Ens Commune: A Summary

This is a summary of my views of ens commune that I formed from my previous article and the resulting discussion. I suppose that some of this is a positive assertion against some of the claims that ho_mathetes made in the previous post. I would still like to respond directly to his position, but I thought it would be helpful to late out my position as a formal whole as well.

In the pursuit of metaphysics there are many challenges that present themselves to the would be metaphysician. In contemporary thought, such challenges often arise from thinkers who oppose the very idea of metaphysics. Such thinkers as Kant and his present day adherents come quickly to mind. However, aside from these attacks from “outside” of metaphysics, there are other challenges, even for one who approaches the study with a good will. I do not speak merely of the challenges that arise from the difficulty of the matter, but there is a real question about whether metaphysics is even possible as a philosophical pursuit. A sign of the force of this difficulty is that in the eleventh book of the Metaphysics (of fourteen) Aristotle still is seeking whether there is such a science that can treat being qua being.1
Of particular concern to Aristotle is how to treat being qua being as something one. This will be of vital importance to metaphysics as a science. If being qua being cannot be understood as something one then there will not be one science. Nor would it seem possible to treat of first principles in a unified way and thus defend them accordingly. Consequently, it is of great importance to Aristotle that we see how to consider being qua being as something one.
This is where our present inquiry enters. St. Thomas Aquinas refers to this unified treatment of being qua being, as ens commune, or common being. In his preface to his commentary on Aristotle's Metaphysics St. Thomas refers to ens commune, naming it the subject of the science and a genus. It is the task of this paper, therefore, to examine what ens commune is. At the conclusion of this paper we should see that ens commune is only considered a genus in an extended sense and is thus an ens ratione with a foundation in things, unified through the notion of substance.
We will follow Aristotle's example and begin with what is more known to us and then proceed to what is more known by nature.2 It is important, therefore, to give a preliminary consideration to this concept of ens commune. Literally translated it means common being. Ens does not, however, have any connotation of action. Rather is refers to a being, or better yet, an entity. It should therefore be always taken as a noun. Common, here, can be understood in two ways. As St. Thomas argues, a principle is said to be common either through predication, or as a common cause.3 It remains to be seen which sense of common should be taken in ens commune.
There are a number of presuppositions that this paper will impose upon its readers, first of which is a presupposition of Aristotle's work in philosophy of nature. I will therefore be pursuing a particular path into metaphysics, which I will not here defend. My reasons for choosing to enter metaphysics through philosophy of nature are two-fold. First, this has been the traditional mode of proceeding for centuries. Second, I only see how to manifest the concept of ens commune by beginning with the philosophy of nature. I acknowledge that there are varying opinions about the necessity of treating physics before metaphysics, but I will not treat of that matter here.
To begin, it is clear that the subject of the philosophy of nature is mobile ens4 and its principles. It is this sort of ens that we are first and foremost familiar with. This is because we are composite beings and we know through our senses. Mobile ens is material ens, and therefore we know it as sensible ens. What is more, at first ens is equivalent to material ens, since anything more is beyond our experience.
Our idea of ens undergoes a radical change in the course of the philosophy of nature. This occurs when we prove the existence of the immortal human soul5 and of the first mover.6 What is significant about both of these is that they are both immaterial. Ens is now said in an entirely new way, since our studies in the philosophy of nature have compelled us to admit such beings. We consequently must expand our understanding of what it is to be an ens. This is what the concept ens commune attempts to do.
It is easily granted that I can imagine that there are such things as immaterial entes. Moreover, I can imagine a kind of “ensness” that all entes participate in. However, just because I am able to imagine such things, it does not follow that they be true concepts. Now that this “new” kind of ens has been discovered, i.e. immaterial ens, it may be that a we will only ever be able to treat of such things as principles and never in themselves. Also, it is possible that our desire to have some account of ens which is beyond that of our common experience may likewise be beyond us. The formation of the concept of ens commune must be done very carefully if we are to uphold the rigors required of true philosophical inquiry.
In order to have an understanding of ens that is broader than material being, we must form a concept of ens that is not in matter and motion. The emphasis on the “not” follows St. Thomas' division of the sciences in his commentary on Boethius' De Trinitate. There St. Thomas makes a distinction between abstraction and separatio.7 In abstraction we consider one thing without reference to what it is in. As Aristotle says of the geometer,

