Jacques Maritain Center : Studies in Analogy / by Ralph McInerny


We want to come at the object of our concern from another point of view now. It is a commonplace the writings of St Thomas that being is not a genus.

It should be noted that being cannot be contracted to something determinate in the way a genus is contracted to species through differences, for difference, since it does not participate in the genus, is outside the essence of the genus. But nothing can be outside the essence of being that by addition to being would constitute some species of it, for what is outside of being is nothing and cannot be a difference.{1}

What is being said is that being as known does not provide an adequate foundation for the second intention of genus. The known nature to which such a relation of reason attaches is such that it is predicated of many specifically different things with respect to what they are. If being as known does not found the relation of genus, it does not take on the second intention of analogous signification. The logical nature of the denial that being is a genus is clear from St Thomas' presentation of what he takes to be the fundamental statement of the argument in the third book of Aristotle's Metaphysics.

Quod autem ens et unum non possint esse genera, probat tali ratione. Quia cum differentia addita generi constituat speciem, de differentia praedicari non poterit nec species sine genere, nec genus sine speciebus.

(1) Quod autem species de differentia praedicari non possit, patet ex duobus:

    (a) Primo quidem quia differentia in plus est quam species, ut Porphyrius tradit.

    (b) Secundo, quia cum differentia ponatur in definitione speciei, non posset species praedicari per se de differentia, nisi intelligeretur quod differentia esset subiectum speciei, sicut numerus est subiectum paris, in cuius definitione ponitur Hoc autem non sic se habet; sed magis differentia est quaedam forma speciei. Non ergo posset species praedicari de differentia, nisi forte per accidens.

(2) Similiter etiam nec genus per se sumptum, potest praedicari de differentia praedicatione per se.

    (a) Non enim genus ponitur in definitione differentiae, quia differentia non participat genus, ut dicitur in quarto Topicorum.

    (b) Nec etiam differentia ponitur in definitione generis. Praedicatur tamen de eo quod 'habet differentiam,' idest de specie, quae habet differentiam in actu. Et ideo dicit, quod de propriis differentiis generis non paraedicatur species, nec genus sine speciebus, quia scilicet genus praedicatur de differentiis secundum quod sunt in speciebus. Nulla autem differentia potest accipi de qua non praedicetur ens et unum, quia quaelibet differentia cuiuslibet generis est ens et est una, alioquin non potest constituere unam aliquam speciem entis. Ergo impossibile est quod unum et ens sunt genera.{2}

Having pointed out that the species is constituted by the addition of difference to genus, various relations among these predicables are discussed by St Thomas and from these considerations it is seen to follow that being is not a genus. The key premisses are that species cannot be predicated of difference and that genus cannot be predicated of difference. We want to examine both of these before going on to the conclusino which follow from them.

1. Species cannot be Predicated of Difference

This point is made in two ways, first by an appeal to Porphyry's Isagoge, secondly by an argument. The remark from Prophyry{3} is a curiious one since it does not seem true that difference is wider than the species; difference is constitutive of species and if it were found outside its proper genus, it could not be divisive of it per se; if it is found only within the ambit of the genus, it will be exactly as wide as the species it constitutes. St Thomas himself has argued against this claim{4} but in so doing he indicates the way in which it is true.

Sed dicendum est quod si accipi posset differentia, quae notificaret ipsam formam substantialem speciei, nullo modo differentia ultima esset in plus quam species, ut rationes probant. Sed quia formae essentiales non sunt nobis per se notae, oportet quod manifestentur per aliqua accidentia, quae sunt signa illius formae, ut patet in VIII Metaphys. Non autem oportet accipere accidentia propria illius specieti, quia talia oportet per definitionem speciei demonstrari; sed oportet notificari formam speciei per aliqua accidentia communiora; et secundum hoc differentiae assumptae dicuntur quidem substantiales, in quantum inducuntur ad declarandum formamessentialem, sunt autem communiores specie, inquantum assumuntur ex aliquibus signis, quae consequuntur superiora genera.{5}
It is because the essences of things are unknown to us{6} that we must name their distinctive note from accidents wider than the species. Why this prevents the predication of species of difference is brought out in the argument where the type of predication envisaged is made clear. Obviously we can say, "Rational is man," so we must ascertain how it is denied that the species can be said of the difference. We cannot take such a predication as asserting that the predicate belongs per se to the subject. The first mode of perseity{7} is precluded because it is not the predicate which enters into the definition of the subject, but rather the other way round. Does that make our proposition per se in the second mode? That type of perseity is had when the subject enters into the definition of the predicate as its proper subject.{8} An example of this would be odd and even with respect to number which must enter into their definitions. Man is not a proper accident of its own difference so our example is not one of the second mode of perseity. Since it saves neither of these modes, we can say that "Rational is man" is an example of per accidens predication.{9}

2. Genus cannot be Predicated of Difference

This proposition is proved in the same way as the preceding one, namely by observing that "Rational is animal" involves neither of the first two modes of perseity. That it does not involve the first is expressed by saying that the difference does not participate in the genus. We may wonder if this establishes the point to be made, namely that genus does not enter into the definition of difference, since it is often said that the species does not participate genus,{9} although genus obviously enters into the definition of species. Without going into the various modes of participation here,{10) we can observe that "participate" sometimes means that what is predicated is of the essence of the subject.{11} Thus genus does not enter into the definition of difference. No more does difference enter into the definition of the genus and this comes down to a denial that "Rational is animal" is per se in the second mode. Both the generic name (e.g. "animal") and the name of difference (e.g. "rational") are expressive of the same human nature, but just as the genus is indeterminate with respect to difference, so difference is indeterminate with respect to genus and consequently neither enters into the definition of the other and neither can be predicated of the other according to the first mode of perseity.

