Principles of Natural Theology / by George Hayward Joyce, S.J.

Chapter IX. The Divine Essence.

  1. Import of the Enquiry.
  2. Essence and Existence in God.
  3. The Analogy of Being in God and in Creatures.
  4. The Metaphysical Essence of God.

1. Import of the enquiry. We have seen in the foregoing chapter that there is no real ground for the agnostic's assertion that we are incapable of attaining any knowledge of God and that we can say no more about Him than that He is 'unknown and unknowable.' But we saw likewise that our knowledge of God's perfections is restricted in its scope: that we know them only by an inferential process from the finite perfections of creatures, and in such a manner as our human faculties permit: that by the very nature of the case our knowledge must be analogical, not intuitive. With this proviso we are free to pursue our consideration of the Divine attributes.

In the present chapter we propose to treat of the Divine essence. This calls for a brief preliminary exposition of the notion of essence in its ordinary application to the finite substances of experience, prescinding from its reference to God. To some of our readers this will probably be familiar ground. But there may well be others to whom, without this, the subsequent discussion would lose nearly all its meaning.

In the Aristotelian terminology, as is well known, the essence denotes the nature of the thing -- that in virtue of which the thing is what it is. The significance of the notion is, perhaps, best grasped when essence is set in opposition to existence. Each individual thing, which the universe offers to our consideration, possesses existence: it is. But it is, after all, only one thing among many. It is not the whole of reality. In other words, the measure of existence which it possesses is limited. And if we ask what it is which determines the existence proper to each thing -- what are the confines of its reality, there is but one possible answer. Its limits are defined by the essence or nature. Or to put the same truth somewhat differently: the existence of a thing is its being: the essence is that which determines this being. To know the existence of a thing is to know that it is: to know its essence is to know what it is.

Here we may usefully call attention to the twofold use of the noun-substantive Being in English. We employ it both as a concrete and as an abstract term. We call the concrete substances which possess existence beings. But the word is also used to signify the existence in virtue of which they are. We speak of the being of a thing, just as we speak of its life. Thus employed it is an abstract noun. In Latin there is no difficulty. Being in the concrete is ens: while to signify existence, the verb-noun esse is used. It is plain that some care is needed to avoid confusion arising from this ambiguity.

The term Essence is employed in two senses. It may denote the nature as it is in the real order: or it may denote it as it is conceptually represented in our minds. In the former case it is called the physical essence: in the latter, the conceptual -- or by a misnomer, the metaphysical -- essence.{1} This distinction must be carefully observed. It may be illustrated from the case of material substances. The Aristotelian doctrine of matter and form is concerned with the physical essence of things. The nature of every material substance, it is argued, demands two constitutive principles, a form which, inhering in a material substratum, determines it to a certain type, and the substratum which is receptive of the form. In this sense we may say that a man's essence consists of two parts -- his body and his soul. The various theories regarding the ultimate constitution of matter are so many attempts to determine the physical essence of substances. On the other hand, the metaphysical essence is, as we have said, the conceptual representation of the nature. It is characteristic of our intellect that all its concepts are universal. Sense perceives singulars: and from the sense data the intellect abstracts concepts common to a class. Hence the metaphysical essence is the concept expressing the specific type. It represents the individual physical essence, but does so inadequately, since it contains only those notes which are common to the species to which it belongs. Moreover, inasmuch as in this universe natural substances are ordered in a hierarchy of classes, we form the concept of the specific nature by adding the differentia of the species to the concept expressing the type common to a wider class. Thus the metaphysical essence is composed of genus and differentia. Man is conceived as a 'rational animal': and the parts of his essence, as thus understood, are not body and soul, but 'animality' and 'rationality.'

