DE&E: Chapter 4:8

Here’s a short little paragraph:

Moreover, since we posit in the intelligences potency and act, it will not be difficult to find a multitude of intelligences, which would be impossible if there were in them no potency. Hence, the Commentator says in De Anima III, com. 5 that if the nature of the possible intellect were unknown, we would not be able to find a multitude of separate substances. There is thus a distinction among separate substances according to their grade of potency and act such that the superior intelligences, which are nearer the first cause, have more act and less potency, and so on.

God is the only being that is pure act. The angels are composed of form and existence; and in them, per the previous paragraph, form is potency and existence is act. At least, that’s what I think I read. But anyway, they contain no matter. For material beings, matter is the principle of individuation. For immaterial beings, no two beings can have the same form: without matter to individuate them, they’d be the same being.

It’s not clear to me whether or not two angels can have the same degree of potency and act but different and distinct forms. Even if not, it’s not clear to me whether the ranking of angels is meant to be a complete ordering or a partial ordering. Also, I have no idea what Thomas means by “possible intellect”.

In short, the gist of the paragraph is reasonably clear–some angels have more act and some have less–but much of the detail eludes me.

Comments are closed.