William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Category: SAMT (page 2 of 31)

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

Summary Against Modern Thought: How An Intellectual Substance Can Be The Form Of A Body

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.

Be sure to review. All the material in paragraph 2 formed earlier chapters. This is a difficult Chapter which advances many arguments, many of which are not answered until the next Chapter (next week).

Chapter 68 How An Intellectual Substance Can Be The Form Of A Body. (alternate translation) We’re still using the alternate translation this week.

1 From the preceding arguments, then, we can conclude that an intellectual substance can be united to the body as its form.

2 For, if an intellectual substance is not united to the body merely as its mover, as Plato held that it is, nor is in contact with it merely by phantasms, as Averroes said, but as its form; and if the intellect whereby man understands is not a preparedness in human nature, as Alexander supposed it to be, nor the temperament, according to Galen, nor a harmony, as Empedocles imagined, nor a body, nor the senses or the imagination, as the early philosophers maintained, then it remains that the human soul is an intellectual substance united to the body as its form. This conclusion can be made evident as follows.

3 For one thing to be another’s substantial form, two requirements must be met. First, the form must be the principle of the substantial being of the thing whose form it is; I speak not of the productive but of the formal principle whereby a thing exists and is called a being. The second requirement then follows from this, namely, that the form and the matter be joined together in the unity of one act of being; which is not true of the union of the efficient cause with that to which it gives being. And this single act of being is that in which the composite substance subsists: a thing one in being and made up of matter and form. Now, as we have shown, the fact that an intellectual substance is subsistent does not stand in the way of its being the formal principle of the being of the matter, as communicating its own being to the matter. For it is not unfitting that the composite and its form should subsist in the same act of being, since the composite exists only by the form, and neither of them subsists apart from the other.

4 Nevertheless, it may be objected that an intellectual substance cannot communicate its being to corporeal matter in such fashion that the two will be united in the same act of being, because diverse genera have diverse modes of being, and to the nobler substance belongs a loftier being.

Notes Throat-clearing and recalling thus far: matter and form, persistence of intellect: all review. If you forgot, go back.

5 Now, this argument would be relevant if that single act of being belonged in the same way to the matter as to the intellectual substance. But it does not. For that act of being appertains to the corporeal matter as its recipient and its subject, raised to a higher level; it belongs to the intellectual substance as its principle, and in keeping with its very own nature. Nothing, therefore, prevents an intellectual substance from being the human body’s form, which is the human soul.

6 Thus are we able to contemplate the marvelous connection of things. For it is always found that the lowest in the higher genus touches the highest of the lower species. Some of the lowest members of the animal kingdom, for instance, enjoy a form of life scarcely superior to that of plants; oysters, which are motionless, have only the sense of touch and are fixed to the earth like plants. That is why Blessed Dionysius says in his work On the Divine Names that “divine wisdom has united the ends of higher things with the beginnings of the lower.”

We have, therefore, to consider the existence of something supreme in the genus of bodies, namely, the human body harmoniously tempered, which is in contact with the lowest of the higher genus, namely, the human soul, which holds the lowest rank in the genus of intellectual substances, as can be seen from its mode of understanding; so that the intellectual soul is said to be on the horizon and confines of things corporeal and incorporeal, in that it is an incorporeal substance and yet the form of a body. Nor is a thing composed of an intellectual substance and corporeal matter less one than a thing made up of the form of fire and its matter, but perhaps it is more one; because the greater the mastery of form over matter, the greater is the unity of that which is made from it and matter.

Notes Recall, of course, the divisions to which we put living things are ours. The continuity of lower to higher is the point here, and forms later the (partial) answer to the question “Why angels?”

7 But, though the form and the matter are united in the one act of being, the matter need not always be commensurate with the form. Indeed, the higher the form, the more it surpasses matter in its being. This fact is clearly apparent to one who observes the operations of forms, from the study of which we know their natures; for, as a thing is, so does it act. That is why a form whose operation transcends the condition of matter, itself also surpasses matter in the rank of its being.

8 For we find certain lowest-grade forms whose operations are limited to the class of those proper to the qualities which are dispositions of matter; qualities such as heat, cold, moisture and dryness, rarity and density, gravity and levity, etc. And those forms are the forms of the elements: forms which therefore are altogether material and wholly embedded in matter.

9 Above these are found the forms of mixed bodies. Although their operations are no greater in scope than those which can be effected through qualities of the aforesaid variety, nevertheless they sometimes produce those same effects by a higher power which they receive from the heavenly bodies, and which is consequent upon the latter’s species. A case in point is that of the lodestone attracting iron.