    There are two connected difficulties with all this. The first arises from the fact that the genus is said to be predicable of difference as the proper subject of the latter. "Unde dicit Avicenna quod genus non est in differentia sicut pars essentiae eius, sed solum sicut ens extra quidditatem sive essentiam; sicut etiam subiectum est de intellectu passionum."{13} One not of proper accident is that it is convertible with its subject; now if animal is to rational as its proper subject then it would seem to follow that whatever is rational is animal and whatever is animal is rational.{14} But this is clearly false. Secondly, it seems false to say that genus and difference are outside the essence of one another; St Thomas himself seems to reject this elsewhere. "Et etiam propter hoc solvitur, quia non hoc modo advenit differentia generi, ut diversa essentia ab eo existens, sicut advenit album homini."{15}

    (1) The first difficulty is easily resolved by an appeal to the notion of disjunctive properties.{16} Even is not a property of number in the way risible is a property of man. "Every man is risible" is simply convertible to "Every risible being is man." But we do not say that whatever is a number is even, but rather that whatever is a number is even or odd and this is convertible to "Whatever is even is a number and whatever is odd is a number." (2) When the proper subject is said to be different in essence from it property, it means that the subject enters into the definition of its proper accident ex additione{17} in the way in which body enters into the definition of the soul, not as if body were part of what soul is, but simply as its subject. As to the quotation from St Thomas cited above, we must notice what precisely he is denying. He writes that difference does not advene to genus as accident does to substance. The composition of substance and accident does not result in something per se or essentially one, but precisely in an accidental composite. The addition of difference to genus gives rise to a phrase expressing one essence, which is just the point Aristotle and St. Thomas are making in that context. But if genus and difference are constitutive of a notion expressive of one essence, it does not follow that genus is of the essence of difference or vice versa. "Anima" means "what has a body endowed with senses" and is indeterminate with respect to any further perfection in the thing of which it is predicated, since it does not, in its mode of signifying, prescind from such further perfection. That is why we can say, "Man is animal" - this does not mean that man is only a sensitive body. So too "rational" means "what is endowed with reason" and it is indeterminate as to whether such a thing is corporeal or not. Form is not matter nor is matter form though together they make one essence; difference, genus and species are related proportionally as are form, matter and essence.{18} The generic notion is said to be taken from matter because it expresses the essence in such a way that it is susceptible of further perfection; the differential notion is taken from form and expresses only perfection. Genus does not express what difference does nor vice versa though they both signify the same essence. This is why St Thomas can say that, though genus is not predicated of difference, it is predicated of that which has the difference, the species, e.g., "Man is animal."

    From all this it is clear that being cannot be a genus. Nothing can be said of the things that are of which being cannot be said; that is, there are no differential notions which do not express what 'being' expresses or which express something of which "being" cannot be said. Whatever is is thereby being and will have "being" said of it. "But no difference actually participates the genus, because difference is taken from form, genus from matter, as rational from intellectual nature, animal from sensitive nature. Form is not actually included in the essence of matter, but matter is in potency to it. Similarly difference does not pertain to the nature of genus, but genus has the difference potestate. Because of this, difference does not participate in genus, for when I say 'rational' I signify something having reason nor is animal included in the understanding of rational. That is participated which is included in the understanding of what participates and that is why it is said that difference does not participate in genus. Now no difference can be taken in whose understanding being and one would not be included, so one and being cannot have differences, and cannot, therefore, be genera since every genus has differences. The truth is that one and being are not genera but are analogically common to all things."{19}

    Sometimes, it is true, being is called a genus, but it is not one, properly speaking, for the reasons we have seen. It can be called genus analogically insofar as it saves something of the definition of "genus," namely being common to many.{20} We musst now look more closely at the way something analogically common to many differs from what is generically common.

3. Genus and Inequality

It was pointed out earlier that the difference between the generically common notion and the common notion signified by an analogous name is that the former is participated in equally by the things of which it is said while participation in the latter is unequal, per prius et posterius.{21} For example, man and cow participate equally in the notion signified by "animal"; the adverbial phrase ex aequo is elsewhere replaced by the verb parificantur,{22} to express the relation of the species to their genus. Analogates, on the other hand, are not made equal, reduced to notional unity, in what their common name signifies and "analogy" accordingly connotes inequality, an order of first and second, of perfect and imperfect, of simpliciter and secundum quid.

    Two problems arise here the resolution of which is essential for the overriding question of this essay. First, the statement about things named univocally seems to be contradicted by the common doctrine that the species of a genus are unequal, the one more perfect than the other, in short, that they are related per prius et posterius. Secondly, doesn't the very fact that we can speak of a ratio communis analogi indicate that in some way and at some stage of our understanding of them analogates parificantur in intentione alicuius communis? Clearly those who speak of the univocity of "being" would answer the question affirmatively. Partisans of the analogy of "being" must feel uneasiness at talk of the common notion of an analogous name, for if it is one and common, how does it differ from the notion signified by a univocal name? That we cannot appeal to notions other than the common one to explain the inequality of the analogous name is clear from the fact that the generic notion covers that kind of inequality.

