Archive for November, 2008

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.

Doctrines of the Soul

Friday, November 14th, 2008

Taylor Marshall has posted an interesting survey of doctrines of the soul and how and when it joins the human body. It’s useful to remember that while St. Thomas is the Angelic Doctor and worthy of study, there are things the Church understands better now than in his day.

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

DE&E: Chapter 5:7

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

Continuing yesterday’s thought on the nature of genus an difference for immaterial substances, Thomas says:

Similarly, in immaterial things the genus is taken from the whole essence, though not in the same way as the difference is. One separated substance is like another with respect to their immateriality, but they differ one from another with respect to their grade of perfection according to how far each recedes from potentiality and approaches pure act.

Right, we’ve been through that.

And so, in such substances, the genus is taken from that which arises in these substances insofar as they are immaterial, as intellectuality and such things; the difference, however, is taken from that which arises in these substances from their grade of perfection, although these differences are unknown to us.

How do they differ? In terms of how perfect they are, how much in act and how much in potency. Their genus, I gather, depends on their properties, i.e., all immaterial substances are, apparently, intellectual, but some may have properties others do not, and this would lead to distinct genera.

Nor are these differences accidental because they arise from greater and lesser perfection, which do not diversify the species. For, while the grade of perfection in receiving the same form does not diversify the species (as whiter and less white in participating in whiteness of the same type),….

My son and I belong to the same species. Presumably, as he’s 11 and I’m, ahem, rather older than that, I’ve more act and less potency than he does when it comes to being a man. We both participate in the same form to a lesser or greater degree, and that does not make us different species. But immaterial substances are different.

….nevertheless, a different grade of perfection in these participated forms or natures does diversify the species, just as nature proceeds by grades from plants to animals through those things that are median between plants and animals, as the Philosopher says in VIII De Historia Animalium cap. 1 (588b4-12).

I take this to mean that there needs to be a qualitative difference in the degree of perfection, not merely a quantitative difference. (I’m sure that the terms “qualitative” and “quantitative” aren’t exactly right, here, but you get the idea.)

Nor is it necessary that the division of intellectual substances always be made through two true differences, for it is impossible that this happen in all things, as the Philosopher says in I De Partibus Animalium cap. 2 (642b5-7).

OK, this is completely opaque. I’m not sure how much it matters, but it’s completely opaque.

DE&E: Chapter 5:6

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

Things are beginning to get deep again. Thomas says,

We should note, though, that the genus and difference in immaterial substances are not taken in the same way as in sensible substances, for in sensible substances the genus is taken from that which is material in the thing, while the difference is taken from that which is formal in the thing.

He talked about this awhile back, but the details are getting fuzzy. I’m clearly going to have to work through all of this again. (Aaargh!) But yes, I vaguely recall that for sensible substances, like me, you, or that dog, two substances share a genus based on a material similarity (the dog and I are both animals) where as the specific difference is taken from the actual form of the substance, that is, I’m rational because I have an intellectual soul.

Hence, Avicenna says, De Anima I, cap.1, that, in things composed of form and matter, the form “is its simple difference because the thing is constituted from it,” not, however, because the form is the difference but rather because it is the principle of the difference, as Avicenna himself says in his Metaphysicae V, cap. 6.

What does it mean to be the “principle of the difference”? The principle of a thing is its chief cause. So Thomas is saying that the chief cause of Socrates being rational is his essential form, but that rationality is not Socrates’ essential form. There’s more to that form than rationality alone.

Further, this difference is called a simple difference because it is taken from that which is a part of the quiddity of the thing, namely, from the form.

Remember that for material substances, the essence, the quiddity, includes both form and non-signate matter. So the essential form is only a part of the quiddity.

But since immaterial substances are simple quiddities, in such substances the difference cannot be taken from that which is a part of the quiddity but only from the whole quiddity, and so in De Anima I, cap. 1, Avicenna says that substances “have no simple difference except for those species of which the essences are composed of matter and form.”

OK; for material substances the difference is a part of the quiddity, whereas for immaterial substances the difference is the whole of the quiddity. If you define “simple difference” to mean “a difference that’s only part of the quiddity” then, sure, immaterial substances don’t have such a thing. But why the former should be called “simple” while the latter is not eludes me completely.

DE&E: Chapter 5:5

Sunday, November 9th, 2008

Having spent all of this time talking about the essence of various things, Thomas now tells a bit about the limits of our knowledge.

Since in these substances the quiddity is not the same as existence, these substances can be ordered in a predicament, and for this reason we find among these things genera, species, and differences, although their proper differences are hidden from us.

The “these substances” of which he speaks are the intellectual substances: angels, and the human soul. I did a quick Google search, and it appears that the word predicament is simply the Latin equivalent to the Greek category. The categories are the “top-level” genera, so to speak. So far he’s saying little that we haven’t already covered. I’ve highlighted the bit I find interesting: “their proper differences are hidden from us”. On the one hand, we know that the intellectual substances can in principle be ordered by genus, species, and difference; but on the other, we are not in a position to know what the differences are. (Does this mean that we can know the genus and species?)

In sensible things even the essential differences are unknown to us, and so they are signified through accidental differences that arise from the essential ones, just as a cause is signified through its effect. We take bipedality, for example, as the difference of man.

With sensible things, all we can sense are the accidents of things; we can’t really know the essential differences. Now, this raises all sort of questions. Haven’t we been talking about apprehending essences? Though perhaps I’m confusing logical essences with metaphysical essences.

Also, in what sense is bipedality the difference of man? Up until now, Thomas has said that rationality is the difference of man. I suppose bipedality is the accidental difference rather than the essential difference; but that’s still odd. Plato famously defined man as a featherless biped; but in that definition, bipedality is the genus, not the difference.

The proper accidents of immaterial substances, however, are unknown to us, and thus we can signify their differences neither per se nor through their accidental differences.

But to get back to the point, not only can’t we perceive the essential difference of intellectual substances, we can’t even perceive their accidents. Consequently, there’s really very little we can know about them using our own faculties.