1)     With the study of the predicaments, called also ‘categories’, we study the particular modes of being which are really distinct from each other and do not necessarily follow on being simply bec. it is being. Some of these modes were regarded by Ar. as self-evident. Inductively he found that they amounted to 10. There is substance (being which exists in itself) and 9 accidents (being which can only exist in another) which are : quantity, quality, relation, action, passion, place, position, time and possession.

2)   The predicaments are analogical modes of being, and for Ar. the typical example of analogy of attribution, although it is also an analogy of proportionality (St. Thomas ).

3)   Only in material substances can there be found the 10 predicaments, since quantity and the accidents related to it cannot exist in spiritual substances. It also applies strictly speaking only to creatures and not to God who is above it. That is why it is improper to define God as a substance.



1. Substance


 By Fr. Raymond Taouk,

I. existence


1)   Infra philosophical evidence :


A) common language : we distinguish the subject and verb from the predicate and direct/ind. object. If the subject is a noun (pronoun), it is a thing with certain properties, hence the concept of substance.

B) (natura, fu,sij): the new operations of the same being: the same being grows, has new activities which it did not have at first, has many different activities and properties, which exist thanks to this subsisting whole. Without this permanent foundation, the diverse activities would not remain harmoniously ordered to the whole.

C) Our personal experience reveals to us that we are conscious that, behind our acts, there is a ‘I’ (foundation of our reality and our unity) and behind those of others there is a ‘you’, and a ‘it’, which we extend to all things in so far as they are separate beings.


2)   A deeper metaphysical study shows the ex. of subst.[1] :

A) as underlayer in change. there are obviously beings in the world. But these beings subsist either by themselves (substances) or by others (out of which they receive their existence as accidents). But all things cannot belong to the 2d category. If that was the case, we could not explain how a thing remains the same while certain of its attributes change (accidental change), or why we never have energy in se, or colour in se, but always the energy of a thing... Substance is the substratum of things changing.

B) a subsistence : bec. substance is principle of unity of a being. Ar. states that “Being has several meanings. On the one hand, it means essence and the determined individual; on the other hand, it signifies that a thing has this quality or this quantity or... But though there are these many meanings of being, it is obvious that being, in the primary sense, is the essence, which indicates the substance of a thing... Thus, it is clearly by this category that each other category exists. Consequently, being in the fundamental sense, not this or that mode of it but being without qualification, must be substance.”[2] 


Ie. the multiplicity is unintelligible, unaccountable, unless it have some common bond of unity, ie. of being. That which is the principle of existence of the being per se must exist per se, and that is the subst. considered as subsistence ‘quod est vel subsistit’. Substance is the principle of unity and of intelligibility of the multiform data of reality.


3)   is Substance an imperceptible or a ficticious entity? 


A) Regarding perception : what is immediately given in perception is neither appearances (in the sense of the subjectivists) nor substance as such, but the concrete individual being of subst + accdts: ‘I see this black-thing’ = I see a black colour which reveals a substance. Only later on, by analysis, do we distinguish the substance from the accidts. Substance is not an immediate perception, but yes an immediate inference (wo it, there is no intelligibility).

B) Regarding the identification of what is substance and what is not: this is not so clearly known since subst. is not immediately perceived. Experience leads naturally to admit a plurality of substances, at least among the living things, and also among inorganic materials, although this is less clear.

C) Subst. is not only a necessity of language transposed into reality. Logic corresponds to reality, and especially judgments presuppose factual and not ficticious modes of objective being.



ii. nature of substance






1)   The Ancients:


A) In Plato, entity has the sense of :

- property, riches

- a thing real and existing

- the essence, the formal aspect of things

- the reality of the world of ideas

- the actual existence and the reality as it is expressed by the copula ‘is’.

- the 3 degrees of being (Ideas, intermediary realities like the soul, sensible things).


B) Aristotle

a) says that is the central problem of philosophy, to know the nature of being. Certain things are called beings because they are substances, others bec. they are determinations of substances, and others because they allow substances to be formed. Ousia designates the individual being, the most intimate source and concentration of reality.

b) Critique : despite the value of Ar. on subst., it is not wo limits. Substances exist in the cosmos by themselves wo metaphs. explanation and creation poses a problem. to,de ti,, this particular thing, is said also of the form.


2)   St. Thomas.


A) ST distinguishes betw. substance and essence, between the concrete thing (habens esse per se) and its essence (quod quid est ou selon Ar. quod quid erat esse) : the concrete thing has a form essentially specific but is not identical with it. Subst. signifies an essential  form  to which we attribute the esse per se. God is not a subject apt to receive accidents as the substance is.
B) Substance is quasi per se subsistens, distinct from all other beings, it is stg one and unique since it is not communicable to others. For ST, to be by itself (proper of the subst) is the secret of its incommunicability. He attributes a greater value than Ar. to the knowl. of individual things : to know the individual things is part of our perfection (I 14,11). If our first knowl. is abstract, it must however come back to the individuals which exist in reality.


3)   Decadent Scholastics


A) Duns Scotus considers the substance as a collection of forms rather than a being having a true unity. He considers that we do not have any concept of the substance which would express its essence (anti-intellectual trend) since our experience knows immediately only the accidents. By refusing the analogy of being, he refuses to see the substance as the being par excellence, and he prepares the way to nominalism.

B) Suarez says that subst = being by itself, support of accidents. But the accidents are beings by their own entity and bec. they have a proper act of being. Matter has also its own entity, and is united to the form. In this view, material substances do not have the intrinsic unity which ST. sees in them.



4)   Moderns:


A) Descartes : substance is a thing which needs only itself to exist. We have a clear idea of it. He identifies subst. with its attributes (soul= thought; body= extension). Thus disappears the distinction betw. subst. and accidents, and since subst. does not change, there is no substantial change nor finality. The infinite substance, God, is properly and integrally autonomous.

B) Spinoza takes some ideas from Descartes. Subst. is that which exists in itself and is conceived by itself, i.e. a thing the concept of which needs not be deduced from another[3]. This last part introduces the modi which add to the only substance (God) what the individual essence adds to the genus. The subst. is one, unique and universal. It is the cause of itself, outside of which no other substance can exist. The modi determine this subst. and make it thinkable, and render account of the apparent multiplicity of the universe. This theory changed the sense of the word substance meaning from then on (in German Idealism) being in general instead of this concrete being.

C) Locke says that the subst. exists (it carries the accidts) but is unknowable : there is an unknown substratum yet presupposed by qualities which we recognize and cannot imagine subsisting per se.

D) Hume goes further and denies also the existence of a substance, and accepts only “a collection and a succession in time of qualities perceptible to the senses”, it is but “a collection of simple ideas, united by the imagination, to which we have given a part. name”.

E) Kant is a debtor to Hume in his idealist critique of the concept of substance. This idea is a subjective a priori form of the h. intellect which precedes any experience.

F) In the post-kantian idealism, substance becomes either the ego which contains in itself the entire reality and can be everything (Fichte), or the Absolute, also subject of accidents (Hegel).

G) Modern philosophy has banished substance, as well as did the new physical and psychological modern theories. For Russell, subst. is rejected bec. it is an inert mass, useless behind the phenomena. Others see reality as a sum total of relations, produced by a fundamental activity (taken from the materialistic monism). In analytical philosophy (Bergson, Le Roy among others), the word ‘substance’ is the mere projection of the linguistic structures, the distinction betw. subst. and accdts being the transposition of the structure of a phrase (subject-predicate). Sartre sees much progress of modern thought in having done away with the distinction betw. a hidden center (the ‘illusion of the back-worlds’ of Nietzsche) and the appearance.

H) Only Leibniz and Heidegger maintained the existence of the substance. For Leibniz, it is the monad, a real substance, from which the physical bodies are produced, as the conglomerate of monads. Heidegger places the ‘ousia’ in the center of his philo. quest, yet he understands it not so much as the being itself, but as the fact of becoming present to being.

I) Modern physics rejects the concept of substance in as much it limits itself to the study of the phenomena (esp. the quantitative aspects of nature, expressed in mathematical formulae).



            2) definition


1)   In general :

A) it is that which subsists, whose act is to be : substance is in the line of existence, nature, no.

