Thoughts, please.

I have a question regarding a property of artifacts.

I was pondering
this evening about one of the artifacts touched on in Physics II.1, vis. Antiphon's bed. While it is obviously true to say that it has its form qua artifact extrinsically, that is, from the artist, could it also further be said that if there was no one to use a bed, it would merely be shaped wood? In what way does the artificial form exist if the intention of the artist/users of the artifact is lost or absent? I am inclined to say the artificial form no longer exist, or only in a sort of potency, as 'shaped wood.' But I am not sure. How are we to name the 'bed' shape of the bed apart from the artist intention?

The Angelic realm is dauntingly beyond our power to comprehend. We cannot dare to plunge, or should I say, soar into the depths of the spiritual realm without sure guidance. Fortunately we have grace, and St. Thomas Aquinas. St. Thomas, as in everything he does, treats of angels and angelic knowledge thoroughly and succinctly. However, since most of us lack the subtlety of St. Thomas, we tend to pass over some important truths that are perhaps not contained explicitly in the article. It is only with difficulty and lengthy study that we find all that this great teacher was intending when he wrote. Such is the case with the current topic. I am saying nothing that new, and by no means am I furthering the thought of St. Thomas' treatment of angels. I am merely emphasizing a truth that was already present, but that we may miss the first time reading it.
Angelic knowledge is possibly the most difficult and most essential part of the study of the angles. If one does not discuss the mode of knowing for subsisting intellects, there is not much left to discuss. However, the difficulty is trying to understand beings that in a way are like us, and in another way are completely beyond us. For instance, the topic of this article, how is it that these glorious beings consider the actions of men? Are they constantly present among us, watching? Or perhaps this is superstitious medieval fancy, and they know us only because they reason to our existence from their own. Both of these accounts are lacking, but hold some element of the truth. As will be shown, angels, know individual human acts through intelligible species handed down to them by God.
We shall proceed by following, for the most part, St. Thomas' own order. As my topic is far more narrow I will of course skip those articles that are not to my purpose, and go back if there is some item that we might have left behind in our haste. First we will consider the medium of angelic knowledge. Then, skipping angelic knowledge of immaterial things, we will proceed directly to the knowledge of material things. There will then be a brief discussion of human actions in general and then the argument for the thesis. Lest we fall prey to the very thing this article is designed to remedy, we will then take a brief moment to dwell on the consequences of the preceding arguments.
A medium of knowledge is the species through which an intellect knows some thing. Now in man, as is seen in Book III of Aristotle's De Anima, knowledge is had through a universal species that is abstracted from a phantasm in the imagination, present there from an object sensed. This cannot be so in angels. Angels are held to be pure intellects, i.e. separated forms that are their own natures (Summa Theologiae, pp. Q. 50 a1,2,4). Consequently, the medium for angelic knowledge must be more carefully examined.
That the angel might be distinguished clearly from God, it should be made clear that he does not know all things through his own substance. For the angel possesses a particular substance, and this substance does not contain the perfection of being in itself. As the Angelic Doctor says himself,

However, the essence of the angel does not comprehend in itself all things, since the existence of a essence is determined to some genus and species. But this is proper to the divine essence, that is infinite in itself simply and comprehends the perfections of all things. Therefore, only God knows all things through his essence.1

Therefore, it is clear that the angels must know by some other medium, and that their intellects must be perfected by some species in order to know. (Summa Theologiae, pp. Q.55, a1)
Already, from what has been said, we can see that it is not through some abstracted species that an angel knows. As St. Thomas says, “The species through which an angel understands is not taken from things but is connatural to them.”(ST, pp Q55, a2) St. Thomas argues that human souls, since they are united to matter, are perfected through matter, otherwise their union with matter would be in vain. However, angels are not in matter in any way. Therefore, in order for angels to be perfected by some intelligible species, it must come from an intelligible “efflux,” that comes from God directly (ST, pp Q55, a2). This is not surprising insofar as God is the cause of being and perfection of all things (ST, pp Q3, 7). Therefore, God as he is causing things in existence, is at the same time informing the angels with the intelligible species of the existing things.
Now, St. Thomas says that the species of things are connatural to the angels. It is not that the species come from the very nature of the angel, it is that the nature of the angel requires species to obtain its perfection. Note that St. Thomas makes his argument through perfection, but he is not speaking of the supernatural perfection of eternal beatitude, but simply the perfections which belong to a thing. For example, if God were to create a lion and put no other animals on earth, this would be highly unfitting. To eat meat belongs to the nature of the lion. Therefore, it is connatural to the lion that there be some animal to eat, otherwise the nature is in vain and cannot obtain its natural perfection. So also, the angel must have some intelligible species granted to them by God directly, otherwise they can in no way obtain their natural perfection and there nature is in vain.
It remains then to see how angels are able to know singulars. Necessarily then, we must take under consideration things in matter. St. Thomas argues from the order of things in nature. The superior beings are more perfect than the inferior and contain the perfections of the inferior eminently, wholly and simply. This is as much to say, anything a man can do, an angel can do better. There is a gradation in the order of things. God is the source of all things and all perfections. The angels are nearest to God in the order of being. St. Thomas then says,

Thus, therefore, all material things are in angels, preexisting simply. Indeed and more immaterially than in things themselves; but more multiplied and more imperfect than they exist in God.1

St. Thomas then concludes, in the same place, that since God knows material things, then the angels know them by some intelligible species given by God.
It is important to emphasize that, while God is the cause of being of things, and thus it is clear that creatures exist in Him above all things, the angels are not a cause of our being. Their knowledge of us is given to them directly by God, not as though they are necessary agents of His causality,2 but because in order for these creatures to know it must come from God, not from creatures simply. See how clearly St. Thomas puts it in his reply to the first back in Question 55, article 2,

In the mind of an angel there are similitudes of creatures, not indeed, as taken from the creature, but from God, who is the cause of creatures and in which the first similitudes of things exist. Whence Augustine says in [The Literal Interpretation of Genesis] that just as the ratio by which a creature is fashioned, first is in the Word of God before it is fashioned in the creature, so the same ratio is made first in the intellectual creatures [i.e. the Angels] and then is itself fashioned in the creature.

