Archive for the ‘St. Thomas Aquinas’ Category

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St. Edith Stein on Phenomenology and Thomas Aquinas 2 – Freda Mary Oben Ph. D.

December 31, 2013
The pain of Edith's family was her cross. For her, it was a "deep abyss" separating her from her usual inner peace. A few days before she left her home forever, she wrote to a friend, Gertrud von le Fort: "You will help me, won't you, to beg that my mother will be given the strength to bear the leave-taking, and the light to understand it" (S-P, 158). But Edith knew that "...suffering borne in union with the Lord is his suffering, incorporated in the great work of salvation and made fruitful therein." She had chosen to enter Carmel for this work. Her family did not understand that her love for them and for all the Jews was now separating them.

The pain of Edith’s family was her cross. For her, it was a “deep abyss” separating her from her usual inner peace. A few days before she left her home forever, she wrote to a friend, Gertrud von le Fort: “You will help me, won’t you, to beg that my mother will be given the strength to bear the leave-taking, and the light to understand it” (S-P, 158). But Edith knew that “…suffering borne in union with the Lord is his suffering, incorporated in the great work of salvation and made fruitful therein.” She had chosen to enter Carmel for this work. Her family did not understand that her love for them and for all the Jews was now separating them.

Edith Stein’s conversion was not like Paul’s, sudden and dramatic. It was more like Augustine’s or John Henry Cardinal Newman’s: gradual, interior, accompanied by a good deal of intellectual wrestling. One night, while staying with friends outside Freiburg, Edith searched through their library looking for something to divert her for the evening.

She came upon Saint Teresa of Avila’s autobiography. She took the book off the shelf and stayed up all night reading it. The next morning she put down the text and declared simply, “That is the truth.” What precisely impressed her about the book is impossible to say. When pressed on the matter later, Edith replied, secretum meum mihi (that is my secret). It seems fair to conclude that the reading of Teresa’s Life was that galvanizing moment, the occasion for all of the strands to come together…
Robert Barron,
Catholicism

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One of the lectures which Edith Stein gave during these years at Speyer dealt with the topic, “The Intellect and the Intellectuals,” based on Aquinas. She gave many lectures on Aquinas, as well as on the woman, at conferences and over the radio. These were attended not only by women but by men; in fact, by priests. She became what has been termed “the intellectual leader” of the Catholic Women’s Movement in Europe during the years 1928 to 1933, which ended, of course, when Hitler became Reich Chancellor of Germany.

Edith Stein had wanted to become a religious, and when she came to Speyer this was the closest to the real thing. It was a Catholic atmosphere of prayer and seclusion. One can imagine that she took on this humble post as a gesture of total self-giving and great generosity of soul as thanks for her gift of faith. We can imagine the fervor of our new convert. And in this she exemplifies the consecrated single woman in the world.

Edith has written, “Virginity is the highest positive. This means a life of partnership with Christ, marked by radiant joy, an obvious unselfishness, an inner peace which cannot be destroyed by any outer vicissitude, by the rapture with which one lives the Christian life.” The deepest and most spiritual concept of purity is to be free of all bonds to oneself or to another; rather, it is to love Christ above all things, not only in mind and heart but in the exercise of daily life. These words of Edith are taken from Essays on Woman, a collection of the lectures she gave during these years as a laywoman (Stein, Essays, 227, 203).

We are told by the nuns of Speyer about the kind of life she led there. We have said that through baptism, Edith was created a new person. What kind of person was she?

During the years Edith lived at this convent, St. Magdalena, she occupied a small room which was set up like a nun’s cell. This room bearing her name is kept in her memory. Near a large cut-off crucifix there is a large portrait of Edith showing her face as mature, very quiet, with a recollected expression; her eyes seem to follow the beholder. Her hands are folded, giving the impression of a prayerful, meditative person. (See further in Edith Stein zum Gedanken).

Certainly, Edith spent a great deal of time there in prayer.

She worked and prayed, in keeping with the Benedictine motto. And, indeed, she was very devoted to the Benedictine liturgy, a love which remained with her always. She went to the Benedictine Abbey in Beuron for the holy seasons of Christmas and Easter. The Abbot there, Raphael Walzer, became her spiritual director after Canon Schwind’s death. One can see the influence of these three great orders on Edith: the Dominican, the Benedictine and the Carmelite; her friend Father Erich Przywara writes that she is the fruit of all three.

Although her director cautioned her against staying up all night in prayer, she did — many full nights. She prayed much and asked others to pray for her. Her philosophy was that the more you are drawn into the inner life, the more you extend yourself out to the world in order to spend this love for God.

At Speyer, Edith Stein matured in faith. She integrated herself into the lifestyle of the convent. Although she was a well-known figure, her day was like that of her colleagues. The memories of her colleagues and students recall her as a woman of great magnetism; she radiated intelligence and spirit. Her nature was gentle, dignified and distinguished. At the same time, she expressed modesty and humility. She never tried to bring acclaim to herself or to put herself in the limelight.

Her teaching method was fastidious. She gave a lot, knew a lot, and asked for a lot from her students — above all, she asked for discipline. A strict grader, she was nonetheless just and compassionate. Her lectures conveyed knowledge above all things. But Christ was the measure of her action; she brought Him and her faith in Him into the classroom. All that she taught was centered on Christ, the Truth.

Through this empowerment, she became a good and friendly teacher, conducting herself with utter good-will, understanding, trust, and great magnanimity towards these young people. She had one concept which she set as an uncompromising orientation concerning love for neighbor: this was, spiritual need breaks through every rule. She had no preconceived opinions when people came to her for advice, and, as they had come to her grandmother Adelheid, many did come to Edith. She was particularly interested in the less gifted, shy and socially disadvantaged of her pupils.

Yet she remained objective and detached. Many wrote to her for advice, also. To one young girl, Edith answered that if she really wanted to improve spiritually, she would realize that Edith can’t come running to her regardless of her own situation.

Surely, she was no pushover! She cautioned another student to cite Edith as source if she does use Edith’s article.

On the other hand, she is very humble. To a priest who called her attention to several insufficiencies in the newly published Truth which Edith had translated, she answered: “No one could be more convinced than I am that others would have been better qualified for this work…. Perhaps just such an unsuspecting little David had to attack Goliath in order to give stimulus to the heavily armored knights” (Stein, Self-Portrait in Letters 1916-1942, 115). Her humor, serenity, patience, and sanctity are clearly evident in these letters.

What is amazing is that during these years, she was able to achieve so much intellectual work in the little cell she occupied. She seems to have been indefatigable. And yet she writes, I do not use extraordinary means to prolong my workday. I do as much as I can. The ability to accomplish increases noticeably in proportion to the number of things that must be done. When there’s nothing urgent at hand, it ceases much sooner. Heaven is expert at economy” (Stein, S-P, 72).

But even for her, work became so heavy that she was pressed to give up her post as teacher and to give herself totally to writing and lecturing. Finally, she left Speyer on March 26, 1931.

During the next year, she devoted herself to lecturing and correcting the galleys of her translation of Truth. Among other things, she worked on Act and Potency which she hoped to make her habilitation, but again she was unable to locate a university position. Finally, in the spring of 1932, she was offered the chair in pedagogy at the German Institute for Scientific Pedagogy in Munster and she accepted.

