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

Chapter V



23. According to the Rosminian system Being is one, and cannot be otherwise than one. Nevertheless it has three aspects -- ideal, virtual, initial. "Let us remark with Rosmini," writes Monsignor F***, "that man does indeed by nature intue Being, which of itself is ideal, is virtual, is initial. It is ideal, as having no other existence than that of being intued by the mind. It is virtual as containing virtually its own terms and it is initial as being the beginning of all beings and of all entities."{1} This threefold consideration is in Being, as regarded by abstraction from its three forms (from which however in itself it cannot ever be separated) and as such it is called also dialectic. "This Being, thus understood, and prescinded from its Forms," writes Monsignor F***, "is called by Rosmini dialectic Being; that is to say, such that one does not perceive it isolated and divided from its forms, except in the manner in which it is so intued by the mind."{2}

In short, Being per se is one, is indivisible, is uncreated, and in God it is necessarily terminated by its three Forms, real, ideal, moral. Nevertheless it can be intued without regarding these Forms. It is then dialectic, and may be considered as ideal, as virtual, as initial, according to the definitions given above.

But how does this Dialectic Being come to be -- this dialectic Being that in the Rosminian system is promiscuously called ideal, virtual, initial, and sometimes most abstract? Rosmini said, in the Nuovo Saggio, that it was such of itself. These are his words: -- "When I call the idea of Universal Being most abstract I do not therefore mean that it is produced by the operation of abstracting, but only that it is by its Own nature abstract and divided from all subsisting beings."{1} But inasmuch as this Being, abstract by its nature and divided from all subsisting Beings, was too strange a thing to suppose, and was too like the indeterminate absolute of the German pantheists, he, in his Teosofia, makes it arise from the Divine abstraction, inasmuch as [according to him] the First Person, the Father, intuing the Word, restricts His look [sguardo] to His Being only, prescinding from subsistence. This Being, thus intued, is initial Being, which, as we have seen, is identical with virtual and ideal Being, and consequently with dialectic Being. These words therefore do not express a pure mental concept, a thing merely conceived by the intellect. They express the very Being of the Word, or the Divine Being, as responding firstly to God's intuition, and then to ours -- which intuition abstracts from subsistence. This requires to be carefully noticed, lest we should allow ourselves to be deceived by those changes of words to which the defenders of the Rosminian system have recourse against the objections put to them.

24. HOW MONSIGNOR F*** FALLS BACK ON DIALECTIC BEING FOR THE PURPOSE OF DEFENDING THE ROSMINIAN SYSTEM FROM THE CHARGE OF PANTHEISM. Monsignor F***, replying to Father Cornoldi, who by exhaustive evidence had shown the Rosminian system to be infected with pantheism, says : -- "Father Cornoldi denounces as pantheistic the following proposition: -- That the nature of Being is one and indivisible, not only in the order of cognition, but also in that of reality."{2} This proposition (put forth by Buroni) is a consequence of Rosmini's proposition, that initial Being is the beginning of the knowable, as of the subsistent. If those propositions are to be judged by people who have no knowledge at all of philosophy, such persons, by confusing the nature of Being, or initial Being, with substance, might easily draw the conclusion that there is only one substance, which would be genuine pantheism: but the same, when understood in conformity with the explanations given by the philosopher of Rovereto, and also by Father Buroni, are as far as possible from every sort of pantheism for they do not affirm that there is only one substance, but that there is only one dialectic Being, which is that to which all ideas and all real things are reducible."{3}

Any one who, without well considering the system, hears that this is merely a question about dialectic Being, might easily believe that he has to do with a pure conception, and say, "After all, it only means that there is one conception of Being, which represents indistinctly all existing things; and that is true."

But that is not the case before us. Dialectic Being, as we have said, is the same thing, though in a different respect, as initial Being: and initial Being is the same as the Divine Being, only abstracted from subsistence. Nor can it be otherwise: for it is not a question of a simple conception, but of an intuition which discerns the object as present in itself. "Existing to our intuition," says Rosmini, "is not existing in a manner purely relative to the intuing mind, but is first of all and necessarily existing in itself, as if the mind were not. In itself therefore does Being appear to the intuition."{4} Therefore the Divine Being Himself, one and indivisible, is as much the beginning of the Knowable as of the Subsistent, and is the universal actus of things made. Let us again hear what Rosmini says about this. "The finite Beings," he says, "that compose the world, result from two elements, i.e. from tlie finite real term and from initial Being, that gives to this term the form of Being [ente]. But initial Being is something of absolute Being, and absolute Being is the only one that can dispose of what belongs to itself. And therefore only the absolute Being, God, can be the Creator of the world."{5} Hence he consistently infers that when a finite Being is destroyed, the Being which actuated it is not destroyed, but only the form which determined that Being. "Being," he says, does not perish, even if the real be annihilated."{6}

