Amongst Thomists, there is a discussion, almost a dichotomy, as to what falls first into the intellect. This is a valuable and important question. It seems the veracity of all scientific and philosophic inquiries are ultimately dependent on how it is that we know. Now, it should be made clear that this is in no way an essay. The appropriate research, therefore, that accompanies research and academic papers was not done. But I am convinced of this position. At the same time I also, humbly, request any comments, insights, or criticisms.

There are some in the Thomistic community who believe that Esse falls into the intellect first, rather than Ens. Now this is an attractive proposition, but one that i find patently false. The attraction stems from the truth that the intellect knows act, being, etc. But the study of Metaphysics prior to Physics convinces the student, who later becomes a 'master', that that 'being', which is the object of the intellect, is what Thomas calls Esse.

The immediate problem to my mind in saying that Esse falls first into the intellect can be summed up in the faulty position of Parmenides. It seems to me that he made the mistake of confusing Ens with Esse. Of course this led to the positing of many falsehoods, among them being the lack and impossibility of motion. Thus, it seems that these Thomists have, in effect created, not only a Metaphysics devoid of Physics, but one that not only contradicts true Physics, but also everyday experience.

Finally, there are other Thomists who don't take as radical a stance. You might call these quasi-existential Thomists. There position, however, is a somewhat modified version of the above. It seems that these believe that Ens falls first into the intellect, but that there is nothing wrong with studying Metaphysics prior to Physics. Of course, the logical question to put forth is 'What are you studying?' And their answer of course is 'Being (esse) as such, duh. Isn't that what Metaphysics is?' And I answer fair enough, but how do you know that something is other than what is in matter. And I get the following reply, because it is possible to separate existence from ens in the mind. True. The problem here, though, seems to be that without certainty that there is immaterial ens, you can't have a study of being as such. And if you do not have knowledge of being existing outside of matter, there is no proper object of science.

In conclusion, the result of both the above positions is one of faith rather than knowledge. Obviously the existential Thomists believe that motion exists because it is central to the Aristotelian and Thomistic thought. They also believe that there is a natural argument for the existence of God. But without the proper order of study and termination of the intellect, that is all these conclusions come to: BELIEF.

I am excited to have your thoughts on the matter. -Ciao


  1. Vincentius said...
    Then there are those who think essentia is the first to fall into the intellect...
    Dawnwatchman said...
    Natural_Inquirer said: "The problem here, though, seems to be that without certainty that there is immaterial ens, you can't have a study of being as such."

    Vincentius and I were talking about this a few days ago; and after intervening reading and lectures, I see more clearly the truth of such statements. Without a sort of being that isn't material, there is no analogy among substances as beings, and hence no ens commune to speak of. Perhaps one could speak of potency/act, essence/existence, etc., but without separate substances, no analogical series exists, and hence those words are just words, and only find instantiation in material substances.

    Furthermore, one can recognize a difference between ens and essentia, but I think it would be very difficult, in the order of discovery, to see them as distinct principles of an ens unless one could see that they could in no way be distinct in God. But I await further enlightenment on this particular issue.
    Frater Asinus said...
    DW, I remember Vincentius and I having a similar discussion. Could you elaborate on what you said about an analogy of substance. In particular, I would like to understand what you meant when you said," Without a sort of being that isn't material, there is no analogy among substances as beings, and hence no ens commune to speak of."
    Your explication is appreciated!
    Dawnwatchman said...
    Frater, I was thinking of something along the following lines. I should have been more precise.

    Aristotle states in the Metaphysics 1026a27.ff, that "We answer that if there is no substance other than those which are formed by nature, natural science will be the first science; but if there is an immovable substance, the science of this must be prior and must be first philosophy, and universal in this way, because it is first. And it will belong to this to consider being qua being--both what it is and the attributes which belong to it qua being."

    So I was thinking that, as he states first, that without proving the existence of a First Being, there would be no need to have a science higher than physics, because physics could treat of all actually existent substances.

    Now, and I only realized this after your comment, Frater, that there could still be an analogy among the categories of "being." So, there could still be a sort of common meaning of being that only applies to various categorical "beings" analogously.

    Furthermore, taking a more modern physics approach, and denying the existence of incorruptible material substances (i.e. demoting the sun and planets), this analogy would be an analogy which physics as a science could "understand" insofar as the principles and causes of all these analogous beings would fall under its purview. It seems that terms such as potency and act would only be used analogously through material beings as analagates (the potency of the senses towards sensation, or the potency of a body towards divisibility, or of the intellect to intelligible species).

    However, once you prove that God and the intelligences exist, act and potency need to be extended to a greater realm. And the analagate terms for God understood in the sense of "principle" of a genus, etc...

    The terms essence and esse are more difficult.

    But at any rate those were my half-baked thoughts. Bon apetit.
    Reyna said...
    Good for people to know.

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