B) it is subject (in se) of accidents (in substantia).


2)   In particular :

A) Substance : Id cui competit esse in se et non in alio tanquam in subjecto inhaesionis

B) Essence (stricte sumpto, or quidditas) : id quo res est id quod est. It is what constitutes the esse in its proper species : the form for spiritual subst. (angel), form + common matter for material substances; e.g. humanity (soul and body in genere).

C) Nature : principium et causa motus et quietis eius in quo est per se et non per accidens  (nature is idem re ac essentia, but diverse ratione indicates the principle of activity, whereas essence indicates the metaphysical constituent, the quid est as opposed to the other mtphscl constituent, the esse).

            4) properties


1)   una

2)   separata

3)   non suscipit magis vel minus

4)   non habet contrarium (substances are either identical or disparate things, never contrary)

5)   non suscipit motum  (which supposes a subject of motion : there is no subject to the subject/substance)

6)   suscipit contraria (contraries can be received in the substance, yet not simultaneously).



iii. division of substance



            1) substance (Mphs, and logical)




Completa : suppositum pfte

rationalis : Persona


(nec in nec de)

subsistens in ratione speciei

irrationalis : hypostasis

(non in)

singularis & concreta (Socrates)

Incompleta: impfte subsistens in rat.sp: pars

-metphsc (corpus, anima)

- integralis (manus, pes)


SECUNDA (non in sed de) : abstracta, logica (Homo)


Distinction of substance and essence as to their first meaning :


Substantia  (ens)

Essentia (species)

Prima : concreta et singularis (Socrates, Verbum)

Prima : abstracta et univ. (Humanitas, Deitas)

Secunda : universalis (Homo, Deus)

Secunda : ‘concreta’ et singularis

                 (haec humanitas, haec divinitas)


1.      What exists is the real substance.

2.      Essences are per se object of our mental concepts. Essence taken precisely (a the sole specific part of man) cannot be predicated of the concrete being : ‘Socrates is humanity’ is incorrect.

3.      The use of terms is of great importance in theology (cf. Ia 13 De nominibus Dei; I 39 re. the use of concrete/abstract terms in designating the persons or the essence in the H. Trinity).



            2) species of substance


1)        Composita : ex materia et forma (subdivided into the different ramifications of the tree of Porphyry  by logical specific differences into

-        non-living

-        living : nonsentient or sentient (either irrational or rational)

(the ancients distinguished the composite or material substance firstly into corruptible (sublunary bodies) and incorruptible (celestial bodies, immutable in substance except by accdtl change[4]).

2)        Simplex sive immaterialis (pura forma) I 50.

A) Multiplication is either material (or numerical within the same unique species -knife 1, 2 or 3-which supposes quantity, distinct parts of steel) or formal (distinction of species, like cat and dog).

B) These immaterial substances cannot be numerically multiplied (they lack quantity/matter ie. potency to be ‘part-ible’). Therefore, they are multiplied by their form : i.e. St. Michael has a totally distinct species or nature from St. Raphael (except the common gender of being both immaterial created substances).[5]


 2.   Accidents in general


I. Nature


1)   history, etymology, nominal definition.      These are determinations which are not the thing itself, but are attributed to it, as we say in Latin accidere, whose word ‘accidens’ has the same structure as the Greek term sumbebhko,j( sun bai,nw (to come with). A colour cannot exist except as attribute of a subject. The accidents lead us to the substance which they modify. In their definition, the substance is mentioned as their subject of inherence. The accidents are not called beings as such, but ‘entis entia’, as quality and movement (Mphsc XII 2419).


2)   Real def: Accidens est id cui competit esse in alio tamquam in subjecto inhaesionis. Thus:

A) accidentium esse est inesse (they have no proper esse, but the esse of the substance).[6]

B) Accidens est potius entis quam ens. The accidents are accessory determinations of the substances (they actuate the substance per accidens, in so far as the subst. is still in potency, ie. accidentally, bec. essentially it is in act by its subst. form). The proper accidents neither are produced nor perish, except when the substance does so : they are educed from the potency of the substance. Not so w. the non proper accdts, which are produced by an extrinsic efficient cause.


3)   N.B.: Do not confuse

A) predicamental ‘accidens’ (studied in metaphysics, 9 in number, distinguished from the substance, ie. the real thing which affects the concrete substance, eg. a rational, risible, white man).

B) predicable ‘accidens’ (studied in logic, which designates a specific way of predicating P of S)

a) accidental predication is that where the P is purely accidental to the S like  white said of man.

b) risible said of man would be a proper of man.

c) rational is the specific difference of man.


II. existence


1)   Some philosophers have denied the existence of accidents (in part or totally). Can a substance be identical to its own actions?  SA said that “mens, notitia et amor sunt substantialiter in anima, vel ut idem dicam essentialiter, et dicit quod memoria, intelligentia et voluntas sunt una vita, una mens, una essentia.[7] Averroes said that the immaterial subst. have no actions which would be accidents. Gentile identified the int. which its thoughts.


2)   Diverse types of actions. Nulla substantia est per se operans. Its actions are also distinct betw. to make and to do (poiei/n( pra,ttein), the latter includes the acts of the cognitive and appetitive faculties. The philosophers of the M.Ages distinguish the immanent from the transitive actions according as the term of the action is within or without the subject/agent.

A) The immanent action “does not go outside but remains in the agent”, to the point that it takes place within the agent, for the perfection of the agent.[8]

B) The transitive actions ‘reach stg outside the agent’ and transform the object.


3)   Proof by the active and passive potencies :

A) Can a substance be identical to its actions?  The distinction, clear for the transitive action, is true also of the immanent actions which have a certain indetermination in their object (whereas the substance is clearly determined and limited). Only in God thought and love are the very divine being itself.

B) If the actions differ from their substance, the same is to be said of the principle of the actions, the faculties, which are of the same type of accident as the actions (qualities, see art. 3).


4)   Metaphysical proof [9]

M. We must always judge the potencies by the acts to which they are ordained since potentia dicitur ad actum (correlative act).

m1 But the essence is ordered to esse (its proper act), and the potency/faculty to its operation. The faculties will be identical to the essence/substance if and  only if their acts are identical.

m2. But,

- the essence is always in act of existing, whereas the faculties are not always operating (dormiens non philosophat).

- the potencies must be as varied as their acts and formal objects, whereas the essence is one.

C. The potencies must be really distinct from their essence. QED.


5)   Proof by the finality of the accidents.[10]     

A) The powers or faculties are not added to the essence in the same way as the form is united and added to the matter. The substance terminates in its own self, whereas the potencies put the substance in connection with the world outside. nulla substantia est per se operans. Omne agens agit propter formam.

B) This argument by finality is the greatest to prove the existence of potencies. Potencies distinct from the essence are necessary to bring this essence outside its nature. Created beings have such a nature that in order to pose themselves in existence, in order to know themselves, they have to have reciprocal relations with other created beings.


6)   The existence of accidents in immaterial forms.

O .forma simplex non potest esse subjectum.

Ans. even the separate form or soul has a part of potency, and in as much as it is potential, it is determinable or ‘actu-able’ by accidents (faculties/potencies). Thus, angels have accidents, some proper (int., will, relation of creation), others accidental (place, actio, passio).


iii. distinction between the accidents ‘proprium’ & ‘accidens’


1)     St. Bonaventure, following the Augustinian philosophical school, maintained that, although some potencies were distinct from the essence (potency of heating is a quality), nevertheless the power of generating and the 3 powers of the soul (memory, intellect and will) were substantial, ie. reducible to the substance and not accidental.


2)   ST: The problem of the study of the powers of the soul brings to light the fight between Augustinism and Thomism. The truth affirmed by St. Bonaventure is safeguarded by St. Thomas by the theory of the proper accdts. Instead of the concrete psychology of St. Augustine, ST poses the problem at the level of ontological psychology : he distinguishes the elements without making a true real separation. In concreto of course, all is in one subject :“Idem autem est quod potest operari et quod operatur, unde oportet quod eius sit potentia sicut subjecti cuius est operatio.”[11]


3)   Mode of  production : this distinction gives rise to the distinct production of these accidents

A) the properties or accidents ‘proper’ are produced (‘educti’) from the specific principles of the essence, and thus will be common to all individuals of the same species : eg. the form proper of the horse; risibility, intellect and will in man.