He strips off all sensible qualities, e.g. weight and lightness, hardness and its contrary, and also heat and cold and the other sensible contrarieties, and leaves only the quantitative and continuous, sometimes in one, sometimes in two, sometimes in three dimensions, and the attributes of these qua quantitative and continuous and does not consider them in any other respect.8

Separatio, on the other hand, is considering one thing specifically as not in another. Such an activity belongs to the second act of the intellect which composes and divides and it is here that we find ens commune which is a conception of ens which is not in matter and motion. It is important to note here, again, the importance of carefully and rigorously forming this concept. The second act of the intellect is where truth and falsity is first found. We do not have the assurance of the inerrant first act of the intellect. The possibility of error is therefore quite real.
It is going beyond the scope of this paper to extensively defend the truth of ens commune. Looking to Aristotle as an example, it seems that to have certainty in making such a judgment we need to reflect long and carefully over our experience. As was mentioned above, the formation of this concept and the feasibility of the science of metaphysics as a whole is in question for Aristotle into the eleventh book of the Metaphysics. Therefore, we will at this point proceed, assuming that this judgment is true. It remains, therefore, to see how what has been said of ens commune illumines the initial claims made by St. Thomas, namely that it is a genus and the subject of metaphysics. It seems clear that ens commune cannot be a genus in any strict sense of the term. Ens can in no way be a genus, since it is said equivocally of various categories. A fortiori, ens commune will not be said univocally. However, in St. Thomas' De Veritate he makes an argument for a broad sense of genus.9 He justifies his claim with the authority of Scripture, where God and humans are said to be in a genus.10 A fortiori, we are able to use genus loosely when speaking of ens commune.
To fully justify this particular use of genus, it seems necessary that there be some basis for calling ens commune one. It would be unfitting to place any chance grouping under a genus, even said in a broad sense. If there is no basis in the things, then anything can be a genus. Therefore, it seems clear that there must be a basis in things for calling something a genus. It would seem to follow then, that if there were some way in which something could be understood to be as one, even as it was said of many, that then there would be a basis for calling it a genus.
Aristotle, as has been said, concerns himself with the question of the unity of the subject of metaphysics in book eleven. Aristotle first manifests that, "everything that is may be referred to something single and common."11 However, at this point it seems that "is" is said in an equivocal manner. Aristotle goes on to argue that the contrarieties also may be referred to the first contrarieties of being. However, every pair of contrarieties is examined by one science. Then, he rules out the other sciences as in sufficient to treat of ens qua ens, all of them being concerned with ens under a particular account. It remains, therefore, to metaphysics to treat of ens qua ens. Having examined the nature of contrarieties, and seen how they are also referred back to something one and common, "since all that is is said to be in virtue of something single and common." It would seem therefore, that what is single and common is substance. For all accidents exist and are entes through substance. Therefore, in so far as something is an ens, so it must belong to substance, either as substance, or as an accident, or the contrarieties. Therefore, we have found a basis for considering ens commune as one.
This conclusion seems to grant further insight into how we should understand common in ens commune. It seems here that we should understand it as a kind of formal cause, for ens commune is the account given of what makes something to be an ens. This cause, however, should not be understood as external to the thing, but rather as an intrinsic cause. Here we may draw an analogy to the concept of animal. Animal may likewise be seen as an intrinsic formal cause, since it belongs to the account of what it is to be something, but cannot be found as separate from the account of such things either. This would seem to be the case for other genera as well.
From what has been said, there appears to be grounds for considering ens commune as an ens ratione. For the account of why it is common seems to belong more to our conception than to things themselves. However, there is a distinction among entes rationes. There are some which are without a foundation in things and some that do have a foundation in things. Non-being is an example of an ens ratione without a foundation in things. It is, as it were, the exemplar of non-existence. It is a negative concept which we conceive of in the mode of substance, but is not directly based on any experience. Time, on the other hand, is an ens ratione with a foundation in things. Time, according to Aristotle, is "the number of motion according to before and after." Consequently, it is a being of reason since it depends on there being some mind for it to exist. However, it is not without a direct foundation in things, since it is measuring something real viz., motion. Ens commune therefore seems to belong to those entes rationes with a foundation in things. For ens is most of all real, though the account of it being common belongs to our conception. Therefore, ens commune is an ens ratione with a foundation in things.
The mode of this paper has been largely dialectic in an attempt to manifest the course of thought that is required for the formation of the concept of ens commune. Many of the conclusions, therefore, do not necessarily conclude with complete certainty. It does seem clear from what has been said, that ens commune is an attempt by our mind to find a broad account of ens which is not restricted to matter. Moreover, it seems clear that if such a concept is formed that it can be based on a loose notion of genus. Finally, the account for its unity, though briefly and summarily given, seems to provide sufficient grounds for calling it one. What is left quite uncertain by this paper is how ens commune can be the subject of metaphysics. That ens commune is an ens ratione, likewise lacks to certainty that one would require before agreeing to such a claim. These two claims are quite involved with one another. If ens commune is an ens ratione, then it seems difficult to see how it is fitting matter for a science. Likewise, the grounds for calling it common and an intrinsic formal cause are left uncertain, since these were used to arrive at ens commune being an ens ratione.