Here she was to establish a system of Catholic education for the young woman, based on an understanding of her psyche and destiny. Stein’s first lectures were on the structure of the person.

And it is now, in 1932, that she goes to France for the Thomistic conference. They tell of a beautiful incident where she sits talking outside the Sacred Heart Church in Montmartre with two of the philosophers, Koyre and a priest, Father Feuling. The latter writes that Edith and Koyre were speaking of Jewish philosophers: Husserl, Bergson, and Myerson. He is another of ours’ was a constantly recurring phrase. It amused me a little to hear the way Koyre and Edith Stein, speaking of Jews and Jewish matters, would simply say ‘we’. I had a vivid impression of that blood-brotherhood which was so strong in Edith, as formerly in St. Paul…, Then I was a little naughty, and asked with a serious air, ‘And where are you banishing me?’ They looked at me in great concern and asked ‘Are you one of us, too?’ until I assured them of the contrary” (Posselt, 111).

During this period at Munster, Edith took a course especially designed for her by a young Johannes Quasten, the priest who was to become the patristics scholar of our century. She apologized to him for not knowing enough Latin and Greek, and this was just after the appearance of her translation of Truth from the Latin. The course he gave to her was the educational doctrine of St. John Chrysostom, which of course Edith was most interested in for her work. Together they read his tract on Educating Young Children.

At Munster, Edith was experiencing a growing difficulty living in the world, because she was reaching more and more for solitude and the contemplative life. She had an uneasy feeling that she might be making her colleagues a bit uncomfortable.

She is gladdened by the assurance from her friend, Mother Petra, that wearing a habit is not necessarily a prerequisite for the religious life. To another religious friend, Sister Adelgundis, Edith writes of Therese of Lisieux: “My impression was simply that there the life of a human being has been formed entirely, from first to last, only and exclusively by the love of God. I know nothing more sublime, and I would wish to have as much of that as possible in my own life and in the lives of all who are near to me” (S-P, 137).

She lived a Eucharistic life. She spent hours before the tabernacle: “Dogmatically, I believe the matter is very clear: the Lord is present in the tabernacle in his divinity and in his humanity. He is not present for his own sake but for ours: it is his delight to be with the ‘children of men’. He knows, too, that, being what we are, we need his personal nearness. In consequence, every thoughtful and sensitive person will feel attracted and will be there as often and as long as possible” (S- P. 114).

Again, “Whoever seeks to consult with the Eucharistic God in all her concerns, whoever lets herself be purified by the sanctifying power coming from the sacrifice at the altar, offering herself in this sacrifice, whoever receives the Lord in her soul’s innermost depths in Holy Communion cannot but be drawn ever more deeply and powerfully into the flow of divine life, incorporated into the Mystical Body of Christ, her heart converted to the likeness of the divine heart” (Stein, Essays, 56).

Edith was to need this strengthening. Hitler became Reich Chancellor in January, 1933. Edith was experiencing growing difficulties with a small group of students who were Nazi sympathizers. Then an incident occurred early in 1933 when she was locked out one night by what she thinks was an accident. She was invited to the home of a colleague to spend the night. There she heard stories, relayed through the American press, about the persecution of the Jews.

She writes, “I had indeed already heard of severe measures being taken against the Jews. But now on a sudden it was luminously clear to me that once again God’s hand lay heavy on His people, and that the destiny of this people was my own” (Posselt, 117). Let us remember that Edith had said, after her baptism she felt Jewish again. She was undoubtedly sure that the Father of Christ was also the Father of Israel.

After Hitler’s first economic boycott of the Jews on April 1st, 1933, Edith immediately realized the terrible implications. She decided to seek a private audience with Pope Pius XI to ask him to issue an Encyclical denouncing the anti-Semitism of National Socialism. But first she wanted to get permission to do this from her spiritual advisor in Beuron, where she was going for Easter. On her way there, she stopped at the Cologne Carmel for a Holy Hour on the Eve of First Friday. She writes,

I spoke to our Savior and told Him that I knew that it was His Cross which was now being laid on the Jewish people. Most of them did not understand it; but those who did understand must accept it willingly in the name of all. I wanted to do that, let Him only show me how. When the service was over I had an interior conviction that I had been heard. But in what the bearing of the cross was to consist I did not yet know (Posselt, 118).

She went on to Beuron. She had already been informed that a private audience with the Pope was not possible. So she wrote a letter to the Holy Father, cautioning that what would happen to Jews would happen to Catholics as well. The Abbot took the letter and relayed it to the Vatican that month. In reply, Edith received a blessing for her and her family.

Her last lecture before this Easter holiday had been on February 25th. When she returned to Munster, she found that her teaching position was gone. The Institute was Catholic, and they did invite her to stay for research during the summer. The crisis in her life, as for all in Germany, escalated. Looking back at that time later, she writes to a friend: “‘We know that for those who love him, God turns everything to the good’ (Romans 8:28).

That phrase I quoted from the Letter to the Romans afforded me the greatest comfort and joy during the summer of 1933 in Munster, when my future was still shrouded in total darkness. Never have I prayed the Divine Office of the Martyrs, which recurs so frequently during the Easter cycle, with greater fervor than I did at that time” (S-P, 235).

Now she wondered if, after almost twelve years since her baptism, she might not now be free to enter the religious life. On the 30th of April, she went to St. Ludgeri Church where they were observing thirteen straight hours of devotion to the Good Shepherd. She promised herself not to leave until she had made a decision. She writes, “As the final blessing was given, I received the Good Shepherd’s consent” (Posselt, 120).

She knew now that she had to carry the cross laid on the Jews and that she had to share their destiny. She knew that she had to spend her life in the prayer of expiation for the sins being shed and for the safety of the humanity she so loved. Carmel was the place for her. Teresa was the final inspiration which had carried her into the Church. But to Edith, Carmel excels as an Order because of its joyous reception of the Crucified Christ.

Perhaps at the time of her entry, Edith was not aware of the Jewish ancestry of St. Teresa of Avila. Although it was not spread abroad, the Carmelites did know of it. Teresa’s paternal grandfather was Juan Sanchez (1440-1507), a wealthy textile merchant who lived in Toledo. After converting to Christianity, he reneged and raised his sons in Judaism. Remember, this was the time of the Inquisition. Offered an opportunity for absolution, he confessed to heresy and apostasy. For penance he was compelled to walk each Friday for seven weeks, wearing the yellow tunic of the Judaiser. Teresa’s father at the age of four walked with him.

This was in 1484. Teresa’s grandfather avoided bankruptcy but he was ruined socially. Although canon law stipulated that baptism is irrevocable, there was such stigma attached to Judaism that the conversos could not act as public officials, members of religious orders, students at a university, or even tax collectors. Her grandfather moved to Avila. His wife was of pure stock, called Old Christian, and he attached her name to his, becoming Juan Sanchez de Cepeda. And in 1500, his purchase of a certificate of pure blood allowed him to take on the status of a nobleman. He was able to arrange marriages for his sons with daughters of Old Christian families, Teresa’s mother among them.