We can now consider how angels know singulars. St. Thomas begins his discussion of this question by addressing two common errors. The first of which is the outright denial of knowledge of singulars in angels. This is against the Catholic faith, which holds that angels minster to individual humans; these we call guardian angels. Others have stated that angels know singulars through universal causes. St. Thomas shows that this does not end the difficulty, because to know through universal causes is not the same as to know the thing in the here and now. He gives the example of the astronomer knowing through causes that an eclipse is going to happen, but does not know it in its singularity unless he senses it.(Summa Theologiae, pp Q57, a 2)
St. Thomas again appeals to the superiority of angels to show that they must know singulars if we do, since there is a certain perfection in knowing singulars in the here and now. He therefore argues that God causes all things, not just universally, but in their very individuality. For he is the cause of each individual substance. Therefore, even the very individual must exist in God preeminently. Socrates, exists in God first and foremost. Thus the angels know Socrates in his very singularity through a species given by God. (Summa Theologiae, pp Q57, a 2)
Human actions are caused by God's agency through the will. Human actions begin in deliberation. This deliberation is about the means to the final end which belongs to man by nature. The deliberation necessarily results in choice.3 That choice terminates in action. It is important to realize, in order to avoid the foolish Pelagian error, that God must be the cause of any and all actions because there is in fact some being there. Moreover, that the first movements of deliberation are caused by God's direct action upon the human will There is no human action without God's causing it immediately, just as there is no being of any sort without God's causing it directly.
We are left, therefore, with the question of how angels can know these particular actions of men. Remember above what St. Thomas concludes about angelic knowledge of singulars, that it is precisely the thing its singularity, the here and now, that the angel knows. This follows for all kinds of being caused by God. As was discussed above, God is the immediate cause of being of every action. Therefore, the angel knows individual actions of men as made known to them by God himself, through some intelligible species.
There is an inclination is to say that angels must in some way make the individual actions of man present to himself in some immaterial way, even though it cannot be asserted how it is done. This view supported by considering the way demons are able to judge human thoughts by outward appearances. For as Augustine says demons “sometimes are able with the greatest faculty learn man's dispositions, not only through speech, but also as conceived in thought when the soul expresses them by certain signs in the body” (De Divinatione Daemonum). It seems therefore that the angels (and demons) are able to somehow consider man's actions directly. Moreover, to say that the knowledge is from some intelligible species of the individual it seems that one necessarily falls into some form of determinism. Angels would be able to conclude to individual actions from the intelligible forms of individuals. However, as St. Thomas argues, angels are unable to know that secret thoughts of men. For the will is moved by God alone and directly (Summa Theologiae, pp Q. 57, a 4). Therefore angels cannot perceive the principle of human action, so likewise, they cannot conclude to human actions from intelligible forms of individuals. Therefore, it seems that angels must in some way understand the individual human action from the man's action directly and since there is no form to abstract, the angel is not knowing it through abstraction, and thus this does not contradict what was said before.
The source of this difficulty seems to arise from the mode of human knowing. We know particulars directly from the particulars as sensed. This seems to us the most direct and simple way to know things. However, like most things man does, this is backwards. God knows things perfectly since He knows things in the order of being and through the cause of being, i.e. Himself. Angels, even naturally speaking are much more like to God than we are, and also know according to the mode of being. As was shown above, they cannot abstract. There is no agent or passive intellect, nor imagination in which to hold a phantasm.
The solution lies in this: God is the cause of being for every being, even accidental being. Therefore, He is even the cause of the being of actions. Therefore, as He is causing the action to be, sense there is some new ens, qualified though it may be, he reveals this to the angel through an intelligible species. Not that the angel sees this particular action as necessarily resulting from what is to be Socrates, but rather, since there is this particular man Socrates, he must necessarily act in some particular way here and now. The ens Socrates, is the occasion for the ens running, or cutting in Socrates. The angel cannot see into the deliberation of Socrates, but he is able know the action of Socrates as caused by God directly.
This is a mind blowing and staggering conclusion. We can imagine that an angel must be flooded with virtually infinite number of intelligible species as every single creature in the world, and every accidental being belonging to it (list the categories of a given moment) at every moment. However, this not simply the case. St. Thomas shows that an angel cannot understand many things at the same time. For the unity of an operation requires the unity of the object. Angels cannot know all things at once, because they are not infinite. Therefore they are only able to have one object for the operation of their vis intellectiva. To fill this out we can look at St. Thomas' consideration of whether the higher angels understand by fewer species. He argues that since God understands all things through himself in an absolute unity, inferior creatures know through many. Thus, those that are closer to Him know must by so much the fewer species understand all intelligible things. Therefore, his intelligible species are more universal (Summa Theologiae pp Q55, a3). Angels, therefore are not then attentive to all particulars accept in so far as the fall under the account of the universal species that they are considering.
Let us consider some speculative corollaries of this to help put the magnificence of this mode of knowing into perspective. Some have suggested that the highest angels are able to understand all creatures through the single species, created being. This does not seem unlikely especially considering what Dionysius says about the first hierarchy of angels in Chapter 7 of The Celestial Hierarchy.

They [Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones] are perfect then not because of an enlightened understanding which enables them to analyze the many sacred things, but rather because of a primary and supreme deification, a transcendent and angelic understanding of God's work. They have been directed hierarchically not through other holy beings but directly from God Himself and they have achieved this thanks to the capacity which compared to others is the mark of their superior order. Hence they are found next to perfect and unfailing purity and are led, as permitted, into contemplation regarding the immaterial and intellectual splendor.