1 Metaphysics 1059a21
2 Physics
3 Super De Trinitate Q. 5 a. 4
4 The english word “being” being ambiguous in its usage, compels me to therefore use ens throughout this paper in order to signify an an entity.
5 De Anima 430a 23
6 Physics 267b 24-25
7 Super De Trinitate Q.5 a3
8 Metaphyiscs 1061a 30-36
9 De Veritate Q.1 a. 4 ad s.c. 8
10 17:28 The Vulgate reads thus: ipsius enim et genus sumus
11 Metaphysics 1061a10

This is in addendum to the previous discussion-- I am making this a new thread per FA's suggestion.

First I want to review some things from the previous discussion for the sake of the continuity of my thought. Then some new ideas.

The first thing I want to state once again is that ens commune 'est genus.' I think St. Thomas should be read formally here, i.e. putting ens commune in the order of Porphyrian genus and species. This is the first meaning of the word 'genus', after all. Perhaps the second more convincing sign that this reading is correct is in the next clause: ens commune is differentiated as the 'of which' of the substances which are, quite distinctly, a common and universal cause. This is to disagree with FA's previous statement that ens commune is "considered under the formality of universal cause." According to my reading here, the formality of ens commune is as a genus.

Vince. has objections to similar statements in the previous discussion, which I see as simply resolved by his further distinguishing that ens commune is a non-univocal genus. It is precisely because ens commune is the universal cause's 'of which' that we can say that ens commune is "related to one common nature," and therefore has in a sense "one common notion." Hence we avoid Hegelian idealistic tendencies.

STh I-I q. 3 art. 4 contains some further distinctions about ens commune I'd like to draw out. Ad. 1 states: "Ad primum ergo dicendum quod aliquid cui non fit additio potest intelligi dupliciter. Uno modo, ut de ratione eius sit quod non fiat ei additio; sicut de ratione animalis irrationalis est, ut sit sine ratione. Alio modo intelligitur aliquid cui non fit additio, quia non est de ratione eius quod sibi fiat additio, sicut animal commune est sine ratione, quia non est de ratione animalis communis ut habeat rationem; sed nec de ratione eius est ut careat ratione. Primo igitur modo, esse sine additione, est esse divinum, secundo modo, esse sine additione, est esse commune."

Ens commune has nothing added to it because it isn't required, being what it is, to have any addition. Ens commune and animal commune are analogues because neither require that anything be added to it; nor do either precisely indicate a deficiency of such an addition. This is, once again, a very Porphyrian way of putting things-- Porphyry himself states that "genus is a certain principle of things under it, and seems also to comprehend all the multitude under itself." This statement seems to amount to the same as that implied in Aquinas' text above: a genus is a principle which differs from the many as standing above them without their addition, and yet does not exclude the multitude by comprehending them.

It should be obvious at this point that I am making a sustained argument that ens commune is "made up" or a "notional grouping" as was stated in the previous discussion. However, an important question remains: in what way can we say ens commune is a being?

Again, STh I-I q. 3 art. 4 has the answer (somewhat less directly): esse dupliciter dicitur, uno modo, significat actum essendi; alio modo, significat compositionem propositionis, quam anima adinvenit coniungens praedicatum subiecto.

Logical concepts exist as the real conjunction which is the act of predication. By predication commune of ens we have a notion of the being shared by all beings, without difference, and yet without opposition to difference. Of course, such a predication is logical and not metaphysical. That is to say, the terms respectively give foundation to the predication which per se has no direct foundation.