B) the non-proper accidents can again be divided into 2 regarding their production :

a) accidents inseparable from each individual : they come from the concrete way of production of the form in this matter (the numerical or individual distinction comes from the material principles : matter, qtty)  : eg. to be tall or small, black or blond hair, man or woman.

b) accidents separable from the subject : they come

i from the action of the subject (to be seated-situs; in the shade-locus; to study-actio; to withstand an attack-passio),

ii from an external agent (to get burned by fire, to receive some sickness, to learn from a teacher-actio on the part of the agent; passio in the term).




1)   Unity :

A) The empiricists (and worst of all, Hume) denied the unity of the concrete being : substance is just a group (fascis) of many distinct phenomena, wo unity, wo producing one concrete being.

B) Substance and accidents, really distinct, are also really one. We speak of one man although he has many accidents added to his substance. That is bec the accidents are of the being, and are not a being as such. The unity of the concrete being is manifested by the unity of its operations (man understands by  his intelligence) : agere sequitur esse.

C) The foundation of this unity of the concrete being made of substance and accidents is produced by the single act of ‘esse’ which belongs properly to the substance ‘substantia subsistit vel est’.


2)   Relation between substance and accidents


A) doctrine :

a) material cause : the substance is the subject, substratum, of the accidents.

b) quasi formal cause : the accident determines and actuates the substance, which is in potency to receive the accidental determinations, which give it its ultimate perfection.

c) efficient cause : the substance is the efficient cause of the accidents ‘proper’(to species & indvdl).

d) final cause : the substance is the end of the accidents, accidens propter substantiam (as the body is for the soul, the less dignified for the more dignified).


B) Objection :


O/ What about the apparent contradiction : the substance is passive (potency) and active (efficient cause) with regards to accidents?

Resp/  They are co-relative principles (as form and matter have a certain co-aptatio, as A/P, soul/body), they mutually exercise an influence over each other but on a different line of causality (see above) and also on a different line of structure :

-        the substance is passive with regards to the accdts (they perfect the essence of the subst)

-        the substance  is active with regards to the being/esse (acdts participate in esse subst).


C) order of knowledge.

a) The accidents  are known per se by the senses (per accidens the substance).

b) confused concept of the whole : The first object which comes under the int. is being, ie. the substance. The accidents known by the senses appear as secondary manifestations of a subsisting subject (substance) not yet identified.

c) Clear concept of the substance : through the accidents we obtain an intelligible knowl of the nature or essence of the subject (what quacks and walks like a duck is a duck).

d) clear concept of the accidents : by knowing the substance, cause of the accidents, we can have a deeper knowl of the accidents.



v. diverse possibilities of entering & exiting existence (75,6)






FORMAE   IN          ESSE

ita impossibilitas/possibilitas





A SE (increati)


NON subj







Creatio et anihilatio A DEO











PER Aliud


Generatio et corruptio

PER conjunctionem/separationem formae &mat


Accidts=/= subjectum


non subsst

in Alio(accdtl)

Alteratio, augmentatio...IN subjecto


·        ab alio :             Creatura causatur a Deo (efficient cause)

·        per aliud:           forma subsistit per compositum (formal cause)

·        in alio :              accidens inest subjecto (material cause)




VI. division


1)   N.B. : by looking at the table of accidents below, we find that 2 of them (possession-habitus[12], position-situs[13]) are of little importance; The totality of the predicaments belong to material substances only, many belong to physics: qtty, possession, place, time, position, action and passion. Which leaves only quality and relation to speak of in Mphcs.


2)   division of the accidents :




consequens materiam




consequens formam









ad aliquid









ut mensurans


sine ord. partium



omnino extra



cum ord. partium


ab eo quod


non ut mensurans





sec quid

ut principium






ut terminum







VII. order



1)   Subject : one accident can be the subject of other accidts, eg. colour inheres the subst. by the accident of quantity (in corporeal subst., quantity is the first accdt).

2)   in potency : one accident can be in potency to another, and can make the substance capable of that other accident (the accdt facultas intellectus or habitus sapientiae enables the soul to perform int. acts).

3)   cause : one accident may be the cause of another (an accident is cause of a relation : active generation is cause of the mutual relation paternity/filiation).




 3. Quality


I. history


1)   Leucippius and Democritus deny the ex. of qlty, mechanicists accepting only matter and denying all sensitive knowledge (of qualities in thing and in senses).

2)   Plato :

A) mechanicism makes no sense when it tries to explain animated being and even substances, “when they speak of a real living mortal, they affirm some reality. Is it not, as they confess, an animated body?  Thus, they put the soul at the level of the beings?  Don’t they affirm the soul to be either just or unjust, sensitive or senseless?...”[14] 

B) 2 questions are raised by Plato :

a) are the qualities distinct from quantity or reduced to it (mechanicist problem)?

b) Does the spiritual exist, or is everything corporeal (materialist problem)? 

c) The 2 problems are necessarily tied since to reject any quality leads to reject the spirit.


3)   Ar. ‘qualitatem dico secundum quam aliqui dicuntur quales.’


4)   Descartes, following his criterion of the clear and distinct idea (as real being), wanted to do away with whatever was not mathematically evident. He was nevertheless obliged to preserve the accident quality for the spiritual world. But his corporeal nature excludes any quality and becomes mechanist, which means that geometry studies directly the  bodily substances, which are mere extension, the only possible change is movement (not intensity), and the only activity is the ‘shock’ (Vs. the scholastic faculties or potencies).[15]

5)   Hegel gives again quality its place as ‘the immediate determination’. Quality as opposed to quantity is used in the dialectical theory of ‘progress by jumps’ : comings and losses are obtained suddenly by the passage from the quantitative to the qualitative. This view will be adopted in the Marxist theory.

6)   Bergson reacts against the mechanicist theories and affirms that even extension is quality, distended quality. Quality, not quantity, is positive : quantity is only the inverse of the qualitative ‘élan’ (spring).  Teilhard de Chardin follows him somewhat, at least to say that mathematics and mechanics reach the ‘outside’, but should not deny the ‘inside’ which is consciousness.




1)   Definition : Qualitas est accidens determinativum seu modificativum substantiae in seipsa

A) determinativum subst. : Vs. quantitas (which does not determine but extends; which is the accident of the matter rather than of the form/substance).

B) in seipsa : vs. all other accidents which are somewhat extrinsic (relation, et alia)

2)   S.Q. : The study of quality is of major importance in dogmatic theology : grace, the virtues, the gifts, the sacramental characters are all qualities; and also in moral theology (and psychology) : habits good or bad, faculties...


iii. division



in seipsa (suscipiens bonum et malum ex ordine ad naturam) et mobilis

- difficile :             

- facile :             



absolute consi-

                        in ordine ad


- sufficiens :      

- debilis :      






- transiens

-diu permanens

- passio

- qlts patibilis

relative ad

cum formositate




sine formositate





Quality is a univocal genus divided into species :


1)   Prima species :

A) Habitus : accidens difficile mobile, disponens subiectum ad bene vel male esse sive operari

a) operative habits : virtue or vice, science or int. deformation which determine the operative potencies;

b) entitative habits : health, grace.

B) dispositio (idem sed facile mobile), e.g. humour, indisposition, virtue not well rooted in subject.

2)   Secunda species :

A) potentia : accidens disponens subjectum ad operandum vel ad resistendum (faculties, or powers of operations, eg. pot. digestiva, motrix, intellectiva, resistentiae). They are the proximate principles of operations of the substance, and sometimes they need to be further determined by the operative habits to reach properly their object : the intellect needs the habit of logic to make proper syllogisms.


B) impotentia : lack or debility of the same faculty.


3)   Tertia species :

A) passio : accidens sensibilem alterationem causans  vel a sensibili alteratione causatum. It is a movement of the sensitive appetite (eg. suffering, fear) which is accompanied by a physical and sensible alteration.[16] We must not confuse it with the passio (which is the passio transitiva as in the term of the action, opposed to actio in the principle of action: to be hit vs. to hit). The sensitive passions are terms of immanent actions (I II 22-25; 31,5; 74,1; I 85,2).