The essence, whether we are speaking of the real or of the conceptual order, is rightly assigned when it gives us: (1) the fundamental constituents of the object: (2) those from which its other characteristics are derived: (3) those which distinguish it from all other things. It follows from this that the metaphysical essence is truly conceived when the concepts of genus and differentia really represent the fundamental characteristics of a given nature -- those from which the other characteristics may be deduced. It is wrongly conceived when the nature is known by its secondary and derivative properties. Thus, we should be wrong in defining man as a 'tool-using animal,' or as 'an animal capable of laughter': for though these are distinctive properties of human nature, they are secondary not primary. Both of them flow from man's rationality.

It is evident from what has been said in the last chapter how limited must be our knowledge of God's physical essence. His nature as it is, is hidden from our view. Such knowledge as we have is indirect, derived from the contemplation of creatures. Moreover, whereas in creatures we can distinguish between what is primary and what is secondary, between the soul and its faculties, the body and its resultant qualities, there can be no question of priority or posteriority in God. In Him there Th no composition, no distinction of attributes, save in our inadequate representation of His infinite Being. There is, however, one fundamental aspect in which His essence is known to us, viz., in its relation to existence. This will be our subject in the following section. We shall shew that, whereas in creatures, of whatever kind they may be, whether material or purely spiritual, there is a necessary duality, the essence and the existence being distinct principles, which combine to constitute the finite thing, in God there is no duality, no composition of any kind: His essence is His existence. Later in the chapter we shall treat of God's 'metaphysical' essence. It will appear that this also is a question of considerable moment in Natural Theology.

2. Essence and existence in God. The identity of essence and existence in God, and the diversity of these principles in finite things, are of primary importance in the metaphysical system of St. Thomas. For in this he finds one of the ultimate differences between Uncreated and created being. Apart from this, his whole teaching, both as regards God and as regards finite being in its relation to the Infinite, becomes obscured. It is true that the Scholastic doctors are not unanimous on this question. Some of them maintain that it is impossible to regard the essence and the existence of created things as principles really different the one from the other. But the arguments advanced by St. Thomas are in our opinion conclusive. And the issue is of so fundamental a character in Natural Theology that it is impossible to leave it unconsidered. Our treatment, however, will be brief, as the full discussion of the subject belongs to the more general science of metaj)hysics. Of the various proofs given by St. Thomas it will be sufficient to employ one.

For the purpose of our argument it will be necessary by way of preliminary to explain in some detail the distinction between potentiality and act, concepts which play so large a part in the Aristotelian and Scholastic philosophies. Not only here, but in many subsequent passages, we shall have to employ the conception of Actus purus in reference to God. In this case, as in the preceding section, we feel that no apology is needed for treating a point on which many readers are perhaps already sufficiently informed.

A potentiality is the capacity for the realization of some perfection. The realized perfection is termed the actus or act. Thus, an oak-tree is potentially any one of the thousand things which may be made out of it -- a floor, a cart, tables, chairs, etc., etc. It is not any one of these things actually. But it may become them. It has in it a capacity, a potentiality, in their regard. This potentiality is not nothing: it is something real. Were it not present in the wood, we should try in vain to make these things out of it. We cannot make chairs and tables out of water, or ropes out of sand, for the simple reason that these materials are destitute of any potentiality for the objects in question. Potentiality is, in fact, midway between nonentity and being. It is more than mere nothingness; but it is less than the achieved actual thing. The distinction between these two is of widest application. The human mind, for instance, has definite potentialities, the whole purpose of education being to realize these potentialities along right lines -- to reduce potentiality to act. But whether we are dealing with the material or the spiritual, the actuality is always strictly limited by the potentiality. We can only confer a perfection, where there is a capacity: and only in the degree which that potentiality admits. The artist may conceive an ideal of beauty; but he must realize that ideal in concrete matter. And, however great his skill, he cannot accomplish more than the matter -- and, indeed, the particular matter at his disposal -- will allow. So, too, as regards intellectual development. Human cognition takes its rise from sense: and even the greatest triumphs of the intellect have been, and must be, won by discursive reason based on data derived from sensible perception. But if there be intelligences which gain knowledge in some higher manner than by sense-perception and discursive reason, their achievements will be greater because their potentiality is not so restricted.

