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Category: SAMT

A tour through Saint Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Contra Gentiles.

October 16, 2016 | 7 Comments

Summary Against Modern Thought: How Our Intellects & Brains Interact

This may be proved in three ways. The first...
This may be proved in three ways. The first…
See the first post in this series for an explanation and guide of our tour of Summa Contra Gentiles. All posts are under the category SAMT.

Previous post.

All right, if our intellects are not material but our bodies (obviously) are, how the twain meet? The meat starts in paragraph 8.

Chapter 56 In what way an intellectual substance can be united to the body (alternate translation) We are using the alternate translation again this week; the primary is still down.

1 Having shown that an intellectual substance is not a body or a power dependent on a body, it remains for us to inquire whether an intellectual substance can be united to a body.

2 In the first place, it is evident that an intellectual substance cannot be united to a body by way of mixture.

3 For things mixed together are necessarily altered in relation to one another. But such alteration occurs only in things whose matter is the same, and which can be active and passive in relation to one another. But intellectual substances have no matter in common with bodies, since, as shown above, they are immaterial. Hence, they are not combinable with bodies.

4 Moreover, the things that are combined with one another do not themselves, having been combined, remain actually, but only virtually; for, were they to remain actually, it would be not a mixture, but only a collection; that is why a body constituted by a mixture of elements is none of those elements. But this cannot possibly occur in the case of intellectual substances, since, as we have just shown, they are incorruptible.

5 Therefore, an intellectual substance cannot be united to a body by way of mixture.

6 It is likewise evident that an intellectual substance cannot be united to a body by way of contact properly so called. For there is contact only between bodies, since things are in contact when they come together at their extremities, as the points or lines or surfaces which are the extremities of bodies. It is, therefore, impossible for an intellectual substance to be united to a body by way of contact.

7 And from this it follows that neither by continuation nor composition or colligation can union of an intellectual substance with a body be effected. For without contact none of these is possible.

8 There is, however, a certain kind of contact whereby an intellectual substance can be united to a body. For, when they are in contact, natural bodies alter one another, thus being mutually united not only by way of their quantitative extremities, but also by way of likeness in quality or form, as long as the altering body impresses its form upon the body altered.

Now, if the quantitative extremities alone be considered, then in all cases contact must of necessity be mutual. On the other hand, if attention is given to activity and passivity, it will be found that certain things touch others and are not themselves touched, while certain things are themselves touched and touch nothing else. For, indeed, the heavenly bodies touch elemental bodies in this way, inasmuch as they alter them, but they are not touched by the elemental bodies, since they are not acted upon by them.

Consequently, if there are any agents not in contact by their quantitative extremities, they nevertheless will be said to touch, so far as they act; and in this sense we say that a person in sorrow touches us. Hence, it is possible for an intellectual substance to be united to a body by contact, by touching it in this way. For intellectual substances, being immaterial and enjoying a higher degree of actuality than bodies, act on the latter and move them.

Notes “[H]eavenly bodies touch elemental bodies” by gravity and so on. This paragraph only demonstrates the nature of the problem; it does not answer it.

9 This, however, is not contact of quantity, but of power. It therefore differs from bodily contact in three ways.

First, because by this contact the indivisible can touch the divisible. Now, in bodily contact this cannot occur, since only an indivisible thing can be touched by a point. But an intellectual substance, though it is indivisible, can touch divisible quantity, so far as it acts upon it. For, indeed, a point is indivisible in one way and an intellectual substance in another. A point is indivisible as being the terminus of a quantity, and for this reason it occupies a determinate position in a continuous quantity, beyond which it cannot extend. But an intellectual substance is indivisible, as being outside the genus of quantity, and that is why no quantitative indivisible entity with which it can make contact is assigned to it.

Contact of quantity differs from quantity of power, secondly, because the former obtains only with respect to the extremities, whereas the latter regards the whole thing touched. For by contact of power a thing is touched according as it is acted upon and is moved. And this comes about inasmuch as the thing is in potentiality. Now, potentiality regards the whole and not the extremities of the whole; so that it is the whole that is touched.

And from this the third difference emerges, because in contact of quantity, which takes place in respect of extremities, that which touches must be extrinsic to that which is touched; and it cannot penetrate the thing touched, but is obstructed by it. But, since contact of power, which appertains to intellectual substances, extends to the innermost things, it makes the touching substance to be within the thing touched, and to penetrate it without hindrance.

