JMC : The Metaphysics of the School / by Thomas Harper, S.J.

Chapter III. Corollaries.

THERE are certain Corollaries, deducible from the doctrine exposed in the preceding chapters, which may throw further light on the nature and prerogative of the Supreme Science; and so lessen, if not remove, the reasonless prejudices that have been excited against it in more recent times.

I. Metaphsics is a real science, inasmuch as its formal object is eminently real. In order to render the declaration of this Corollary more clearly intelligible to the reader, it will be well to define two philosophical terms, borrowed from Ideology, which will be used in the sequel. These terms are formal concept and objective concept. By formal concept is understood the subjective conceptual representation of a given object in the mind of the thinker. The objective concept, on the contrary, does not formally embrace in its meaning the representative act of the intellect, as one might have been led to suppose from the name; but, in the case of real ideas, is that reality in the object which is covered by the formal concept, to the exclusion of a11 those other forms, properties, and modes, with which the reality so represented may be united in the object or, in other words, as it de facto exhibits itself in the concrete. By way of illustration we will suppose that a man, who is engaged in the study of magnetism, turns his thoughts upon the magnet, more particularly in its connection with the art of navigation. He naturally enough calls up the idea of its polarity; and this is his formal concept. Now, there are many other realities in the magnetic needle which he might have included in his intellectual representation of it, had it so pleased him. There is the substantial metal, the shape, and size, the qualities of hardness, cold, colour, the balance on the pivot, the power of attracting iron; all of which are co-existing in the same object, any one of which he might have called to mind without troubling himself about the rest. In the instance given, however, the formal concept represents the polarity of the needle and nothing else; and, consequently, this property in the case supposed will be the objective concept, as being that reality in the object which the mind has selected for cognition. It has been named by Averroës the intentio intellecta, i.e. that Form in the object, over which the intellect has stretched itself for the purpose of representation.

And now that it is safe to use these terms with freedom, let it be said that the formal object of Metaphysics is real, because the objective concept of Being is eminently real. Nor is there any show of reason in the objection, that the formal concept of Being does not explicitly cover all the reality discoverable in the material object. For this is only saying that Metaphysics, like all the other sciences, deals with the abstract; and that it lays aside the lower and ulterior determinations of Being, in order to arrive at the noblest and most fundamental truths. This there is no one who would care to deny. But the point of contention is, that there is a definite reality, common to all objects of cognition, which corresponds to the concept of Being. This granted, the object of Metaphysics is real, and Metaphysics a real science.

II. The supremacy of Metaphysics over the rest of the sciences is a necessary consequence of its special line of abstraction. It has been already rernarked, -- but the tendencies of modern thought would seem. to require that the statement should receive additional prominence by its repetition in this place, -- that objects become more intelligible, in proportion to the completeness of their separation from matter and sensile perception. As the Angelic Doctor observes, 'since a Being possesses intelligence, for the reason that he is unencumbered by matter, it suits with this, that those entities should be most intelligible which are most separate from matter. For the Intelligible and the intelligence must needs be proportioned and in the same genus, since they are in act one. But entities the most separate from matter are such as not only abstract from determinate and individual matter, as all natural or physical forms do, conceived as universals, . . . but from sensile matter altogether, -- and that, not by a mere logical distinction, as mathematical entities; but in their own essence, like God and pure Intelligences. Hence that science, which devotes itself to the consideration of such entities, is evidently the most intellectual, and Chief or Queen of the rest.'{1} This Corollary is further confirmed by the fact that the object of Metaphysics is all-embracing in its universality.

III. Seeing that Metaphysics is the Architectonic Science, it directs and regulates the rest, which depend upon its strength in ultimate analysis, and are bound to accept its guidance in all that goes beyond their own particular subject-matter. This proposition, which is implicitly contained in former declarations, has received the sanction of all philosophers worthy of the name, and, in particular, of the Philosopher and of the Doctors of the School. The former puts it very plainly. He describes Metaphysics as 'the most principal and most authoritative of the Sciences, and, as such, it is not right that the other sciences, forasmuch as they are her servants, should give back a word to her in answer.'{2} The Angelic Doctor follows in the wake of Aristotle, and may fairly stand sponsor for the School. 'Wisdom, that is Metaphysics,' he says, 'directs all the sciences.'{3} So again, with greater explicitness: 'In all sciences and arts which are grouped together in one, the end of the ordered group is evidently the end of that science or art which has right of command and government over the others; just as the art of navigation, to which the end or purpose of the ship, i.e. the employment of it, belongs, has the right of ordering and superintending the art of ship-building. Now, the First Science holds just such a position in relation to the rest of the speculative sciences. For all the others depend upon it; inasmuch as they accept from it their first principles, and a defence against such as deny those principles.{4} Once more, he adds that it 'pronounces judgment on the conclusions of the other sciences, as well as on the first principles of the same.'{5}

Now, these declarations, more particularly the last, seem at first sight to clash with the admission previously made, that the relation of Wisdom or Metaphysics to the other sciences is not that of a subalternant to its subalternates; and that, as a consequence, the first principles of these latter are immediate and self-evident, so that they are in no need of help from any other science whatsoever. Moreover, if it be true, as has been said, that the inferior sciences are free within their own proper sphere; how can it be true that Metaphysics has the right to 'pronounce judgment on their conclusions?' The contradiction, however, is more imaginary than real, as a closer examination will evince.