Dionysius is here speaking of the beatified angels, but what is most telling is that he attributes their proximity to God to “the capacity which compared to others is the mark of their superior order.” It is not hard to imagine, then, that the higher angels can take up the entire universe in a single glance;that they are so powerful that the universe itself is able to be a locus of their power. Through the one species, created being, they understand the natures of every created being now in existence. Thus, the spiritual realm is vastly beyond our own meagre material existence.
In light of the above it would behoove us to take a brief look at angelic intelligible species. Intelligible species is not said univocally of man and angels, but analogously. First, consider that every intelligible species we possess as with it the account of abstracted, and therefore universal. Angels labour under no such deficiency. They do not require that something be made universal in order for it to be understood. They understand it precisely in its particularity. The greatest angels are able to grasp Socrates-ness through the species created being.
We therefore see that angels are subsisting intellects. From their nature they must receive intelligible species connatural to them from God directly. These species are of all created being, even accidental being. Therefore it is through these species handed down by God that they understand human actions in the here and now.

1 Ipsa autem essentia angeli non comprehendit in se omnia, cum sit essentia determinata ad genus et ad speiciem. Hoc autem proprium est essentiae divinae, quae infinita est, ut in se simpliciter omnia comprehendat perfecte. Et ideo solus Deus cognoscit omnia per suam essentiam (Summa Theologiae pp Q. 55a 1). Though an interesting question, we will leave aside what is meant by an angel being determined to a genus and species in this article.

2 Sic igitur omnia materialia in ipsis angelis praeexistunt, simplicius quidem et immaterialius quam in ipsis rebus; multiplicius autem et imperfectus quam in deo. (Summa Theologiae, pp. Q57, a 1)

3 This is not to say that God cannot use angels in as a mediation for His direct causality, but it is not necessary. Furthermore, it seems that in certain ways that God cannot use the angels to cause at all, such as in the case of esse. We will avoid this digression.

4 Assuming that the deliberation comes to an end. One might be able to imagine a case where someone is in the grocery store indefinitely, but we try to dwell on the least part.

Here are some images and prayers to the holy angels:

Prayers to Our Guardian Angel

From the Office for the feast of Guardian Angels (Oct. 2). This feast was first authorized by Pope Paul V in 1608.
Sancti Angeli, custodes nostri, defendite nos in proelio, ut not pereamus in tremendo iudicio.

V. In conspectu Angelorum psallam tibi, Deus meus.
R. Adorabo ad templum sanctum tuum et confitebor nomini tuo.

Deus, qui ineffabili providentia sanctos Angelos tuos ad nostram custodiam mittere digneris, largire supplicibus tuis, et eorum semper protectione defendi, et aeterna sociate gaudere. Per Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum.
O ye holy Angels, our guardians, defend us in battle that we may not perish in the awful judgement.

V. In the sight of the Angels I will sing to Thee, O God.
R. I will worship facing Thy holy temple and confess Thy name.

O God, who in Thine ineffable providence hast deigned to send Thy holy Angels to watch over us, grant to us, Thy supplicants, to be always defended by their protectino and in eternity to share their joy. Through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
From an 11th century prayer book belonging to Abbot Aelfwine.
Credo quod sis angelus sanctus, a Deo omnipotente ad custodiam mei deputatus. Propterea peto, et per illum qui te ad hoc ordinavit, humiliter imploro, ut me miseram fragilem atque indignam semper et ubique in hac vita custodias, protegas a malis omnibus atque defendas, et cum Deus hinc animam meam migrare iusserit, nullam in eam potestatem daemonibus habere permittas, sed tu eam leniter a corpore suscipias, et in sinu Habrae suaviter usque perducas iubente ac iuvante creatore ac salvatore Deo nostro, qui est benedictus in saecula saeculorum. Amen.I believe that thou art the holy angel appointed by almighty God to watch over me. On this account, I beg and humbly implore thee, through Him who has ordained thee to this task, that in this life thou wouldst always and everywhere guard me, wretched, weak, and unworthy that I am. Protect and defend me from all evil, and when God has bid my soul to leave this world, permit not the devil to have any power over it. Rather that thou wouldst gently take it from my body and lead it sweetly unto the bosom of Abraham with the bidding and assistance of God our Creator and Savior, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

Prayers to St. Michael

From the Office for the feast of St. Michael the Archangel (Sept. 29 Calendar of the Extraordinary Use). The collect at the end appears in manuscripts of the 8th century.
Princeps gloriosissime, Michael Archangele, esto memor nostri: hic et ubique semper precare pro nobis Filium Dei, alleluia, alleluia.

V. In conspectu Angelorum psallam tibi, Deus meus.
R. Adorabo ad templum sanctum tuum et confitebor nomini tuo.

Deus, qui miro ordine, Angelorum ministeria hominumque dispensas: concede propitius ut, a quibus tibi ministrantibus in caelo assistitur, ab his in terra vita nostra muniatur. Per Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum. Amen.
O most glorious Prince, Michael the Archangel, be mindful of us, here and everywhere: pray always unto the Son of God for us, Alleluia, Alleluia.

V. In the sight of the Angels I will sing to Thee, O God.
R. I will worship facing Thy holy temple and confess Thy name.

O God, who in a marvelous order hast established the ministries of angels and men, mercifully grant that as Thy holy Angels ever do Thee service in heaven, so at all times they may succor us here upon earth. Through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

This prayer was composed by Pope Leo XIII after he experienced a vision. On October 13, 1884, while consulting with his cardinals after Mass, Leo XIII paused at the foot of the altar and lapsed into what looked like a coma. After a little while the Pope recovered himself and related the terrifying vision he had of the battle between the Church and Satan. Afterwards, Pope Leo went to his office and composed this now famous prayer to St. Michael the Archangel and assigned it to be recited after Low Mass.