This, for me, seems right, and yet leads to a serious textural difficulty right where we started: "Unde oportet quod ad eamdem scientiam pertineat considerare substantias separatas, et ens commune, quod est genus..." Why would metaphysics consider ens commune if its essence is ultimatly logical? The answer seems to be that metaphysics is at most indirectly interested in ens commune as such, and rather is interested directly in investigating the sepreated substance which is in fact the universal cause of all the many different degrees of speciality of beings (be as it may that each may have its own set of proper causes, i.e. physics has physical causes, etc.).

So then, what is the relevance of considering ens commune in metaphysics? This is my conjecture. Utilizing the method of limits in the study of mathematics you can consider many things in a reduced and unified manner. Pascal does not merely look at each of the conics through a circle; he pursues one means to through which he can view them all. The circle contains all the conics, because all of the conics have a tendency to infinity, and the circle is that conic where such tendencies have met their term, and have met. Though the things know are know less perfectly when considered in this manner, the mode of knowing one operates from is superior. For Pascal, the circle is that to which the other conics are reduced to, in a way that all conics are seen by the one single form and concept of the circle. This is, of course, likened to the Divine mode of knowing which contains everything and yet is expressed in a single Concept.
In the consideration of any subjects as ens commune, the subjects would be considered commune without the exclusion or addition of what makes it specifically what it is. This makes ens commune unique in that by including in its ratio the notion precisely of 'commune,' it indicates neither deficiency or of addition--rather it comprehends it, containing all the differences somehow. Consequently, the consideration of ens commune is of importance to metaphysics not because ens commune is the subject of metaphysics, but rather the ratio of ens commune is more comparable to the mode of knowing of metaphysics' subject. If this is right, then ens commune is profoundly important for metaphysics.

Anyway, these are my conjectures. It's not all sorted out: I wonder what weird things I am implicating in my last paragraph. Suggestions and corrections welcome.

A very intriguing textual question has arisen recently concerning St. Thomas' commentary on Aristotle's De Anima. I invite comments and clarifications, etc. This is somewhat tied to the inchoate stream of thought that is currently my term paper.

First I will give the context: St. Thomas, in this opening chapter, is expositing Aristotle's prologue. He shows that first Aristotle wishes to render his reader benevolent towards learning this science of psychology by showing the worth of this knowledge. This he does in two ways: first by showing that the science is dignified, i.e. that its object is honorable, and second, because its knowledge is useful.

While this in itself is interesting, that a speculative science is useful, St. Thomas names three sciences for which psychology is 'utile.'

First, it is useful to first philosophy. More on this in a bit. Second, it is useful for ethics because it outlines the powers of soul for which there are various virtues, treated of in the ethical science. Third, it is useful for physics, because it explains the causes of motions of living things, which make up the bulk of mobile being.

However, concerning this first reason, there are two quandaries. The first is on the level of littera, the second that of sensus.

On the level of littera; I quote first from the Leonine edition of the text (Leon. v.41, t. 1; p. 5-6; lines 118-122):

"Quia si ad philosophiam primam attendamus, non possumus deuenire in cognitionem divinorum et altissimarum causarum nisi per ea que ex uirtute intellectus primo acquirimus. Si uero attendatur quantum ad moralem..."

Compare with the text from the Marietti edition, which is also used on CorpusThomisticum (n.7):

"Quia si ad philosophiam primam attendamus, non possumus devenire in cognitionem divinarum et altissimarum causarum, nisi per ea quae ex virtute intellectus possibilis acquirimus. Si enim natura intellectus possibilis esset nobis ignota, non possemus scire ordinem substantiarum separatarum, sicut dicit Commentator super undecimo metaphysicae. Si vero attendatur quantum ad moralem..."

As you can see, there is a sentence absent in the Leonine text. The "apparatus criticus" makes no mention of the absence of this sentence, doesn't admit to its existence in any fashion, and hence gives no reason for why it wasn't included in the Leonine edition, or even a repudiation of its existence in other editions.

Now, on the level of sensus.

The first text seems to be saying that psychology is useful to first philosophy because it provides a sort of prerequisite knowledge, namely the knowledge of divine things and highest causes attained at the level of the soul, the "by those" (per ea) which (quae) we acquire from the power of the intellect. This seems intelligible enough as a general statement, that is, by examining human intellect, we build the groundwork for understanding the analogy (meant strictly) between our intellectual substances and higher ones. Or even, if "highest causes" is taken to include causes by predication, a case seems possible that by attaining a knowledge of our intellectual power, we must appreciate the distinctions between the various grades of potency and act, namely in corporeal change first, then in sensitive change (De Anima II.5) and finally in intellectual "motion."