    Species are said to be made equal in the notion signified by the generic name: man and cow in "animate sensitive substance." However, "omnia animalia sunt aequaliter animalia, non tamen sunt aequalia animalia, sed unum animal est altero maius et perfectius...{23} This is an extremely paradoxical remark: all animals are equally animals but not equal animals. In what are they unequal? Well, we have already seen wherein they are equal, namely in the notion signified by "animal," so their inequality must be sought elsewhere, in something not expressed by the common notion. "Alicuius generis species se habent secundum prius et posterius, sicut numeri et figurae, quantum ad esse; licet simul esse dicantur inquantum suscipiunt communis generis praedicationem."{24} Quantum ad esse - does this mean in their very acts of existence as opposed to what they are?{25} We will see that the significance of excepting the ultimate species from discussions of how the univocal notion can cover an inequality secundum esse is precisely that no appeal to raw existence is involved in this or other similar texts. We are faced with a general statement about the relation of species to their genus, for

Si quis enim diligenter consideret, in omnibus speciebus unius generis semper inveniet unam alia perfectiorem, sicut in coloribus albedinem et in animalibus hominem. Et hic ideo quia quae formaliter differunt, secundum aliquam contrarietatem differunt; est enim contrarietas differentia secundum formam, et Philosophus dicit in X Metaphysicae. In contrariis autem semper est unum nobilius et alius vilius...et hoc ideo quia prima contrarietas est privtio et habitus...{26}

The source of the inequality of things made equal in a generic notion is given in this text: it is precisely the differences which divide the genus and are unexpressed by it. The species are unequal secundum esse or secundum naturam, that is, when they are considered in their specific natures constituted by differences which are contraries and ipso facto related as more and less perfect, e.g. rational and irrational, living and non-living. St Thomas can say secundum esse because this inequality is read in terms of that ultimate form by virtue of which alone the thing is, is animal, is man: the form which is the causa essendi.{27}

    The inequality of things made equal in a generic notion, an inequality due to the differences which divide the genus, is covered by both the genus physicum and the genus logicum.{28} To understand this distinction, we must recall the dictum that genus sumitur a materia. The generic notion is a grasp of matter under a common perfection such that the notion is material with respect to further perfections, i.e. the differences quae sumuntur a forma. The inequality we have been speaking of is had in terms of those further differences, whereas the difference between the genus physicum and logicum is drawn from illud materiale unde sumitur genus.{29} The generic notion contains a formal and a material note and insofar as the matter is ignored and the form alone attended to, we have the formal, abstract notion which is called the logical genus. It is logical in the sense of dialectical; common in that it does not express what is proper to the nature of the things from which it was originally drawn: that is why neither the philosopher of nature nor the metaphysician can be satisfied with it. For example, the notion of body is drawn from terrestial things and it signifies corruptible substances of three dimensions. Only by ignoring the nature of the matter of such things, while retaining what is formal to the generic notion, can "body" be taken to be univocal to terrestial and celestial bodies because of the putative difference of their matter. So too the notion of substance is drawn from material things, but by retaining only what is formal in the concept, angels and men can be called substances univocally, logice loquendo.

     We must not be misled by the "logical" attached to the word genus in such discussions, nor by the statement that it is common, abstract. Genus is as such a logical intention: whether or not we retain both its formal and material notes. It is a relation attaching to something which is one only due to our mode of knowing, for it is not by the same specific nature that stones and men are substances, or men and cows animals. But it is by the same ultimate form that Socrates and Plato are specifically the same. It is noteworthy that the inequality of species with respect to their genus is not matched by the relation of individuals to their species, for this is instructive as to the meaning of secundum esse. "Ad tertium dicendum quod genus praedicatur aequaliter de speciebus quantum ad intentionem, sed non semper quantum ad esse, sicut in figura et numero... Sed hoc in speciebus non contingit... unde ex hoc sufficienter posset probari quod non sunt unius speciei, non autem quod non sunt unius speciei, non autem quod non sunt ejusdem generis..."{30} "Impossibile est autem naturam speciei communicare ab individuis per prius et posterius, neque esse, neque post secundum intentionem, quamvis hoc sit possibile in natura generis."{31} The specific notion (ultimate species) is not further divisible formally, so no inequality like that to which specific differences give rise is possible. Moreover, the specific notion will be a ratio concreta and will not abstract from such essential notes as the matter of the thing. In conclusion, we can say that the inequality of species due to their specific differences, as opposed to what they have generically and equally in common, does not entail an analogous name. That this is explicitly the mind of St. Thomas is clear from the following extremely important passage.