Sancte Michael Archangele, defende nos in proelio, contra nequitiam et insidias diaboli esto praesidium. Imperet illi Deus, supplices deprecamur: tuque, Princeps militiae caelestis, Satanam aliosque spiritus malignos, qui ad perditionem animarum pervagantur in mundo, divina virtute, in infernum detrude. Amen.Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle; be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him we humbly pray. And do thou, O prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world for the ruin of souls. Amen.

Traditional prayer.
O princeps caelestis militiae, sancte Michael, qui superbum Luciferum cum omnibus suis asseclis ub tartarum deiecisti, o defensor et protector Ecclesiae, o animarum ex hoc saeculo migrantium praeses: succore populo Dei, defende Ecclesiam tibi commendatam contra omnes insidias satanae; adiuva animam meam contra eundem hostem constitutam, quam tibi nunc commendo. Praesertim me in hora mortis meae protege, ut ad paradisi gaudia admittar, ubi cum omnibus Angelis Deum aeternis laudibus depraedicem. Amen.O Prince of the heavenly host, Saint Michael, thou who cast into hell proud Lucifer with all his followers, thou who art defender and protector of the Church, thou who art protector of souls departing from this world, come to the aid of the People of God and defend the Church committed unto thee against all the snares of Satan. Help my soul which I now commend to thee against this same enemy. Protect me especially at the hour of my death, so that I may be admitted to the joys of paradise where I, with all the Angels, may praise God eternally. Amen.

Prayers to St. Gabriel

From the Office for the feast of St. Gabriel the Archangel (March 24 - Calendar of the Extraordinary Use).
Princeps gloriosissime, Gabriel Archangele, esto memor nostri: his et ubique semper precare pro nobis Filium Dei, alleluia, alleluia.

V. Stetit Angelus iuxta aram templi.
R. Habens turibulum aureum in manu sua.

DEUS, qui inter ceteros Angelos, ad annuntiandum incarnationis tuae mysterium, Gabrielem Archangelum elegisti; concede propitius, ut qui festum eius celebramus in terris, ipsius patrocinium sentiamus in caelis: qui vivis et regnas in saecula saeculorum. Amen.
O MOST glorious Prince, Gabriel the Archangel, be mindful of us, here and everywhere: pray always unto the Son of God for us, Alleluia, Alleluia.

V. An Angel stood near the altar of the temple.
R. Holding a golden censer in his hand.

O God, who amongst all the Angels didst choose the Archangel Gabriel to announce the mystery of Thine Incarnation; mercifully grant, that we who solemnly keep his feast on earth may feel the benefit of his patronage in heaven: who livest and reignest for ever and ever. Amen.

Traditional prayer.

O FORTITUDO Dei, sancte Gabriel, qui virgini Mariae incarnationem unigeniti Filii Dei annuntiasti, laudo et veneror te, o electe Spiritus, et supplex oro, ut meus apud Iesum Christum, Salvatorem nostrum, et eius benedictam matrem advocatus esse, atque in omnibus angustiis me solari et corroborare velis, ne ullis unquam tentationibus superatus, Deum meum peccato offendam. Amen. O STRENGTH of God, Saint Gabriel, thou who announcedst to the Virgin Mary the incarnation of the only-begotten Son of God, I praise thee and honor thee, O elect spirit. I humbly beg thee, with Jesus Christ our Savior and with His Blessed Mother, to be my advocate. I also pray that thou wouldst comfort me and strengthen me in all my difficulties, lest at any time I may be overcome by temptation and I might offend God by sinning. Amen.

Prayers to St. Raphael

From the Office for the feast of St. Raphael the Archangel (Oct. 24 - Calendar of the Extraordinary Use).
PRINCEPS gloriosissime, Raphael Archangele, esto memor nostri: hic et ubique semper precare pro nobis Filium Dei, alleluia, alleluia.

V. Stetit Angelus iuxta aram templi.
R. Habens turibulum aureum in manu sua.

DEUS, qui beatum Raphaelem Archangelum Tobiae famulo tuo comitem dedisti in via: concede nobis famulis tuis; ut eiusdem semper protegamur custodia et muniamur auxilio. Per Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum. Amen.

O MOST glorious Prince, Raphael the Archangel, be mindful of us, here and everywhere: pray always unto the Son of God for us, Alleluia, Alleluia.

V. An Angel stood near the altar of the temple.
R. Holding a golden censer in his hand.

O God, who didst give blessed Raphael the Archangel to Tobias Thy servant as a companion for his journey, grant that we, who are also Thy servants, may likewise be safeguarded by his watchfulness and fortified by his help. Through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Traditional prayer.
O CAELESTIS medice et comes fidelissime, sancte Raphael, qui Tobiae seniori visum restituisti, iuniorem per omnes suscepti itineris vias deduxisti et incolumem conservasti: esto corporis et animae meae medicus, pelle ignorantiae tenebras, mihique in periculosa huius vitae peregrinatione constanter assiste, donec me ad caelestem patriam perducas. Amen.
O HEAVENLY doctor and most faithful companion, saint Raphael, thou who didst restore sight to the elder Tobit, and didst escort the younger Tobias throughout his appointed journey and kept him safe and sound, be the doctor of my body and soul. Dispel the darkness of my ignorance, and assist me in the dangerous journey of this life always, until thou leadeth me to my heavenly homeland. Amen.

Accident of the Blog

A doctor, when considered under the ratio merely of "man," is said accidentally to be the cause of health. Similarly, this blog, an accidental relation to its contributers, is accidentally made noteworthy when its members are promoted. And such is the case due to the happy coverage of a recent baptism by the prominent (at least in the Catholic blogosphere) priest Fr. Z in his blog "What Does the Prayer Really Say?"