However, it seems that the Marietti "additional sentence" gives us this reason explicitly. Namely, by knowing the nature of our possible intellect, we come to know the order of separate substances.

However, this position in itself runs into problems. First, St. Thomas is citing Averroes, who held the separate existence of the possible and agent intellects. Since St. Thomas disagrees with this position, it lends support to the Leonine text's excision of the sentence. However, this removal is, as mentioned, unexplained.

However, perhaps St. Thomas is quoting Averroes with reverence. That is, he is noting that, due to the analogy present between our intellects and higher ones, we must first know our own intellective powers, and upon this base an analogous structure to understand the order of separate substances.

More on this as it develops...

This is not mine, but it's analysis is the most formally theological which I've seen, and I think deserves to be linked here. It's something like what I would like to write if I had the time.

Why the Pope Had to Do What He Did.

By Martin Mosebach

The Catholic Church is experiencing an unprecedented moment in her recent history. A sacerdotal act of the Pope – the removal of the excommunication of four bishops who had been consecrated contrary to the prohibition of his predecessor in the Petrine office – encounters an outraged lack of understanding not only of the non-Catholic public but also of many Catholics and even bishops, who have openly renounced their loyalty to the pope. Forty years after the Second Vatican Council, which attempted an “opening of the Church to the World”, the Catholic Church has been struck dumb - as if she does not recognize any more her own institutions.

What is a Catholic Bishop? Is he a senior administrative official of the Church? Is he a high-ranking politician, who can be subjected to party discipline? This is how non-Catholics (certainly contemporary ones) view the bishop, because they never have been told anything else. For Catholics, the bishop embodies the highest form of the priesthood, connected with the capacity to represent Jesus Christ himself in the giving of the Sacraments. He receives this capacity irrevocably upon his consecration and no pope or council can take it from him. That is the disturbing thing about the episcopal office: even the most unworthy and scandalous bishop always remains a bishop, capable until his last breath of adding new bishops to the line of apostolic succession.

What is excommunication? Exclusion from a political party? That’s how non-Catholics understand it - they like to call exclusion from the communist party “excommunication.” Catholics should know that a complete exclusion from their Church is absolutely impossible. For the Church, a baptized Christian cannot become an untouchable by any deed, however terrible it may be. If the Church, as the most extreme punishment, forbids a baptized Christian from confessing his sins, from receiving the Eucharistic Christ at Mass and from receiving the sacraments at death, she does so always in the hope of soon lifting the excommunication. Ultimately, no spiritual authority wants to accept the responsibility of letting a man die uncomforted. Strictly speaking, he who offends against the unity of the Church excommunicates himself. The cancellation of the excommunication cannot be denied him if he honestly desires to return to this unity.

The use of excommunication as a means of political pressure ( as it was often done in the Middle Ages) has been justly condemned. The Jewish philosopher Simone Weil called such excommunications a mortal sin of the Church. The fact that murderers and child molesters are not automatically excommunicated shows how little excommunication has to do with moral approval. The community that receives again an excommunicated person is a community of sinners.

These are likely to have been the principal considerations of Pope Benedict when he lifted the excommunication of the four bishops who had been consecrated in a manner sacramentally valid but contrary to canon law. For the pope, it must have been a tormenting thought that these bishops, in isolation, could have succumbed to the temptation to perpetuate the schism and consecrate additional bishops. The sacraments form the heart of the Church. The danger that they could be permanently dispensed while in breach of unity must have troubled the pope exceedingly.

Now, in the meantime, the whole world has had the opportunity of hearing on television one of the four bishops, the Briton Williamson, utter the most revolting theses regarding the persecution of the Jews at the time of Hitler. Behind the seemingly dispassionate poker face of the prelate there was revealed a paranoia bordering on madness. This was linked, as had been long known in the Fraternity, to a complete, insane, system composed of similar “secret knowledge.” It is understandable that a general horror prevailed, on seeing that such a man might exercise his office as an official Bishop, reconciled with the pope.

Why, however, did the general public not notice that bishop Williamson specifically cannot exercise his office, because the lifting of the excommunication did not affect his suspension from the office of bishop. Instead, they indulged in conjectures as to whether the Pope after all had a secret inclination to anti-Semitism. This, regarding a Pope, who, leaving aside his addresses in Auschwitz and in the synagogue in Cologne, has tried in his theology – one could say, like no other pope since Peter - to read and understand the Gospel as the work of the Jews. It even extended as far as the laughable report that the pope had set the conditions for the lifting of the suspension of the bishops only under the pressure of public opinion.