The sense of the word act as used in this connection should be very carefully observed. By 'act' we mean, in ordinary parlance, the operation by which a potentiality is realized. But here it is employed to signify the result of the operation -- the complement of the potentiality, the realized actuality. The Schoolman was able to employ different words for these two senses. When he desired to speak of actuality he used the term actus as the equivalent of Aristotelian entelecheia, energeia: the operation he designated actio. Actus is therefore synonymous with perfection. Our English terminology lacks the philosophical precision of the Latin. It was this all-important distinction of potentiality and act which enabled Aristotle to refute the fallacy by which Parmenides had sought to prove that change is impossible. The Eleatic philosopher had argued that whatever is, is Being: and that what is already Being cannot become: for becoming is merely the way towards Being. 'Becoming' is, therefore, an illusion: change is impossible. Aristotle replied that besides actual Being, there is potential Being; and every material thing while it is actually one form of Being, is potentially many other things: that change is no illusion, but the transition by which potentiality passes into act.

It is essential to our argument to observe that a potentiality and its corresponding act are distinct realities. This is involved in the notions themselves. If by potentiality we signify that which is capable of perfection, and by actus the perfection which realizes this possibility, it is manifest that the one cannot be identical with the other. In many cases, indeed, the two are separable, since the potentiality can exist without the act. But even where this is not so -- and we shall see that this is no exceptional case -- the two cannot be the same. They combine as two distinct principles constituting a composite entity.

In saying that potentiality and act are necessarily distinct the one from the other, it must be borne in mind that we are only speaking of the act which corresponds to a particular potentiality, and is complementary to it. That which is itself an act perfecting a potentiality may also stand in the relation of potentiality to an act of a different order. Thus the human soul is the actus perfecting the material substratum in which it inheres, and making it a human body. But when the soul exerts its power to think, the thought, while it lasts, is a new actus perfecting the spiritual soul. Yet here, too, our principle is applicable. The thought is not identical with the soul which it actuates. Otherwise the latter could not be found without the former.

There is another important conclusion regarding the metaphysics -- of potentiality and act, to which we must advert. It is this. A limited perfection -- -- and every perfection which falls within our experience is limited -- owes its limitation to the element of potentiality also present in the same subject: whereas potentiality, as such, needs no limiting principle extrinsic to itself. The latter part of this assertion need cause no difficulty. A potentiality, as such, is a mere capacity for the reception of this or that perfection. But capacity, viewed as such, is simply a principle of limit determining the character and measure of the perfection received. It is plain that what is of its own nature a principle of limit, does not stand in need of an extrinsic principle to limit it. Were anyone to maintain this, he would have to demand an infinite series of limiting principles.

The case is different as regards perfection or 'act.' In perfection, viewed as such, the notion of limit has no place. Absolute perfection is nothing less than the Infinite. It follows as a consequence from the very notion of perfection, that if perfection is limited -- if it is not absolute perfection, but perfection of this or that definite and restricted nature -- the limiting principle must be extrinsic to the principle of actus. Perfection cannot be its own limit: for in so far as it is limited it is a denial of perfection. This point is well put by Professor Flint in an argument which, though employed in a different connection, expresses the very truth for which we are contending. "The limited," he writes, "always implies a limiting. It cannot be limited by itself: does not suffice for itself: supposes something beyond itself. The absolutely finite must be limited by something or nothing. If by nothing, it must be really infinite."{2}