10 One rung higher on the ladder of forms, we encounter those whose operations include some which exceed the power of the previously mentioned material qualities, although the latter assist organically in the operations of those forms. Such forms are the souls of plants, which likewise resemble not only the powers of the heavenly bodies, in surpassing the active and passive qualities, but also the movers of those bodies, the souls of plants being principles of movement in living things, which move themselves.

11 A step above, we find other forms resembling the higher substances, not only in moving, but even, somehow, in knowing, so that they are capable of operations to which the aforesaid qualities are of no assistance, even organically, although these operations are performed only by means of a bodily organ. Such forms are the souls of brute animals. For sensation and imagination are not brought about by heating and cooling, although these are necessary for the due disposition of the organ involved.

12 Above all these forms, however, is a form like to the higher substances even in respect of the kind of knowledge proper to it, namely, understanding. This form, then, is capable of an operation which is accomplished without any bodily organ at all. And this form is the intellective soul; for understanding is not effected through any bodily organ. That is why this principle, the intellective soul by which man understands and which transcends the condition of corporeal matter, must not be wholly encompassed by or imbedded in matter, as material forms are. This is proved by its intellectual operation, wherein corporeal matter has no part. But since the human soul’s act of understanding needs powers—namely, imagination and sense—which function through bodily organs, this itself shows that the soul is naturally united to the body in order to complete the human species.

Notes The proof is not done. This is only the introduction.

Summary Against Modern Thought: The Soul Is Not A Body

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.

We’re back at it, folks. Be sure to review. This is difficult material. The first Chapter, 64, is brief wrap-up material which can be glossed; the real meat is in 65, which follows also this week.

Chapter 64 That the soul is not a harmony. (alternate translation) We’re still using the alternate translation this week.

1 Along the lines of the foregoing theory is the view of those who say that the soul is a harmony. For these persons thought of the soul not as a harmony of sounds, but of the contraries of which they observed animate bodies to be composed. In the De anima [I, 4] this notion seems to be attributed to Empedocles, although Gregory of Nyssa ascribes it to Dinarchus. And it is disproved in the same way as Galen’s theory, as well as by arguments that apply properly to itself.

2 For every mixed body has harmony and temperament. Nor can harmony move a body or rule it or curb the passions, any more than can temperament. Moreover, harmony is subject to intensification and remission; and so, too, is temperament. All these things show that the soul is not a harmony, even as it is not a temperament…

4 Again, harmony has two senses; for it can be taken to signify the composition itself, or the mode of composition. Now, the soul is not a composition, since each part of the soul would have to consist in the composition of some of the parts of the body; and such an allotting of psychic part to corporeal part is impossible. Nor is the soul a mode of composition; for, since in the various parts of the body there are various modes or proportions of composition, each part of the body would have a distinct soul: since bone, flesh, and sinew are in each case composed according to a different proportion, each would possess a different soul. Now, this is patently false. Therefore, the soul is not a harmony.

Chapter 65 That the soul is not a body. (alternate translation) We’re still using the alternate translation this week.

1 There were also others whose thinking was even wider of the mark, since they asserted that the soul is a body. Although they held divergent and various opinions, it suffices to refute them here collectively.

2 For, since living things are physical realities, they are composed of matter and form. Now, they are composed of a body and a soul, which makes them actually living. Therefore, one of these two must be the form and the other matter. But the body cannot be the form, because the body is not present in another thing as its matter and subject. The soul, then, is the form, and consequently is not a body, since no body is a form.

Notes Short and sweet. Don’t forget to review about matter and form, from the early days of this series. Use the link at the bottom of the site, and choose SAMT as the category.

3 It is, moreover, impossible for two bodies to coincide. But, so long as the body lives, the soul is not apart from it. Therefore, the soul is not a body.

4 Then, too, every body is divisible. Now, whatever is divisible requires something to keep together and unite its parts, so that, if the soul is a body, it will have something else to preserve its integrity, and this yet more will be the soul; for we observe that, when the soul departs, the body disintegrates. And if this integrating principle again be divisible, we must at last either arrive at something indivisible and incorruptible, which will be the soul, or go on to infinity; which is impossible. Therefore, the soul is not a body.

Notes Being a body means being extended, or having extension. The key premise is that every body is divisible. The formula is matter + form = a body. In order for the premise to be true is that all matter in actuality must be divisible, or has extension. This has important implications in physics. Certainly all known bodies are divisible or have extension—even though we may not know how these bodies can be divided.

5 Again. It has been proved in Book I of this work, and in Physics VIII, that every self-mover is composed of two parts: one, the part that moves and is not moved; the other, the part that is moved. Now, the animal is a self-mover, and the mover in it is the soul, and the body is the moved. Therefore, the soul is an unmoved mover. But no body moves without being moved, as was shown in that same Book. Therefore, the soul is not a body.

