DE&E: Chapter 4:7

So, angels are composed of form and existence, and have their existence from God. Let’s dig a little deeper.

Everything that receives something from another is in potency with respect to what it receives, and that which is received in the thing is its act; therefore, a quiddity or form that is an intelligence is in potency with respect to the existence that it receives from God, and this received existence is received as its act.

An angel receives existence from God, so it is in potency with respect to existence; this existence is its act.

Hmmm. In material substances, we usually say that matter is potency and form is act. Here, we are saying that form is potency, and existence is act. This implies that in material substances, existence is to form as form is to matter: that which gives it act.

And thus there are found in the intelligences both potency and act but not matter and form, unless in some equivocal sense.

So this is how there can be potency in angels, even though they have no matter. (I say that as though I understand it.) An angel’s form is only potency, potential, until it receives existence from God. But once it receives existence, can it still change? Can it exist in different ways at different times? I don’t see how it could, for then there would be different kinds of existence, and the kind of existence the angel has at any given time would be a predicate. But existence isn’t a predicate.

So too to suffer, to receive, to be a subject and everything of this type that seem to pertain to things by reason of their matter are said of intellectual substances and corporeal substances equivocally, as the Commentator says in De Anima III, com. 14.

He says “equivocally”; does he really mean “analogically”? I presume that he must, e.g., that angels suffer in a way that’s somewhat similar to how we humans suffer, though also somewhat different. If he really means “equivocally” then he’s saying that angels do something that we call “suffering”, though it really bears no resemblance to human suffering at all. And in that case, why call it “suffering”?

Furthermore, since, as said above, the quiddity of an intelligence is the intelligence itself, its quiddity or essence is itself the very thing that exists, and its existence received from God is that by which it subsists in the nature of things; and because of this some people say that substances of this kind are composed of what is and that by which it is, or of what is and existence, as Boethius says in De Hebdomadibus (PL 64, 1311 B-C).

“…what is and that by which it is…”, which is to say, its whatness, or quiddity, and its cause, that which causes it.

One Response to “DE&E: Chapter 4:7”

  1. Yes, he really means equivocally.

    And in that case, why call it “suffering”?

    because of convention. The explanation is going to cost me a lot of brain cells, but it has to do with a text in the sentences on analogy. Analogy itself is analogical, meaning there are different kinds of analogy, but they all refer to one primary kind of analogy – proportion (a:b::c:d). That’s in the logical order of things. In the metaphysical order, participation is primary, and this is expressed logically as pros hen analogy (healthy as said of urine, diet, animal; being said of stone, plant, animal, man, angel, God)

    The weakest of these forms of analogy is more akin to equivocation.