There are two ways in which potentiality may thus give limits to act. We have already seen that an act is limited by the potentiality to which it corresponds and which it perfects. Thus form is limited by the matter in which it inheres. The sculptor's ideal, as it exists in his mind, belongs to the spiritual order and is not fettered by conditions of time and space. But when it is embodied in matter, it is tied down, so to speak, to this particular fragment of marble or bronze. This is one way in which potentiality effects the limitation of act. But act is also limited, in so far as it is itself a potentiality as regards an act of a higher order. For here, also, we are not concerned with actus purus, absolute and therefore infinite perfection, but with an entity capable of further perfectibility, and consequently one which is limited. But every limited entity involves of necessity principles both of perfection and limit, -- of act and potentiality.{3}

These preliminary considerations have inevitably been somewhat tedious. But their vital importance will appear now that we are in a position to apply them to the subject under consideration. Existence is an actus -- it is the perfection in virtue of which natures are not mere objects of thought, but are actualized in the order of reality. We may, if we will, conceive God as having before His mind an indefinite number of possible worlds. To one of these He gave existence: and the natures, spiritual and material, belonging to the order of things which He chose, became actual. They were endowed with the perfection of existence. The question now arises: What is the principle which limits the perfection, which acts as the potentiality in regard of this act? Every one of these natures is finite: it is a nature of this or that kind. Even Divine power cannot create a second Infinite. What is it which serves as the potentiality limiting the perfection of existence, where a pure spirit is concerned? There is only one answer possible. The existence is limited by the nature or essence. The essence itself furnishes the confines which determine the measure of actuality. The created essence is a veritable potentiality as regards the actus of existence.

We do not, of course, mean that the essence exists previously to its reception of existence. This would be a contradiction in terms. Neither essence nor existence can subsist alone and apart from the other. Created essence can only possess being in virtue of the gift of existence: created existence is inconceivable except in so far as it effects the realization of some finite nature. Essence and existence are but principles of finite being: they are not subsisting entities. But we contend that in the very nature of things every finite subsisting entity is composite: for these two principles must combine to constitute it. It may indeed be asked how it is possible to confer perfection on an, as yet, non-existent potentiality. But the question only needs to be asked for the answer to suggest itself. Created agents can only operate where an existing potentiality offers itself to them. God stands in need of no preexisting subject-matter. Creative power produces simultaneously the potentiality and its actuation.

The bearing of this on the nature of God is evident. In God, as we have already shewn, there can be no composition. For the composition of diverse elements postulates the action of an efficient cause: and God is uncaused.{4} In Him there are not two principles -- existence and an essence determining and confining the scope of His reality. He is absolute and subsistent existence, hedged in and restricted by no limits -- the very plenitude of all being. His uncreated existence is His nature. All finite beings are composed of potentiality and act, from the most elementary material substances to the highest of spirits. The potentiality is greatest in the lower grades of the great hierarchy of creation. Each ascending stage shews us more and more of actuality. In pure spirits the potentiality involved by matter is wholly absent: their essence is simple, not composite. But in every created substance, of however sublime a degree, the act of existence is limited by the potentiality of essence. God alone is actuality unmixed with any potentiality, Perfection which knows no limit: He is, in the expressive terminology of the Schoolmen, Actus Purus.

It is of the utmost importance to grasp the infinite difference here involved between God and creatures. That difference is sometimes overlooked. Thus Professor A. Russel Wallace, arguing for the existence of pure spirits, writes: "Angels and archangels ... have . . . long been ban ished from our belief. . . . Yet the grand law of 'continuity,' the last outcome of modern science . . . cannot surely fail to be true beyond the narrow sphere of our vision, and leave such an infinite chasm between man and the great Mind of the universe."{5} The Scholastic metaphysician has never lost sight of the existence of spiritual entities -- pure forms. But on the other hand, he has never imagined that they can bridge the gulf between God and man. The highest imaginable of pure forms is a creature. And no law of continuity will enable us to bridge the unfathomable chasm which separates the Infinite from the finite.

Our discussion of the Divine Essence has not taught us what it is, in the sense of enabling us to conceive, as they are, its infinite perfections. We have already shewn that this is intrinsically impossible. But it has, as we said at the commencement of the chapter, made known to us a fundamental aspect of that essence -- one which distinguishes it from every finite nature, viz., its identity with its own existence.