No one should deceive himself: this pope does nothing under the pressure of public opinion.

The question was posed whether Benedict XVI knew of Williamson’s speeches. To be sure, he can’t help but have noticed the spiritual atmosphere in the SSPX. Unreality and fanaticism resounded from the many attacks that the bishops of the Fraternity directed against Benedict. And it is very well possible that the knowledge of a growing pathological narrowing of the minds drove the pope to act.

Twenty years ago, as Cardinal and prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he had already labored with all his strength for a reconciliation with the SSPX. At the time their founder, the legendary Archbishop Lefebvre, still lived. He had participated in the Council and had only become an opponent when the “movement of ‘68” made inroads in the Church and made a revolution out of the reform. Lefebvre refused to give up the traditional, ancient mass rite and Paul VI responded by suspending him.

Cardinal Ratzinger attempted to win over the old man and promised that the pope would name a bishop faithful to tradition for the community. Then Lefebvre’s distrust was aroused - he felt he was being strung along. He broke off the negotiations and consecrated four bishops with whom he was excommunicated immediately thereafter. Had Lefebvre acted rightly by following his hunch? Cardinal Ratzinger in any case must have been affected by the death of this man in the state of excommunication. For, unlike most bishops of this time, it was impossible for him to deny any justification to Lefebvre’s struggle. “Whomever these teachings do not please he does not deserve to be a man.” This hymn of liberalism from Mozart’s “Magic Flute” became the maxim of the Church that had become liberal. The SSPX was hermetically sealed off. It was not permitted to participate in the discussions of a post-conciliar Church so enamored of discussion. Its young priests celebrated in basements and garages. One could say that the Fraternity had circled the wagons but around these wagons yawned a void – nobody cared about that.

Every sociologist knows what quickly becomes of small oppositional groups cut off from interaction with reality. That this group was endangered would have been sufficient for a responsible priest to care for it. But more was at stake here: as misfortune would have it, exactly this group had made its mission the preservation of the greatest treasure of the Church.

Even today it is a difficult undertaking to speak of the importance of the liturgy for the Church. Twenty years ago it was almost hopeless finding a sympathetic ear. It was a foregone conclusion for many clerics that the traditional, over 1500-year old liturgy of the Church was decorative mumbo-jumbo for the nostalgic and for aesthetes. It had the same importance for “emancipated Christians” as the string quartets played on occasions of state have for politics. What had been true throughout the entire history of the Latin Church had been forgotten: that liturgy is the visible body of the Church; that Church and liturgy are identical. It is the mystic depiction of the whole plenitude of revealed truths. It is the locus of faith, where subjective conviction and feeling become objective contemplation and encounter. It is this liturgy which carried the Christian faith through the centuries. The success of the mission in the entire world was owed to its sacrality in liturgical language and chant.

The liturgy had soared above the deep divides of European history because it was equally removed from every epoch into which it entered. It is always unseasonable and therefore always an image of the other reality which awaits man. This great form of the liturgy had been softened up by Paul VI’s radical reform of the mass – an intervention unheard of in the entire history of the Church. It splintered into a thousand improvisations.

But why was Archbishop Lefebvre the only bishop in the entire world who uncompromisingly rejected this attack against the liturgy and thus against the Church? With this no to a process of decomposition so highly dangerous to the Church, Lefebvre entered ecclesiastical history. What gave him the strength was the milieu, only found in France, of a Catholic laity which had acquired its world view in the struggle against aggressive republican secularism. This was the tragedy of Lefebvre and his movement: they rescued the ancient liturgy but linked it to the struggle of political parties in recent French history. The only refuge that the traditional liturgy had found threatened to become its prison. Pope Benedict had already freed it from this prison with his Motu Proprio and had given it back with its universal claim to the entire Church.

Must he not, however, have felt a sense obligation to the SSPX; that, for all its faults, it had become an instrument for preserving the Holy of Holies of the Church in a time of crisis? Whether the SSPX succeeds in finding a place in the multiplicity of the present day Church remains to be seen. Its historic mission, in any case, has been concluded.