Whether Edith knew all this before or after her entry into Carmel, it must have occurred to her that the persecution of the Jews in Spain in the 15th century resembled that of National Socialism.

But now a real agony awaited Edith. To her mother, conversion itself was a problem, for Augusta believed that one should stay in the faith into which one is born. Edith was to be home for two months before entering Carmel, and her family had to be told. Our reserved Edith had only now told one or two persons of her plans.

When Edith returned home, she asked her mother to share memories with her: memories of the Stein family life, of her own Courant family as a young girl, of her husband’s parental line, and of their entire family life as community. Edith had decided to write all this in order to present a true picture of Jewish humanity to combat the current Nazi caricature of the Jews. This provided the beginning of Edith’s autobiography of her youth, Life in a Jewish Familij.

Those days must have been a time of tender bonding for Edith and Augusta, these two women who loved each other so deeply. But the joy and peace were shattered quickly. Two weeks after her return, her mother said to her, “What are you going to do with the sisters in Cologne?” “Live with them,” Edith answered. This was met by “desperate resistance.” For her mother, it was the worst thing possible that could ever happen. Not only did this agony appear as an “inconceivable cruelty” at the very time that Hitler was persecuting the Jews; but now that Augusta was 84 years old and no longer traveled, she knew she would never see her child again.

The other family members, except for Rosa, were also aghast. Even her little niece Susel, aged 12, meeting her alone, confronted her with, “Why are you doing this now?” (Posselt, 129). Edith spoke to her as to an adult, explaining that she was not abandoning her Jewish heritage, that she was still Jewish, that nothing was changed between them; and the convent walls would not protect her from any persecution against the Jews. Susel writes that they all continued to love her, but now a rift separated them.

The pain of Edith’s family was her cross. For her, it was a “deep abyss” separating her from her usual inner peace. A few days before she left her home forever, she wrote to a friend, Gertrud von le Fort: “You will help me, won’t you, to beg that my mother will be given the strength to bear the leave-taking, and the light to understand it” (S-P, 158).

But Edith knew that “…suffering borne in union with the Lord is his suffering, incorporated in the great work of salvation and made fruitful therein.” She had chosen to enter Carmel for this work. Her family did not understand that her love for them and for all the Jews was now separating them.

Edith’s last day with her family was her forty-second birthday, October 12, 1933. The next morning, Edith went as usual at 5:30 for the first Mass at St. Michael’s Church. At breakfast, her mother could not eat; she started to cry. Edith went to her and held her until it was time to go. Her noble mother kissed her very tenderly, but as Edith left, Augusta wept aloud.

Only Rosa and Elsa saw Edith off to the train. When the train went past their house, no one was at the window waving, as there had always been in the past. Edith writes, “So what I had hardly dared to hope for was now real. There could be no violent access of joy. All that lay behind me was too terrible for that. But I was in deep peace — in the haven of the Divine Will” (Posselt, 131).

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St. Edith Stein on Phenomenology and Thomas Aquinas 1 – Freda Mary Oben Ph.D.

December 30, 2013

"God is there in these moments of rest and can give us in a single instant exactly what we need. Then the rest of the day can take its course, under the same effort and strain, perhaps, but in peace. And when night comes, and you look back over the day and see how fragmentary everything has been, and how much you planned that has gone undone, and all the reasons you have to be embarrassed and ashamed: just take everything exactly as it is, put it in God’s hands and leave it with Him. Then you will be able to rest in Him -- really rest -- and start the next day as a new life."

“God is there in these moments of rest and can give us in a single instant exactly what we need. Then the rest of the day can take its course, under the same effort and strain, perhaps, but in peace. And when night comes, and you look back over the day and see how fragmentary everything has been, and how much you planned that has gone undone, and all the reasons you have to be embarrassed and ashamed: just take everything exactly as it is, put it in God’s hands and leave it with Him. Then you will be able to rest in Him — really rest — and start the next day as a new life.”

 

[A] turning point occurred while Edith was strolling with a friend through the old section of Frankfurt. They chanced upon the cathedral, and the two women entered the building as tourists, intent on admiring the architecture. Edith spied a woman, fresh from her rounds of shopping, kneeling in the empty church, obviously lost in prayer. She had certainly seen people at prayer in the synagogue during services, but she had never seen anything like this communion with a presence personal and yet unseen. “I could not forget that,” she wrote.

Edith Stein’s conversion was not like Paul’s, sudden and dramatic. It was more like Augustine’s or John Henry Newman’s: gradual, interior, accompanied by a good deal of intellectual wrestling. One night, while staying with friends outside Freiburg, Edith searched through their library looking for something to divert her for the evening.

She came upon Saint Teresa of Avila’s autobiography. She took the book off the shelf and stayed up all night reading it. The next morning she put down the test and declared simply, “That is the truth.” What precisely impressed her about the book is impossible to say. When pressed on the matter later, Edith replied, secretum meum mihi (that is my secret). It seems fair to conclude that the reading of Teresa’s Life was that galvanizing moment, the occasion for all of the strands to come together…
Robert Barron, Catholicism

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Let us visualize our God-filled young lady, Edith Stein, at the dawn of a summer morning in 1921. She was 29 (the picture above shows her at 26), but for her it was the dawn of a whole new life, as a Catholic. She had just closed the book of The Life of St. Teresa of Avila and had said, “That is the truth.” Being the self-reliant, methodical person that Edith Stein was, she went directly to buy a Catechism and a Missal to prepare for baptism. When she felt herself ready, she went to the local parish priest in Bergzabern, Father Breitling of St. Martin’s Church, and asked him to baptize her.

One can easily say that he was surprised, and even more astounded when he saw, after a few questions, how ready she was! Nevertheless, he scheduled some meetings with her and finally set the following January 1st for her baptism.

At this time, then, there was real fervor for the teachings of Aquinas. In 1879, Pope Leo XIII had issued the encyclical Aeterni Patris (“On the Restoration of Christian Philosophy According to the Mind of St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor”).

The letter was directed against the irreligious humanism of that day. He writes, “Evil teaching about things, human and divine, has come forth from the schools of philosophers” (Aeterni Patris, vii). But if philosophy is used well, it supports and defends faith.

He argued that the First Fathers had understood Christ as the “wisdom of God.” Their doctrines were studied by the doctors of the Middle Ages, the Scholastics, who tried to tie together human and divine knowledge. The greatest Scholastic of them all was Thomas Aquinas, whom he recommends to all students of philosophy. Not only will philosophy itself be healed on such a secure footing, but all errors in human science will be refuted, as well as in civil society and family life.

Edith writes that in herself “St. Thomas found a reverent and willing disciple.” What an exciting encounter this must have been! Of course, she had known something of Aquinas through Husserl who had said that phenomenology “converges towards Thomism and prolongs Thomism” (Mirabel, 73). But from then on, Thomas was to be an important mentor leading her in intellectual and spiritual growth.

She studied him gladly in order to learn the intellectual foundations of the faith. And we may be sure that her keen mind, trained in phenomenology, immediately made comparisons between Husserl and Aquinas. How amazing that the crossroad in her life, her conversion, now afforded her the unique ability to recognize an interconnection of the two disciplines: phenomenology and Thomism. Actually, it was necessary for her to understand any and all possible bridges between them. We will see that this keen interest not onlybestowed goodness on both disciplines: it provided her a path to follow as a Christian philosopher.