Sed dicendum quod unum dividentium aliquod commune potest esse prius altero dupliciter: uno modo, secundum proprias rationes aut naturas dividentiaum; alio modo, secundum participationem rationis illius communis quod in ea dividitur. Primum autem non tollit univocationem generis ut manifestum est in numeris, inquibus binarius secundum propriam rationem naturaliter est prior ternario; sedtamen aequaliter participant rationem generis sui, scilicet numeri: ita enim estternarius multiudo mensurata per unum, sicut et binarius. Sed secundum impedit univocationem generis. Et propter hoc ens non potest esse genus substantiae et accidentis: quia in ipsa ratione entis, substantia, quae est ens per se, prioritatem habet respectu accidentis, quod est ens per aliud et in alio. Sic ergo affirmatio secundum propriam rationem prior est negatione; tamen aequaliter participant rationem enunciationis, quam supra ponit, videlicet quod enunciatio est oratio in qua verumv vel falsum est.{32}
St Thomas is here dismissing the view he attributes to Alexander, namely that affirmation's priority to negation destroys the univocity of "enunciation" and makes it equivocal ad unum or what St Thomas himself would call an analogous name.{33} It will be appreciated that his reply indicates that he looks on the relation of genus to its species in the way in which Scotus thinks being is related to substance and accident. Thus, Scotus feels that if we ignore the proper notions of substance and accident, "being" is univocally common to them because it signifies a ratio communis. He will agree, however, that if we have in mind the proper notions of substance and accident, they are called being analogically. If this could be the case, St Thomas would call "being" a univocal term, though it is doubtful that he would then go on to call it analogical because of an inequality read in terms of proper notions or natures, for he is here denying that the inequality of affirmation and negation renders the term "enunciation" analogically common to them. This text is of great importance for the light it casts on the common notion signified by the analogous name. The inequality of things having such a name in common is had in terms of the common notion itself; far from being made equal in the ratio communis, their very inequality is revealed in terms of it, for only one of them saves that notion perfectly. If the ratio communis entis is "what is," only substance saves this notion simpliciter; whatever other than substance is called being must be referred to substance in order to explain the predication. Ens per se and ens per aliud are not differences of being; "being" must first of all be taken to mean that which has existence in itself; if something else is called being of which this is not true, it will be referred to that of which it is true insofar as it receives the common name. It is as if a generic name qua generic primarily signified one of the species and the other only with reference to the first.{35} But the generic name is not more the name of one species than the other, whereas "being" is rather the name of substance than of accident. Habens animalitatem is equally common to man and beast, but habens esse is primarily saved by substance, habens sanitatem is primarily saved by animal. Medicine cannot be called healthy without reference to animal; accident cannot be called being with reference to substance. To notice that habens esse is one phrase tells us nothing of how it is common to the things named being; to insist on its oneness is very much like insisting on the fact that the same word "being" is common to many. The point of interest when we are speaking of analogy and univocity is how the word is common, how a notion it signifies is common. The common notion signified by the analogous name is not common as is that of the univocal name; it is simply wrongheaded to suggest that "being" can be thought of as common to substance and accident in the way "animal" is common to man and beast. Though we formulate a ratio communis, it is not saved equally when "being" is taken as predicable of substance and accident; no such shift in the notion signified by the generic name is brought about as it is predicated of different species.

4. Aside on "Ens commune"

We are told that "one," "true" and "good" are convertible with "being," which means that anything of which "being" is said can be called one, good and true and that whatever is is one, good and true as well. Unity and truth and goodness are sometimes called transcendental properties of being; indeed, being itself is said to be a transcendental. By this is meant that these words signify things not as confined to one category, that they transcend the limitation of any one category, i.e. just as "being" does not signify one type of genus of thing as opposed to others, but something common to whatever is, so unity is not a category of things but common to all. Ens commune or transcendental being does not designate some nature over and above the categories, as if its not being deteremined to one category meant that it is outside all categories. What is meant is that "being" can be said of anything in any category; we cannot conclude from this that there is anything outside the categories. In discussing the fact that being is not a genus, we saw that there is no notion which can so abstract from the different categories that it applies indifferently and equally to them all.{35} Needless to say, the communiyt of "being" is anything but tantamount to the assertion that "being" is the name of something over and above the things which fall into the categories and to which they relate. By the community of "being" we mean neither the community of a generic nature nor that there is some subsistent thing apart from individuals in the category of substance. "Being" is simply a wider, more common or universal name for what could more properly be called a substance, a quantity, a quality, or yet more properly, respectively, a man, a triangle, a color. These names tell us a good deal more then does "being," since this word is imposed from existence, actuality out-thereness, and does not express what is there nor how it differs from everything else that is. The concrete name ens, as opposed to its abstract counterpart esse, means quod est, quod habet esse, quod est in actu in rerum natura. It doesn't express the kind of thing that is: "Non enim significat formam aliquam, sed ipsum esse."{36} "Ens auten non dicit quidditatem, sed solum actum essendi...{37} In short, "being" is the least informative of all names.

