monday, November 17th, 2008

In this paragraph, Thomas goes on describing the relationship between accidents and substances.

But since that which is greatest and truest in a genus is the cause of the lesser things in the genus (as fire, which is at the extreme of heat, is the cause of heat in other hot things, as the Philosopher says in II Metaphysicae cap. 1 (993b24-27)), thus substance, which is first in the genus of beings and which has essence in the truest and greatest way, is the cause of accidents, which participate in the notion of being only secondarily and in a certain sense.

Disregarding the comments about fire, it’s clear that substance is the cause of accidents; you can’t have accidents without a substance to hang them on. But how is the trick done?

But this happens in a variety of ways. Since the parts of substance are matter and form, certain accidents are principally a consequence of form, and certain accidents are principally a consequence of matter.

Some accidents depend mostly on form, and some mostly on matter.

Now, while we find some forms, like the intellectual soul, whose existence does not depend on matter, matter does not have existence except through form. Hence, among those accidents that are a consequence of form, there are some that have no communication with matter, such as understanding, which does not take place through a corporeal organ, as the Philosopher proves in III De Anima cap. 1 (429a18-b5).

In fact, some accidents depend only on form. Understanding, for example, is an accident related to the intellect, and has no material component. Interesting.

Other accidents that are a consequence of form do have communication with matter, and among these is sensation. But no accident a consequence of matter is without some communication with form.

But there are no accidents that depend solely on matter. There is always a formal component.

DE&E: Chapter 6:2

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

In the previous paragraph, Thomas refers to accidents having an essence; and I suggested that he must be using the term “essence” analogically. Turns out I was right:

But this is the case only with substantial and accidental forms because, just as the substantial form has no absolute existence per se without that to which the form comes, so too does that to which the form comes, namely matter, have no absolute per se existence. Thus, from the conjunction of both there results that existence in which the thing per se subsists, and from these two there is made one thing per se; for, from the conjunction of these there results a certain essence.

This is review. A material substance is composed of form and matter; if either is lacking there is no substance. Taken together, you get a single being, and this being has an essence.

Hence, although considered in itself the form does not have the complete aspect of an essence, nevertheless it is part of a complete essence.

For material substances, the substantial form is not the essence, or quiddity; but it is certainly part of the essence.

But that to which an accident comes is in itself a complete being subsisting in its own existence, and this existence naturally precedes the accident that supervenes.

Socrates is a substance. If Socrates catches cold, that’s an accidental condition; and Socrates cannot catch cold unless Socrates already exists.

Therefore, the supervening accident, from its conjunction with the thing to which it comes, does not cause that existence in which the thing subsists, the existence through which the thing is a being per se;

And catching the cold doesn’t bring Socrates into existence.

…it causes, rather, a certain secondary existence without which the subsisting being can be understood to exist, as what is first can be understood without what is second.

The cold exists in Socrates, and cannot exist without Socrates, but Socrates can be understood to exist without having a cold.

Hence, from the accident and the subject there is made something that is one accidentally, not essentially; and so from the conjunction of these two there does not result an essence, as there does from the conjunction of form and matter.

And in short, composition of a subject and accident does not create a new substance, and so does not result in an essence.

And so an accident has neither the aspect of a complete essence nor is it a part of an essence; rather, just as an accident is a being only in a certain sense, so too does it have an essence only in a certain sense.

That is to say, analogically.

DE&E: Chapter 6:1

Friday, November 14th, 2008

We’re getting into the home stretch. Having considered essence, and the logical intentions, and substances material and immaterial, it’s now time, evidently, to consider accidents!

We should now see in what way there are essences in accidents, having said already how essences are found in all types of substances.

This strike me as odd, as I usually think of a substance as having an essence and accidents. Essence and accidents are opposed: a thing has its essence, and it has accidents, and they are different. But here, Thomas is saying that there are essences in accidents.

Now, since, as said above, the essence is that which is signified by the definition, accidents will thus have essences in the same way in which they have definitions.

It seems to me that here we’ve gone from “essence” in a metaphysical sense to “essence” in a logical sense. An accident, i.e., whiteness of a thing, has a definition; and this is an essence. It’s not the same as the essence of a dog, or a man; but it’s still in some sense a whatness, a quiddity. So I would say that we’re using the term “essence” analogically, here, not so?

But accidents have incomplete definitions, because they cannot be defined unless we put a subject in their definitions, and this is because they do not have absolute existence per se apart from a subject,….

Right: you can’t have whiteness just floating around loose. It has to be the whiteness of something in particular, of a subject. A white dog, a white horse, a white flower.

…but just as from the form and the matter substantial existence results when a substance is compounded, so too from the accident and the subject does accidental existence result when the accident comes to the subject.

Things kind of begin to rhyme, don’t they?

Thus, neither the substantial form nor the matter has a complete essence, for even in the definition of the substantial form we place something of which it is the form, and so its definition involves the addition of something that is beyond its genus, just as with the definition of an accidental form.

OK, now I’m confused. “…neither the substantial form nor the matter has a complete essence…” — Is Thomas simply saying that in a material substance the essence includes both form and (non-signate) matter? “…in the definition of the substantial form we place something of which it is the form…” — i.e., matter? It would seem that this is what he is saying. And so the definition involves the addition of something beyond its form: non-signate matter, in the one case, and the subject, in the other. OK, he’s still drawing parallels.

Hence, the natural philosopher places the body in the definition of the soul because he considers the soul only insofar as it is the form of the physical body.

I’m not sure what the import of this is. Certainly, a natural philosopher, a physicist or biologist (is that what Thomas means?) has a different view of the body and the soul; to them, the body is primary, and the soul (if it exists) is something tacked on. The soul needs a subject to be the soul of.

DE&E: Chapter 5:8

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

At last, at long last, we’ve gotten to the third way in which essence is found in substances:

In a third way, essence is found in substances composed of matter and form, in which existence is both received and limited because such substances have existence from another, and again because the nature or quiddity of such substances is received in signate matter. And thus such substances are finite in both a superior way and an inferior way, and among such substances, because of the division of signate matter, there can be a multiplication of individuals in one species. The ways in which the essence in such substances is related to the logical intentions we have explained above.

Most of this is review, but I’m puzzled about the highlighted statement. I suppose what he is saying is that material substances are finite because they receive their existence from another (the superior way) and finite because of their material component, which is bounded in a variety of ways (the inferior way). But why it matters, I dunno.

Anyway, at least now we can complete that bit of outline:

  • Ways in which substances may have an essence
    • As God has His essence, His existence
    • As intellectual substances have essence, while receiving existence from another
    • As material substances have essence, receiving existence from another, and receiving their essence in signate matter