DE&E: Chapter 2:13

We continue discussing the designation of genus, species and individual, with, one hopes, fewer pyrotechnics than last time.

But since, as said above, the designation of the species with respect to the genus is through the form, and the designation of the individual with respect to the species is through matter, the term signifying that from which the nature of the genus is taken thus excludes the determinate form that completes the species and signifies the material part of the whole, as the body is the material part of the man.

The genus does not designate the forms taken by members of species within the genus, because those forms are determined by the specific differences. Thus, to rearrange Thomas’ words a bit, “the term signifying that from which the nature of the genus is taken…signifies the material part of the whole.”


However, the term signifying that from which the nature of the species is taken, excluding designate matter, signifies the formal part. Thus, humanity is signified as a certain form, and it is said that it is the form of the whole, not, certainly, as a form superadded to the essential parts (the form and the matter), but rather as the form of a house is superadded to its integral parts; and that is better called the form which is the whole, in other words, that which embraces the form and the matter, albeit excluding those things through which the designatability of matter arises.

I usually like to break up difficult paragraphs like this one into digestible chunks, but I have no idea how to do that in this case. Still, I think I get what he’s saying, which is as follows:

  1. Man is a being composed of form and matter. In the above, Thomas refers to this form as humanity.
  2. Man’s essence is to be a composite of a form, humanity, and designate matter.
  3. This essence is the composite of the form humanity and non-signate matter.
  4. It makes more sense to refer to Man’s essence as his form than it does to call humanity his form, because Man’s essence describes the whole man.
  5. And of course all of this applies to genera, species, and individuals in general, not just to animal, man, and individual men.
  6. There are too many forms floating around here for comfort.
  7. Matter complicates everything.

I think that’s about it. The last two points are my own.

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