3. The analogy of being in God and in creatures. The conclusions reached in the last section enable us to arrive at a more accurate notion of the term 'being' as used of God and of finite substances respectively, than has hitherto been possible, and thereby to dispose of an important difficulty. Being (ens) as applied to a finite substance signifies a nature considered as possessing (or capable of possessing) actuality (esse). The mind distinguishes between the nature and the existence, viewing the object as a nature which has received existence. We apply this conception, representative of the objects of experience, to God. But as used of God it has a signification only proportionally the same as it has in regard of creatures. For the Divine nature, as we have seen, does not receive actuality: it is actuality. The being of God and the being of creatures are wholly incommensurable: they are on different planes. Here lies the solution of the objection frequently urged as admitting of no answer, and as fatal to any system of thought which maintains that God and creatures are distinct. To affirm at the same time the existence both of an Infinite Being and of finite beings external to and distinct from the Infinite, is, we are assured, a contradiction in terms. If necessary being is infinite, then there is nothing external to it: if finite beings exist as distinct from necessary being, it follows that necessary being is not infinite.{6} Yet the difficulty, insurmountable as it seems at first sight, disappears in the light of the doctrine of the analogy of being. God as subsistent actuality is infinite. He is the abyss of all reality, and can receive no addition. Created beings are, it is true, real. But however wonderful their created perfection, they can add nothing to the perfection or reality which there is in God. They contain nothing which is not found in an infinitely higher manner in Him. In Infinite Being and finite being, we have not got two things which can be added up, so that, taken together, they make more reality than is found in the Infinite alone. The perfections of finite being can no more add to God's perfections, than a thousand, or a million, superficies could add to the bulk of a solid body. To use a Scholastic phrase, the creation of the finite resulted in a greater number of real things (plura entia), but not of more reality (plus entitatis) Were God to create a thousand universes there would be no addition to perfection, any more than to goodness or to truth. Finite perfection, finite goodness, finite truth are but the reflection on an infinitely lower plane, of what is already God's.

The difficulty which we have been considering is, then, based on a fallacy -- the fallacy of regarding 'being' as a univocal term. It will be found that the writers who urge it, sometimes almost contemptuously so confident are they that no reply is possible, one and all assume that the term can have but one signification, and that God and man are beings in the same sense. But even in its reference to the created order the word is analogous. It is used of all the categories alike. Yet it has not identically the same meaning as applied to substantial and accidental being, e.g., to the thinker, to his thought, to his position in space. This alone might have suggested that there must be a fundamental difference in its application to the self-existent Being and to contingent beings.

If being be treated as univocal it is practically impossible to escape a pantheistic conclusion. In that case God does not contain all reality unless creatures form a part of Him: for their being is on a par with His. We are driven to conclude that creatures are a manifestation of God. This was in fact the root error of Spinoza and of many another defender of pantheism. The only other alternative would be the fanciful doctrine of pluralism, which rejecting creation maintains the independent existence of many thinking subjects, among whom the Supreme Spirit holds position of primus inter pares. But this theory, though enjoying some vogue at present, is too extravagant to win any permanent hold upon thought. Pantheism, on the other hand, is a form of error which has at all periods misled many of the greatest intellects.

In view of what has been said, it is hardly necessary to utter a warning against any confusion between being, viewed as a universal term, applicable to all things (ens communissimum), and being in its particularized reference to God (esse subsistens).{7} The former has the least content of all concepts which we can form. It is applicable to everything -- to the self-existent and to the contingent, to substance and the nine categories of accidents, to the real and the possible. Taken in abstraction, apart from any particular subject, it signifies no more than what is capable of existence. On the other hand, being when predicated of God denotes the fullness of all reality -- in the expressive words of St. John Damascene, 'the illimitable ocean of being.'{8} Yet the two have been confused. This was, in fact, one of the errors contained in the works of Rosmini, and condemned by the Church in 1887. Rosmini's philosophy was a form of ontologism, the doctrine which teaches that the human mind possesses a direct and immediate cognition of God, and is not dependent for its knowledge of Him upon the testimony of His works. This immediate cognition Rosmini held to lie in the indeterminate abstract concept of Being, of which all other concepts may be regarded as determinations. It is manifest that from such premisses pantheism would follow as a logical consequence.