B) qualitas patibilis : colour of hair; the temperament (melancholic, irascible...)

4)   4ª species belongs to quality, but refers to the quantitative aspect, found only in material beings

A) figura : accidens resultans ex terminatione quantitatis quoad se consideratae secundum diversam dispositionem partium eius.

B) forma : idem, cum debita proportione, in artificial things (I II 49,2-4).



iv. properties (I II 52-53)


1)   habet contrarium. Within the same genus, contrary qualities can be found, eg. health/sickness in body, s. grace in the soul, virtue and vice in the will.

2)   fundat relationem similitudinis (vs qtty : relt. equalitatis; vs subst. fundat rel. identitatis)

3)   suscipit magis et minus : true of all, important esp. for the habitus.

I II 49,1-3 : the habits are ordered to an immanent or transitive act (eg. scientia, ars sculptoris).

A) The habits (virtues) are necessary to man because : omnis res est propter se operans. Ie. man finds his perfection-finality, evntele,ceia-, in his intellectual (and moral) operation, which is proper to him. Virtue is said avreth. (virtus=force) to indicate the operative perfection of nature.

B) How are they obtained ?

a) The intellective habits are obtained by learning from a teacher, except the unique natural habit, nou,j (int. et synderesis),

b) the infused moral virtues are obtained together w. sanctifying grace,

c) the acquired moral virtues are obtained not by nature (it is not in the child yet) but by repetition of acts.[17] The merit consists more in the perfection of the virtue (or lo,goj) than in the effort made. The acts following the virtue will be done prompte, facile et delectabiliter (with the same merit).

C) increase: A science can augment, not only by the radication in the substance (inesse of the accident quality), but also and 2rly only by the object of science which can be extended to more conclusions. Quality (esp. virtues) does not augment by addition on the part of the substance, since addition says distinction and only one same kind of quality can exist at the same time in the subst.[18]

D) diminution : Can there be diminution of quality by corruption?

a) corruption per se : is obtained by the action of its contrary, eg. error corrupts science

b) corruption per accidens : when the subject disappears bec. accidentia sunt suppositorum.

c) diminution : could only be in the same mode as the increase ie. by subtraction (for quality there is neither addition nor subtraction properly speaking). C/f. theology explains that charity, eg., does not diminish properly by remiss acts or by venial sin, but is making man more apt to mortal sin.




 4. Relation



I. history


1)      Ar. was so convinced that relation is not a being having a certain content, but meant only that a thing is relative to another, that he used it against Plato’s theory of Ideas : for Plato, the Ideas of equality and unequality are subsistent realities. But Ar. remarks that what is relative ta. pro,j tiv , cannot subsist (Mph V,15).

2)   S. Aug. introduces the concept of relation in theology about the H. Trinity (De Trinit V,5), but he notes that the ‘ad alium’ in God is not stg accidental.

3)   Boethius says that relation, which does not belong per se to a subject, is said of it from the outset when the term of comparison is present, adds nothing to being nor takes anything back : he seems to reduce it to an ens rationis.

4)   Ockham denied the reality of relations, whereas in modern times, Locke considered them as added to the simple ideas “something else separate and exterior to the existence of that thing” really denying its existence, as well as Hume later on. Such denial led Kant to consider relation as a subjective a priori category of the h. intellect.

5)   W. James on the contrary affirms that we have a real experience of the relations (feelings...) but he has another notion of relation.



ii. existence and notion


1)   Objection and Answer:

A) Objection : Entia non sunt multiplicanda[19]. We do not need to add relation as a being since we already have the foundation of the relation as a real accident. Eg. the active generation is real, not paternity.

B) Answer : the beings of the universe do not exist separately but in relation to one another. Harmony, equilibrium, respect, adaptation are not things, yet they certainly exist as relations between things. “Perfectio et bonum quae sunt in rebus extra animam, non solum attenditur sec. aliquid absolute inhaerens rebus, sed etiam sec. ordinem unius rei ad aliam; sicut etiam in ordine partium exercitus bonum exercitus consistit; huic enim ordini comparat Philosophus ordinem universi”.[20] 

C) Relations are maximi momenti since they establish the hierarchical order of beings (giving unity to the universe). Through them, the superiors perfect the inferiors, the inferiors are ordered to the superiors, the whole is ordered to God as first cause and ult. end. Sciences try to discover the order of the universe. Man as an individual will perfect himself in as much as he lives in accordance with this natural order.

2)   Relations real or of reason

some relations are only concepts of the mind (which itself places the connection ad aliud : eg. ‘the same is identical to itself’ needs the mind to divide what is one same thing; the relation between being and non-being; the logical relation between genus and species).

-        other relations exist before we think of them (based on actio/passio like paternity-filiation).[21]

-        others are non mutual relations (real in one sense, of reason in the other: between the knower and the thing known, only one is modified; cf. relation of creation).

3)   Thus ST. concludes :

A) that relation has a double aspect :

a) as an accident, it has the esse in subjecto.

b) as a relation or order, it has the esse ad aliud, ‘quasi in aliud transiens’.

B) That is why he considers it as the accident which has the last esse and most imperfect esse :

a) the last bec. it comes not only after the subst. but after other accidents out of which it is formed.

b) the most imperfect bec. its esse depends not only on the esse of the subst. but also of another exterior thing.[22]

4)   Definition :

A) Relatio est  accidens cuius totum esse est ad aliud se habere.

B) The predicamental relation needs 3 elements :

a) the subject in which the relation is found.

b) the term with which the subject is related.

c) the foundation, by which the two terms are related.



iii. division




cum dependentia

in esse

mensurantis - objectum

                    - exemplar




non mensurantis (p. actionem):4 causae

sec. esse


sine dependentia

in esse

- sec. subst: identitas

- sec. qltt : similitudo

- sec. qtt : aequalitas



Relatio sec. dici (transcendentalis[23]) : ordo entis absoluti per se ordinati[24]


The relations are said of reason whenever one of the 3 elements of the real relation is missing, eg. :

- relation bet. concepts (species and genus) : bec. neither the extremes nor the foundation are real

- rel. of identity with myself : there are no 2 extremes.

- rel. with one of the extremes unreal : relation of the present with the future (time), of being with nothingness (space).

- rel. which corresponds to a non mutual relation (knowing, creating) has a real foundation only in one of the terms, not in the 2d (object known or God are not really changed by the relation). In this case, the foundation is not real bec. it does not affect the subject.


            4) properties of relation


1.    non habet contrarium 

2.    non suscipit magis et minus.

3.    dicitur ad convertentiam (mutual implication)

4.    est simul natura

5.    est simul cognitione.




5. the Problems of Substance




I. the principle of individuation


            1) the fact of individuation of substances


1)   There exists things of equal species (essence) having the same degree of being, yet numerically distinct (singular from each other and multiple as a whole).

2)   The principle of the specific identity is the form (which gives ‘vertical’ diversity).[25]

3)   The principle of the numerical distinction is matter which, as a receptive potency[26], multiplies and singularises the form (which gives ‘horizontal’ diversity).


            2) the principle of individuation


1)   Multiplication of the essences :

A) The plurality of individuals of the same species supposes necessarily a distinction of form and matter, and ultimately a composition of pot/act. On the other hand, a pure form is necessarily one and individual.

B) the first principle of the numerical multiplication of the species is matter as receptor of form.

C) Objection/Reply  :

Obj Mat. I is pure indetermination.How can something indeterminate determine/distinguish? 

Reply : the substantial form must somewhat intervene.

2)   Singularisation  of the essences [27]:

A) The fact of singularity : individuals participate in different degree in the perfections of the specific form (men are intelligent in different degrees); the common form participated becomes this or that, it becomes a singular distinct being.

B) the principle of individuation : Materia signata quantitate.

a) Materia I per se cannot singularize the individuals, unless it is affected by the accident quantity, which distinguishes part from part. The distinct bits and pieces of quantified matter individuate the subst. form by contracting it to this matter and not to that one.

b) But such an accident can come only to the complete substance : made of I Mat. + Forma S.

c) hence, there are 3 moments :

i the form actuates I Matter and allows the coming of quantity;[28]

ii quantity gives dimensions to matter and renders it individual, with its concrete dimensions,[29] making it this matter distinct from all others;

iii individuated matter can individuate the substantial form.

