The Reason for, and an Outline of, the Work as a Whole

To the Reader

         Since no one can become an accomplished theologian without having previously laid down firm foundations in metaphysics, I had always thought that before I wrote my theological commentaries (part of which have already been published and the rest of which I am working on so that they might, God willing, be finished as soon as possible), it would be worthwhile first to publish the present book, meticulously worked out, which I now offer to you, Christian reader. However, for good reasons I was unable to put off my studies of the third part of St. Thomas's Summa Theologiae and had to commit them to print before all else. Still, every day I saw more and more clearly the extent to which divine and supernatural theology needs and requires this human and natural [theology]--to such an extent that I did not hesitate to interrupt that unfinished work for a little while in order to give (or, better, restore) to this metaphysical doctrine its rightful place and standing, as it were. Even though I have taken longer to finish that other work than I had initially intended, and despite the insistent demands of many who desired the completion of my commentaries on the third part and, indeed (if one can hope for such a thing), on the whole of St. Thomas's Summa Theologiae, I could never regret having undertaken this present labor; and I trust that the reader--at least after having been induced by experience itself--will confirm this sentiment of mine.

         In the present work I am doing philosophy in such a way as to keep always in mind that our philosophy should be Christian and a servant to divine theology. I have kept this goal in view, not only in discussing the questions but even more in choosing my views or opinions, inclining toward those which seem to comport better with piety and revealed doctrine. For the same reason, I occasionally interrupt a philosophical discussion and turn to certain theological matters, not so much in order to take the time to examine and explain them in detail (which would fall outside the subject matter I am dealing with here) as in order to indicate explicitly to the reader the way in which the principles of metaphysics should be invoked and adapted in confirming theological truths. I admit that in treating those divine perfections that are called attributes I have gone on at greater length than, it might seem to some, my present purpose demands. But I was forced to do this, first of all, by the sublimity and profundity of the subject matter and, secondly, by the fact that it never seemed to me that I was going beyond the limits of natural reason or, consequently, of metaphysics.

         Since I have always believed that a tremendous power to understand and penetrate things resides in examining and judging them by means of an appropriate method--a power that I could scarcely maintain if, in the manner of the commentators, I discussed all the questions in the arbitrary and, as it were, casual order in which they occur in the Philosopher's text [the Metaphysics]--I decided that it would be more expedient and useful if I were to preserve the order of teaching in examining and putting before the eyes of the reader all the things that can be investigated and expected in regard to the object of this wisdom as a whole. Accordingly, the first disputation in the present work explains just what that object is; and in this disputation we explain at the same time the sublimity, usefulness, and other attributes that authors normally explain in their introductions to the sciences. After that, in the first volume we carefully discuss the broadest and most universal concept of this object--namely, that by which it is called being--along with its properties and causes. I have gone on at more length than is normal in studying the causes [of being], because I believe that this study is both very difficult and also extremely useful for all of philosophy and theology. In the second volume we have taken up the less universal concepts of this same object, beginning with the division of being into created being and uncreated being, since this division has priority and is closer to the quiddity of being, as well as being more suited to the unfolding of the present doctrine, which then proceeds through the partitions that fall under these concepts to all the genera and grades of being that are contained within the bounds or limits of this science.

         However, since many will want to have this universal doctrine related to the books of Aristotle, both in order to see better which principles of this great philosopher support it and also in order that it might be used more easily and conveniently for understanding Aristotle himself, I have also tried to serve the reader in this regard by providing a detailed index, by means of which, if it is read attentively, the reader will be able (if I am not mistaken) to comprehend and retain in memory all the topics that Aristotle discusses in the books of the Metaphysics and to have near at hand all the questions that are usually brought up by the commentators on those books.

        Lastly, we are at pains to remind the kind reader that this is indeed one book, and that its disputations would have been joined in a single volume were it not for a compelling reason. For, first of all, we divided the book into two volumes so that it would not prove troublesome because of its size; and, second, we sent out this first volume as soon as it came from the press in order that we might fulfill our duty as best we could to the students of our labors--though the other volume has already gone to press, with the result, I believe, that this part will not have been thoroughly read before the second part is published. May both parts, along with the rest of our endeavors, accrue to the greater glory of God, the Highest Good, and to the benefit of the Catholic Church. Farewell.

    Translated by
    Alfred J. Freddoso
    University of Notre Dame