The question cannot be more fittingly introduced than by a statement of the principal difficulty which has been raised against the doctrine maintained in the present Corollary. According to the philosophy of Aristotle and of the School, there is an intellectual habit which is simply intuitive of first principles. This habit is called Understanding (nous); and each particular science has its own particular habit of understanding. Now the habit of understanding only facilitates the act of adhesion to self-evident truths; for the faculty is an essential element of the mind. The intellect is as powerless of resistance in presence of an axiom which it intues, as is a needle within range of the magnet. Nothing, consequently, can strengthen the certainty with which the understanding embraces a first principle; so soon as the truth has been duly presented to it. On the other hand, the habit is formed simply by a repetition of acts within the sphere of the particular subject-matter. There is, then, neither need here nor room for guidance or direction from without. But, again, a demonstrative conclusion cannot be made more certain or subjectively evident by any foreign control. For, since the syllogistic laws are immutable and universal; the certainty of the conclusion must invariably follow the nature, and be measured by the degree, of certainty and evidence which belong to the premisses. Such being the ease, it is difficult to conceive how the first principles and demonstrative conclusions of any but a subaltern science can either require, or fairly admit, the interference of any other science, however excellent.

Nevertheless, in the following ways Metaphysics has a regulative authority or a strengthening influence over the other sciences; and such direction no more interferes with the autonomy of the latter, than the hegemony in Greece interfered with the internal freedom of the confederate States. First of all, it provides the other sciences with a clearer, more definite, more complete knowledge of the terms which constitute the essential elements of their first principles. For it is the exclusive province of the Metaphysical science to dive into the essential nature of the primary determinations of Being, such as Substance and Accident, the Material and Immaterial, Whole and Part, Faculty and Act, continuous and discrete Quantity, &c., and to instruct in the philosophical meaning, value, and relation of each. Now, as first principles have no middle term by which the connection between their extremes may be ostensively demonstrated, (otherwise they would no longer be first principles), and as on this account the connection between the extremes must be made manifest to the intellect by evidence inherent in the terms themselves; it follows, that the science which mainly contributes to the comprehension of these latter, will contribute also, however indirectly, to the certain cognition of the first principles themselves.{6} Then, again, Metaphysics adds directly to the subjective evidence and the certitude of these first principles. For it does not treat them as first principles, but submits them to a certain process of demonstration. It can thus do what the intuitive habit cannot attempt; since this latter does not give additional certainty to the act of assent, but only imparts a facility and promptitude in eliciting it. It must not, however, be imagined that Metaphysics augments the subjective evidence of the understanding intensively, but extensively only, in that it adds evidence of another kind. It is obvious that nothing could add to the degree of certainty with which the understanding, fully provided from within and from long since protested against these excesses in one particular direction; and the passage is well worthy of a place here, since his caution is not unneeded in our own time. 'With respect to Experimental Philosophy, as it is called' -- these are his words -- I am far from denying the use of it; but I would have the gentlemen who value themselves so much upon this kind of manual Philosophy to distinguish betwixt the phenomena and the principles of Nature, and not imagine that the latter, as well as the former, are objects of sense, to be discovered by chymical analysis, or seen through a microscope. They should consider themselves as the historians of nature, who, by great attention and minute observation, investigate facts which escape the vulgar, and may be called the anecdotes or secret history of nature. But history and philosophy are two things very different; though I admit that, without the knowledge of facts, it is impossible to form any system of natural philosophy that is not a mere dream, being no other than the imaginations of men, in place of the wisdom of God. But nothing deserves the name of philosophy, except what explains the causes and principles of things.'{7} These remarks may be deemed perhaps by some a trifle too polemic in their tone; but they will prove of service in calling attention to an important fact, In the general confusion of the Sciences and Disciplines consequent upon our past and present neglect of Metaphysical studies, physical investigation has made itself notorious for the constantly repeated transgression of its due limits; and it is necessary, therefore, to remind the student that Physics has for object to observe the phenomena of the material world and to discover their laws. But it is not its province to theorize on its own facts and laws, or to undertake a reconstruction of Cosmology, Anthropology, and Metaphysics. In the one it is our legitimate teacher; for the other it can show no genuine certificate. Here, then, it is that Metaphysics has a right to interfere with the conclusions of other sciences. Lastly, in the inferior, and more particularly in the subaltern, sciences, it may occasionally happen that the conclusions are sophistical and false; either because the assumed principles are infirm, or because the supposed demonstration is based upon a misunderstanding of one or other of the terms that are embodied in these principles. And here, too, Metaphysics has the supreme right of sitting in judgment on principles at once and conclusions.