In the last few days it could be heard again and again that the Vatican is incapable of conveying its concerns to the public. It is certainly true that there would have been less excitement among those of good will if, for instance, one had emphasized at the lifting of the excommunications that Bishop Williamson remained suspended until further notice. But one cannot underestimate what black holes of ignorance have been created even in believing Catholics by more than thirty years of neglected religious instruction. These cannot be closed even by the cleverest public relations work. Regarding the pope, broad circles know only that he is for human rights and against condoms. It is happily declared that “the Church can’t return to before the Second Vatican Council.” Few, however, think about the contradictions and need for interpretation of the most important texts of this council.

Does anybody notice that the pope has acted exactly in accordance with the theology of the council in his magnanimous lifting of the excommunications? The restoration of the sacral visage of the church must remain for the majority of “worldly” observers foreign and incomprehensible. Probably only later generations will grasp that the restoration of liturgical identity was worth a great sacrifice. Building up is, after all, slower than tearing down.

Naturally, things could reach a point that the state and society lose the taste for tolerating within their borders a corporation, which visibly stands under a different law and defends values other than those of the secular majority. The coarseness of a chancellor in an election campaign gives us a foretaste. As was done under Bismarck, the accusation could be made against the Catholics that they are bad citizens of the state because their heart is ultramontane; it clings “over the mountains” to the pope and his authority.

Ultramontane – this word describes perfectly the Catholic mentality: with a small part of one’s consciousness to be not German, not contemporary, not cosmopolitan. Despite all distrust, the commonwealth does not have to fare ill with such members – the result of the constant tension between the Pope and the Emperor in the Middle Ages was nothing less than the European idea of freedom.

Copyright by Martin Mosebach. The original of this essay appeared in Der Spiegel magazine. Any errors are mine as translator. Special thanks to Ulrike Hagg for providing the article.

Ens Commune?

My question is simple: What is ens commune?
I believe that the/a key to understanding this idea lies in the text quoted from St. Thomas' Prooemium below. I will offer some initial thoughts and comments about the text below. I invite... no, rather I ask and urge you all to please add your thoughts to this discussion. This is for two reasons: First, I believe such a discussion is important and necessary for all those who would pursue wisdom. Secondly, and consequently, because I want to understand this and your help is needed and asked for.

Haec autem triplex consideratio, non diversis, sed uni scientiae attribui debet. Nam praedictae substantiae separatae sunt universales et primae causae essendi. Eiusdem autem scientiae est considerare causas proprias alicuius generis et genus ipsum: sicut naturalis considerat principia corporis naturalis. Unde oportet quod ad eamdem scientiam pertineat considerare substantias separatas, et ens commune, quod est genus, cuius sunt praedictae substantiae communes et universales causae. Ex quo apparet, quod quamvis ista scientia praedicta tria consideret, non tamen considerat quodlibet eorum ut subiectum, sed ipsum solum ens commune. Hoc enim est subiectum in scientia, cuius causas et passiones quaerimus, non autem ipsae causae alicuius generis quaesiti. Nam cognitio causarum alicuius generis, est finis ad quem consideratio scientiae pertingit. Quamvis autem subiectum huius scientiae sit ens commune, dicitur tamen tota de his quae sunt separata a materia secundum esse et rationem. Quia secundum esse et rationem separari dicuntur, non solum illa quae nunquam in materia esse possunt, sicut Deus et intellectuales substantiae, sed etiam illa quae possunt sine materia esse, sicut ens commune. Hoc tamen non contingeret, si a materia secundum esse dependerent.

St. Thomas mentions ens commune together with, but distinct from, separated substances. Both are considered under the formality of universal cause. Ens commune as a genus. He later goes on to name ens commune as the proper subject of metaphysics. He goes on to make a further distinction between ens commune and separated substances saying that separated substances are never in matter, while ens commune is able to be without matter.

Here are my preliminary thoughts: It seems that ens commune cannot be any really existing thing. Nor is it a fiction, but a really existing principle. It seems to be something analogous to an algebraic "abstraction" in that it is able to be understood as ens in any genus.
Some further questions that arise: Is ens commune wholly excluded from the account of separated substances? It seems clear that ens commune can in no way be said of God, but what of angels etc. ?
Further, how is it that something so ephemeral can properly be considered as the subject of a science?

Aristotle gives the proper order of investigation in 415a 15-23: object, operation, power, soul. But in considering the intellect, he first considers the power (429a 10 – 430a 26), then its operation (430a 27 – 431a 4). Again, in considering the possible intellect, he first considers the power of the possible intellect (429a 10 – 429b 9), then its object (429b 10-23). Any thoughts?