4. The metaphysical essence of God. We now turn to the question of God's metaphysical essence. We have pointed out already that though the Divine attributes are in fact one simple Reality devoid of any distinction, the human mind is compelled to conceive them separately: for our knowledge of them is derived from created perfections distinct one from another. It is further to be observed that, as found in creatures, certain of these perfections stand in a definite order of relative subordination. Thus, e.g., in man, the exercise of external activity is dependent on will : will, in its turn, is directed by the intellect: while the faculties of will and intelligence both flow from man's possession of a spiritual soul. As a consequence of this our minds necessarily conceive the Divine nature on similar lines: certain attributes are viewed as dependent on others. Even though we know that in God there is no distinction between substantial nature, will and intellect, we cannot help representing them as holding the same order of relative subordination in which they are found in ourselves. This manner of viewing them, though due to the limitations of our minds, has a basis in objective reality. Reason forbids us to reverse the order. We cannot conceive God's volition as acting prior to His thought. Is there, then, among the Divine attributes one which for our minds stands to the others in the relation in which the metaphysical essence of a creature stands to its derivative properties -- one which (1) is absolutely fundamental, from which (2) the other attributes may be deduced, and which (3) affords in its own right a basis of distinction between Him and creatures? If so, then in Natural Theology -- the science of God -- this attribute must be regarded as the metaphysical essence.

lt will not improbably be asked what interest or importance attaches to this question. The answer is to be found in the claim which we have just made for Natural Theology, that it is a science. A science, as has already been explained (c. i., § I), is an organized body of truth regarding some object of thought. A few isolated facts, a few unconnected conclusions, do not constitute a science. A body of knowledge only merits that name when it is an organized whole. The form of the organization will vary very widely in accordance with the nature of the science. But in every case it largely consists in the accurate discrimination between the primary and derivative characteristics of the object. We endeavour to obtain an accurate definition of the object, the definition being nothing else than a statement of its primary characteristics -- in other words, its essence -- and to establish the connection between the derivative properties and those embodied in the definition. This Natural Theology does for us as regards God: and it is for this reason that we enquire which of the Divine attributes is to be reckoned as the essence.

We find what we are seeking in the concept of God as Subsistent Being. understanding by that term, as we have already explained, existence subsisting independently of any potentiality -- absolute and, consequently, unconfined Reality. God in the scholastic phrase is ipsum Esse, Esse in se subsistens. This is the concept which gives us the metaphysical essence of God.

Our conclusion is easily established. The notion of Being manifestly does not stand in a relation of dependence to any other attribute whatever. It is ultimate and fundamental. Moreover, this attribute distinguishes God from all other beings. In all else the essence and existence are really distinct, the one from the other. In God alone, the uncaused, are they identified. And lastly, from this attribute all His other attributes may be derived by logical consequence. This point will be treated in the chapter which follows.