3)   Individuation of accidents (III 77,2): Accidents are also individual and singular (my science is not yours!). How does it happen?

A) Accidents are not individuated by Mat.I, but by their proper subject (quasi materia) : the subst.

B) The accident of quantity has a particularity that it serves as support of all material accidents, it being subjected in the substance. Thus the material accidents are affected by quantity (III 77,2).

C) Theological application : the eucharistic accidents remain singular despite the disappearance of the substance, because they are subjected in quantity.

ii. the subsisting subject.


            1) s.q.


1)   Objection/Reply :

A) Objection : the nature (i.e. individuated essence, e.g. this humanity) seems to be identical to the substance (Peter), since :

Petrus = homo (essentia univ.) + principium individt = essentia individuata.

B) Reply :

a) the individuated nature of Christ is not a person.

b) subst/essence = whole/formal part = quod est/quo substantia est. Subst. gives ontological sufficiency & autonomy.

2)   The question raised historically by the theological debate is in itself philosophical. What is the nature of the new element called subsistence which adds something to the nature and turns it into a substance?

3)   Properties of the subsisting subject :

A) individual : only the singular beings exist, since the esse cannot come to a universal nature, ens et unum convertuntur.

B) subsistent, it is that which exists, exercises the act of being.

C) incommunicable, i.e. it cannot be communicated to another being (Subst. form can be communicated to another matter).


            2) diverse opinions


1)   Scotus :

A) position : subsistence is stg negative, since it denies the communication of this nature to another substance (haecceitas = subsistence = singularity).

B) Objection to Scotus: that which gives the perfection of  personalitas cannot be purely negative.

2)   Suarez :

A) position : since esse = essentia, subsistence perfects (and comes after) both the essence and the esse. Thus subsistence is a mode of perfection which comes to the already existing being.

B) Objection to Suarez : Esse is the ultimate act, really distinct from the essence : the substance cannot receive any further essential perfection after receiving the esse.

3)   Capreolus :

A) position : esse = subsistentia.

B) Objection : esse is a principle ‘quo’, and prerequires the subject established as ‘quod’.

4)   Cajetan, John of ST, alii : Subsistentia = modus substantialis positivus terminans naturam in linea essentiae.


            3) s. thomas[30]


1)   the concept of Person :

A) Definition of person [31]:

a) from Boethius : Naturae rationalis individua substantia.

b) from ST : Subsistens in rationali natura[32].

B) Individuality : ‘individuum autem est quod est in se indistinctum ab aliis vero distinctum’, which could be said of accidents, but more properly of the substance. 

C) Unity : ‘ens indivisum’. The independence in the operation comes from the unity in its being.

D) totality : “in the supposit, there is included the nature of the species, and certain other things which are outside the notion of species (accidents and individuating principles). Thus, the supposit signifies the whole thing, which regards its nature as the formal and perfective part”.[33]

Subsistence : I 29,2 :



quidditas rei: what the definition means (or essence)

can mean


subsistence : existing per se not in another

2 things :

subject or supposit (what subsists

res naturae : included in a common nature


in the genus of subst.) called :

hypostasis or substantia: subject of accidts



“What these 3 words (subsistentia, res naturae, substantia) signify commonly in the entire genus of substance, the word ‘person’ signifies it in the genus of rational substances”.

a) The person ‘quod est perfectissimum in tota natura’, receives :

i from its nature, its spiritual mode of being,

ii from its subsistence, the full possession of self and incommunicability, sufficiency.

iii from the ‘esse’, the actuality of all perfection.

iv ccls : the dignity of the person, the peculiarity and perfection of its operation, is rooted in the riches of its act of esse (it has an ontological foundation, and not only a psychological one as Descartes thought).

b) The caracteristics of ‘image of God’ are manifested in man’s :

i liberty : “masters of their own acts, not only in so far as they are moved as other beings, but they work by themselves”[34] (directing themselves to their end, cum cognitione finis).

ii responsibility : free acts found the merit of a reward or of a chastisement.

iii love of friendship : only a person can be loved for its own sake and not as means.

iv order to God : the entire free human acting should be directed to the ultimate end, which gives unity to h. life.

2)   distinction between supposit and nature.

A) Cf. I 3,3 and 4 “Utrum sit idem Deus quod sua essentia vel natura; “utrum sit in Deo idem essentia et esse”; Quodl II 2,1-2 “Utrum angelus substantialiter sit compositus ex essentia et esse”, “Utr. in angelo sit aliud suppositum et natura”.

B) For ST, the distinction of supposit and nature exists only where there is real distinction of esse and essentia (cf. chapter V) : “in the signification of ‘nature’ is contained only that which belongs to the notion of the species; but the supposit has also all the other things which are added to it ‘quae ei accidunt’; and thus, the supposit indicates the whole, whereas the nature indicates the quiddity or formal part.”[35] Thus he concludes as a general law that “cuicumque potest aliquid accidere[36] quod non sit de ratione suae naturae, in eo differt res et quod quid est, sive suppositum et natura.”

C) The distinction between nature and supposit is founded on the distinction per se and per accidens, and not on the distinction of matter and form (which both include) nor of universal and particular (both are singular).

3)   Relation between supposit and nature :

A) ST junior used, ST senior did not, the distinction of essence and ex. to prove the distinction of supposit and nature since the supposit includes existence whereas nature does not necessarily.[37]

B) This ‘esse’ is one of these ‘praeter essentiam’ which perfect the supposit :“Et ideo, licet ipsum esse non sit de ratione suppositi[38], quia tamen pertinet ad suppositum, et non est de ratione naturae, manifestum est quod suppositum et natura non sunt omnino idem in quibuscumque res non est suum esse”.

C) in the person, the esse ‘ut actus’[39] is the final and most universal thing which God gives to the creature, and the term and most perfect actuation of the essential principles.  This may allow us to deepen the mystery of Christ and say that his human nature does not ‘terminate’ in an ‘esse ut actus’ proper, but that it is terminated by the esse of the Word.

D) both esse (ut actus, in actu) can be said in abstracto of the person :‘the person is’, but only the esse in actu can be said in concreto, ‘this person is’. This observation of logic sheds much light on the obscure dispute about the ‘formal constitutive of the supposit’[40].


            4) conclusion[41]


1)   S.Q. Positions re. subsistence.

A) The Scotists : it is stg negative, a) the virtual (aptitudinalis) negation of the natural dependence on another subject to exist, b) the actual negation of dependence on the div. supposit by obediential pot.

B) Capreolus, Complutenses, Billot, etc. It is stg positive added to the nature itself, the esse ut actus, the substantial existence of the essence.

C) Cajetan, John of ST, Salmanticenses, Bañez, say it is stg positive, but only in the line of the nature, and not of existence.

2)   The position of Capreolus is in line with the thomistic principles :

A) to subsist = to be. As the being of the accidents is ‘to be in’ (inesse), the being of the substance is to subsist : hence to subsist is not really distinct from the substantial esse or actus essendi of the substance itself. Indeed the esse and essentia (individuated) constitute the ‘ens simpliciter’ and there would be a rupture in thomistic metaphysics if there was an intermediary betw. esse and essentia.

B) Christ is lacking nothing human. In this opinion, Christ is lacking absolutely nothing in his human nature in the line of the essence, and thus it can be integrally assumed by the Person of the Word in which it subsists by the divine esse. The other opinion of Cajetan followed by many thomists to this day states that subsistence is an extra determinator of the essence to line it up with existence. In this opinion, something would be missing to the humanity of Christ in the line of the essence; which is false. If the Cajetanists argue that this terminal mode indicates neither a perfection nor an imperfection, then they play with words, because in metaphysics, there is no ‘indifferent’ determination.

C) Person is different from the nature. In this opinion, we understand clearly why the supposit is the total principle (quod) of the being and of the acting and why the nature is the formal principle (quo).

