JMC : On Universals / by Matteo Liberatore, S.J.

Chapter IV.



16. Let us now come to the main point at which the whole treatise aims, and leave others behind, that are of minor importance. Monsignor F*** after remarking that all universals are centered in indeterminate Being [nell' essere indeterminalissimo], passes on to seek for the nature of this Being. We cannot follow him into all the particulars. We can only stop to consider the more important things. He, of course, attributes to this indeterminate and common Being an existence and unity of its own and in consequence affirms it to be predicated univocally of God and of finite things. "Though ideal Being," he says, "is not God, nevertheless, being one in itself, it is predicated univocally of God and finite things."{12} Moreover, to show that such a decision is not contrary to St. Thomas, who repeatedly says that nihil de Deo et aliis rebus univoce praedicatur,{13} he, with Rosmini, has recourse to a passage in which St. Thomas distinguishes Being that means actum essendi, from Being that expresses the copula of a proposition; as, when we say, for instance, Man is a rational animal.{14} He says therefore that what St. Thomas denies, viz, that anything can be univocally predicated of God and of creatures, is to be understood of Being in the former signification not in the latter. Granted: but does be not see that his remark is beside the question? The copula is not a predicate, but a simple sign of a mental view that unites a predicate to a subject. Significat compositionem quam anima adinvenit. But that is not the question before us. We are dealing with a predicate to be attributed and that is why the question concerns Being in the former sense, i.e. inasmuch as Being pertinet ad naturam rei. The mental view (that unites the predicate to the subject) is certainly the same respecting every proposition: but then, it is a subjective thing, not an objective one, whereas the Being that we are enquiring into is objective, and cannot be proper to God and to creatures in an entirely identical sense -- which is what "univocal" means. The Being that is proper to God is at once life, wisdom, goodness, power and every other absolute perfection, free from defects and limits. Not so in creatures. In minerals, for instance, there is being only. In plants there is life also, but in the lowest grade. In animals there is vegetative and sensitive life together, but deprived of other and very noble perfections [that human beings have]. Thus in no creature does Being reach to a resemblance of what Being is in God, though imitating it in one or another way imperfectly. From this it follows that Being, as regards God and creatures, is not univocal, nor entirely equivocal, but midway between the one and the ether, i.e. analogous.

This point is of no little moment, because the admission that, with respect to God and creatures, Being is univocal, ultimately leads to pantheism. Univocal predication is predication secundum eamdem rationem. Now Being, secundum rationem in which it is proper to God, is totally in God. Therefore it cannot, in the same ratio, be extended to other things, unless the Divine Being Himself extends Himself to them. And this precisely is the case in the Rosminian system; for this univocal Being is there stated to be Divine, and also to be a Divine appertenence appartenenza Divina.

17. IT IS NOT IN ANY GENUS. This is stated of Ideal Being, as a corollary of its existence: and here Monsignor F*** reasons very well. For, if this Being is one and universal, not by abstraction but by its own existence, it must he outside of every genus, not identifying itself with any. So far Monsignor F*** is in the right. But he is decidedly in the wrong when he tries to prove this opinion of his from St. Thomas, by bringing forward a passage in which the holy Doctor says that Ens is not a genus because it has no differences outside the conception of it. Monsignor F*** here falls into a fresh confusion, for it is one thing not to be a genus, and another to be outside of all genera. Outside of all genera is the Divine Being, which does not enter as determinable into any genus; but common Being, although by its universality it transcends the singular genera, enters nevertheless into each, though not comprehended in them. Nothing is more frequent in St. Thomas than his saying that Ens (commune) dividitur per decem genera. Now the divided thing is within its parts, not outside them. We should indeed be well off if after we had divided a thing, the thing divided remained entire as before, outside its parts. There would then be no more want in the world.

Being is certainly not divided by breaking in pieces, but by determination. It is found in each genus in a determinate manner. Substance is an Ens, but is in itself. This being in itself is a mode of Being, but includes Being, and is not distinguished from Being, though it is not expressed in the concept of Being abstractly considered, because an accident also is a being. This is what St. Thomas says about it: -- "Quod primo intellectus concipit quasi notissimum, et in quo omnes conceptiones resolvit, est ens: . . . . Unde oportet quod omnes aliae conceptiones intellectus accipiantur ex additione ad ens. Sed enti non potest addi aliquid quasi extranea natura, per modum quo differentia additur generi, vel accidens subjecto; quia quaelibet natura ESSENTIALITER est ens . . . . Sed secundum hoc aliqua dicuntur addere supra ens, in quantum exprimunt ipsius MODUM, qui nomine ipsius entis non exprimitur."{1}