Of course, it is equally true to say that the promotion
of the blog by this means is wholly accidental and therefore irrelevant. For we do not seek men for medical advice, quite to the contrary, we see doctors. This could be seen again in the case of this blog by the fact that "promotion" is wholly outside of the intention of this blog. Therefore, this post is sophistry, and rubbish. Except for four things:

- The conveyance of the glad fact that the beautiful sacrament shared by members of this modest blog has been noted by a prominent member of the greater Catholic community.
- The equally worthy conveyance of good will by a number of commenters on that blog post.
- The amusingly false observation by one of the commenters that Frater A. is on a cell phone during the ceremony! Surely there have been few more absurd things attributed to him.

- The opportunity to offer my own congratulations and well-wishing to the new and beautiful family. Cheers!

An area of both classical and contemporary dispute in interpreting Aristotle’s theory of perception is with regard to how perception involves the sense-organ taking on the sensible form of the perceived object without its matter.[1] In this paper I will consider St. Thomas’ interpretation of Aristotle on this matter with regard particularly to the sense of sight.

It is a noteworthy fact that Aristotle did not see the study of the soul as strictly speaking an independent science.[2] Aquinas was certainly cognizant of this.[3] The study of the nature of the soul is allocated to natural philosophy (phusikoς), which provides the account for the natural principles of the living.[4] Aquinas takes the methods given when natural philosophy is accounted for in principle and applies them to the study of the soul.

Natural philosophy’s common method of beginning from the confused universal and moving to the particular universal is that which explains both the order of Aristotle’s general exposition of sensation, and specifically the sense of sight.[5] It is through Aquinas’ particularly astute exposition of this procedure that we arrive at an account of how the case of sight involves the sense-organ taking on the sensible form of the perceived object without its matter.

Most generally, the powers of the soul are defined by their activities, and these are likewise defined by their objects. Thus objects are the first things which ought to be considered in the study of the soul.[6] So also Aquinas recognizes Aristotle to begin with the sense-objects when explaining the senses because “objects are prior to faculties.”[7]

The sense objects which are most important for Aquinas’s exposition are the special sense objects: “The very essence and definition of each sense consists in its being naturally fitted to be affected by some such object.”[8] These are the objects which are directly and properly perceived (proprie per se sensibilia). Related to this, Aquinas notes that although we cannot but use these terms, the senses are not properly said to be ‘acted on’ by these objects, but are acted on secundum modum of a sensible. Hence the faculty becomes like the object in sensing, but only sensitively and not substantially.[9] This is a key point Aquinas applies to all the senses. At the same time, Aquinas asserts the sense faculties are the acts of bodily organs and, following the principle “whatever is received is received in the mode of the receiver,” the sense faculties receive a similitude of the thing sensed in a bodily and material way.[10] Reconciling these seemingly incongruous principles, namely that the senses sense in a material and bodily way, and also that they are not acted on in the strict sense of the way body acts on body is at the heart of Aquinas’s interpretation of how the sense organ taking on the sensible form of the perceived object without its matter. Showing how Aquinas proposes to resolve this incongruity for all of sensation is outside the purpose of this paper. But I will next examine Aquinas’ subtle exposition of Aristotle which resolves this incongruity in the sense of sight. This exposition, it seems to me, provides the key to explaining how sight involves the eye taking on the sensible form of the perceived object without its matter.

Aquinas, following Aristotle,[11] notes first that “the proper sense-object being that which each sense perceives of itself exclusively, the sense object of which the special recipient is sight is the visible.”[12] The ‘visible’ is simply a broad term used to include both colour and the translucent visible object without a name for things such as glow-worms and certain fungi. This is straightforward enough.

The difficulty is how the visible object (most importantly colour) [13] acts on the sense of sight. Aquinas sees Aristotle’s foundation for the answer to this particular problem in his first showing what colour has to do with visibility, and secondly in settling what is required for colour to be seen.[14] With regard to the first, Aquinas notes along with Aristotle that the object of sight, namely colour, as such is essentially visible.[15] However, colour is essentially visible not in the sense that it is always visible, but insofar that it possesses the intrinsic qualities to be visible. This is clear from the fact that colour manifest itself only in the right conditions. These right conditions are what Aristotle calls the “transparent” and light.[16] Aquinas’ explanation of these conditions settles the second task of explaining what is required for colour to be seen.

The “transparent” are any substances under the ratio of possessing the quality of being receptive to colour, such as air, water, and solids such as glass. These substances are receptive of colour “from without” such that they render themselves visible vis-à-vis the concomitant colour, and hence are not visible per se. Because the presence of light renders this quality actual, light is defined as the act of the transparent as such; that is, it is light which makes this quality of transparency to be in these things.[17] For example, air is a medium between some coloured thing and my eyes, and when light is present in the air, I can see the coloured thing.[18] From this it is clear that the nature of light must be centrally related to how the eye in seeing takes on the colour of the perceived object without its matter. Appropriately Aquinas next carefully examines the nature of light.