Wisely the Angelic doctor said : “The esse and the operari come to the person from the nature, but in a different way in each case. For the esse belongs to the very constitution of the person, and thus under this aspect it has the ‘ratio termini’. And that is why the unity of the person requires the unity of the esse complete and personal. On the other hand, the operation is an effect of the person according to a certain form or nature”.[42]

D) Objection resolved.

a) Are there two esse in Christ? The ‘Quaestio de Unione Verbi Incarnati’ seems to say that yes, there is a double esse, a principal one (divine) and another secundary (of the h. nat.) (art.4).

b) However this difficulty is only apparent. ST denies that “Christ be simply (absolutely speaking) double according to the esse” (ad 1); thus the ‘esse’ according to the human nature does not belong to the supposit and does not have the value of ‘actus essendi’ except in a logical or existential sense.






1.    See ST comment. on Arist. Mph V, 7 ‘de potentia’; Mph IX ‘De pot. et actu’..

2.    Suarez asks whether the first division of being is that between being finite and infinite (D. Scotus), between being per se and per accidens (10 predicaments) and he concludes following D. Scotus. According to some thomists it would be the division into the 10 predicaments, but such division presupposes the division of being into act and potency, even in the priority of knowledge, act/pot. precedes the division into 10 predicaments.[43]

3.    The doctrine of act and potency is the ‘corner stone’ of thomism.[44] ST made his the completely original distinction Aristotle gave to the history of philosophy.

4.    The fundamental problem of the entire philosophy is that of the one and the multiple (occidental philosophy), or that of the time which flees away and death which comes in (classic Greece). It is the problem of becoming : does change mean to cease to be oneself?  Are you the same as this young lad in this old photograph?


I. notions


            1) distinction of ACT AND POTENCY


1)   Change : the first determination of Act and Potency comes from the analysis of change, problem solved unsatisfactorily until Aristotle gave the convenient answer with the distinction. The ‘battle of giants’ as Plato called it opposed :

A) Heraclitus : Omnia fluunt. Nihil est.[45]

B) Parmenides : Ens est.[46] Ex jam ente, non fit ens. Ex nihilo nihil. Ergo in utrisque,  nihil fit. Said in other words : if A is A and nothing but A, it is obvious that it cannot change and be but A (denial of change and of multiplicity).

C) Plato gave some element of response, by accepting the existence of a world of immutable things, and also of an indefinite substratum, cause of spatial extension and of multiplicity (which he called ‘a certain non-being’)

2)   Aristotle gave the definite solution to change and real multiplicity :

A) change is not the passage from non-being to being, but rather from the being without a certain perfection to the same being with that perfection. And this being without a certain perfection must be capable of it.

B) this ‘being wo perfection’ is prime Matter, absolutely undetermined substratum, which makes possible the passage from one substance to another. Thus change is not the process from a pure lack to a totally new thing, but the transition from a potentiality to a realization.[47] Hence the terminology :

a) the capacity to receive a perfection = Potency. It is not a mere privation, but a real capacity of receiving a certain perfection. Reality is made of things real and of real capacity of bg.

b) the lack in the subject = privation.

c) the new perfection possessed by the subject = Act (opposed & contradictory to the potency).

d) change : the actualization of the potency or transition from being-in-pot to being-in-act.



            2) the moderns and change.


1)   Descartes rejects scholasticism because, for him, the substantial form is a subsistent. The origin of the forms is solved by his theory of the creation of forms.

2)   Leibniz distinguishes matter and force (or energy, identified with the monad). The energy is unchanging since it is one (Leibniz recognizes the principle that change involves composition).

3)   Hegel in his dialectical panlogism reduces the becoming of reality to the becoming of the mind, (synthesis of contradictories like being and non-being) where the concrete unity of being consists in the perpetual process of becoming by the synthesis of contradictories which terminate with the life of the Spirit.

4)   Marx takes from Hegel the dialectical process and applies it to matter. Yet he still needs to explain how a contrary can pass into its contrary.

5)   Bergson considers the vital time (Duration) as the sole reality. This duration is identified with the pure change which occurs wo mobile : “There are changes, but under the changes, there are no things changing : change needs no support” [48]. Existence would thus vanish!  He replies that on the contrary “change may be what is most substantial and durable in this world”. “The duration is the prolongation of the past into the present and is the basis (le fond) of our conscious existence;” it is “the continuation of that which is no more into that which is[49]. Evolution becomes really creative, it produces something totally new. There is no identity along the real time and, in that way, the future is unpredictable : “the possible does not precede the act”, “it is the real which becomes possible, and not the possible which becomes real”.

6)   Sartre says nothing different : there is no hidden potency behind the act which would make it possible; there is not, before existence, a hidden essence which conditions it. I am  the series of my acts, the series of my actions is my existence, it is by sheer existing that I give myself an essence...


            3) act


1)   Ar. invented the words designating the act (opposed to potency). evntele,ceia (realization of the end/perfection in oneself; accomplished being), and  evne,rgeia (activity, force). It is said firstly of the sensitive activity, motion, since to do or to make is the most manifest. In our own experience, to make or become something is always the realization of a possibility. Hence we distinguish reality, ‘being’, into what is really (what has become, what is perfect and terminated) from what can still become or be actuated. Hence the words ‘posse’ distinct from ‘esse’. Finally we may conceive an act or perfection which may not be the result of a becoming but which is always in pure actuality : the ‘actus purus’, the absolute reality and plenitude of being wo potentiality whatsoever. There is:

-        the being which is,

-        the being by which being is (accident)

-        the being which can be (seed can become tree; wood can become a table)

There is

-        the non-being which is nothing.

-        the non-being which is receives the act :

2)   It is a primary notion, undefinable, and is obtained by induction from particular cases.

3)   Actus est quando res est, non tamen est sicut in potentia.

4)   Definition : Actus est entitas  perficiens et determinans rem in suo ordine.

            4) potency


1)   Name : du,namij (potentia in latin) in the Corpus Hippocraticum designates the actions of a sickness, the exterior manifestation of the hidden nature. Against the Megaric school which identifies the potency with its realization, Aristotle remarks that a faculty still exists whether used or not and, before the change, there must exist an aptitude to become the new thing.[50] He defines potency as : “the source of change or of movement in some other thing, or in the same thing in so far as it is different, as well as the source of a thing moved by another thing or by itself.”[51]   


2)   Ar.[52] explains that potency is said in different ways : the mathematical or logical potency (= mere possibility, called strangely ‘potentia objectiva’, vs ‘subjectiva’ which is in a concrete subject) is said equivocally. Then, he goes on to distinguish the transitive and immanent potency (see above p.79), of analogical meaning.

3)   Potency is essentially ordered[53] to its act (Potentia dicitur ad actum), and thus, it is also a self evident notion but not first since it is known in reference to the act.

4)   Defintion : Potentia est entitas imperfecta capax perfectionis.


            5) act and potency


1.    Potency is distinct from act Clear whenever they are separable, yet even in inseparable cases, they are really distinct, the capacity for a given perfection is not the given perfection. The potency does not disappear when it is actuated, since it is the receptive subject of perfection.

2.    Pot. and act are correlative terms. They are not complete realities (except the one pure act), but pples of reality, and this makes it hard to know them since we know the concrete being.

3.    Ar. used examples to describe them : the act is a being realised or an activity like ‘being in the process of building’ (vs the capacity of building) and ‘to see’ (vs to be able to see). Pot. and act are distinct as imperfect and perfect. The tree is not an act in seed, in fieri, it is clearly exclusive of it because he who has the potency to know ‘does not know’, the marble which is not yet carved ‘is not statue’. To have the potency to become an architect means first and foremost that one is not an architect. Likewise, the act is not a being-which-is, it is only a quo which does exist only when united to its corelative and complementary matter[54].

4.    potency is not mere privation, but the real capacity of the plenary and perfective act.

5.    All that which exists is either pure act or a mixed being of act and potency.

it has act : this is so bec. that which is real is act,

it has potency because without a potency or possibility, change makes no sense (a totally new thing would appear instead of the old one which would totally cease to exist as the Megarics said).[55] Multiplicity wo potency would not exist either since a perfection can be multiplied only by being received and limited by different subjects.