In St. Thomas she found the balance of learning, wisdom and faith which creates harmony leading to truth. Before, the phenomenological method had enabled her to find kernels of truth in the discovery of pure essence. Now, through the philosopher-theologian Aquinas, she recognizes that it is through the way of faith that wisdom is found, not through scientific analysis. For perfect philosophical thought is accessible through both “reason and revelation in an all inclusive unity” (Endliches and Ewiges Sein, 27). She will be a Christian philosopher preparing the way for faith.

Her happiness at this point must have been unbounded. She prepared in a night vigil for her baptism on New Year’s Day of 1922, choosing the baptismal name of Teresa. On that day when she was brought into the Church, she also received Holy Communion which would become a daily practice. She wanted to become a Religious immediately, and, of course, wanted to go into Carmel where St. Teresa had been, but that was not to be. Her spiritual director counseled her to wait: she was too important as a laywoman and, for her mother, the attending pain would be unbearable.

Now, what of her mother? Edith’s sister Erna told me that Edith asked her to tell Augusta about the baptism. Erna answered, “Tell her yourself.” Edith told her mother, and for the first time in her life, Edith saw her mother break down and weep profusely. They cried together. The terrible thing is that, for the Steins, the word Catholic held only menial connotations, such as of maids they had had whom they imagined would grovel on their knees and kiss the priest’s toe! But a family friend does testify that Mrs. Stein recognized in some way, because she was religious herself, that grace had taken over the entire being of her daughter. She radiated holiness. They saw that Edith had become another person. As Teresa of Avila writes, “In one moment God was pleased to make me another person.” And so it was with Edith Stein.

We wonder, did this lover of the psalms perhaps think of Psalm 23 as did the Fathers of the Church in relation to baptism? They describe it as a celebration of its mystery.


The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
Beside restful waters he leads me;
He refreshes my soul.
He guides me in right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
With your rod and your staff
that give me courage.

Christ is the shepherd who initiates souls in His mysteries, bringing them to the waters of refreshment where the soul “is bedewed with divine gifts to produce good fruits.” The soul is led to green pastures, “the Church of God in which His saints flower.” The real conversion of the soul is the introduction to the path of justice (Quasten, 325-332).

Her spiritual director was Canon Schwind of the Cathedral in Speyer. At his suggestion she went to teach there for the Dominican nuns at their Teachers’ College and girls’ academy, St. Magdalena. She took private vows of chastity, poverty and obedience and led a very intense life of prayer and work. And there was always a great deal of work. She taught the young girls, nuns, and novices and from this developed her deep interest in the essence, the psyche, of the woman.

Her interest in Aquinas produced seminal works. She wanted to know what was in his text Quaestiones disputatae de veritate (Truth), and so she translated it from the Latin at the suggestion of Father Erich Przywara who became her good friend and mentor. This was not only a translation — it was accompanied by a commentary from the phenomenological point of view.

This was something new, and it brought her a great deal of acclaim. She also translated the letters of Cardinal Newman from English into German. She started what she hoped would be her habilitation, calling it Potenz and Akt (Act and Potency), a takeoff from Aquinas. But most important was a comparative study, Husserls Phanomenologie and die Philosophie des hl. Thomas von Aquino (Husserl’s Phenomenology and the Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas). In her first version, she actually sets the two in a dialogue as they discuss their philosophies. This was a very important step in a new direction.

This comparative study of 1929 was so important that, three years later, when a Thomistic conference was held in France on just that very question, she was the only woman invited to attend the session. She was not asked to speak (being a woman, perhaps?), but the records of the day show that she dominated the discussion. The important Thomistic scholars there were absolutely delighted with her renditions in French and German — Berdiaev, Gilson, Maritain, Koyre, etc. (See La Phenomenologie also Posselt, 46).

But just what is phenomenology and how does it compare to Thomism? This is a very interesting and important question.

Although the term phenomenology was used before Husserl, he is considered the founder of this branch of philosophy at the turn of the 20th century. It seeks to analyze and describe the world as we experience it, persons, events, objects, concepts. We ask, how can we know things outside of ourselves, and how does this knowledge become our own? The phenomenologist believes: that which reveals itself as itself takes place in consciousness. So, only that which is absolutely given to consciousness is absolutely known.

Now there is a difference between the natural attitude in which we view things and the world, and the phenomenological attitude which reflects upon this natural attitude. All preconceived theories are “bracketed off” as it were. The only certitude is one’s personal, original experience of the phenomenon.

How is this done? Here we use a basic term in phenomenology: “intentionality.” This does not mean “I do this in order to do that.” It means that my consciousness is relating to something: it is conscious of or experiencing something that I see, imagine, remember, or judge. Hence, phenomenology is called “a descriptive philosophy of experience.”

It is the essence of the thing which the phenomenologist seeks, and this is achieved through a process called “eidetic intuition.” This puts into play a free, imaginative plan, when we remove certain characteristics from the object to be known. If some features are removed, the object will remain intact, while others if removed would destroy the object itself.

Edith Stein writes, “To the essence of this man, it belongs that he easily flies into a rage, is easily appeased, that he loves music and likes to have people around him. It does not belong to his essence that he just now went into the street and was surprised by rain…” (Baseheart, Person, 55). This result of reflection is termed “phenomenological reduction” or “free variation.”

Although Edith did not follow Husserl in the line of transcendental thought to which he later turned, she always remained his disciple and used his method through all her work. Yet she remains independent of Husserl. First, in her work on St. Thomas she turns to metaphysics, which was not Husserl’s idea of a strict science. Also, she uses the work of other philosophers, whereas Husserl held phenomenology to be a science of new beginnings. This comparative study was published in a special Festschrift on the occasion of Husserl’s 70th birthday, in the 1929 Yearbook for Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. (This work has been translated: see Stein, Knowledge and Faith).

The two philosophers, Husserl and Aquinas, are presented through five basic themes. Edith notes their differences and likenesses.

1.       First, Husserl and Aquinas both consider philosophy to be a strict, objective science based on reason and geared to attain a knowledge of being. But for Husserl, philosophy means phenomenology, while to Aquinas it means metaphysics.

2.       Second, Husserl accepts natural reason as the way to truth, while for Aquinas it is reason enlightened by faith. We shall see that later, in Endliches and ewiges Sein (Finite and Eternal Being), her definitive work, Edith follows Aquinas in using revelation to help philosophy attain a “deeper and more comprehensive knowledge of being.”

3.       Third, on the question of Being, Stein acknowledges that Husserl’s first principle is that of transcendental consciousness, while the first principle of Aquinas is God. What is fascinating to us is that, in EES, Edith will use as her starting point in the ascent to God an awareness of her own body. In doing so, she uses Husserl’s immediate knowledge of the “pure I,” the self known through consciousness, and also Aquinas’ immediate knowledge of the soul.