This article is meant to be a reflection upon the principle, "the higher cannot stand without the lower." In particular, I will examine this principle in light of Aristotle's first chapter of the Metaphysics. This examination will, please God, manifest this principle as both a principle of our knowing and of the created order of being itself. This article is not a defense, because I am not aware of any significant objection to this principle. Consequently, I am not going to be answering any particular objections. It is merely a reflection on this principle: my contemplation written out for all to see, and join in as they are willing and able.

The first question that might confront us as we consider the principle, the higher cannot stand without the lower, is what each of the terms mean. "Higher," "lower," "stand," each of these seem rather vague. It seems that if we are going to allow for the widest application of this principle then we must allow that these terms can be used differently in different circumstances. Just as in the principle "the whole is greater than the part." For there can be many different kinds of wholes, and parts. So also these terms, "higher," "lower," and "stands" will have a certain meaning when applied to our knowing, quite another when applied to the order of being. I would assume the uses to be analogous if there is to be any truth to the principle.
Since being is the broadest account (all things being a certain kind of being) then it seems that the most general account one can give of these terms is that higher refers to a more excellent form of being and lower to the contrary of this. The measure of excellence will be relative to the kind of being that is being considered Stands will mean some sort of dependent existence.
Beginning with this rather vague account of our principle, let us see how it might play out in Aristotle's first chapter of his Metaphysics. "All men by nature desire to know." He starts us out by laying down a principle that will be operational throughout this first chapter. Note also that he begins with our end. The final cause is the cause of the agent causes' causing. So we see the purpose of the entire inquiry of the metaphysics and likewise the more immediate goal of this chapter, defining what Wisdom is, "But the purpose of our present discussion is to bring out this: all men beleive that what is called "wisdom" is concerned with the first causes and principles." (Metaphys. 981b27) Thus he ends the chapter with the definition of wisdom, "a science of certain causes and principles." (Metaphys. 982a2)
To obtain this goal he begins with sensations. Even here though, he looks to the end of the senses, looking to our goal before proceeding. Thus he speaks of the end of the senses as both for the sake of knowledge and for their own sake. He then shows that the end of knowledge is the higher end because sight is the most favored of all the senses, because this enables knowledge most certainly, and is itself the closest to knowledge.
It is then that Aristotle begins his inquiry in earnest. He begins, as our principle would suggest, with the lowest. Here the lowest is as the lowest common denominator in those things which could possibly be said to have some sort of knowledge. Consequently he excludes plants and inanimate things. He begins with sensitive beings and then distinguishes these into sensitive beings with memory and those with none. Those with memory he distinguishes into teachable and non-teachable, attributing this potency to the power of hearing. Since we are seeking knowledge, as was said, we are consequently going to be concerned with those animals that are teachable.
He begins again with something common: memories and appearances. Animals live by these alone while men live also by art and judgements. Many memories give rise to an experience, and art and science come to men through experience. Aristotle then moves a step further and distinguishes art and experience. Art being more excellent than experience because it knows causes, and is able to teach. In all of this Aristotle is moving step by step from the most fundamental idea of sensation which have in common with all animals.
He then distinguishes between arts saying that those that are for their own sake are more excellent than those that are necessary for survival, because the former give rise to knowledge. So we come to our end and Aristotle summarizes the journey from where we started considering men, "a man of experience seems to be wiser than a man who has any of the sensations, a man of art wiser than a man of experience, a master-artist[that is one who possesses the art more fully] than a manual worker, and theoretical sciences to be wisdom to a higher degree than productive sciences."
From this chapter, therefore, we are able to see how Aristotle uses the principle "the higher cannot stand without the lower." For, he begins with what is lowest, simple sensation, and proceeds to what is highest, knowledge of causes and principles. This consideration also manifests an order in material being. For we see how our ability to know is dependent on our ability to sense which is dependent on there being other things to sense.
This order of lower to higher, and the necessity of the lower to make a foundation for the higher has wide implications. It shows how the lower participate in the excellence of the higher, and how there is certain dignity that pertains to the lower in virtue of this. For a clear example of this consider the Aristotelian state, where all participate in contemplation to the degree he can.
In a less known context we can consider the angels. The glory of the higher angels is their ability to share their knowledge of God with those below, and so on down to man, the bridge between to different orders of being. It is worth pointing out here that this principle is used in a very different way when speaking of material being and immaterial beings as might be clear from the example. The reason for this is that there is a decreasing degree of multiplicity until we come to God who is utter unity and simplicity and the principle no longer holds, giving way to a higher principle: God.

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