18. IT IS, SAYS MONSIGNOR F***, THE FORM THAT CONSTITUTES THE ANIMA INTELLECTIVA. Another prerogative of this Being is that it constitutes the intellective soul. "If Ideal Being," says Monsignor F***, "is joined to the intellectual soul, as the form of the same, it therefore constitutes with the soul itself one only thing, in accordance with the decision, above referred to, of the angelic Doctor, that the Form in simple Beings is their nature itself, and constitutes the nature of composite Beings. Elsewhere the same holy Doctor says: -- Whatever is made the form of anything becomes one thing with the same. Here, however, it is necessary for us to distinguish between the subjective Form and the objective Form. It is certain that our soul, through being united with ideal Being, receives thereby the aptitude to intue it, which renders it the soul intellective, and that this aptitude is in the subject. Consequently, if by 'Form' is meant the said aptitude produced in the soul by union with ideal Being, the Form itself could not be otherwise than subjective. But if by 'Form' is meant Ideal Being itself, which is united to the mind, inasmumcb as it is intued thereby, the Form would then be essentially objective, and though it would indeed constitute one thing with the intellective soul, because by its lasting presence it would determine by the law of creation its nature i.e. of the intellective soul, yet it would always remain distinct, as the object cannot fail to keep distinct from the subject."{2}

Here he gets into a vicious circle; for he says that the human soul receives the aptitude to intue ideal Being by the fact of being united to it, and, on the other hand, that it is united thereto by the fact of intuing the same. So that the intuition would be before and after itself. It would be before, because it constitutes the union that gives the aptitude. It would be after, because it is the consequence of the aptitude. But never mind that. Let us consider the thing in itself.

By this opinion of his Monsignor F*** gives evidence of following Rosmini's theory, that the human soul, derived as sensitive from the parents, becomes intellective by the appearing to it of ideal Being.{3} I will not pause to show how absurd it is to suppose a substantial transmutation of a simple being, such as the soul, and the contradiction which there is in trying to make Ideal Being distinct from the Soul, as the object of its intuition, while constituting of itself one thing with the soul.{4} Everyone to his taste. But what I cannot tolerate is this: -- Monsignor F*** pretends that such doctrine is in conformity with that of St. Thomas, when the holy Doctor refers to it as an error maintained by some even in his time, and refutes it as destructive to the doctrine of the soul's immortality. Alii dicunt, he says, quod illa eadem anima, quae primo fuit vegetativa tantum, postmodum per actionem virtutis, quae est in semine, perduciter ad hoc ut ipsa eadem fiat sensitiva, et tandem ad hoc ut ipsa eadem fiat intellectiva, non quidem per virtutem. quia antequam esse habeat, nihil est, nisi forte in intellectu creantis, ubi non est creatura, sed creatrix essentia.{7} Each individual creature is, according to St. Thomas, composed of essence and existence. What has this to do with ideal Being understood as the essence, and real Being as the existence?

Monsignor F*** has recourse to another passage, where St. Thomas says that in the definition of composite substances the matter which enters into the definition is common matter, i.e. matter taken in the abstract, and not materia signata, i.e. in the concrete, or matter existing under determinate dimensions. But this has nothing to do with ideal and real forms. It belongs to another question, i.e. the principle of individualization.

Elsewhere Monsignor F*** recurs to materia signata, bent on finding somehow in St. Thomas the theory of the three forms. He says, "The holy Doctor establishes the principle that a thing is intelligible through its definition. By this he points out the ideal Form of Being." Further on Monsignor F*** mentions again what St. Thomas says about materia signata -- i.e. that by it individuals are multiplied in the same species and he adds, "Here we have in materia signata the Real form of Being." He even calls attention to the definition of virtue which St. Thomas takes from St. Augustine, and says: -- The moral forms, by the angelic Doctor, in concert with St. Augustine, is defined as a quality of the mind by which one lives rightly and which no one can abuse.{8} In this way we might prove anything out of St. Thomas. We have only to pick out here and there a passage that somehow can be twisted into what we want, and then assert boldly that the thing is demonstrated by the heip of the holy Doctor. But the fact is this: The first passage here quoted refers to real things, of which it is said that they become understood, inasmuch as their quiddity, expressed by the definition, is conceived. The second, as we have said, concerns the individualization of bodies. The third does not concern Being, but action, in which life in actu secundo is placed.

Lastly, Monsignor F***, being absolutely determined on finding the three Rosminian Fornms in St. Thomas, recurs to what is said by him of Being ens as true and as good. "In the sixteenth question," he says, "of the Summa Theologica, the angelic Doctor speaks of Being, in relation to the intellect and the will and says, that as Being, in relation to the intellect, is convertible with the true, so does the same Being, in relation to the will, take the nature of the good." He [Monsignor F***] then exclaims, "Who is there that does not see here expressed the concept of the three forms?"{9} No one would see it, except those who content themselves with appearances, instead of looking at the substance of things. St. Thomas' three concepts, Ens, Verum, Bonum, are convertible; and the three Rosminian Forms are not. We can say of every real thing that, by the fact of its being, it is true, and it is good. We can say, Est ens, ergo est verum, ergo est bonum. But we cannot say that what is ideal is also real and moral. We cannot say: -- Est ideale, ergo est reale: ergo est morale. If that were a fact, all possible things would exist, and every existing thing would be virtuous.