    Doesn't this carry us back to something we have previously argued against, namely that "being," if it doesn't express any of the determinations whereby things differ from one another, expresses precisely what they all have in common, that wherein they do not differ? The uninformative vagueness of quod est would seem to enable ens to name everything indiscriminately and equally. St. Thomas, for example, says that when "is" is the only predicate attached to a subject, its meaning is existit in rerum natura.{38} But surely this is what all things out-there have in common; that is parificantur in hac intentione. Elsewhere he writes, "Res ad invicem non distinguuntur secundum quod habent esse: quia in hoc omnia conveniunt."{39} It is true that what distinguishes one being from another is not the is in "what is" just as such; nevertheless, differences in the what are productive of differences in the is. Thus, continuing the text just quoted, "Si ergo res differunt ad invicem, oportet quod vel ipsum esse specificetur per aliquas differentias additas, ita quod rebus diversis sit diversum esse secundum speciem: vel quod res different per hoc quod ipsum esse diversis naturis secundum speciem convenit. Set primum horum est impossibile: quia enti non potest fieri aliqua additio secundum modum quo differentia additur generi... Relinquitur ergo quod res propter hoc differant quod habent diversas naturas, quibus acquiritur esse diversimode."{40} If existence is actuality, then we won't look for something that makes actuality actual, but rather will look to what is in act, what is actualized, to find differences in actualities. Thus, actuality or existence is determined, not by the addition of further actuality, but is limited and specified by the kind of thing that is. The generic notion, we remember, was one which could be considered to be material and potential with respect to further actuality: so, once more, habens esse is not a generic notion. One being or existent differs from another, not because some further formal difference is attached to existence, but because the nature of this differs from that and consequentlythe existence of this differs from the existence of that.{41} Since the differences of esse come from the limiting natures to which it is added and since habens esse expresses determinately no nature, "being" expresses none of the differences of things and can be common to all since it does none of the differences of things and can be common to all since it does not prescind from these differences.{42} When it comes to determining these differences, one kind of what will take precedence over others since things are not said to be in the same way.{43} Thus, if we say "whiteness is" or "humanity is," existence is attributed to that whereby something is white or a man. Only the subsistent something, e.g. this man, has existence or actuality attributed to it properly, but this comes about differently in (1) "Socrates is a man" and (2) "Socrates is white," for in (1) we are attributing esse substantiale, in (2) esse accidentale. Thus "what is" as the signification of "being" is said to be a common notion, but it is not univocally common to the various categories of being, since there is inequality of participation in it.

    From the many difficulties which could be raised here, let us select the following. St Thomas sometimes says that a living thing is more perfect than a merely existent thing, because the living thing is existent and more besides.{44} Now this sounds very much like saying that man is more perfect than beast because he is an animate sensitive substance and more besides, namely rational. In other words, the comparison of vivere and esse seems to treat being as if it were a genus. At other times. St Thomas will say that esse is more perfect than vivere. Here is his own resolution of the apparent contradiction.

Dicendum quod esse simpliciter acceptum, secundum quod includit in se omnem perfectionem essendi, praeeminet vitae et omnibus subsequentibus: sic enim ipsum esse praehabet in se omnia subsequentia. Et hoc modo Dionysius loquitur. - Sed si condieretur ipsum esse prout participatur in hac re vel in illa, quae non capunt totam perfectionem essendi, sed habent esse imperfectum, sicut est esse cuiuslibet creaturae, sic manifestum est quod ipsum esse cum perfectione superaddita est eminentius. Unde Dionysius ibidem dicit quod viventia sunt meliora existentibus, et intelligentia viventibus.{45}
This text may seem to increase the difficulty, for we are told of a perfection superadded to being. Nor is this a unique remark. "Ad cuius evidentiam, considerandum est quod quanto aliqua causa est superior, tanto ad plura se extendit in causando, semper autem id quod substernitur in rebus, invenitur communius quam id quod informat et restringit ipsum: sicut esse quam vivere, et vivere quam intelligere, et materia quam forma."{46} These texts present two difficulties: first, what is meant by saying that existence includes every perfection; secondly, is not esse here spoken of as if it were a genus?

    The second problem is dissipated when we observe that the comparison of existentia and viventia is within the genus of substance. St Thomas brings this out in a text in which he is concerned with explaining the hierarchy in that genus. Observing that God and Prime Matter can be considered as extremes of pure act and pure potency, St Thomas goes on to say that matter is the cause of generic diversity in that, in some things, matter is perfected so that it subsists, in others so that it not only subsists but is living and so forth. In the first case, a form actuates matter so that it exists, in the second so that it exists and lives. "Exists" here means "subsists," then, and what is as subject to the further perfection of living is the generic notion, substance.{47} In much the same way, in the second definition of the soul, the soul is said to be "primum quo et vivimus, et sentimus, et movemur et intelligimus." "To live" is here used to signify vegetative life, though other operations are also vital.{48} This serves to heighten the first difficulty for, far from esse including vivere, it would seem to be vivere which includes esse, just as sentire includes vivere. Vivere est esse viventibus.{49} How then can esse be said to include all other perfections? "The transition from vivens perfectius ente to esse praeminet vitae is the transition from a principally logical to a strictly metaphysical understanding of being.{50} The view suggested in this remark is quite widespread nowadays and it purports to find its base in St Thomas' statement that "esse est actualitas omnium actuum, et propter hoc est perfectio omnium perfectionum."{51} One author makes the same point in terms of a distinction between what he calls existence as minimal act and existence as maximal act.{52} By minimal act, he means what would be known simply by knowing that a thing is without knowing what it is, as when we say that we know a thing is and imply that this is all we know. "No doubt existence does mean this. But note that it is by one and the same act that X is not nothing, and that it is all that it is; existence is maximal act."{53} Such a distinction seems prompted by the desire to account for statements that esse includes all other perfections; indeed, it would be safe to generalize and say that "Thomistic Existentialism" is an attempt to unpack everything from esse on the assumption that everything is there. Thus the different comparisons of esse and vivere must be carefully understood, lest we find ourselves unable to resist the allure of existence as maximal act, a view of existence which is said to be the clef de voute of the metaphysics of St. Thomas. Fortunately, St Thomas himself, commenting on Dionysius, faces this same problem. "Cum ipsum esse excedat vitam et vita excedat sapientiam, unde est quod viventia supereminent existentibus et sentientia viventibus...?"{54} St Thomas goes on:

sermo praedicta obiectionis recte se haberet, si ea quae sunt intellectualia supponeret esse aliquis non existentia vel non esse viventia; tunc enim sicut esse praeemineret vitae et vita sapientiae, ita existentia praeeminerent viventibus et viventia sapientibus. Sed divinae mentes Angelorum non carent esse, quinnimo habent excellentius super alia existentia creata et habent vitam super alia viventia...{55}
The eminence of existence is read in terms of its community and it is said to be more noble than life because whatever lives is, though not everything which is lives: "licet viventia sint nobiliora quam existentia tamen esse est nobilius quam vivere: viventia enim non tantum habent vitam, sed cum vita simul habent et esse."{56} Ipsum esse participates in nothing; all other things participate in it. Since it is communissimum and signifies abstractly, ipsum esse "nihil alienum in se habere possint."{57}  If this is so, how can we understand the remark, quoted earlier, to the effect that esse includes all other perfections? The sequel of the passage just quoted from the exposition of the Divine Names provides the answer. St Thomas observes that every form that is received in something is limited by the receiver; for example, a white body does not become whiteness, but participates it. "Sed si esset albedo separata, nihil deesset eo quod ad virtutem albedinis pertineret." This is a contrafactual conditional, of course, but what if there were, besides the things that are (i.e. entia, ea quae habent esse), a subsistent esse? Well, that would possess all the perfections had in diffusion by things which only participate existence; which exist but are not existence, are actual but are not actuality. "Omnia autem alia... habent esse receptum et participatum et ideo non habent esse secundum totam virtutem essendi, sed solus Deus, qui est ipsum esse subsistens, secundum totam virtutem essendi, esse habet..."{58} God is esse commune and contains all the perfections of being supereminently, but He is not the esse predicably common to all the things that are. Thus, God who is existence is life, is wisdom, etc., but this does not entail that vivere is synonymous with, or part of the meaning, of esse, although vivere est esse viventibus. The latter phrase indicates rather that esse is part of the meaning of vivere than vice versa. St Thomas makes the same point in explaining why per se esse is said to be prior to and worthier than per se vita.{59}  From this it is clear that existence as maximal act can only be God: there is nothing among the things that are which could answer to it for there we find only beings which participate existence is a limited fashion; moreover, there is no notion or concept which, when unpacked or meditated on, could reveal the multitude of created perfections. If we say, in order to retain the notion of maximal act, that the esse of Socrates is all that he is, what could follow but confusion; strangely enough, partisans of this notion begin by insisting that their intention is simply to draw out all the implications of the distinction between essence and existence. To say that without existence there would be nothing does not imply that in existent things, their existence is all that they are, for this would dissolve any difference between existence and essence. One can say, similarly that without form, matter would not exist, but this does not entail that the form of material things is all they are. The great danger of the positiion in question is that it puts a premium on predicates of great universality, so that "Socrates exists" somehow becomes a more profound and revealing statement  than "Socrates is a man," although the latter tells us a good deal more than the former about the kind of being Socrates is and, consequently, of the kind of esse he has. Vivere is more determinate than esse when we are speaking of living things: to prefer esse here is a kind of glorifaction of the abstract. Such an "existentialism" becomes the "essentialism" it fears.


{1} "Sciendum est enim quod ens non potest hoc modo contrahi ad aliquid determinatum, sicut genus contrahitur ad species per differentias. Nam differentia, cum non participet genus, est extra essentiam generis. Nihil autem posset esse extra essentiam entis, quod per additionem ad ens aliquam speciem entis constituat: nam quod est extra ens, nihil est, et differentia esse non potest." - In V Metaphysic., lect. 9, n. 899; cf. In III Physic., lect. 5, n. 617; I Contra Gentes, cap.25; Q.D. de ver., q. 1, a. 1; Ia, q. 3, a. 5.

{2} In III Metaphysic., lect. 8, n. 433.

{3} Apparently chapter 12 of the Isagoge; cf. In VII Metaphysic., lect. 15, n. 1621.

{4} In II Post. analytic., lect. 13, n. 6: "Sed videtur quod non requiratur ad definitionem quod quaelibet particula sit in plus quam definitum. Dicit enim Philosophus in VII Metaphys. quod quando pervenitur ad ultimas differentias, erunt aequales differentiae speciebus; non ergo oportet quod differentia sit in plus quam species. Quod etiam ratione videtur. Dicit enim Philosophus in VII Metaphys. quod ratio quae est ex differentiis, videtur esse speciei et actus, idest formae, quia, sicut ibidem dicitur, differentia respondet formae; cuiuslibet autem speciei est propria forma, quae nulli alii convenit. Videtur igitur quod differentia ultima non excedat speciem. Dicit etiam Philosophus in VII Metaphys., quid nihil est aliud in definitione quam genus et differentiae, et quod possible est definitionem ex duobus constitui, quorum unum sit genus, aliud differentia. Differentia autem non invenitur extra proprium, genus, alioquin non esset divisiva generis per se, sed per accidens. Videtur ergo quod differentia non excedat speciem."

{5} Ibid., n. 7.

{6} Q.D. de ver., q. 10, a. 1.

{7} In I Post. analytic., lect. 10, n. 3: "Primus ergo modus dicendi per se est quando id quod attribuitur alicui pertinet ad formam eius. Et quia definitio significat forman et essentiam rei, primus modus eius quod est per se est quando praedicatur de aliquo definitio vel aliquid in definitione positum (et hoc est quod per se sunt quaecumque insunt in eo, quod quid est, idest in definitione indicante quid est) sive ponatur in recto sive in obliquo."