Notes Shades of infinitesimal calculus in the first point! (Get it?) Contact of the intellect with the body is not of quantity, i.e. one material thing touching another, but by a kind of power which is not limited to surface effects. This is what Thomas calls “contact of power.” Notice he is characterizing it, not explaining it wholly.

10 The intellectual substance, then, can be united to a body by contact of power. Now, things united by contact of this kind are not unqualifiedly one. For they are one with respect to acting and being acted upon, but this is not to be unqualifiedly one. Thus, indeed, one is predicated in the same mode as being. But to be acting does not mean to be, without qualification, so that neither is to be one in action to be one without qualification. The next arguments further the characterization.

11 Now, one, in the unqualified sense of the term, has a threefold reference: to the indivisible, to the continuous, and to the one in reason. Now, from the union of an intellectual substance and a body there cannot result a thing indivisibly one, because such a union must consist in a composite of two things; nor a thing continuously one, because the parts of the continuous are parts of quantity. It therefore remains for us to inquire whether from an intellectual substance and a body there can be formed a thing one in reason.

12 Now, from two permanent entities a thing one in reason does not result unless one of them has the character of substantial form and the other of matter. For the joining of subject and accident does not constitute a unity of this kind; the idea of man, for example, is not the same as the idea of white. So, it must be asked whether an intellectual substance can be the substantial form of a body.

13 Now, to those who consider the question reasonably, such a union would seem to be impossible.

14 From two actually existing substances one thing cannot be made, because the act of each thing is that by which it is distinguished from another. Now, an intellectual substance is an actually existing substance, as is clear from what has been said. And so, too, is a body. It therefore seems that from an intellectual substance and a body something one cannot be made.

15 Also, form and matter are contained in the same genus, for every genus is divided by act and potentiality. But intellectual substance and body are diverse genera. Hence, it does not seem possible for one to be the form of the other.

16 Moreover, every thing whose being is in matter must be material. Now, if an intellectual substance is the form of a body, it must have its being in corporeal matter. For the form’s act of being is not outside that of the matter. Hence, it will follow that an intellectual substance is not immaterial, as it was shown to be above.

17 Likewise, it is impossible for a thing that has its being in a body to be separate from the body, It is, however, proved by philosophers that the intellect is separate from the body, and that it is neither a body nor a power in a body. Therefore, an intellectual substance is not the form of a body; if it were, it would have its being in a body.

18 Again a thing having its being in common with a body must have its operation in common with a body, for every thing acts in keeping with its being. Nor can the operative power of a thing be superior to its essence, since power is consequent upon principles of the essence of a thing. Now, if an intellectual substance is the form of a body, its being must be common to it and the body, since from form and matter there results a thing unqualifiedly one, which exists by one act of being. Therefore, an intellectual substance not only will have its operation in common with the body, but also its power will be a power in a body—a conclusion evidently impossible in the light of what has already been said.

Notes You’re going to have to stick with this. We have several weeks left on this subject. It is not easy. And why should it be? How many papers, books are there on the subject of “consciousness” and the mind?

October 9, 2016 | 17 Comments

Summary Against Modern Thought: Souls Survive The Body: Plan Accordingly

This may be proved in three ways. The first...
This may be proved in three ways. The first…
See the first post in this series for an explanation and guide of our tour of Summa Contra Gentiles. All posts are under the category SAMT.

Previous post.

Once again, our great saint is blisteringly clear in his proofs the intellect is incorruptible. Next week we learn how intellects unite with our bodies. Don’t miss it!

Chapter 55 That intellectual substances are incorruptible (alternate translation) We are using the alternate translation this week; the primary is down.

1 Now, from what has just been said it is clearly shown that every intellectual substance is incorruptible.

2 For all corruption occurs through the separation of form from matter; absolute corruption, through the separation of the substantial form; relative corruption, through the separation of an accidental form. For, so long as the form remains, the thing must exist, since by the form the substance is made the proper recipient of the act of being. Now, where there is no composition of matter and form, there can be no separation of them; neither, then, can there be corruption. It has been shown, however, that no intellectual substance is composed of matter and form. Therefore, no intellectual substance is corruptible.

Notes Quod erat demonstratum, baby. Plan accordingly.

3 Moreover, that which belongs to a thing through itself is necessarily in it always and inseparably—thus, roundness is in a circle through itself, but is by accident in a coin; so that the existence of a non-round coin is possible; whereas it is impossible for a circle not to be round. Now, being is consequent upon form through itself; for by through itself we mean according as that thing is such; and each and every thing has being according as it has form. Therefore, substances which are not themselves forms can be deprived of being, so far as they lose form, even as a coin is deprived of roundness as a result of ceasing to be circular. But substances which are themselves forms can never be deprived of being; thus, if a substance were a circle, it could never be non-round. Now, we have already shown that intellectual substances are themselves subsisting forms. Hence, they cannot possibly cease to be, and therefore they are incorruptible.