20. HOW THE THREE ROSMINIAN FORMS ARE FOUND IN GOD. In God they are found, according to this system, as essential to Being; and they constitute the three Divine Persons. "Although," writes Monsignor F***, "the three Forms of Being in God are His very substance, most simple, most perfect, most real, and therefore do not prejudice in the least the absolute Unity of God, nevertheless these Forms, even in God, retain that mutual opposition by which, be it carefully observed, they are distinguished, not from the Divine Essence or substance, but the one from the other; and in this way they are the Three Divine Persons. Wherefore God is one and trinal."{10}

To say the truth, this Rosminian manner of explaining the Most Holy Trinity by Three Forms of Being has always been unpleasant to me. First of all, it is a novelty; and with respect to dogmas, we ought not to depart from the language of the holy Fathers and scholastic Doctors, especially in speaking of this the highest of mysteries, concerning which we are advised by St. Thomas that cum cautela et modestia est agendum,{11} because it is very easy to err about that, and most dangerous to do so. In the second place, the Three Divine Persons must be constituted by three real though relative subsistences; whilst of the three Rosminian Forms the first only is said to be real. The second is ideal and objective. Thirdly: -- Between the Divine Persons there must be opposition, sufficient for distinguishing them really one from the other: but the opposition between the three Rosminian Forms is not such, being distinctly logical, not real. The Divine nature, as such, is not only Infinite Reality, but also Infinite ideality and Infinite morality. Each Divine Person is in all three forms -- real, ideal, moral. Between these forms we may indeed conceive a distinction of conceptions; but there is nothing to make us conceive that they are really distinct, any more than Verum is distinct (except ratione tantum) from Ens, or Bonum from Ens and from Verum. In Divinis the distinction of the Three Persons cannot be conceived without having recourse to the ratio of the WORD pronounced by The Intelligent, and of Love breathed by The Loving. In other words, we cannot conceive this distinction without the opposition of relation between the Person proceeding and the Person from whom He proceeds.

21. HOW BEING IS FOUND IN CREATURES. "If from the inaccessible height of the absolute most real Being," writes Monsignor F***, "we descend to real finite things, in order to investigate the relations in which the latter are to the Forms of Being, we find first of all that finite things are indeed real forms of Being, because they cannot subsist unless united in some way to Being, but are not Being itself."{12} And Rosmini makes the meaning of this clear by the similitude of coloured lace put on a white cloth. "If one considers," he says, "the relation which the finite terms of Being" (or forms of finite real things) "have with indeterminate Being that informs, according to nature, created minds, it is not possible to conceive that this Being is limited, determinate, finite, otherwise than by referring to it the finite terms, as when one applies to a white cloth some coloured lace-work, so that the cloth is not spoiled nor altered thereby, while nevertheless there appear on it coloured eyelets and links of the lace, and all the folds, intertwinings and groupings of the threads; and this because the beholder's eyesight unites those two things, by showing the one to be on the other [riportando l'una sull'altra.] In no other way than by such a confronting, which is done by the mind, could we conceive any difference in that indeterminate Being, uniform and totally most simple, and that is why, even after having been conceived by this glance [sguardo] as determinate, it appears to the other glance of the intuition indeterminate as before. In this relation, which the mind makes between the finite real and Being, it the mind finds the finite Being."{13}

But this finite Being, conceived by the mind as a finite term, a finite form limiting Universal Being, which Itself remains indeterminate as before, just as the eyelets of the lace do not affect the size of the cloth on which it is placed -- is it simply a manner of conceiving, or does it express what really takes place in nature?

22. MONSIGNOR F*** EVADES THIS. Rosmini would without hesitation grant the second member of this disjunctive, for he says, "The finite Beings that compose the world result from two elements -- that is from the finite real term, and from initial Being that gives to this term the form of Being."{14} Now, according to him, initial Being is nothing else than universal Being, as initiating the actus of the finite forms. In the example given it would be the white cloth, on which the lace is placed.