Aquinas thus states that it is clear enough that light cannot be a body, because it would follow that the body of light would coexist in the body of the transparent-- an impossibility.[19] Aquinas points out that on the other hand, “it is impossible that any spiritual nature should fall within the apprehension of the senses, whose power, being embodied, cannot acquire knowledge of any but bodily things.”[20] In other words, the light which is perceived by sense is not spiritual [21](natura spiritualis).[22] This seems to open Aquinas to an obvious difficulty: If light is neither a body nor spiritual, then what is it? His reply runs as follows. Though strictly speaking light is not spiritual (in the sense it does not need matter), it is the spiritual or formal quality of light which brings the transparent into act and consequently is the cause of seeing. Seeing is the reception of the form of colour through light; to bring the transparency into act is the formal quality of light.[23] This is to say that it is primarily light as a form which disposes the act of colour to be visible through transparency.[24] But just as light is a formal quality, there must be some matter in which the light exists, albeit the most subtle form of matter, the “most spiritual.”[25] This matter acts on the eye, but not precisely so as to make the eye to see, but merely to act on the matter of the eye which is seeing due to another principle. What is this matter? It is nothing other than the “transparent body.”[26]

This is amendable with modern physiology and optometry which has explained how light waves act on the eye. Light-waves can be understood as the transparent formed by light, i.e. the matter simultaneous with but nevertheless different than the formal of aspect seeing which is the reception of colour through the transparent.[27] This two-fold way the sense is acted upon can be made clearer by taking the easier parallel case of touch. In the act of touching, the object touched makes an indentation on the skin. This indentation is precisely how the sensible matter is materially affected when sensing, but the indentation as such made by the object is clearly not the sensation.[28]

Admittedly, Aquinas seems a bit hesitant in his interpretation here. On the one hand he calls sight the “most spiritual” and “maximum spiritually,” which implies a comparative order with the other senses, such that sight has the same material/formal aspects as the lower senses.[29] On the other hand, he also states in the same place that light is “only a spiritual change,” implying sight is sui generis apart from the other senses.[30] However, in light of Aquinas’ universal statements made about sensation being bodily and his direct arguments against light being strictly speaking spiritual, it seems more reasonable to take him to be formally restating the point that the proper ratio when considering the cause of sight is the formal quality of colour through light and not its material aspect of the transparency.[31] Light acts on transparency, thus enabling the colour to be such that of itself it has its power to impress its likeness on the medium, and also then on the eye. This principled explanation seems best to answer how the sense organ of sight takes on the sensible form of the perceived object without its matter: the matter the eye is affect by is the transparency, which is accidental to sight. It is the colour which is able to impress its formal quality on the eye through the transparency in act, and this is vision.

[1] Considered by Aristotle in De Anima (hereafter DA) 416b32-418a6. Aristotle, De Anima, Transl. H.G. Apostle (Iowa: The Peripatetic Press 1981).

[2] As Amelie Oksenberg Rorty points out in “De Anima: Its Agenda and Recent Interpreters.” Essays on Aristotle's De Anima, eds. M. Nussbaum and A.O. Rorty (USA: Oxford University Press 1995).

[3] The order of the sciences is the first thing he mentions at the beginning of his commentary on the DA.

[4] I.e. the physical study is concerned with the principles of the living (arche ton zion), c.f. DA 412a7, 403a27-28. If there are any powers of the soul which are able to exist outside the provenance of natural philosophy they then are the concern of the metaphysician, c.f. DA 403b15.

[5] C.f. Physics 184a10-15. Aristotle, Physics, Transl. H.G. Apostle (Iowa: The Peripatetic Press 1980).

[6] DA 415a14-416b31.

[7] Book II Lectio XIII, para. 383. Aquinas, Commentary on Aristotle’s De Anima (hereafter CDA), Transl. By K. Foster and S. Humphries (Indiana: Dumb Ox Books 1994).

[8] Ibid. Book II Lectio XIII, para 387. Thus I am putting aside Aquinas’ explanation of the sensus communis sense objects which are part of sense but not in the same essential way.

[9] Ibid. Book II Lectio XIII, para 381. Aquinas notes that because the pre-Socratics failed to see this distinction they thought the sense-faculties were composed of the same elements as their objects.

[10] CDA Book II Lectio XII, para. 377.

[11] DA 418127-29.

[12] CDA Book II Lectio XI, para. 399.

[13] Aquinas claims the unnamed glowing object of sight is only mentioned by Aristotle incidentally, and that such creature are the way they are due to a certain weakness of not being able to actualize their proper colors seen during the day. The basic point seems fair enough, namely that the glowing object of sight is a certain exception, and thus I will set aside a consideration of it here. At any rate, it turns out that it is in virtue of the normative relationship of colour to seeing that this exception is explained. See CDA Book II Lectio XV, para. 430.

[14] In DA 418a29-418b4 and DA 418b4-9 respectively; c.f. CDA Book II Lectio XIV, para. 400.

[15] DA 418a31 and CDA Book II Lectio XIV, para. 400.

[16] DA 418b1-3.

[17] Again, “it is evident that neither air…nor anything of the sort is actually transparent unless it is luminous.” CDA Book II Lectio XIV, para. 405.

[18] Conversely the transparent in potency is darkness.

[19] DA 418b17. Aristotle gives further arguments for this position in DA 418b20-26, but the force of the above argument is strong enough to prove his point.

[20] CDA Book II Lectio XIV, para. 415-416. This further point is interestingly left unstated in Aristotle, but seems indirectly affirmed in DA 419a25-31.

[21] Ibid. Book II Lectio XIV, para. 416.

[22] Ibid. Book II Lectio XIV, para. 424.

[23] Thus Aquinas places light in the third species of quality, affective quality. C.f. Book II Lectio XIV, para. 420.

[24] This can conversely be said the way Aristotle states it: “to be a color is to be that which causes motion in that which is transparent when in activity.” DA 419a10-11.

[25] “Sed in immutatione visus est sola immutatio spiritualis: unde patet, quod visus inter omnes sensus est spiritualior, et post hunc auditus.” Ibid. Book II Lectio XIV, para. 418.

[26] Ibid. Book II Lectio XIV, para. 421.

[27] This is clearly Aristotle’s conclusion in DA 419a7-15.

[28] As drawn out by Aquinas in Ibid. Book II Lectio XIV, para. 418.

[29] See footnote 80; Ibid. Book II Lectio XIV, para. 418.