Notes Souls can still change, however; souls have potentials that have to be actualized by something actual.

6 Furthermore, we have already shown that understanding cannot be the act of a body. But it is the act of a soul. Consequently, at least the intellective soul is not a body.

7 Now the arguments by which some have tried to prove that the soul is a body are easily solved. They argue as follows: that the son is like the father even in accidents of the soul, despite the fact that the begetting of the one by the other involves the parting of body from body; that the soul suffers with the body; that the soul is separate from the body, and separation is between mutually contacting bodies.

8 But against this argumentation it has already been pointed out that the bodily temperament has a certain dispositive causality with respect to the passions of the soul. Moreover, it is only accidentally that the soul suffers with the body; for, since the soul is the form of the body, it is moved accidentally by the body’s being moved. Also, the soul is separate from the body, not as a thing touching from a thing touched, but as form from matter, although, as we have shown, that which is incorporeal does have a certain contact with the body.

Notes Aha! “…that which is incorporeal does have a certain contact with the body.” What a loaded statement! A statement which we will return to more than once. Stay tuned.

9 Indeed, what motivated many to adopt this position was their belief that there is nothing that is not a body, for they were unable to rise above the imagination, which is exclusively concerned with bodies. That is why this view is proposed in the person of the foolish, who say of the soul: “The breath in our nostrils is smoke, and speech a spark to move our heart” (Wis. 2:2).

Summary Against Modern Thought: The Intellect Is Not A Temperament

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.

We’re still on makeup and workings of the intellect and soul! More criticisms answered this week. And then we’ll take a two-week break for Christmas and New Year, after which comes some really juicy material.

Chapter 63 That the soul is not a temperament, as Galen maintained. (alternate translation) We’re still using the alternate translation this week.

1 The opinion of the physician Galen about the soul is similar to the previously discussed notion of Alexander concerning the possible intellect. For Galen says that the soul is a temperament.

Now, he was moved to say this because of our observation that diverse passions, ascribed to the soul, result from various temperaments in us: those possessed of a choleric temperament are easily angered; melancholics easily grow sad. And so we see that the same arguments which we used a moment ago against Alexander’s theory can serve to disprove this notion of Galen’s, as well as some arguments specifically relevant to that notion.

Note I eschewed the pun about the caloric life with the choleric temperament since this is a sober subject.

2 For it was shown above that the operation of the vegetative soul, sensitive knowledge, and, much more, the operation of the intellect transcend the power of the active and passive qualities. But temperament is caused by active and passive qualities. Therefore, it cannot be a principle of the soul’s operations. It is, then, impossible for a soul to be a temperament.

Note But then needs to be explained when my grandmother in high temper would burst out, “Oh my soul!” (That’s the last one, I promise. I’ll even leave paragraph 4 alone.)

3 Moreover, temperament is something constituted by contrary qualities, as a kind of mean between them, and therefore it cannot possibly be a substantial form, since “substance has no contrary, and does not admit of variation of degree.” But the soul is a substantial, not an accidental, form; otherwise, a thing would not obtain genus or species through the soul. It follows that the soul is not a temperament.

4 Again, temperament is not responsible for the local movement of an animal’s body; if it were, then that body would follow the movement of the preponderant element, and thus would always be moved downwards. But the soul moves the body in all directions; therefore, it is not the temperament.

5 Then, too, the soul rules the body and resists the passions, which follow the temperament. For by temperament some are more prone than others to concupiscence or anger, yet refrain more from these things because something keeps them in check, as we see in continent persons. Now, it is not the temperament that does this. Therefore, the soul is not the temperament.

6 It would seem that Galen was misled through not having considered that passions are attributed to the temperament in quite a different manner than to the soul. For passions are ascribed to the temperament as a dispositive cause in their regard, and as concerns that which is material in them, such as the heat of the blood and the like. On the other hand, passions are ascribed to the soul as their principal cause, and as regards that which is formal in them; for instance, the desire of vengeance in the passion of anger.

Summary Against Modern Thought: More On The Possible Intellect

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.

We’re still on makeup and workings of the intellect and soul. Stay with this: it is the most important subject after God. Your soul, I mean. Plus it is interesting to see how Aquinas handles objections.

Chapter 62 Against Alexander’s opinion concerning the possible intellect (alternate translation) We’re still using the alternate translation this week.

1 Having considered these sayings of Aristotle, Alexander asserted that the possible intellect is a power in us, so that the common definition of soul given by Aristotle in De anima might apply to that intellect. But because he was unable to understand how an intellectual substance could be the form of a body, he held that the power of which we speak does not have its foundation in an intellectual substance, but that it is consequent upon a blending of elements in the human body.