But Monsignor F*** seems to oscillate between the true doctrine, to which his just mind is attracted, and the false Rosminian conception to which the spirit of party{15} urges him on. After quoting a fine passage from St. Thomas, be comments on it thus : -- "From this decision of the angelic Doctor flow the two following most important corollaries -- 1. Before the Divine mind there is present, as a consequence of the perfect knowledge that God has of His own Essence, the universal nature of Being, or, universal Being, which is the abstract likeness of the Divine Essence itself. 2. God, knowing perfectly the universal nature of Being, simultaneously knows all the grades of beings, or the universal essences of things, more or less undetermined. So far we have not yet the real form of Being, because this does not depend for subsistence on God's knowledge only, but also on the decree of God's freewill, that calls it from nothing into existence. But, given this decree, what does The Lord do, by the act of creation, except conform real things in accordance with those entities that were ab aeterno before His Mind, so that according to the degree of that entity the finite real things also should imitate His Divine Essence? What then is the relation of real things to the Universal Essence and Universal Being? It is the relation of the copy to the model, of the determined to the undetermined. Hence it follows that the essences are not the real things, because, though the latter have in them that which is represented by the former, nevertheless the latter, i.e. the real things, depend, so to speak, on the former, i.e. on the essences, and not vice versa, since the model comes first, and then the copy."{16}

With the exception of a phrase here and there that is not quite exact, the rest of this passage is perfectly right. To say that essences are not real things is true of ideal essences that subsist in the Divine Mind as types, but is not true of the real essences, of which created things consist. If they are Beings, they have an essence; for every Being is what it is by its own essence, and therefore this essence is also called the quiddity, quod quid est. Again, we cannot approve of his assertion that the most abstract universal Being is the exemplar of finite real things. The exemplar is God, regarded, as St. Thomas points out, under the various aspects in which He is imitable by creatures. Abstract Being, by the fact of being abstract, cannot be called an exemplar. What would it present for imitation? Nothing, except the common ratio of Being. To call it an exemplar we must identify it with the very Being of God -- the immeasurable ocean of all perfections and this indeed is done in the Rosminian system, though Monsignor F*** apparently wishes to avoid doing so.

But, prescinding from these two things, the distinguished Prelate therein explains the Divine Ideas in accordance with St. Thomas. He distinguishes from them the entity of created things, and says that the latter are formed on the former (the Divine Ideas), as a copy on the model. It seems that the Being of which he speaks is taken by him to exist in the Divine Mind, and therefore to be distinct from the Being of which the creatures themselves are constituted.

But then, the Unity of Being, required by the Rosminian system, very soon forces him to speak in a totally different manner. Although he conceives Being as existing in itself he nevertheless calls it, with Rosmini, the universal actus by which things are.{17} Now the actus, by which things are, is intrinsic to the same, and is the chief part of their subsistence. Elsewhere he says, "Being is always one and identical, whether we consider it as subjective, or regard it as objective, or take it to be moral."{18} Here the conception is identified with the existence; for in the Rosminian system the objective signifies ideal, and the subjective signifies real.

Moreover we must point out the fact that Monsignor F*** continually avoids using the word "created" of the Being of finite things, and only affirms it to be "united," "given," without division or multiplication, to the forms of finite real things. Here again he has recourse to the authority of St. Thomas. "This doctrine," he says, "accords perfectly with that of St. Thomas, for the same is summed up in the three following propositions: -- 1. That real things exist inasmuch as they are united with Being, or have Being; wherefore it is said that Being, in the manner above explained, creates things. 2. That God is the One Supreme cause which unites Being to things. 3. That God creates by taking out of nothing the real things that He causes to subsist, by uniting them to Being."{19} It must be remembered that, according to the Rosminian system, real things are only terms or determinations of Being, and consist in the mere limiting of it.

Now, precisely because the Rosminian doctrine on the creation of things is summed up in those three propositions, it is not only not in agreement with St. Thomas' doctrine, but is the exact opposite. The holy Doctor never said that Being, understood in the Rosminian sense, creates things. He says that the Divine Being creates the Being of creatures in an imperfect likeness to Himself. Divinum esse producit esse creaturae in similitudine sui imperfecta.{20} He never said that God creates things by uniting them to Being, nor by uniting Being to them, but that He creates their very Being. Primus effectus (creationis), he says, est ipsum esse, quod omnibus aliis effectibus praesupponitur.{21} And elsewhere he says Cum Deus sit ipsum esse per suam essentiam, oportet quod esse creatum sit proprius effectus ejus.{22} Nay, St. Thomas says that the Being of things is created, precisely for the same reason that the Rosminians give for calling it uncreated -- i.e. because it is common. Esse est causatum primum, quod ex ratione suae communitatis apparet.{23} If he speaks once of attributing Being to the essence of creatures, he hastens to add that both the one and the other were created. Ex hoc ipso quod quidditati esse attribuitur, non solum esse, sed ipsa quidditas creari dicitur.{24}

St. Thomas not unfrequently says that God dat esse creaturis; but this dat, as he has so often explained, means creating it.

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