[30] Certain contemporary philosophers have focused too much on this apparent hesitancy in Aquinas and have gone on to argue that for Aquinas sensation must be wholly spiritual and in no way material. See for example, Burnyeat, Myles, “Is an Aristotelian Philosophy of Mind Still Credible?,” Essays on Aristotle's De Anima, eds. M. Nussbaum and A.O. Rorty (USA: Oxford University Press 1995). According to Burnyeat, Aristotle thinks the sense-organ taking on a sensible form is nothing more or less than the awareness of that form. He asserts that there is “no physiological process which stands to a perceiver’s awareness of colour or smell as matter to form.” (pg. 15) Because this is open to obvious refutation by modern biology, Burnyeat ultimately proposes to “junk” Aristotle. (pg. 26)

[31] Likewise one would read Aristotle’s arguments against Empedocles: light as a vulgar material body would indeed be “extravagantly postulated” to move instantly across the horizon. Rather, with light’s more formal nature it would seem to move very, very quickly: 186,282.397 miles per second, to be exact.

“She reaches mightily from one end of the earth to the other, and she orders all things well.” (Wis 8:1)

Since it belongs to wisdom to order and judge, and since we all, as is testified by the title we bear in this blog, are seekers of wisdom, it seemed to Vincentius and I that our labels needed some trimming and revision in order to dispose ourselves more readily to wisdom. Our thought is that a list of labels that consists of many particulars and vague names does little to nothing to aid one in describing and discerning what an article is about. Especially now as the blog is bursting with new growth, and we are anticipating many new articles, we want to get a handle on the labels before things get out of hand.
In light of this, we have compiled the list below as our recommended labels for this blog. Our basic division is threefold: the object quo, the object of the article; the object quod, the subject; and the modus, the mode of presentation of the article. (See Vincentius' latest post for a clear account of object quo and quod.) We are aware that we may not have included all necessary labels and ask you to please e-mail us with any suggestions. I have already gone through all the previous posts and edited the labels. Please take some time to review your previous articles to make sure they have been labeled correctly and adequately. We are also aware that not all may use the labels under the precise headings which are listed in this article, but by all means do not be concerned. Vincentius and I have merely found this a helpful way to categorize and order the types of articles in the blog. This will hopefully facilitate participation and comments.

Object Quo
Sacred Doctrine
Middle Sciences

Object Quod
St. Thomas Aquinas

Point of Interest
Feast Day

Obiectum Formale

This article will attempt to determine the formal object of Sacred Theology and to unify and order the seemingly disparate accounts of the same given by St. Thomas: the formal object is the light of divine revelation (ST Ia,q.1, a.3), God (ST Ia, q.1, a.7), and things that are immaterial in such a way as to never exist in matter (In Boetium De Trinitate, q.5, a.4).

In q.1, a.3 of the Summa Theologiae, the Angelic Doctor teaches that the unity of a habit (science, in this case) comes from the formal account of its object:

Est enim unitas potentiae et habitus consideranda secundum obiectum, non quidem materialiter, sed secundum rationem formalem obiecti, puta homo, asinus et lapis conveniunt in una formali ratione colorati, quod est obiectum visus.

He goes on to specify that the unity of sacred theology comes from the one formal object of things able to be revealed:
Quia igitur sacra Scriptura considerat aliqua secundum quod sunt divinitus revelata, secundum quod dictum est, omnia quaecumque sunt divinitus revelabilia, communicant in una ratione formali obiecti huius scientiae.

So far, so good. When discussing the subject of the science, however, although he uses the same language of formal object (in fact, he uses the very same example from sight), he names God, not revealable things, as the formal object:
Sic enim se habet subiectum ad scientiam, sicut obiectum ad potentiam vel habitum. Proprie autem illud assignatur obiectum alicuius potentiae vel habitus, sub cuius ratione omnia referuntur ad potentiam vel habitum, sicut homo et lapis referuntur ad visum inquantum sunt colorata, unde coloratum est proprium obiectum visus. Omnia autem pertractantur in sacra doctrina sub ratione dei, vel quia sunt ipse deus; vel quia habent ordinem ad deum, ut ad principium et finem. Unde sequitur quod deus vere sit subiectum huius scientiae.

Finally, in his commentary on Boetius' De Trinitate, (in which St. Thomas uses the formal object as a principle of division), he distinguishes the science of Theology generically from Physics and Mathematics by its remotion from matter and motion:
Quaedam vero speculabilia sunt, quae non dependent a materia secundum esse, quia sine materia esse possunt, sive numquam sint in materia, sicut deus et Angelus, sive in quibusdam sint in materia et in quibusdam non, ut substantia, qualitas, ens, potentia, actus, unum et multa et huiusmodi. De quibus omnibus est theologia, id est scientia divina…

He later distinguishes Sacred Theology from Metaphysics by further specifying the kinds of immateriality involved in each:
Sic ergo theologia sive scientia divina est duplex. Una, in qua considerantur res divinae non tamquam subiectum scientiae, sed tamquam principia subiecti, et talis est theologia, quam philosophi prosequuntur, quae alio nomine metaphysica dicitur. Alia vero, quae ipsas res divinas considerat propter se ipsas ut subiectum scientiae et haec est theologia, quae in sacra Scriptura traditur. Utraque autem est de his quae sunt separata a materia et motu secundum esse, sed diversimode, secundum quod dupliciter potest esse aliquid a materia et motu separatum secundum esse. Uno modo sic, quod de ratione ipsius rei, quae separata dicitur, sit quod nullo modo in materia et motu esse possit, sicut deus et Angeli dicuntur a materia et motu separati. Alio modo sic, quod non sit de ratione eius quod sit in materia et motu, sed possit esse sine materia et motu, quamvis quandoque inveniatur in materia et motu. Et sic ens et substantia et potentia et actus sunt separata a materia et motu, quia secundum esse a materia et motu non dependent, sicut mathematica dependebant, quae numquam nisi in materia esse possunt, quamvis sine materia sensibili possint intelligi. Theologia ergo philosophica determinat de separatis secundo modo sicut de subiectis, de separatis autem primo modo sicut de principiis subiecti. Theologia vero sacrae Scripturae tractat de separatis primo modo sicut de subiectis, quamvis in ea tractentur aliqua quae sunt in materia et motu, secundum quod requirit rerum divinarum manifestatio.

