JMC : Logic and Mental Philosophy / by Charles Coppens, S.J.

Chapter II.
The Transcendental Attributes of Being.

36. An attribute or property, strictly so called, is some note which is not the essence but still necessarily flows from the essence. Now, it is evident that from the essence 'being' nothing can flow which is not itself 'being'; therefore 'being' cannot have attributes or properties in the strict sense of these terms.

But in a wider sense we may, by analogy, give the name of attribute or property to any special view taken of being, provided such view can be taken of all and every being. Now, three such views are possible: (a) We may deny of every being that it is divided in itself; we do so by saying that it is one; oneness or unity is intrinsic to every being, and since it denies division it is negative attribute. (b) Considering a being extrinsically, or as related to other beings, we may view it as conformable to knowledge, and call it true; truth is an extrinsic positive attribute. (c) We may also view every being as proportionate to an appetite or desire, and call it good; goodness is therefore also an extrinsic positive attribute. We shall find no other property which is common to all beings and is not identical with one of these three. These, then, are the only three transcendental properties of being; we shall examine them separately.

37. I. Every being is one. The term 'one' adds nothing positive to the being of which it is predicated, but it excludes the idea of many or of division into many; that therefore is called 'one' which is not many, which is not divided in itself. It differs from 'alone,' which term has reference to something else, denying the existence of another being of the same kind Still, unity is not always taken in its transcendental sense. When not taken in a transcendental meaning, but as a predicable, unity may be differently considered.

1. It is metaphysical when the being is not only undivided, but also incapable of division, as a spirit.

2. Physical, when nature unites real or separable parts into one whole, as in a tree, a man, a stone.

3. Artificial, when the parts are united by human skill, as a table, a clock, a book; this unity may be material or mental. Thus, a history in several volumes is an intellectual or mental unit.

4. Moral, when persons are united by a moral bond, as a family, a state.

5. Accidental, when the union is a mere aggregation without a bond, as a heap of stones. A being may have one of these unities without having the others. Metaphysical and physical unity make a being one in the proper sense of the word; the other unities make a thing one after a fashion, secundum quid.

38. The opposite of 'one' is 'many'; the opposite of unity is multiplicity. Many taken together constitute a multitude. A multitude measured by the unit is called a number. To number a multitude we must conceive three things 1. Oneness, for number is formally a collection of units. 2. Distinction, or division between the units. 3. Some similarity between them. If that similarity is generic or specific, we have a concrete number as five animals, twenty men, etc. If the similarity is only transcendental, we have an abstract number, as five, twenty, etc., i.e., so many beings. Thus, also, five men, four plants, and five senses make fourteen things. When we have no definite unit to start with, we can get no number; thus the arcs contained in a circumference are numberless. Since oneness, distinction, and similarity are conceived by means of abstraction, and abstraction requires an intellect, none but intelligent beings can count. Brutes may perceive many things, but they cannot perceive them as making a number.

39. The unity which a being has with itself or with another is called identity or sameness. When a being is viewed as the same with itself individually, it is said to be numerically identical; when as the same in species with another being, it is specifically identical; when as the same in genus, it is generically identical. Thus we say that two stone houses are of the same material (generically), two houses built of granite are of the same material (specifically), and when a house is taken down another may be built of the same material (individually).

When a thing ceases to be physically the same, but remains the same in the estimation of men, we denominate the sameness as moral identity; thus, a house might be called the same building, though all the parts one after another have been renewed.

40. To identity is opposed distinction, which means that one thing is not another. All distinction is either real or logical. 1. The real distinction is between the things themselves, independently of the manner in which the mind apprehends them. It is called a major or greater distinction when it is between species, as between man and brute; or between individual substances, as between Caesar and Cicero; or between parts that can exist separately, as soul and body. The distinction between a substance and its accidents, as between a tree and its size; or between the accidents, as between the color and the taste of an apple, is by some called major, by others minor. The minor, or lesser distinction, also called modal, exists between an entity and its mode. Now, by a mode we mean a manner of being that cannot possibly exist without something of which it is the mode; e.g., figure, for there can be no figure without some quantity that has that figure. 2. The logical or mental distinction is between two ideas. It is purely logical when the ideas are exactly equivalent, as between a definition and the thing defined. The logical distinction is said to be virtual, or to have a foundation in the reality, when the concepts are not exactly equivalent, as when I distinguish the reason from the intellect of man, the mercy from the justice of God.

41. Under the head of unity we must also explain individuality. It is that unity of a being which makes it precisely this or that being. But what is it that thus individualizes a being? It is not the accidents; thus, a man, for instance, remains the same individual throughout his life, though his accidents are constantly changing, and two grains of sand exactly alike are yet not the same individual grain. St. Thomas puts the principle of individuation in matter, because "matter is incapable of being shared by several beings" (De Ente et Ess., c. v.); and he adds that angels, or separated forms, as he calls them, are not individualized except by their specific notes, so that every Angel is a species by himself. Suarez, on the other hand, puts the principle of individuation in the form. Father Harper suggests that everything, be it matter or form, or compound of both, is intrinsically individualized by its own actual entity, and needs no other note; and thus that everything physically existing, or proximately apt to be brought into existence, is thereby individualized without needing any further principle to give it individuality. (Harper's Metaph., vol. i. pp. 208 to 290.)