4.       The fourth theme of comparison is Essence and Existence. Here there is real common ground and is one reason why phenomenology was referred to as a revival of Scholasticism. Both philosophers distinguish between that which belongs to itself (its essence), and that which is accidental to it. Edith claims that Aquinas’ distinction between essence and existence preceded Husserl’s notion of bracketing. In Scholastic philosophy, contingent being (i.e., you or I) has its own essence but receives its existence. With self-evident Being, God, His essence is His existence.

5.      Fifth, she asks if Husserl’s concept of intuition is like that of Aquinas’ abstraction of essence. Both agree that the knowledge of essence is based on the intellect’s action on the material of the senses; Husserl himself noted the likeness of his “ideating” to abstraction where the universal is gathered from the particular. The “ratio” of Aquinas is the abstraction of a whole independent of accidental parts.

Also in the Festschrift, Edith discusses the question of the immediacy of knowledge. Both Husserl and Aquinas agree that it is the light of the intellect which provides knowledge of essences. Here, Stein writes, they agree on knowledge of the exterior world. But Husserl puts knowledge of God beyond the scope of phenomenology; with Aquinas, his intellectual light participates in God’s light as he reveals knowledge of the interior world. His investigation of essences discloses data of both natural experience and faith.

Stein’s procedure will come from both teachers. But because she uses the phenomenological language and method to present certain Thomistic concepts, she presents new insights, new meanings. But we will see that, ultimately, she arises independently from both.

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QUESTIONS 91 & 94 on Natural Law – St. Thomas Aquinas

December 5, 2013

Justus van Gent was an Early Netherlandish painter (1410-1480) who later worked in Italy. Detail of a painting of St. Thomas teaching from 28 portraits of "Famous Men" in the Louvre.

Justus van Gent was an Early Netherlandish painter (1410-1480) who later worked in Italy. Detail of a painting of St. Thomas teaching from 28 portraits of “Famous Men” in the Louvre.

Questions 91 and 94 of the Summa Theologiae deal with the natural law. Peter Kreeft in the Shorter Summa, further shortens our approach by summarizing the two questions for us.

Question 91: Of the Various Kinds of Law

FIRST ARTICLE Whether There Is an Eternal Law?

I answer that, As stated above (Q. 90, A. I ad 2; AA. 3, 4), a law is nothing else but a dictate of practical reason emanating from the ruler who governs a perfect [complete] community. Now it is evident, granted that the world is ruled by Divine Providence, as was stated in the First Part (Q. 22, AA. I, 2), that the whole community of the universe is governed by Divine Reason. Wherefore the very Idea of the government of things in God the Ruler of the universe, has the nature of a law. And since the Divine Reason’s conception of things is not subject to time but is eternal, according to Proverbs 8:23, therefore it is that this kind of law must be called eternal…

Second Article
Whether There Is in Us a Natural Law?

On the contrary, A gloss on Romans 2:14: When the Gentiles, who have not the [Mosaic] law, do by nature those things that are of the law, comments as follows: Although they have no written law, yet they have the natural law, whereby each one knows, and is conscious of, what is good and what is evil.

I answer that, As stated above (Q. 90, A. 1i ad 1i), law, being a rule and measure, can be in a person in two ways: in one way, as in him that rules and measures; in another way, as in that which is ruled and measured, since a thing is ruled and measured, in so far as it partakes of the rule or measure. Wherefore, since all things subject to Divine providence are ruled and measured by the eternal law, as was stated above (A. I); it is evident that all things partake somewhat of the eternal law, in so far as, namely, from its being imprinted on them, they derive their respective inclinations to their proper acts and ends.

Now among all others, the rational creature is subject to Divine providence in the most excellent way, in so far as it partakes of a share of providence, by being provident both for itself and for others. Wherefore it has a share of the Eternal Reason, whereby it has a natural inclination to its proper act and end: and this participation of the eternal law in the [very nature of the] rational creature is called the natural law.

Hence the Psalmist after saying (Psalms 4:6): Offer up the sacrifice of justice, as though someone asked what the works of justice are, adds: Many say, Who sheweth us good things? in answer to which question he says: The light of Thy countenance, O Lord, is signed upon us: thus implying that the light of natural reason, whereby we discern what is good and what is evil, which is the function of the natural law, is nothing else than an imprint on us of the Divine light.

It is therefore evident that the natural law is nothing else than the rational creature’s participation of the eternal law. [Thus the voice of conscience (natural reason judging good and evil) is the echo of the voice of God, and is therefore sacred and inviolable.that just as, in the speculative reason, from naturally known indemonstrable principles.]

Third Article
Whether there Is a Human Law?

I answer that, As stated above (Q. 90, A. 1, ad 2) , a law is a dictate of the practical reason. Now it is to be observed that the same procedure takes place in the practical and in the speculative reason: for each proceeds from principles to conclusions, as stated above (ibid.).

Accordingly we conclude [Self-evident theoretical axioms like the law of non-contradiction. There are also self-evident practical axioms, both general ("Do good, avoid evil") and specific ("Be just"). These are "the precepts of the natural law", which, since it is in our nature, is also naturally known, just as first theoretical principles are.] we draw the conclusions of the various sciences, the knowledge of which is not imparted to us by nature, but acquired by the efforts of reason, so too it is from the precepts of the natural law, as from general and indemonstrable principles, that the human reason needs to proceed to the more particular determination of certain matters.

These particular determinations, devised by human reason, are called human laws. ["Human law" is "positive law", law posited (made) by man. Moral positivism reduces all moral law to this, denying the eternal law and the natural law. A philosopher could admit the natural law without admitting the eternal law, since one could know the effect without knowing the cause; therefore the argument between legal positivism and natural law does not depend only on whether or not God is admitted. St. Thomas would disagree with Dostoyevsky’s saying, "If God does not exist, everything is permissible."]

Fourth Article
Whether There Was Any Need for a Divine Law? [The divine law is that part of the eternal law which God made known by special revelation.]

I answer that, Besides the natural and the human law it was necessary for the directing of human conduct to have a Divine law. And this for four reasons. First, because…man is ordained to an end of eternal happiness… Secondly … on account of the uncertainty of human judgment… Thirdly, because … man is not competent to judge of’ interior movements, that are hidden…Fourthly, because. . . human law cannot punish or forbid all evil deeds…

QUESTION 94 Of the Natural Law

Fifth Article
Whether the Natural Law Can Be Changed?

I answer that, A change in the natural law may be understood in two ways. First, by way of addition. In this sense nothing hinders the natural law from being changed: since many things for the benefit of human life have been added over and above the natural law, both by the Divine law and by human laws. [E.g.,the Beatitudes and the "evangelical counsels" in the New Testament add significantly to the old law; or there is the obligation to vote in a modern democracy, but not in an ancient monarchy.]

Secondly, a change in the natural law may be understood by way of subtraction, so that what previously was according to the natural law, ceases to be so. In this sense, the natural law is altogether unchangeable in its first principles: but in its secondary principles, which, as we have said (A. 4), are certain detailed proximate conclusions drawn from the first principles, the natural law. . . may be changed in some particular cases of rare occurrence, through some special causes hindering the observance of such precepts, as stated above (A.4)….

Sixth Article
Whether the Law of Nature Can Be Abolished from the Heart of Man?

On the contrary, Augustine says (Confessions ii): Thy law is written in the hearts of men, which iniquity itself effaces not. But the law which is written in men’s hearts is the natural law. Therefore the natural law cannot be blotted out.