6.    pure potency cannot exist by itself since it is not something, it is only indetermination and capacity for change, it exists only in a thing, by which it is known. I Matter is not a thing which exists, but that by which material things exist in so far as they are material. It is a ‘tertium quid’ between being and nothing (sec. quid being, sec. quid non being).[56]


ii. division




increata (85)

purus (irreceptus) (3,1-2; 7,2; 9,1;12 1)





incorp        - int. agens

orea    - charact. sacdt

intgblizare  incor-

sacra dare   poreus








corp          - vegetativa

orea          - resistentia

vegetare  corpo-   resistere         reus


Actus 2us







incor        - intellectus porea          - voluntas

intelligere  incor-

velle           poreus



creatus et opera






corpo              - sensus

rea            - irascibilis

         - concupiscibilis

sentire        corpo-

irasci             reus






in ordine ad









essentialis     - Mat IIa

                       - Mat Ia

- forma accdtls

- forma substls





Re. the mode of activity :

-        the natural agent acts on a natural potency

-        the non natural agent acts on the obediential potency.


iii. priority between act and potency.


1)   perfection : something is perfect in as much as it is in act, imperfect in as much as it is in pot. (S.C.G I 28). Hence the act is the end of the potency : potentia dicitur ad actum.

2)   knowledge : the potency is known by its act. Through the act we can know and define it since we define in the way we know : Aliquid cognoscibile est inquantum est actu.

3)   causality : Nihil agit nisi in quantum est actu[57]. Nihil patitur nisi in quantum est in potentia. Potentia non movetur ad actum nisi per ens in actu.[58]  Hence the other causal principle : Omne quod movetur ab alio movetur (I 2,3 #1).

4)   time / generation:

A) in the same subject : the potency precedes the act as the imperfect the perfect.

B) in absoluto (in the species): a previous cause in act must precede the potency which is to be actuated. Since every potency requires a previous act, there is a Pure Act (1ª via of I 2,3).


iv. the multiplicity and limitation of beings


1)     history

1)   The Ionians admitted a unique and universal substratum (water, undetermined, air) which would absord all beings.


2)   Heraclitus sees the plurality of the contraries, saves the unity of the universe by his theory of the harmonious accord of the contraries (convergence of opposite types : music. chord sharp/low).


3)   Parmenides : all things are. The universe is rigorously ‘one’ as being, all diverstity is apparent and not really being.


4)   Pythagoras explains beings by the numbers : numbers are unintelligible wo intervals between each number, which must be the ‘void’. The void, the lack of ‘what beings are made of’,  would thus be the principle of multiplicity. The concept of void will be perfected and become the potency of Aristotle.


5)   Plato proclaims the ‘non-being existing’ and thus saves the diversity of the forms. For each form, to be what it is means not to be (non-being) what others are. ‘Non-being’ becomes ‘other’, or ‘genus’ (cf. Sophist). He speaks of a composition of the beings from 2 principles, one of which explains the unity, the other the multiplicity : each being is the result of the mixture of the limit with the unlimit (‘Parmenides’, ‘Philebe’).


6)   Aristotle accepts the thesis of the composition of being, and conceives the principle of unity and of determination as being the ‘entelekeia’ or form, and the principle of multiplicity and of undetermination as the potency or matter. The statue of Hermes can be multiplied thanks to the marble, but it is the statue of Hermes and not of Zeus by its form. Matter multiplies the form (principle of unity) : solution of Ar. to the problem of the multiple and one.


7)   notion of finite and infinite :

A) The Greeks had of  u,.brij‘infinite’ the concept of indefinite, something unfinished, shapeless, unprecise, formless. The finite was the well made, the finished, the perfect (per-factum).

B) The Christians use the term infinite about the perfection of God’s essence. Indeed, attributed to matter, infinite is lacking precision and being and perfection as the Greeks understood it; attributed to the forms, infinite indicates the pure unreceived forms (God, angels, among the Christians), which says perfection.[59]

C) S. Bonaventure esteems that the only means to safeguard the transcendence of God over the angels, is to admit in them a spiritual matter. ST says that this ‘spiritual matter’ is contradictory, and affirms that the privilege of God is not His spirituality but His absolute actuality whereas angels have some potentiality. ST’s principles are that the act as such is infinite, and becomes finite and multiple only when it enters in composition with some receptive potency.[60]

8)   Duns Scotus thinks that the act or perfection is not per se infinite, and that it could be finite by itself wo reference to potency. Suarez also thinks that the finite act is finite by itself, and that the infinite act is infinite by itself. The act by itself has the limitation which ST attributes to potency. Potency is only a diminished act. The suarezians are  opposed to the thomist ontology on the infinitude and the unicity of pure act.

1)     1º thomistic thesis

1)   Thesis : “Potentia et actus ita dividunt ens ut quidquid est, vel sit actus purus, vel ex potentia et actu tamquam primis atque intrinsecis principiis necessario coalescat.”[61]

2)   consequences       

A) some beings are changeable and multiple : such beings are composed internally of act/pot.[62] 

B) potency is a pure relation with the act, totally determined by act. Thus it is indefinite ‘infinite’ (in the Greek sense), and can never be alone : there is no pure potency.[63] 

C) If there is a being immutable and not multiple, it will have to be simple or not composed : such a being will be what it is, pure, simple, unique.


            3) 2º thomistic thesis

1)   Thesis : “Actus, utpote perfectio, non limitatur nisi per potentiam quae est capacitas perfectionis. Proinde, in quo ordine actus est purus, in eodem nonnisi illimitatus et unicus exsistit; ubi vero finitus ac multiplex, in veram incidit cum potentia compositionem”.[64]


2)   consequences :

A) Act (perfection) is per se infinite and unlimited, because limitation adds privation and suppression of perfection. Thus, limitation is contradictory to pfct & act. So an act which would be principle of its own limitation would mean presence and absence of perfection : absurd![65]

B) Act is limited by the receptive potency (potentia ad esse, re. actus primus, forma) but not by the active potency (potentia operandi, re. actus 2us, operatio).[66]  The receptive-static potency to become is essentially receiver and limitator, measure or ‘mensurans’, and thus ‘quidquid (actus) recipitur modo recipientis (potency) recipitur’. Actus non limitatur nisi per potentiam.

C) Act can be multiplied only by the receptive potency. A perfection pure in its order (whiteness per se) cannot be found in two unless these two differ, i.e. if one has something which the other does not. Thus whiteness is multiplied only if it is found composed with a ‘something’ . Actus non multiplicatur nisi per potentiam. Being receiver and subject, the potency is principle of multiplication of the act in the same way as it is principle of limitation. A perfection which would not be received would remain unique, and would not be numerically multiplied (cf whiteness is found in many because there exist diverse subjects which receive and define and limit it). For that reason, God who is pure act unreceived is one.

D) Act/Pot = participated/participant : To participate is to receive a part of something (a perfection). The subject which participates is distinct from that which it participates, and distinct also from the unparticipated or essential perfection. Thus translated into the binome Act/Pot, the subject capable of perfection (Pot.) is the participant participans, and the perfection (act) received is the thing participated participatum. In particular, with regards to the actus essendi, every perfection is participans. Only God is His esse, because only He is act by essence.

Act/Pot : correlative incomplete principles of one being : they do not destroy the unity of the concrete being. This is bec. potency is not but can be, and is by the act. Likewise, all acts we know of need to be concretized or received in a particular potency in order to be real.


[1] See Gardeil, Cosmology, ch. II, pp 19 ff., where the author explains at great length the watertight argumentation of Aristotle on the analysis of change and the need of a tertium quid : form, privation of form, prime matter.

[2] Metaph  VII, 1 #1028.

[3]The pantheism of Spinoza comes from his wrong definition of substance (he equates perseitas with aseitas) : substance = per se = God. Thus for him, there is no other substance than God : all is one, God.

[4]things immutable in substance, and mutable only per accidentia, are said to belong to the duration of aevum (cf. Cosmology); things mutable in both, to tempus, immutable in both to aeternitas.

[5]‘angel’ is certainly much less a genus than animal [which is common to cat and dog, by the fact of  having a sensible body], angels don’t share matter, and their species is totally distinct!