{8}Ibid., n. 4: "Secundus modus dicendi per se est quando haec praepositio per designat habitudinem causae materialis, prout scilicet id cui aliquid attribuitur est propria materiae proprium subiectum ipsius. Oportet autem quod proprium subiectum ponatur in definitione accidentis: quandoque quidem in obliquo, sicut cum accidens in abstracto definitur, ut cum dicimus 'simitas est curvitas nasi,' quandoque in recto, ut cum accidens definitur in concreto, ut cum dicimus 'simus est nasus curvus.' Cuius quidem ratio est quia cum esse accident is dependeat a subiecto, oportet etiam quo definitio eius significans esse ipsius contineat in se subiectum. Unde secundus modus dicendi per se est quando subiectum ponitur in definitione praedicat, quod est proprium accidens eius."

{9} Ibid., n. 5.

{10} Cf. In VII Metaphysic., lect. 3, n. 1328: "Genus autem non praedicatur de speciebus per participationem, sed per essentiam. Homo enim est animal essentialiter, non solum aliquid animalis participans."

{11} Cf. Laval Theologique et philosophique, XV, 2 (1959), pp. 242-5.

{12} Cf. In XI Metaphysic., lect. 1, n. 2169; St. Albert, In IV Topic., tract. 1, cap. 4: "Nec videtur secundum veriatem, quod differentia participat genus, sicut id quod directe continetur in genere, genus participat: quia omne quod sic participat, quoad nomen et rationem, est species vel individuum et non differentia: differentia autem quoad hoc quod est consequens esse generis, modum habet praedicationis de genere propriae passionis, et non genus participans."

{13} De ente et essentia, cap. 3.

{14} Cf. Porphyry, Isagoge, chap. 4.

{15} In VII Metaphysic., lect. 12, n. 1550.

{16} See Joseph Bobk, Philosophical Studies (Ireland), IX 1959), pp. 75-6.

{17} Cf. In VII Metaphysic., lect. 4, nn. 133 sq.

{18} De ente et essentia, cap. 3; In VIII Metaphysic., lect. 2, n. 1697.

{19} "Nulla enim differentia participat actu genus; quia differentia sumitur a forma, genus autem a materia. Sicut rationale a natura intellectiva, animal a nature sensitiva. Forma autem non includitur in essentia materiae actu, sed materia est in potentia ad ipsam. Et similiter differentia non pertinet ad naturam generis, sed genus habet differentiam potestate. Et propter hoc differentia non participat genus; quia cum dico rationale, significo aliquid habens rationem. Nec est de intellectu rationalis quod sit animal. Illud autem participatur, quod est de intellectu participantis. Et propter hoc dicitur, quod differentia non participat genus. Nulla autem posset differentia sumi, de cuius intellectu non esset unum et ens. Unde unuum et ens non possunt habere aliquas differentias. Et ita non possunt esse genera, cum omne genus habeat differentias. Est autem veritas, quod unum et ens non sunt genera, sed sunt omnibus communia analogice." - In XI Metaphysic., lect. 1, nn. 2169-70.

{20} Cf. In X Metaphysic., lect. 8, n. 2092: "Et non dicit quod sit simpliciter genus, quia sicut ens genus non est proprie loquendo, ita nec unum quod convertitur cum ente, nec pluralitas ei opposita. Sed est quasi genus, quia habet aliquid de ratione generis, inquantum est communus." - Cf. In IV Metaphysic., lect 4, n. 583; ibid., lect. 2, n. 563; Q.D. de malo, q. 1, a. 1, ad 11.

{21} Q.D. de malo, q. 7, a. 1, ad 1.

{22} I Sent., d. 19, q. 5, a. 2, ad 1.

{23} Q.D. de malo, q. 2, a. 9, ad 16.

{24} Ia, q. 77, a. 4, ad 1.

{25} For a good presentation, though one I believe weakened by the latter-day penchant for discovering an existentialism in St. Thomas, see Armand Maurer, "St Thomas and the Analogy of Genus," The New Scholasticism (1955), pp. 127-144. See too Fr. Klubertanz, op. cit., p. 103, n. 33 for a critique of Fr. Maurer.

{26} Cf. In librum de causis, (ed. Saffrey), prop. 4a, pp. 31-2.

{27} In II Post. analytic., lect. 7, n.2.

{28} See Ralph M. McInerny, The Logic of Analogy, Mrtinus Nijhoff, The Hague (1961), pp. 98-122.

{29} In Boethii de trin., q. 4, a. 2.

{30} Il Sent., d. 3, q. 1, a. 5, ad 3.

{31} Ibid., a. 4.

{32} In I Periherm., lect. 8, n. 6.

{33} Cf. Ralph McInerny, "Le terme 'ame' est-il equivoque ou univoque?" Revue philosophique de Louvain, T. 58 (1960), pp. 481-504.

{34} Although a difficulty may seem to be presented by the fact that the genus and one of the species often share a common name as, for example, "animal" taken as generic name and as the name of the species divided against rational animal, and "chance," since the one species does not receive the generic name with reference to the other species the difficulty is apparent only, not real.