For the particular kind of blending found in the human body makes man to be in potentiality to receive the influx of the agent intellect, which is always in act, and according to him is a separate substance, the effect of that influx being that man is made to understand actually. Now, that which enables man to understand is the possible intellect. And thus, it seemed to follow that the possible intellect is in us the result of a particular blending.

Notes Not to say frappé. (Sorry.)

2 But this position seems at first glance to be contrary to both the words and the proof of Aristotle. For, as we have already pointed out, Aristotle proves in De anima in that the possible intellect is “free from all admixture with the body” [III, 4]. And this could not possibly be said of a power resulting from a blending of elements, since such a power must be rooted in that very blending of elements, as we see in the case of taste, smell, and the like. Seemingly, then, this notion of Alexander’s is incompatible with the words and the proof of Aristotle.

3 To this, however, Alexander replies that the possible intellect is the very preparedness in human nature to receive the influx of the agent intellect. And preparedness is not itself a particular sensible nature, nor is it intermixed with the body, rather, preparedness is a certain relation, and the order of one thing to another.

4 But this notion also clearly clashes with Aristotle’s meaning. For Aristotle proves that the reason why the possible intellect does not itself have the nature of any particular sensible thing, and consequently is free from any admixture with the body, is because it is receptive of all the forms of sensible things, and cognizant of them. Now, preparedness cannot be thought of in such terms, for it does not mean to receive, but to be prepared to receive. So it is that Aristotle’s demonstration proceeds not from preparedness, but from a prepared recipient.

5 Moreover, if what Aristotle says about the possible intellect applies to it as a preparedness, and not by reason of the nature of the subject prepared, it will follow that it applies to every preparedness. Now, in the senses there is a certain preparedness to receive sensibles in act. And so, the same thing must be said of the senses as of the possible intellect. But Aristotle clearly says the contrary in explaining the difference between the receptivity of the senses and of the intellect, from the fact that the sense is corrupted by objects exceedingly high or intense, but not the intellect…

Notes Your eyes (and associated body parts) can be overwhelmed by a brilliant light, but your intellect is not bruised by a brilliant insight, or turn of phrase. (Sorry again.)

7 “The agent is superior to the patient, and the maker to the thing made,” as act to potentiality. Now, the more immaterial a thing is, the higher its level of being. Therefore, the effect cannot be more immaterial than its cause. But every cognitive power, as such, is immaterial.

Thus, Aristotle says that the power of sense, which occupies the lowest place in the order of cognitive powers, is “receptive of sensible species without matter.” It is therefore impossible for a cognitive power to be caused by a commingling of elements. Now, the possible intellect is the highest cognitive power in us; for Aristotle says that the possible intellect is “that by which the soul knows and understands.” Therefore, the possible intellect is not caused by a mixture of elements…

Notes But every cognitive power, as such, is immaterial. This cannot be emphasized enough. Repeat until you’re sick of hearing it.

9 Understanding is an operation in which no bodily organ can possibly take part. Now, this operation is attributed to the soul, or even to the man, for it is said that the soul understands, or man, by the soul. Hence, there must be in man a principle, independent of the body, which is the source of that operation. However, the preparedness that results from a blending of the elements clearly depends on the body; and, consequently, it is not this principle. But the possible intellect is for Aristotle says in De anima in that this intellect is “that by which the soul knows and understands.” Therefore, the possible intellect is not a preparedness.

10 Now, seemingly it is not enough to say that the principle of the operation of understanding in us is the intelligible species brought into act by the agent intellect. For man comes to understand actually after understanding potentially.

So, it follows that he understands not only by the intelligible species, whereby he is made to understand actually, but also by an intellective power, which is the principle of this operation of understanding; and such is the case also with the senses. Now, Aristotle holds that this power is the possible intellect. Therefore, the possible intellect is independent of the body.

11 Moreover, a species is intelligible in act only so far as it is freed from its presence in matter. But this cannot be done so long as it remains in a material power, namely, a power which is caused by material principles, or is the act of a material organ. The presence in us of an intellective power that is immaterial must, therefore, be granted. And this power is the possible intellect.

Notes “[A] species is intelligible in act only so far as it is freed from its presence in matter”? Reminder: forms are not material.

12 Also, Aristotle speaks of the possible intellect as being part of the soul. Now, the soul is not a preparedness, but an act, since preparedness is the order of potentiality to act. And yet an act is followed by a preparedness for a further act; the act of transparency is followed by an order to the act of light. Therefore, the possible intellect is not a preparedness itself, but is a certain act…

Older posts Newer posts

© 2017 William M. Briggs

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