42. II. Truth, viewed as one of the transcendental properties of being, is metaphysical or ontological truth, (Crit. Log., c. i. a. i.) It means cognoscibility, or conformity of being to knowledge. As the form of a building is determined by the mind of the architect, so all creatures have their being and cognoscibility from God's intellect: The knowledge of God is therefore the norma, or measure, by which all created things are measured; while we derive our knowledge from creatures, and therefore these are the measure to which our knowledge must be compared in order to be true. Since God cannot fail of creating what He wants to create, the creature is conformable to His knowledge, and thus there can exist no metaphysical falsity. Things are called false only by analogy, inasmuch as some circumstance connected with them is apt to produce logical falsity in our mind, While truth is predicated both of knowledge and of being, still it must be primarily attributed to knowledge; in other words, logical truth is the principal analogue. But logical truth is not a transcendental, since many judgments are not true.

43. III. Goodness is being viewed in reference to some desire; it is that which is desired or may be desired. The goodness of a being is founded in its perfection. Now, a being is perfect when it has all the constituents that its nature requires, and all the power needed to act for the attainment of its end; if anything requisite be wanting, the being is imperfect. Its perfection is the reason of its goodness, and both are its very being; for anything is desirable in as far as it can perfect the being that desires it, and it can do so in as far as it has being; thus, every being is good inasmuch as it is a being. Still, perfection is logically distinct from goodness; for perfection regards the being itself, and goodness regards it in relation to the being that desires it.

44. Goodness is of three kinds:

1. Becoming, fit, or proper, i.e., conformable to right reason. This, when taken in a stricter sense, is moral good, i.e., conformity to reason as regulating free acts; in a wider sense, it also includes natural or physical good, i.e., whatever perfects the nature of a subject, as health, knowledge, etc.

2. Pleasurable, i.e., apt to give pleasure, to give satisfaction to an appetite.

3. Useful, i.e., conducive to the attaining of some other good.

True good is that which meets the principal longing of a being, or which meets a secondary longing without injury to the principal; apparent good meets a secondary longing to the injury of the principal longing; thus, sensual delights, when they control a man's reason, are to him not true but only apparent good, since they withdraw him from the pursuit of duty and eternal happiness.

45. Evil consists in the privation of some due perfection; hence it is not real being, but the absence in a being of something which is due; no being can therefore be all evil or unmixed evil, for then it would be no being at all.

The privation of some physical good is physical evil; that of some moral good is moral evil, or sin; the latter supposes a free agent who departs from moral goodness. The absence of further perfection is called by Leibnitz metaphysical evil; incorrectly, for it may be no evil at all, since evil is a privation of some good that is due, and the perfection wanting may not be due to the creature. It may be asked what good there can be in physical suffering or pain. Pain can answer the purpose of punishment, of trial, of warning, etc., e.g., if fire did not hurt animals it might destroy parts of their bodies without prompting them to protect themselves. Moral suffering, or grief, is chiefly an incentive to virtuous action, e.g., grief for the sufferings of others prompts us to relieve them.

46. Among the good things that are of the agreeable or delectable kind, the most elevated is beauty. Beauty is the perfection of an object viewed as a source of pleasure to whoever beholds it. Since it is an object of desire, it is a kind of goodness; but taken in a stricter sense it is distinct from goodness; good things delight the possessor, beautiful things the beholder. We say the 'beholder,' because beauty is primarily predicated of objects seen or beheld: quae visa placent, says St. Thomas. Still the word is also by analogy applied to the objects of other sense-perceptions, e.g., to sound, and even to the objects of intellectual actions, e.g., to virtue. Physical beauty is the perfection of natural objects, intellectual beauty is that displayed by the intellect, or exhibited by intellectual objects, moral beauty is that of virtue, artistic beauty that of art.

47. Since perfection as such cannot be perceived but by the intellect, beauty in its proper sense can be appreciated by none but intellectual beings. And because the perfection of an object implies a certain unity combining all its parts in proper proportion for the attaining of its one end, therefore many consider the very essence of beauty to consist in proportion or symmetry, and others in unity amid variety; but the essence of the beautiful is more correctly expressed by the terms 'manifest perfection,' 'striking excellence,' splendor veri, 'the brightness of truth.'

True perfection is true beauty; that false appearance of perfection which cannot stand the test of sound criticism is false beauty. The more perfect an object is, the more beautiful it is in itself, i.e., the more capable it is of delighting the beholder; thus, God is infinitely beautiful; and, if He does not please us above all things, it is only because we know Him so imperfectly.

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