4 In every instance of corruption, furthermore, potentiality remains after the removal of act. For when a thing is corrupted it does not dissolve into absolute non-entity, any more than a thing is generated from absolute non-entity. But, as we have proved, in intellectual substances the act is being itself, while the substance is as potentiality. Therefore, if an intellectual substance is corrupted, it will remain after its corruption; which is simply impossibility. Therefore, every intellectual substance is incorruptible.

Notes Recall, from Book 1, that potentiality is a kind of existence.

5 Likewise, in every thing which is corrupted there must be potentiality to non-being. Hence, if there be a thing in which there is no potentiality to non-being, such a thing cannot be corruptible. Now, in the intellectual substance there is no potentiality to non-being. For it is clear from what we have said that the complete substance is the proper recipient of being itself. But the proper recipient of an act is related to that act as potentiality, in such fashion that it is in no way in potentiality to the opposite; thus, the relationship of fire to heat is such that fire is in no way in potentiality to cold. Hence, neither in the case of corruptible substances is there potentiality to non-being in the complete substance itself, except by reason of the matter. But there is no matter in intellectual substances, for they are themselves complete simple substances. Consequently, there is no potentiality to not-being in them. Therefore, they are incorruptible.

6 Then, too, in whatever things there is composition of potentiality and act, that which holds the place of first potentiality, or of first subject, is incorruptible; so that even in corruptible substances prime matter is incorruptible. But, with intellectual substances, that which holds the place of first potentiality and subject is itself the complete substance of those things. Hence, the substance itself is incorruptible. But nothing is corruptible except by the fact that its substance is corruptible. Therefore, all intellectual natures are incorruptible.

7 Moreover, whatever is corrupted is corrupted either through itself or by accident. Now, intellectual substances cannot be corrupted through themselves, because all corruption is by a contrary. For the agent, since it acts according as it is a being in act, always by its acting brings something into actual being, so that if a thing is corrupted by its ceasing to be in act, this must result from the mutual contrariety of the terms involved; since things are contrary which exclude one another.

And on this account whatever is corrupted through itself must either have a contrary or be composed of contraries. Yet neither the one nor the other is true of intellectual substances; and a sign of this is that in the intellect things even of contrary nature cease to be contraries. Thus, white and black are not contraries in the intellect, since they do not exclude one another; rather, they are co-implicative, since by grasping the one we understand the other. Therefore, intellectual substances are not corruptible through themselves. Likewise, neither are they corruptible by accident, for in this manner are accidents and non-subsistent forms corrupted. Now, it was shown above that intellectual substances are subsistent. Therefore, they are altogether incorruptible.

8 Again, corruption is a kind of change, and change must be the terminal point of a movement, as is proved in the Physics [V, 1]. Hence, whatever is corrupted must be moved. Now, it is shown in natural philosophy that whatever is moved is a body. Hence, whatever is corrupted must be a body, if it is corrupted through itself, or a form or power of a body depending thereon, if it be corrupted by accident. Now, intellectual substances are not bodies, nor powers or forms dependent on a body. Consequently, they are corrupted neither through themselves nor by accident. They are, then, utterly incorruptible.

Notes Be careful with this one. Intellects change, as yours is changing now by reading these words. Intellects can also be corrupted, by (say) reading the New York Times. But Aquinas means corruption in the sense that the substance itself disappears. And this bad pun is made even funnier when you consider the next argument where the first form of corruption is called perfection. Point is: beware as ever for the fallacy of equivocation.

9 And again. Whatever is corrupted is corrupted through being passive to something, for to be corrupted is itself to be passive in a certain way. Now, no intellectual substance can be passive in such a way as will lead to its corruption. For passivity is a kind of receptivity, and what is received into an intellectual substance must be received in it in a manner consonant with its mode, namely, intelligibly. What is thus received into an intellectual substance, however, perfects that substance and does not corrupt it, for the intelligible is the perfection of the intelligent. Therefore, an intelligent substance is incorruptible.