[6]Against Bañez, who affirmed that accidents had their proper accidental esse, we maintain that the subst. alone exists and that the accidents become real by the being of the substance  (Cf. De Veri. 27,1 ad 8; I-II 55,4 ad 1). Other texts suggest that there is such an esse accidental since a new mode of being real and accidental results in the substance. Moreover it is ncssy to distinguish in the accident its form from its esse : “IV Sent d.12, q.1,a.1, ql.3 ad 5 : “Cum accidentia habeant esse et essentias proprias et eorum essentia non sit eorum esse, constat quod aliud est in eis esse et aliud quod est”; SCG IV 14 “oportet quod eorum esse sit superadditum super esse substantiae et ab ipso dependens” (Quodl IX, 2,2).

[7] Quoted by ST I 77 1.

[8] The object is still the pple of specification of the faculty, but the subject remains the principle of exercise and, for that reason, deserves to be called agent : Peter is the agent of the action of thinking, by means of the concept-object brought to his attention.

[9]I 77,1

[10] I 77, 6

[11] I 77, 5. Forrest p.274 in La structure métaphysique du concret selon ST :  “A being is not perfect without its potencies, and if essence had a separate existence, it would be stg indeterminate and abstract. It is bec. the essence is not complete in itself that, like all other metaphysical complements, it becomes possible to join these incomplete realities together with what perfects them, and to preserve also the unity of the substance.”

[12] Habitus is so extrinsic to a being that it is itself a distinct substance, e.g. a garment : proper to man and English dogs!

[13] Distinct from place, it is clearly a derivative of it.

[14]Sophist 246e

[15]Desc. denies the real distinction of substance and accidents.

[16] Passions are important in moral life since they affect the morality of the human act. Passions and the h. conduct are the immediate matter of virtue : cf. temperance is a virtuous habit impressed (as a form) on the sensible concupiscible appetite, always imperated by, and under the control of the will, in order to rectify the use of the concupiscible appetite and espec. the passion of concupiscence and human conduct.

[17] The virtue-habit properly consists in the ‘radication’ or inherence of a lo,goj-recta ratio- in the soul, which can be obtained just with fewer acts if they are intense enough, and done with more knowledge of the recta ratio. A student who concentrates well on what he does will get the proper virtue/habit rapidly, but never in one act.

[18]II II 24,4-5.

[19]Ockham’s rasor, which does away with real distinctions of things inseparable.

[20]De Pot 7,9

[21]paternity is real, ask your father if it changes him or not!

[22]C.G. IV 14 ‘quamvis autem...’

[23]transcendentalis bec. it is found in more than one part. predicament.

[24]notion used from the XVth cent. as the  ordination included in the essence of something. Such ‘relations’ are not accidents because they are identified with the substance itself (equivocally termed ‘relatio’); e.g. the substance of matter is that it has a transcd. relation to its form, the faculty of sight consists essentially in its relation to its proper object, without which it disappears.

[25]We saw above the problem and solution of the individuation of  spiritual substances.

[26]the act is rendered multiple by the potency (see ch. on Act/Pot).

[27] III 77, 2; IV Sent d. 12, I 1 sol. 3 ad 3. In Fabro, Metafísica, p.133 ff..

[28]Position of the Ferrariense and Capreolus vs Cajetan who thought that the pple of individuation was prime matter as the root of quantity (pure I Matter wo actual qtty). ST sums up the mutual correlative help of form and matter-qtty “corporeity is given by means of the form and the individuation of the form comes thanks to the matter” (see Summa C.G. IV 65).

[29]Such a quantity is not yet perfectly determined, since the determined actual qtty will vary continuously and could not be the principle of individuation. The undetermined qtty, nevertheless, suffices ‘ut signet materiam’ to signalize I Matter and give it a hic et nunc. It explains also why the individual remains the same despite a perpetual change in the determinate quantity.

[30] excerpts taken from a work of Fr. A. Calderon, from La Reja : ‘Ser y persona’.

[31]the Greeks had difficulties in distinguishing clearly the term person from nature.  They used  persona (personage) pro,swpon , and then the Greek equivalent of ‘substantia’ u`po,stasij , and then ou,vsia , which gave rise to many difficulties in the 4th cent. betw. Xians and Arians, and between Christians in the East and the West.

[32]I 29,3

[33]III 2,2

[34]I 29,1

[35]Quodl II 2,2; which nature nevertheless in the case of material substances includes matter, common matter, e.g. humanity includes certain flesh-bones.

[36]this ‘accidens praeter essentiam’ means simply the accidents distinct from the proper accidents.

[37]De ente 4.

[38]since esse never comes in the definition of anything, as it is given to the individual, which is not definable.

[39]esse ut actus = esse distinct from essence; esse in actu = the concrete existing thing, composed of esse et essentia.

[40]Fr. Calderon, who follows the position of Capreolus that subsistence is no different from existence thinks that Cajetan and the other adversaries of Capreolus confused the esse ut actus and the esse in actu. Thus they confused the issues by not distinguishing sufficiently the abstract terms from the concrete whole. The problem of subsistence is an ontological problem and must dissociate elements which are one in concreto.

[41]C. Fabro, curso de metafísica, p.146.

[42]III 19,1 ad 4.

[43]cf in III Phys. lect.2, #285 “Pot. et actus, cum sint de primis differentiis entis”; in V Metaph. l.9 #889 “dividit ens per pot. et act; et ens sic divisum est communius quam ens perfectum(i.e. in the predicts); in omnibus enim praedictis quae significant decem praedicamenta, aliquid dicitur in actu et aliquid in potentia”;  XI Mph l.9 #2289; SCG II 54 “Pot. autem et actus dividunt ens commune”.

[44]this is the foundation of the keystone of Thomism : the distinction of esse/essentia.

[45]it is the philo. of pure becoming without a something becoming, a flight wo a bird, a word without a speaker. Which inevitably leads to the acceptation of contradiction. He terminated with monism : all things are all things.

[46]affirmation of the principle of identity. He also concluded in world monism : ens est unum solum.

[47]Mph 1049 b24 : “the being in act is always engendered from a being in potency”.

[48]La Pensée et le mouvant, p.185.

[49]Evolution créatrice, p.18, Durée et Simultanéité, p.61-62.

[50]Mph IX,c.iii.

[51]Mph V 12, #1019a 15.

[52]Mph IX c.1

[53]Potency has a transcendental relation to its corresponding act. In fact, there is no transcdtl relation which is not of a pot. relatively to its proper act or object which, for apprehensive and appetitive faculties, operate as the specifying agent of the faculty.

[54]ST, De principiis naturae, (beginning).

[55]refuted by Ar. Mph #1046 b29; ST IX lec 3 # 1795 ff.

[56]A false common opinion jugded the I matter to be one and the same thing (like some matter spread out in space) present in different things. Yet we cannot speak but of a multiplicity of potencies ordered to different acts (analogical term, wo a first analogate properly) cf. Cajetan, in Ia 75,6.

[57]S.C.G. I 28.

[58]I 3,1 The effect comes always from an agent, which must be in act in order to produce an effect.

[59]I 7,1.

[60] “et propter hoc dicitur in libro de Causis prop.16, quod intelligentia est finita superius, in quantum scil. recipit esse a suo superiori; sed est infinita inferius, in quantum non recipitur in aliqua materia” I 50,2 ad 4.

[61] Potency and act so divide being that whatever exists is either pure act, or is necessarily composed of potency and act as its first intrinsic principles.

[62] ‘Pontificat’ once dead becomes requiescat, something remains of what it was previously wo being totally the same : it reveals a common substratum (I Mat, or potency) and a change (from old form to new forms fr. desintegration). ‘Pontificat’ is distinct from ‘Canonicat’ yet also cat : the multiplicity reveals some composition of stg idem (form,Act) and stg distinct (body, potency).

[63]Potency is mere capacity and has not even a tiny bit of act : what can become Pontificat or requiescat is in itself neither cadaver nor cat. That which receives the form ‘cat’ is not by itself cat. Thus, the potency essentially says aptitude to be this or that which implies the exclusion of this and that!

[64] Act, because it is perfection, is not limited except by potency, which is a capacity for perfection. Consequently, in any order in which act is pure, it cannot but be unlimited and unique; wherever, on the other hand, it is finite and multiple, it enters into real composition with potency.

[65]vs Suarez.

[66]The active potency is operative : the science of the architect, the force of the farmer. Such power or knowledge supposes a certain formation to execute specific acts.

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