{35} "To be in a category" or "to be a predicate" may seem to be exceptions to this, but of course they do not signify anything which pertains to things in rerum natura. This is sufficient to dismiss the problem here, but in so doing we are not affirming that these logical names are univocal in the case in point.

{36} Ia, q. 13, a. 11.

{37} I Sent., d. 8, q. 4, a. 2, ad 2.

{38} In II Periherm., lect. 2, n.2.

{39}I Contra Gentes, cap. 26.
{40) Ibid.

{41} Cf. Q.D. de pot., q. 7, a. 2, ad 9.

{42} Ibid., ad 6. St Thomas here compares ens commune and animal commune in terms of this indifference to further addition, but of course only the latter is open to further formal differentiation.

{43} Quodl. IX, q. 2, a. 2: "Alio modo esse dicitur actus entis inquantum est ens, idest quo denominatur aliquid ens actu in rerum natura. Et sic esse non attribuitur nisi rebus ipsis quae in decem generibus continentur; unde ens a tali esse dictum per decem genera dividitur. Sed hoc esse attribuitur alicui dupliciter. Uno modo sicut et quod proprie et vere habet esse vel est. Et sic attribuitur soli substantiae per se subsistenti: unde quo vere est dicitur substantia... Omnia vero quae non per se subsistunt, sed in alio et com alio, sive sunt accidentia sive formae substantiales aut quaelibet partes, non habent esse ita ut ipsi vere sunt; sed attribuitur eis esse alio modo, idest ut quo aliquid est; sicut albedo dicitur, non quia ipsa in se subsistat, sed quia ea aliquid habet esse aalbum. - Esse ergo proprie et vere non attribuitur nisi rei per se subsistenti. Huic autem attribuitur duplex: unum scilicet esseresultans ex his ex quibus eius unitas integratur, quod proprium est esse suppositi substantiale. Aliud esse esse est supposito attributum praeter ea que integrant ipsum, quod est esse superadditum, scilicet accidentale, ut esse album attribuitur Socrati cum dicitur: Socrates est albus."

{44} Ia, q. 4, a. 2, ad 3.

{45} IaIIae, q. 2, a. 5, ad 2.

{46} Ia, q. 65, a. 3

{47} "Non autem mteria ex omni parte aequaliter recipit similitudinem actus primi; sed a quibusdam imperfecte, a quibusdam vero perfectius, utpote quaedam participant divinam similitudinem secundum quod tantum subsistunt, quaedam vero secundum quod vivunt, quaedam vero secundum quod cognoscunt, quaedam vero secundum quod intelligunt. Ipsa igitur similitudo primi actus in quacumque materia existens, est forma eius. Sed forma talis in quibusdam facit esse tantum, in quibusdam esse et vivere; et sic de aliis in uno et eodem. Similitudo enim perfectior habet omne id quod habet similitudo minus perfecta, et adhuc amplius." - In Boethii de trin., q. 4, a. 2.

{48} In II de anima, lect. 4, n. 273: "Vivere enim refert ad principium vegetativum, quia superius dixerat quod vivere propter hoc praecipuum inest omnibus viventibus." Cf. ibid., lect. 3, n. 258.

{49} Ibid., lect. 7, nn. 318-9; cf. Quodl. IX., q. 2, a. 2, ad 1: "...dicendum quod vivere dicit esse quoddam specificatum, per speciale essendi principium..."

{50} B. Kelly, The Metaphysical Background of Analogy, Aquinas Society of London: Aquinas Paper 29, London (1958), p. 5.

{51} Q.D. de pot., q. 7, a. 2, ad 9.

{52} J.F. Anderson, "On Demonstration in Metaphysics," The New Scholasticism, XXXII (1958), pp. 476-94.

{53} Ibid., p. 481.

{54} In Dionysii divinis nominibus, cap. 5, lect. 1 n. 614.

{55} Ibid. n. 615.

{56} Q.D. de pot., q. 7, a. 2, ad 9.

{57} Ibid.; cf. In Boethii de hebdomadibus, lect. 2.

{58} In de div. nom., cap. 5, lect. 1, n. 629.

{59} Ibid., n. 635: "Quod autem per se esse sit primum et dignius quam per se vita et per se sapientia, ostendit dupliciter: primo quidem, per hoc quod quaecumque participant aliis participationibus, primo participant ipso esse: prius enim intelligitur aliquod ens quam unum, vivens, vel sapiens. Secundo, quod ipsum esse comparatur ad vitam, et alia huius unum, vivens, vel sapiens, secundo, quod ipsum esse comparatur ad vitam, et alia huius modi sicut participatum ad participans: nam etiam ipsa vita est ens quoddam et sic esse, modi sicut paarticipatum ad participans: name etiam ipsa vita est ens quoddam et sic esse, prius et simplicius est quam vita et alia huiusmodi et comparatur ad ea ut actus eorum. Et ideo dicit quod non solum ea quae participant aliis participationibus, prius participant ipso esse, sed, quod magis est, omnia quae nominantur per se ipsa, ut per se vita, per se sapientia et alia huiusmodi quibus existentia participant, participant ipso per se esse: quia nihil est existens cuius ipsum per se esse non sit substantia et aevum, idest forma participata ad subsistendum et durandum. Unde cum vita sit quoddam existens, vita etiam participat ipso esse."

© 2011 by the Estate of Ralph McInerny. All rights reserved including the right to translate or reproduce this book or parts thereof in any form.

<< ======= >>