I answer that, As stated above (AA. 4, 5), there belong to the natural law, first, certain most general precepts, that are known to all; and secondly, certain secondary and more detailed precepts, which are, as it were, conclusions following closely from first principles. As to those general principles, the natural law, in the abstract, can nowise be blotted out from men’s hearts.

But it [i.e., the knowledge of the moral law, not the "rectitude" or objective rightness of it.] is blotted out in the case of a particular action, in so far as reason is hindered from applying the general principle to a particular point of practice, on account of concupiscence or some other passion, as stated above (Q. 77, A. 2).

But as to the other, i.e., the secondary precepts, the natural law can be blotted out from the human heart … by vicious customs and corrupt habits, as among some men, theft, and even unnatural vices, as the Apostle states (Rom i), were not esteemed sinful. [The greatest harm done by vice is thus its blinding of the reason against even knowing good and evil (cf. John 7:17). Cf. the blithely self-confident justification of "unnatural vice" today.].

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A Note on God as Unmoved Mover — Douglas McManaman

November 8, 2013
Carl Bloch The Entombment of Christ. Danish artist Carl Heinrich Bloch (1834-1890). Bloch was commissioned to produce 23 paintings for the Chapel at Frederiksborg Palace. These were all scenes from the life of Christ which have become very popular as illustrations. The originals, painted between 1865 and 1879, are still at Frederiksborg Palace. The altarpieces can be found at Holbaek, Odense, Ugerloese and Copenhagen in Denmark, as well as Loederup, Hoerup, and Landskrona in Sweden. Carl Bloch died of cancer on February 22, 1890. His death came as "an abrupt blow for Nordic art" according to an article by Sophus Michaelis. Michaelis stated that "Denmark has lost the artist that indisputably was the greatest among the living." Kyhn stated in his eulogy at Carl Bloch's funeral that "Bloch stays and lives."

Carl Bloch The Entombment of Christ. Danish artist Carl Heinrich Bloch (1834-1890). Bloch was commissioned to produce 23 paintings for the Chapel at Frederiksborg Palace. These were all scenes from the life of Christ which have become very popular as illustrations. The originals, painted between 1865 and 1879, are still at Frederiksborg Palace. The altarpieces can be found at Holbaek, Odense, Ugerloese and Copenhagen in Denmark, as well as Loederup, Hoerup, and Landskrona in Sweden. Carl Bloch died of cancer on February 22, 1890. His death came as “an abrupt blow for Nordic art” according to an article by Sophus Michaelis. Michaelis stated that “Denmark has lost the artist that indisputably was the greatest among the living.” Kyhn stated in his eulogy at Carl Bloch’s funeral that “Bloch stays and lives.”

Often people ask: “If God created everything, then who created God?”  Of course no one created God. For if God was created, He’d be a creature (created), and so He wouldn’t be God. His creator would be God. But then who created His creator? If He too was created, then He isn’t God, but a creature of God.

To be God is to be the creator of all creatures. So God is not Himself a creature. He is uncreated.  He always existed. He cannot not exist. And so He did not come into existence, nor will He go out of existence.

But I can’t imagine that! How is that possible?  It is true that you and I cannot imagine that. For everything in our experience has had a beginning. And our imagination is limited to what can be imagined, and what can be imagined are material things and their movements.

Material things have a beginning, a middle, and an end. But God is not a material and created thing. And so He cannot be imagined. And as for your second question (How is that possible?), it is impossible for it to be any other way. There must be a First, uncreated and uncaused cause of all other things. Let me go over a concept first employed by Aristotle and later developed by St. Thomas Aquinas, the proof from motion.

St. Thomas begins by pointing out that nothing moves itself from potency to act, except by something already in act. For instance, a piece of chalk on a slate will not move itself to another position on the slate except by something already in the act of motion. The piece of chalk is actually stationary, but potentially moving. It is potentially in another place on the slate. In order for the chalk to acquire that new position, it will have to be moved to that new position by something already moving.

Another way of putting this is to say that ‘nothing can give to itself what it does not possess’. If the piece of chalk is at rest, it is not moving. It does not have motion. If it does not have motion, it cannot give itself motion. It must receive motion from another that is actually moving. Note: Living things do not move themselves in a primary way. A living thing, as a whole, does not move itself from potency to act. Rather, one part moves another part, and in this way the whole thing moves.

regress

Now, St. Thomas points out that there cannot be an infinite or unlimited series of causes.  Consider the arrow above.  The arrow is finite.  When it moves, it moves a finite distance in a finite time.  But if the arrow was infinite, it would move an infinite distance in an infinite time.  Every movement of it would cover an infinite distance, and every movement would occur in an infinite duration of time.  Moreover, an arrow that is infinite could not acquire more distance.  It would not have the potentiality to move further ahead of itself.

Consider now the series of movers in color above.  The red ball (extreme left) is moved by the green, but the green in turn received its motion from the blue ball, and the blue ball received its motion from the purple (fourth from the left), etc.,.  The red ball on the left could represent anything, such as a dry leaf blowing in the wind that comes to rest at your feet on a fall day.  The motion has come to an end, the leaf is at rest next to your left foot.

Hence, its movement is terminated.  It has come to an end.  It is finished, or finite.  If the series of causes preceding the motion of the leaf is infinite, then the motion of the leaf or red ball on the left would never be terminated (finished, finite).  The leaf moved by virtue of the motion of certain atoms in the air, and those in turn are moving by virtue of the motion of something else, etc.  The series must be finite.  Why?  Because the motion of the leaf came to an end (finished).

First, if the series of movers were infinite, the series would stretch back to infinity.  Now, since all the things moved and moving are necessarily bodies, they must form a single moving object, the parts of which are in contiguity (in contact, or touching) or continuity.  But if the whole single series is infinite, then when it moves, it moves an infinite distance in an infinite time.  But it is impossible to move an infinite distance.

Think about this for a moment.  To move is to acquire something, such as a new location.  But an infinitely long stick, for example, cannot move forward to acquire a new location, since it covers an infinity.  There is nothing ahead of it to acquire, for it occupies every location ahead of it.

But the red ball has moved a finite distance and its movement has terminated.  It moved a finite distance in a finite time.  No matter how long the series preceding it is, if it is finite, it moves a finite distance in a finite time.  But if it is infinitely long, it moves an infinite distance in an infinite time.  But this is absurd.  The very fact that the motion of the leaf has come to an end shows that the series is finite.

A Series of Essentially Subordinated Movers
Let’s consider this from another angle.  There are two types of series of movers.  The one is a series of essentially subordinated movers.  The other is a series of accidentally subordinated movers.  Let’s take the latter first.  In a series of movers that are only accidentally subordinated to one another, an actual infinity is possible.

For example, a chicken comes from an egg, an egg from another chicken, and the other chicken from still another egg.  There is no reason why such a series, stretching backward through the past, cannot be unending.  In this kind of a series, the movers are operating in succession, not together.  And so a parent chicken need not be here and now influencing the hatching of an egg.  It may in fact be dead.