10 Furthermore, just as the sensible is the object of sense, so the intelligible is the object of intellect. But sense is not corrupted by a corruption proper to itself except on account of the exceedingly high intensity of its object; thus, is sight corrupted by very brilliant objects, hearing by very loud sounds, etc. Now, I say by corruption proper to the thing itself because the sense is corrupted also accidentally through its subject being corrupted. But this mode of corruption cannot happen to the intellect, since it is not the act of any body, as depending thereon, as we have shown above. And clearly it is not corrupted by the exceeding loftiness of its object, because he who understands very intelligible things understands things less intelligible not less but more. Therefore, the intellect is in no way corruptible…

13 A further argument. It is impossible for natural desire to be in vain, “since nature does nothing in vain.” But every intelligent being naturally desires to be forever; and to be forever not only in its species but also in the individual. This point is made clear as follows.

Natural appetite is present in some things as the result of apprehension; the wolf naturally desires the killing of the animals on which it feeds, and man naturally desires happiness. But in some other things natural desires results without apprehension from the sole inclination of natural principles, and this inclination, in some, is called natural appetite; thus, a heavy body desires to be down.

Now, in both ways there is in things a natural desire for being; and a sign of this is that not only things devoid of knowledge resist, according to the power of their natural principles, whatever is corruptive of them, but also things possessed of knowledge resist the same according to the mode of their knowledge. Hence, those things lacking knowledge, in whose principles there is a power of keeping themselves in existence forever so that they remain always the same numerically, naturally desire to exist everlastingly even in their numerical self-identity.

But things whose principles have not the power to do this, but only the power of perpetuating their existence in the same species, also naturally desire to be perpetuated in this manner. Hence, this same difference must be found also in those things in which there is desire for being, together with knowledge, so that those things which have no knowledge of being except as now desire to be as now, but not to be always, because they do not apprehend everlasting being. Yet they desire the perpetual existence of the species, though without knowledge, because the generative power, which conduces to this effect, is a forerunner and not a subject of knowledge. Hence, those things which know and apprehend perpetual being desire it with natural desire. And this is true of all intelligent substances. Consequently, all intelligent substances, by their natural appetite, desire to be always. That they should cease to be is, therefore, impossible.

Notes Don’t misunderstand desires in the second paragraph. Aquinas is not saying rocks think. In any case, this will strike readers as the weakest argument because of the premise “intelligent being naturally desires to be forever”.

14 Furthermore, all things that begin to be and cease to be do so in virtue of the same potency, for the same potency regards being and non-being. Now, intelligent substances could not begin to be except by the potency of the first agent, since, as we have shown, they are not made out of a matter that could have existed antecedently to them. Hence, there is no potency with respect to their non-being except in the first agent, inasmuch as it lies within His power not to pour being into them.

But nothing can be said to be corruptible with respect to this potency alone; and for two reasons: because things are said to be necessary and contingent according to a potentiality that is in them, and not according to the power of God, as we have already shown, and also because God, who is the Author of nature, does not take from things that which is proper to their natures; and we have just shown that it is proper to intellectual natures to exist forever, and that is why God will not take this property from them. Therefore, intellectual substances are in every way incorruptible.

Notes Here is an excellent brief definition of contingency and necessity: “things are said to be necessary and contingent according to a potentiality that is in them”.

October 2, 2016 | 6 Comments

Summary Against Modern Thought: Substance & Being vs. Matter & Form

This may be proved in three ways. The first...
This may be proved in three ways. The first…
See the first post in this series for an explanation and guide of our tour of Summa Contra Gentiles. All posts are under the category SAMT.

Previous post.

Back to basics this week, with some important links which do a better job summarizing these topics than I can do easily.

Chapter 54 That composition of substance and being is not the same as composition of matter and form (alternate translation)

1 Now composition of matter and form is not of the same nature as composition of substance and being, although both result from potentiality and act.

Notes About matter and form we have done much already. Substance: “signifies being as existing in and by itself, and serving as a subject or basis for accidents and accidental changes.” A piece of wood can be lying on its side, upright, painted white or plain, yet it is still a piece of wood.

It is necessary, therefore, to recognize in each thing certain secondary realities (see ACCIDENT) and also a permanent fundamentum which continues to exist notwithstanding the superficial changes, which serves as a basis or support for the secondary realities — what, in a word, we term the substance. Its fundamental characteristic is to be in itself and by itself, and not in another subject as accidents are.

2 First, because matter is not the very substance of a thing, else it would follow that all forms are accidental, as the early natural philosophers maintained; but matter is part of the substance.

Notes There has to be permanent fixtures of form; there is something that makes all chairs chairs. Incidentally, see also nominalism.