25. TWO USELESS OBSERVATIONS. Monsignor F*** in order to clear the Rosminian system from the stain of pantheism, remarks firstly, that Being, taken by itself, does not constitute the Divine substance; and secondly, that this Being (common, or virtual, or dialectic) is only ideal.{7} But these observations are a mere play upon words. Respecting the first let it be granted, that to have the Divine Substance, Being alone, taken absolutely, does not suffice, but requires the terminations of the three Rosminian primordial Forms. Nevertheless it is certain that this Being is a part of God, is the Being (we are not saying the substance) of God, is an appertenance of God, as Rosmini says a hundred times. Wherefore, if Being itself (which according to the system, is one everywhere, identical, indivisible) informs the creatures -- entifies them, or makes them entia -- the Being of creatures must be the same as the Being of God, though differently terminated, i.e. terminated by secondary and contingent forms, which are not identical with it, but as suspended to it, added.

We have to say the same about the second observation. This common Being is only ideal or real according to the manner of regarding it. Inasmuch as it is terminated by real forms it is real. Inasmuch as it responds to the mind that fixes itself upon it, not considering the forms, nor denying them, it is ideal. In itself it is the same. Now we are speaking precisely as it is in itself, a parte rei; and of it we say, that according to the Rosminian system it is identical in God and in creatures, though terminated by different forms. The distinction lies in the forms; but such a distinction does not take away the unity, the identity of the substance of that which is common to them all. It is, to use Rosmini's similitude, the white cloth, which, as terminated by its extreme boundaries, represents God, while as terminated by the different eyelet holes of the lace laid on, it gives the creatures.{8}

26. LYDIUS LAPIS. To cut short all questionings and get out of ambiguities, let us set aside the subtleties about Being, with its numerous train, and come to a proof that will distinguish good doctrine from bad, as the stone called touchstone separates true gold from false. Certainly, according to the Rosminians themselves, the real finite things, creatures, have Being, are Being, are conjoined with Being, are actuated by Being. Nay, Rosmini tells us, all that is in real things is Being. "Why," he asks, "does one say absolutely, 'The stone is Being, man is Being, &c.?' Because I cannot in any way find in the stone or in the man anything that is not Being, however much and in whatever way I may decompose it in thought. Likewise all the differences of things are Being, and therefore it is said that all things are Being."{9} Now what we ask is this: -- We want to be told frankly and without circumlocution, whether this Being which all things are, which all things have, which is identified even with their most determinate differences, is created or not created. We want a precise answer, not an ambiguous and evasive one, such as this: -- That it may be called created, inasmuch as the term to which it is united is created, or inasmuch as its union is made in time, or something similar. No. We want to know whether intrinsically, a parte sui -- in its substantiality, so to speak -- in that which constitutes it, it is created, created in the sense of being brought out of nothing, which is the Catholic meaning of creation. If we are told in reply that in this sense the Being of creatures cannot be called created, pantheism is inevitable; for then the Being of creatures would be the very Being of God, which alone is uncreated. Nor will it avail to say sophistically that God is not Being only, but is Being terminated by its three Essential Forms; for pantheism is sufficiently shown by the identifying of the Divine Being with the Being of creatures, whatever distinction there may be on the part of the Terms.

Assuredly no one will deny its being pantheism to say that between God and creatures there is no other distinction than what there is between the Three Divine Persons. Now in the Three Divine Persons this precisely is verified, that Being is to them common and identical, the distinction being on the part of the Terms, i.e. of Their relative subsistence.

But if the answer is that the Being of creatures is truly created, in the sense of a true production from nothing, then undoubtedly pantheism is excluded; but on the other hand the Rosminian system, which is wholly founded on the Unity of Being, would be disowned. According to that System Being cannot be said to be either created or made,{10} but simply put [posto] or conjoined with finite real things, which, after all, are nothing more than mere negations or limits conceived in the same. It teaches this: -- That there is only One Being, uncreated, eternal, indivisible. That this Being, inasmuch as in its fulness it is comprised in and terminated by the three Essential Forms constitutes God. That inasmuch as in a limited way and in very various modes it is terminated by contingent and, so to speak, accidental Forms, it constitutes creatures. "Finite Reality," says Rosmini, "is not; but He" (God) "makes it to be by adding limitation to the Infinite Reality."{11} Wherefore the resolutive Formula of the ontological problem is the One-Many; The One is Being; the Many are the Forms or terms of the same, whether proper and necessary, or improper and contingent.

Now if it be admitted that the Being of finite Real things is created, such a system as the Rosminian falls to pieces, and consequently the pantheistic formula, the Onemany must be rejected. We must substitute for it the One Cause of the Many -- Causa exemplaris, efficiens et finalis. The One is God. The many are His creatures.

This accounts for Monsignor F***'s reserve and apparent hesitation. He never says that the Being of finite real things is uncreated. His orthodoxy forbids him to do so. But, as we pointed out before, neither does he say that it is created; for the system will not agree with that. He always keeps to the ambiguous words "put" or "given," which absolutely speaking, and without anything added, may be taken in either way. But then the equivocal must at last be given up, and one thing or the other plainly affirmed.

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