This is not the kind of series St. Thomas is referring to.  He is referring to a series of essentially subordinated movers.  In movers essentially subordinated to each other, one mover is here and now influencing another, like the hand moving a piece of chalk.  Without the causality of the first, there is no movement in the second. 

Note the color series above.  This represents a series of essentially subordinated movers.  A series of essentially subordinated movers cannot be infinite for the reasons given above.  Treating it as a single thing, it would cover an infinite distance in an infinite time.

Also, the red ball received its act of motion from the green, which in turn receives its act of motion from the blue, and so on.  If this “and so on” proceeds ad infinitum, then the red ball will never receive the act of motion. The red ball is moved by the green, the green receives its actual movement from the blue, etc.  The moved effect and the mover, in any motion, are simultaneous.  The hand moves the stick, which moves the eraser on the slate, which moves the chalk on the slate, and as soon as the hand stops moving the stick, the stick stops being moved.  When the carpenter stops bulding the house, the house stops being built.

Now, yellow moves teal, and teal moves red, and red moves brown, and brown moves green, and as soon as yellow stops moving, teal ceases to be moved.  If teal moves red, then as soon as teal stops being moved by yellow, red stops being moved by teal.  In a series of movers, however long, all of the members must be operating in some kind of simultaneity.  As strictly physical and hence dependent on quantity, our series of causes must be stretched out so that one is outside the other, like the stick that is touched by the hand and in turn touches the eraser.

Physical causes are in contiguity with each other.  Now whatever is quantified is hemmed into itself and cannot influence other things without contacting them directly or through a quantitative medium.  An infinite series of physical causes, one placed outside another, would fill an infinity of space.

But finite causes cannot be strung together to form an infinityNumber is only potentially infinite, not actually infinite (there is no actually infinite number).  And more, if our series of physical causes were truly infinite, the causality would take an infinite time to “pass” through it from one member to another into infinity.  Hence, the leaf would not move, or the red ball would not move.  In fact, no thing on the series would move, if it is preceded by an infinite series.

Hence, the series must be finite.  It follows that there must be a First Mover.  But this First Mover must be unmoved, otherwise we are back to positing preceding causes.  But this cannot go on to infinity, so there must be a First Unmoved Mover, if anything in the universe moves.

Now, since motion is an act that is received by something potentially moving (but actually stationary), the Unmoved Mover must have no potentiality to receive anything, but can impart the act of motion.  As we will see later, this can only mean that the Unmoved Mover is God, who is Pure Act, without any admixture of potentiality.

We can even look at this vertically (below):

uncausedcause

Why is it that if the series (green “causes”) was infinite, the meteor would never have been moved? Because the cause of its motion, i.e., another meteor (the green “cause” just above it), would never have been moved. The reason is that it would take an infinity to move the meteor. The series prior to it is infinitely long, and the causes would churn for infinity. The effect would never reach the meteor.

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God as Ipsum Esse Subsistens 2 — Douglas McManaman

November 7, 2013
After his death at Lunéville in 1652, La Tour's work was forgotten until rediscovered by Hermann Voss, a German scholar, in 1915; some of La Tour's work had in fact been confused with Vermeer, when the Dutch artist underwent his own rediscovery in the nineteenth century. In 1935 an exhibition in Paris began the revival in interest among a wider public. In the twentieth century a number of his works were identified once more, and forgers tried to help meet the new demand; many aspects of his œuvre remain controversial among art historians

After his death at Lunéville in 1652, La Tour’s work was forgotten until rediscovered by Hermann Voss, a German scholar, in 1915; some of La Tour’s work had in fact been confused with Vermeer, when the Dutch artist underwent his own rediscovery in the nineteenth century. In 1935 an exhibition in Paris began the revival in interest among a wider public. In the twentieth century a number of his works were identified once more, and forgers tried to help meet the new demand; many aspects of his œuvre remain controversial among art historians

More reasoning from St. Thomas:

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God’s Knowing is the Cause of Being
11.  If God’s knowledge is His Existence, then it follows that God’s knowledge is the cause of whatever is.  A thing exists because God knows it (and of course wills it into being).  Existing things exist independently of our knowing them, but this is not the case for God.  Whatever exists, exists because He knows it.  If He stopped knowing something, it would cease to be.

God is Omnipotent
12.  Since God is the First Existential Cause of whatever has existence, it follows that God has complete dominion over being.  You and I might have dominion over the fish, the animals, the trees, etc.  But we don’t have dominion over being.  We cannot impart being (bring something into being from nothing).  Now, since there is nothing outside of being, and God has dominion over being, it follows that He has unlimited power.  Hence, God is omnipotent.

God is Infinite
13.  If God is His own Act of Existing, then it follows that God is infinite (without limits).  God is His own Existence, and outside of existence is non-existence (or nothing).  Hence, there is nothing outside of God to limit Him.  Hence, He is infinite.

God is Supremely Good and cannot do evil.
14.  Whatever is, is good.  Goodness is a property of being.  Thus, to exist is good.  That is why things struggle to perpetuate their existence.  Evil is a lack of due being, a lack of something that should be there.  And so it follows that if God is His own Act of Existing, then God is Supremely Good, or perfect Goodness.  God cannot do or will evil.  Whatever God does is good insofar as He does it.  

Whatever happens to those who love God, He permits for their greatest good
15.  If God is omnipotent, and if God is perfect Goodness, then it follows that whatever happens to you and me in our lives is permitted by God ultimately for our greatest good.

Omnipotence means that He can do whatever He wants, and perfect goodness implies that He wants only what is best for us.  The two together imply that God wills our greatest good and is able to bring it about — if we allow Him to.  Hence, whatever He allows to happen to us in our lives is permitted by Him ultimately for our greatest good.

God is Subsistent Beauty
16.  Every perfection that exists in God is identical to God’s Act of Existing.  Beauty is a perfection.  It follows that God is Subsistent Beauty.  Hence, whatever is beautiful – a beautiful sunset, beautiful scenery, the beauty of the stars, or a beautiful face, etc– is an imperfect reflection of God’s perfect  and infinite beauty.  And if the human person has a natural desire to behold the beautiful, he has a natural desire to see God.

God is Justice
17.  Justice is a perfection (an unjust man is not regarded as a perfect man), therefore, in God, justice is identical with His Act of Existing.  Thus, God is justice.  Hence, we can conclude that ultimately, injustice is temporaryGod cannot allow injustice to endure.  Nor is it possible for God to ever be unjust.

God is Truth
18.  Truth is the conformity between what is in the mind and what is (in reality).  But what is, exists by virtue of being known by God and being willed into existence (as we said above).  God’s knowledge is the measure of reality, not vice versa.  God is thus the measure of truth.

Therefore, God does not have the truth, rather God is Truth.  And so it follows that whoever loves truth, ultimately loves God, just as whoever loves justice — and not everybody does, certainly not the majority–, such a one ultimately loves God.

God alone satisfies the will perfectly
19.  The object of the will is “the good”.  Whatever a person wills, he sees it as good.  This is true because the good is “that which all things desire”.  Joy is the state that results from the satisfaction of the will, which is the possession of the good.