3 Secondly, because being itself is the proper act, not of matter, but of the whole substance: for being is the act of that whereof we can say that it is. Now being is said, not of matter but of the whole. Therefore we cannot say of matter that it is, but the substance itself is that which is.

4 Thirdly, because neither is the form being itself, but they are related as things in an order: because form is compared to being as light to enlightening, or whiteness to being white.

5 Also, because being itself is compared as act even to the very form. For in things composed of matter and form, the form is said to be the principle of being, for the reason that it is the complement of substance, whose act being is: even as transparency is to the air the principle of being lightsome, in that it makes the air the proper subject of light.

6 Wherefore in things composed of matter and form, neither matter nor form, nor even being itself, can be described as that which is. Yet the form can be described as that whereby it is, or asmuch as it is the principle of being: but the whole substance is what is; and being is that whereby the substance is called a being.

Notes In being were everything, then there’d be no differentiating anything that exists.

7 But in intellectual substances, which are not composed of matter and form, as shown above, and wherein the form itself is a subsistent substance, the form is what is, and being is the act whereby it is.

8 Consequently in them there is but one composition of act and potentiality, a composition namely of substance and being, which by some is said to be of what is and being, or of what is and whereby it is.

9 On the other hand in things composed of matter and form there is a twofold composition of act and potentiality: the first, of the substance itself which is composed of matter and form; the second, of the already composite substance, and being, which composition can also be said to be of what is and being, or of what is and whereby it is.

Notes So much is straightforward. The real magic happens next and last, because act and potentiality apply to things in the material world, but also to created things in the spiritual world, like our intellects and angels.

10 It is therefore evident that composition of act and potentiality covers more ground than composition of form and matter. Wherefore matter and form divide a natural substance, while potentiality and act divide being in general. For this reason whatever is consequent upon potentiality and act, as such, is common to created substances whether material or immaterial; for instance to receive and to be received, to perfect and to be perfected. Whereas whatsoever things are proper to matter and form, as such, for instance to be generated and to be corrupted and so forth, are proper to material substances, and are nowise applicable to created immaterial substances.

Notes Which boosts the point of our intellects being subsistent.

September 25, 2016 | 2 Comments

Summary Against Modern Thought: Intellects Are Changeable

This may be proved in three ways. The first...
This may be proved in three ways. The first…
See the first post in this series for an explanation and guide of our tour of Summa Contra Gentiles. All posts are under the category SAMT.

Previous post.

Changing your mind is not only a woman’s prerogative.

Chapter 53 That in created intellectual substances there is act and potentiality (alternate translation)

1 FROM the foregoing it is evident that in created intellectual substances there is composition of act and potentiality.

2 For in whatever thing we find two, of which one is the complement of the other, the ratio of one of them to the other is as the ratio of potentiality to act: since nothing is completed save by its proper act. Now in the created intellectual substance we find two things, namely its substance and its being, which is not its very substance, as we have proved. Now this very being is the complement of the existing substance, since a thing is actual by the fact that it has being. It follows therefore that in each of the aforesaid substances there is composition of act and potentiality.

Notes True enough, but that’s making the point the hard way, which proves yet again our good saint was always rigoroulsy thorough. As does the next argument. Remember: learning something new or apprehending a truth properly that was misunderstood is to move from potentiality to act, and it always requires something actual to actualize a potential. Experience alone is enough to show that our intellects are not static, i.e. devoid of potentiality, which means they are not purely actual. Which means that we are not God. Only God is pure act. Now how far our intellects can actualize potentials; or rather, the extent of our potentialities, is unknown. We can bound our potentialities only trivially from below (which is non-existence) and above (which is the infinity of infinities, i.e. God, spoken of last week).

3 Moreover. That which is received by a thing from an agent, must be an act: since it belongs to an agent to make a thing actual. Now it was proved above that all other substances have being from the first agent: and it is through having being from another that the substances thus caused exist. Consequently being is in the substances caused as an act of theirs. But that in which there is act, is a potentiality: since act as such refers to potentiality. Therefore in every created substance there is potentiality and act.

4 Again. Whatsoever participates a thing is compared to the thing participated as potentiality to act: since by that which is participated the participator is made to be actually such. Now it was shown above that God alone is essentially being, and all other things participate being. Therefore every created substance is compared to its being as potentiality to act.

5 Further. The likeness of a thing to its efficient cause results from act: because the agent produces its like in so far as it is in act. Now the likeness of every created substance to God is by being itself, as shown above. Therefore being is compared to all created substances as their act. Whence it follows that in every created substance there is composition of act and potentiality.

Notes This being so, in every created substance is the possibility of change.