There has been a certain variety of opinion among Scholastic writers on this subject: and it may be well in conclusion to notice briefly one or two other views which have been maintained, and to indicate our reasons for dissenting from them. (1) Some of the Nominalist school taught that the Divine attributes as a collective whole were to be regarded as God's essence. Here they confused the physical and metaphysical essence. It is manifest that among the Divine attributes, as we conceive them, some are derivative. Hence it is out of the question that the full collection of the positive attributes can be the metaphysical essence of God. (2) The Scotists held God's infinity to be His essential attribute. But infinity is more naturally regarded as a property affecting the essence and the positive attributes than as itself constituting the essence. (3) Much more, it would seem, can be said for the view taken by a certain number of Thomists, that God's essence is to be found in His attribute of supreme and self-existent Intelligence.{9} It is urged on behalf of this opinion that the metaphysical essence of God must express that which constitutes His essential perfection. But God's essential perfection -- His highest attribute -- lies in His supreme intellectuality. The argument, though specious, rests on a misunderstanding of the term Existence as employed in regard of creatures and of God respectively. As applied to creatures it signifies simply that they are not mere possibles, but are actually realized. Like Ens communissimum it prescinds from the degree of perfection which they contain, and hence denotes that only which is common to all actual things. The notion of intelligence clearly expresses a higher degree of perfection than existence thus understood. Intelligence is the highest grade of substantial perfection. But as employed in regard of God, existence, as we have seen, has a very different significance. Being or existence predicated of Him signifies the fullness of all Reality, embracing in its scope all perfection. (4) Very many hold the primary attribute of God to be His 'aseity' defining him as Ens a se -- the self-existent Being. This definition is adopted both by Father Hontheim and Father Boedder. The objection to regarding this attribute as God's metaphysical essence is that it does not really express what we conceive as an internal constitutive principle of the Divine nature. The real significance of the notion Ens a se is to deny that God is, like creatures, caused by another. He is conceived as self-existent in the sense of 'unoriginated.' Undoubtedly this is the first aspect under which we conceive God, as we reason from the existence of contingent things to that of a necessary Being. But it still remains for us to ask what is the internal constitutive, in virtue of which He is unoriginated and needs no cause. And to reply to this question we must fall back on our concept of Him as subsistent existence -- as the Being whose existence is his nature.

{1} The term metaphysical essence, though the one commonly employed, is difficult to justify. We are here concerned with the nature as conceived, and not, as in metaphysics, with the nature in its aspect as real being, possessed of the attributes which belong to it as thus considered.

{2} Agnosticism, p. 554.

{3} It is a mere deduction from the principles which we have just explained, that if we are concerned, not with absolute perfection, but with perfection of a particular kind, and if that perfection be not limited by reception into a potentiality, it will be infinite in its kind. A form, as we have just seen, is limited by the matter in which it inheres. The type is rcproducible indefinitely, because the perfection is limited to the matter which it perfects. Were it, however, realizable, not as a perfection embodied in matter, but as a 'pure form,' there would be no limiting principle in its composition. It would itself contain all the perfection compatible with such a type: in other words, it would be infinite in its kind. But if infinite, then unique. If there are two individuals of the same type, it follows necessarily that they are both of them limited expressions of the perfection in question, and that neither is exhaustive of the perfection exhibited in that type. Hence corporeal natures, such as man, are realized in many individuals of the same specific type. But in the case of a purely spiritual nature such multiplication is intrinsically impossible.

{4} Supra.

{5} Cited in J. Ward, Realm of Ends, p. 187.

{6} Cf., e.g., J. Caird, Fundamental Ideas of Christianity I., p. 88. [The so-called cosmological argument] "starts from the assumed reality of the finite world as finite, and infers from it the reality of an infinite cause or creator. But an infinite confronted by a finite to which equal reality is ascribed -- an infinite with a finite world outside of it -- is a contradiction in terms."

{7} Kant employs the term ens realissimum. This is philosophically less accurate; but it serves equally to guard against the confusion of which we speak.

{8} St. Thomas. Summa Theol., I., q. 4, art. 2, ad 3.

{9} Intelligere divinum, non radicale sed actuale, sub ratlone ultimae actualitatis per se subsistentis constituit metaphysice divinam naturam: unde Dei descriptio erit haec, ens summe et actualissime intelligens." Billuart, Theologia, Tract. de Deo, Dissert. ii., art. 1. Vol. I., p. 94 (ed. 1827).

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