Whether Action is the Causality of an Efficient Cause
I. Preliminary remarks (DM 18.10, n. 1)
A. An agent's causality vs. the relation cause of
- Suarez is careful to distinguish that which formally constitutes an
agent as an efficient cause from the relation cause of which results
from the agent's action. The relation presupposes the causality, since
one of the terms of the relation, viz., the effect, is conceptually posterior
to and terminates the causality. So the question is: What is the causality
B. Suarez on action
- For Suarez's extended treatment of action, we have to go to Disputations
48 and 49. Just for the record, in Disputation 48 he identifies action
as a certain peculiar mode, viz., "the mode of constituting the terminus
itself in reality insofar as the latter depends on and flows from its principle"
(DM 48.4.13) In the case of creation and transubstantiation, this
mode has no subject properly speaking, be it the agent or the effect produced.
In the case of actions on already existent subjects, i.e., actions on a
patient, the mode in question is an intrinsic modification of the patient
that produces the effect within the patient. In the latter sort of case,
the action and the passion are identical in reality. As Suarez puts the
point in Disputation 49, insofar as this mode intrinsically modifies the
patient, it is called a passion, whereas insofar as it is denominated
as emanating from the agent, it is called an action. So in such
cases the action has the patient, rather than the agent, as its metaphysical
subject. In short, in such cases an action is in reality a mode of the
patient insofar as the effect is actually being produced in it.
II. Competing views on the nature of an efficient cause's causality
- The first two views examined by Suarez agree on the negative thesis
that the agent's causality is distinct from its action. He himself will
insist to the contrary that the causality just is the action. In any case,
everyone agrees that the causality is in some sene a "path to"
to the effect, which terminates it, and thus that the causality itself
must be thought as constituting, and hence as being conceptually prior
to, the existence of the effect. (In the same way, the mode of union between
matter and form which constitutes a composite substance must be thought
of terminating in, and hence as being conceptually prior to, the composite
which it constitutes.)
A. First view (nn. 2-3)
- The causality is something distinct from the action, since the causality
is prior to the effect, whereas the action is itself an effect of the agent.
Moreover, the causality, unlike the action, remains after the effect has
been produced--or so they claim.
- But, Suarez charges, when the proponents of this position are pressed
to say exactly what the causality is, they claim that it is the production
of (i.e., the giving of esse to) the effect. Yet this, Suarez contends,
is to say nothing more than that the causality is the action itself. Thus,
this position collapses back into the position that the causality is
B. Second view (n. 4)
- The causality is a mode that has the agent as its subject. However,
since the action is not a mode of the agent, but is instead something outside
the agent, the causality is not the action. (According to this position,
in creation ex nihilo there is causality but no action, since there
is no preexistent patient for the action to exist in). Also, according
to this position, in many cases of efficient causality there is a single
causality but a multiplicity of actions (p. 251, second paragraph). Therefore,
the causality is distinct from the action.
C. Suarez's view (nn. 5-7)
- The causality of an agent is just the action itself. (Look at the three
arguments on pp. 252-254). The action is both sufficient and necessary
for the production of the effect and, indeed, just is the effect's dependence
on the agent for its esse. In reply to the other views, Suarez makes
it clear that the causality, like the action, exists only so long as the
agent in question is actually communicating esse to the effect.
Hence, an agent that simply brings an effect into existence but then ceases
to give it esse in any way is such that its causality with respect
to that effect no longer exists--though it can still be said to be a cause
of the thing because it brought it into existence at some previous time.
III. Replies to the arguments for the contrary positions (nn. 8-12)
- An action can be said to be caused, but (i) it cannot be the only
thing caused and (ii) it does not require a further causality through which
it is caused.
- The causality lasts as long as, and only as long as, the action lasts.
- The action is not a mode of the agent qua agent, but is rather
a mode of the patient qua patient--though in the case of immanent
actions it is per accidens a mode of the agent because in such a
case the agent and patient are identical.
- In any given examples, there are as many causalities as there are actions.
Thus the dreaded problem of act individuation does not cause any more trouble
than usual here. Suarez does have a few things to say about this problem
in the last two numbers of this section.