Note, however, that the account of the specific object of Sacred Theology in this text is not the light of divine revelation as it was in the Summa; instead, it is immateriality of the sort that cannot exist in matter. Notice, also, that in this text St. Thomas determines the subject of each species of theology: Sacred Theology studies the first principle in itself and principally, while Metaphysics studies the first principle only in relation to created being.

First, concerning the distinction of the subject and object of Sacred Theology presented in the Summa, it should be noted that the object of any habit can be said materially or formally. St. Thomas makes this distinction explicit in the quote from Ia q.1, a.3 given above. The material object is considered under an account that only accidentally relates the thing to the power. In the example given by St. Thomas, it is only accidental that what is seen is a man or a rock. The formal object, on the other hand, is exactly the reason why it is grasped by a certain power, as things are seen precisely because they are colored.

Given this distinction between formal and material objects, however, it still remains to see why St. Thomas gives different accounts of the "object" and "subject" of Sacred Theology, since both accounts seem to be aiming at the formal object. It must be said, then, that the formal object of a habit itself is two-fold. For one could say that things are visible because they are colored; but it is also true to say that they are visible because they are illuminated. The color is what we see, the terminus of our action of seeing; but the light is that in which we see, not accidentally. The habit of sight is only fully specified by saying that its formal object is illuminated color. Color is an example of what is called by the scholastic tradition the formale obiectum quod, while light exemplifies the formale obiectum quo, or sub quo.1

By extension, the formal object of sciences will also be two-fold. The formal object quo of a science is the light, so to speak, in which the science views its object quod. The light proper to science is immateriality, which is why St. Thomas divides the sciences in his commentary on Boetius' De Trinitate according to different degrees of remotion from matter and motion. This light determines a principle subject, or object quod, about which the science treats, and to which all other things treated by the science are referred, whether it be mobile being in Physics, for example, or quantity in Mathematics. For, given a certain mode of understanding, there will be a corresponding grade of being whose mode of existence is properly the cause of why the intellect can consider things under that light.

Therefore, when St. Thomas gives the principle of unity of Sacred Theology in Ia q.1, a.3, he is giving the obiectum quo. For Sacred Theology studies everything in the light of Divine Revelation: this is the mode in which all its truths are seen. In article 7, however, he is giving the obiectum quod. For what is principally revealable is God Himself, and all other things treated in the science are related to Him. God is what terminates and is attained by the habit of this science.

But what about the apparent discrepancy between the accounts of the object quo in the Summa and In Boetium De Trinitate? It should be noted that in the Division and Method, St. Thomas is working from the "top down". That is, he is making a general division of sciences, starting with the highest genera. On the contrary, in the Summa, he is asking whether the science is one, that is, whether it is indivisible, or an infima species of science. Therefore, there is no necessity that the formal object quo given in one work match the account given in the other work. In fact, the account given in the Division and Method, that is, under the light of immateriality of the sort that never exists in matter, seems to be applicable to Sacred Theology as held by us, by the blessed, and even (allowing analogy of the word "science") by God Himself. The light of revelation, however, is only applicable to Sacred Theology as held by us, making it an infima species and absolutely one science. Note especially that the subject, that is, the object quod of Sacred Theology is the same for the genus of Sacred Theology, or for the species of Sacred Theology as held by us: namely, God, or the first principle of things considered in Himself. This is further evidence that the most proper principle of dividing the sciences is by the object quo, as is done in the Division and Method.
1. See, for instance, Billuart in his Summa Sancti Thomae: "Nota: objectum, seu ut loquitur S. Thomas, subjectum, considerationis scilicet et non inhaesionis, duplex distinguitur in omni potentia vel habitu, nimirum materiale et formale. Objectum materiale est id quod a potentia vel habitu attingitur quidem, non tamen ratione sui sed ratione alterius. Objectum formale est id quod a potentia vel habitu attingitur ratione sui et ratione cujus caetera attinguntur. In objecto formale duplex ratio debet distingui: ratio quae, et est ipsa res quae attingitur, et dicitur objectum formale quod: et ratio qua seu sub qua, et est id quo mediante ratio quae attingitur: et dicitur objectum formale quo seu sub quo; ita ut ex hac duplici ratione quae et qua integretur objectum formale, quod est specificativum potentiae vel habitus. Sit exemplum in potentia visiva; objectum ejus materiale est corpus; formale quod, color; formale quo, lux; formale specificativum coloratum lucidum."

See also Cajetan in his commentary on the Summa: "III. Ad evidentiam huius rationis, nota duplicem esse rationem formalem objecti in scientia: alteram obiecti ut res, alteram obiecti ut obiectum; vel alteram ut quae alteram ut sub qua. Ratia formalis obiecti ut res, seu quae, est ratio rei obiectae quae primo terminat actum illius habitus, et ex qua fluunt passiones illius subiecti, et quae est medium in prima demonstratione; ut entitas in metiphysica, quantitas in mathematica, et mobilitas in naturali. Ratio autem formalis obiecti ut obiectum, vel sub qua, est immaterialitas talis, seu talis modus abstrahendi et definiendi: puta sine omni materia in metaphysica, cum materia intelligibili tantum in mathematica, et cum materia sensibili, non tamen hac, in naturali."

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