IV. The Metaphysical Science is SPECIFICALLY one. To some this proposition may appear so self-evident, as to render its insertion here among the Corollaries unnecessary. Yet it is not without its difficulties. For, if it be true that all habits receive their specification from their formal object; it stands to reason that a specific diversity in the formal object must postulate a specific diversity of habit. Now, it seems at first sight undeniable, that there is a specific diversity in the formal object of Metaphysics. For, in the first place, there is apparently a specific distinction between entities which are positively, and those which are negatively immaterial. Then, among such as are positively immaterial, the soul of man is surely specifically distinct from pure Intelligences, and both from God. Granting, therefore, (what cannot easily be denied), that Metaphysics is one science generically, it is hard to understand how it can be specifically one.

ANSWER. This objection would doubtless be a grave one, if our cognition of things immaterial and, in particular, of pure Intelligences and of God were immediate or intuitive; so that we could naturally gain a knowledge of them as they are in their own simple essence. But de facto our knowledge of them, as has been before hinted, is not intuitive, but mediate and syllogistic. It is principally deduced from facts patent to sensile perception, invariably from facts of some kind. As a consequence, the attributes which we assign to immaterial and spiritual Being are homologous with those which we have obtained by a purifying abstraction from material Being; of which the word Immaterial is itself a sufficient instance. If to this is added, that God is infinite Being, the infinitely One, True, Good, Perfect, -- that is, that He contains all finite reality within Himself, not by identity, indeed, but by equivalence and, beyond that, by infinite excess; it will be seen that to human intelligence these objects, however distinct and diverse, are revealed truly, albeit imperfectly, by primary determinations and attributes, in which all Being participates. Thus the specific unity of the formal object is preserved; and, therefore, the specific unity of the corresponding scientific habit.

{1} 'Nam cum unaquaeque res ex hoc ipso vim intellectivam habeat, quod est a materia immunis, oportet illa esse maxime intelligibilia, quae sunt maxime a materia separata. Intelligibile enim et intellectum oportet proportionata esse, et unius generis, cum intellectus et intelligibile in actu sint unum. Ea vero sunt maxime a materia separata, quae non tantum a signata materia abstrahunt, sicut formae naturales in universali acceptae, . . . sed omnino a materia sensibili. Et non solum secundum rationem, sicut mathematica, sed etiam secundum esse, sicut Deus et intelligentiae. Unde scientia, quae de istis rebus considerat, maxime videtur esse Intellectualis, et aliarum princeps sive domina.' Meta. Proem.

{2} He men gar archikôtatê kai hegemonikôtatê, kai he hôsper doulas oud anteipein allas epistêmas dikaion. Metaph III (aliter IV), c. 2.

{3} 'Omnes scientias sapientia, scilicet metaphysica, dirigit.' In 2 Sentt. d. xxiv, Q. 2, a. 2, ad 4m.

{4} 'In omnibus scientiis at artibus ordinatis, ad illam videtur pertinere ultimus finis, quae est praeceptiva at architectonica aliarum; sicut ars gubernatoria, ad quam pertinet finis navis qui est usus ipsius, est architectonica at praeceptiva respectu navifactivae. Hoc autem modo se habet philosophia prima ad alias scientias speculativas. Nam ab ipsa omnes aliae dependent, utpote ab ipsa accipientes aua principia et directionem contra negantes principia.' c. Gentes, L. III, c. 25, p. med.

{5} De conclusionibus scientiarum dijudicans et de principiis earundem.' 1. 2ae, lvii, 2, ad 2m.

{6} So St. Thomas: 'Veritas et cognitio principiorum indemonstrabilium dependat ex ratione terminorum. Cognito enim quid sit totum, et quid est pars, statim cognoscitur quod omne totum est magis sua parte. Cognoscere autem rationem entis vel nonentis, et totius, et partis, et aliorum quae consequuntur ad ens, ex quibus sicut ex terminis constituuntur principia indemonatrabilia, pertinet ad sapientiam. . . . Et idea sapientia non solum utitur principiis indemonstrabilibus quorum est intellectus, concludendo ex eis sicut etiam aliae scientiae, sed etiam judicando de eis, et disputando contra negantes.' 2ae, lxvi, 5, ad 4m.

{7} Introduction to Ancient Metaphysics.

<< ======= >>