Now, if God’s goodness is His Act of Existence, and if the object of the will is the good, then to see and know God as He is in Himself is to experience the perfect satisfaction of the will, which is joy.  And since we don’t see the Supreme Good (God) directly while in this earthly state, it follows that the joy of knowing God as He is in Himself is simply unimaginable.  To possess that joy eternally is heaven.  To miss out on that joy eternally, by virtue of our own choices, is hell.

Making God the end of all your efforts is eminently reasonable
20.  Love means to will the good of another (benevolence).  Goodness is a property of being.  Hence, to be is good.  God’s act of creating (bringing things into being) is an act of love, that is, a willing that the goodness of existence be enjoyed by the creature.

Now, man is an intelligent being whose highest activity is to know and to love.  Therefore, man’s highest and greatest possible achievement is to know and love God.  It follows that it is reasonable to spend every ounce of one’s energy towards the attainment of that goal.  A reasonable life is one directed ultimately towards the possession of God in knowledge and love.  Any other goal is simply irrational.

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God as Ipsum Esse Subsistens 1 – Douglas McManaman

November 6, 2013
Georges de La Tour (March 13, 1593 – January 30, 1652) was a French Baroque painter, who spent most of his working life in the Duchy of Lorraine, which was temporarily absorbed into France between 1641 and 1648. He painted mostly religious chiaroscuro scenes lit by candlelight

Georges de La Tour (March 13, 1593 – January 30, 1652) was a French Baroque painter, who spent most of his working life in the Duchy of Lorraine, which was temporarily absorbed into France between 1641 and 1648. He painted mostly religious chiaroscuro scenes lit by candlelight

God is that being whose essence is identical to His existence. God’s essence is to be.  Hence, it follows that Ipsum Esse cannot not be. Ipsum Esse (God) is His own to be, and therefore exists necessarily. Many other things flow from the above as St Thomas recorded:

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1. God is One:
There cannot be two beings whose essence is to be. What would distinguish the one from the other? It would have to be something outside of what they are in common. What are they? Being Itself, that is, two beings whose essence is to be. Outside of Being Itself is non-being (nothing). Hence, nothing distinguishes them. They are not “they” (plural), but one.

2. God is not material:
If God is His own Act of Being, then God is Act. If His essence is not in potency to existence, but is His existence, then God is pure Act without any admixture of potentiality. Therefore, there is no prime matter in God, for prime matter is potentiality.

Nor is God made up of any secondary matter (extended substance). For what is secondary matter (substance) is in potentiality to certain accidents, ie, quantity, quality, when, where, etc.,. But there is no potency in God.

3. God is not a quantity, nor does He have quantity:
For quantity is divisible, and Ipsum Esse cannot be divided into two, as was shown above. Also, note the word divisible (able or potentially divided). But there is no potentiality in God. Also, what is Act is immaterial. Also, what is extended has parts outside of parts. A block of gold has parts outside of parts, for example the part on the left is outside of the part on the right, yet both parts share in the nature of gold. The nature is found whole and entire in every part.

But if God is His own Act of Existing, He cannot have parts. Consider, this part of God is not that part of God. If this part of God is Being, then there cannot be anything outside of that part, for outside of being is non-being. If there are no parts outside of this part, then there is no “this part”. This part is so only in relation to that part. Hence, there are no parts in God.

4. God is outside of time:
What is in time is subject to time, that is, actualized by time (time is an accident, it actualizes the substance in an accidental way). But a Being who is His own Act of Existing cannot be in potency or be subject to anything. For there is nothing outside of Being, and He is Pure Being.

Therefore God is eternal. What is eternal is not something that endures forever, time without end. What is eternal is simply present without a before and an after. In other words, all of human history is present to God; there is no future, no past, only present.

5. God is not in place, therefore God is not in the universe nor outside of it:
To be in place, that is, subject to place requires quantity and figure. God has no quantity, as was shown above.

6. That God is present everywhere:
If God alone imparts the act of existing (esse) on contingent beings, then God is intimately and immediately present to anything that is. There cannot be anything between God and a contingent being. To impart being means to bring something into being from nothing, not from something mediate.

Therefore, wherever there is something, God is more intimately and immediately present to that something than anything else could possibly be. In other words, God is more immediately present to Jean Paul Sartre than his own mistress, and even more present to Sartre than Sartre was to himself or to us than we are to ourselves. Wherever there is being, there is God. Hence, God is everywhere without being subject to place.

7. That God has Intelligence:
A thing is known in so far as it is in act. For example, we know the essence of a thing when the intellect abstracts the form from the material conditions of the thing. The passive mind becomes actualized by the form, which is knowledge. If God is pure Act, then God is perfectly intelligible to Himself.

Also, act is perfection, for a thing is perfect in so far as it is in act. But God is pure Act of Existing. Therefore God is perfect. He cannot lack any perfection; for otherwise He would be in potency to further act. Thus, He would not be pure Act. Now, of all the perfections found in beings, intelligence is considered preeminent; for intellectual beings are more powerful than those without reason. Therefore God is intelligent.

8. That God’s knowledge is His Existence:
God is entirely simple, that is, entirely without composition. There is nothing in God that is distinct from His Existence. God’s knowledge is not distinct from His Existence, otherwise there would be composition in God. Now, there is nothing outside of God’s Act of Existing (outside of Ipsum Esse is non-being).

Hence, God’s knowledge is His Being. Also, if there was knowledge in God, and this knowledge was not His Act of Existing, then it would be related to His Act of Existing as potency is related to act. But there is no potentiality in God, as was shown above. Hence, God’s knowledge is His Existence.

9. All other perfections in God are identical to His Existence:
Any other perfections, such as love, justice, wisdom, power, beauty etc., are found in God, but they are identical to His Existence for the reasons stated above.

10. That there is will or volition in God.
If God knows Himself (He cannot not know Himself) or understands Himself, Who is perfect and therefore supremely good, then it follows that He necessarily loves Himself. For the good is that which all things desire, and all things desire first and foremost their own perfection, that is, their own act. If God is pure Act without any admixture of potentiality, then God is unlimited Good (potentiality is the source of limitation in things).

What is supremely Good without limits is, if known, necessarily loved. God is His own Act of Being, therefore He is perfectly knowable to Himself. His Self-Knowledge is His Existence. Therefore He loves Himself necessarily. And since love operates through the will, there is will in God. Moreover, God’s will is identical to His Existence; for God is entirely simple, as was shown above.

Also, God’s willing and God’s knowing is not a power or potency that can be actualized. God’s knowing and willing are eternally act, for His willing and knowing are identical to His Act of Existing. So God always knows Himself and loves Himself.

He imparts existence on contingent beings not out of necessity, but through His own will. Whatever is, He knows, for it is His knowledge and will that cause other things to be. Hence, God does not learn as we learn, God does not discover as we discover. God does not move from potentiality to actuality, that is, from potential knowledge to actual knowledge. Anything that is, exists by virtue of God’s knowledge and will. If God does not know it, it does not exist.

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Contingency and the Third Way of St. Thomas — Douglas McManaman

November 5, 2013

 

Everything in the universe that exists is a contingent being. If one does not accept this, but argues that not everything is a contingent being, then the argument becomes much easier. For we are trying to prove just that, namely, that there is a non-contingent being besides contingent beings.  So the question at this point is that if everything that is is a contingent being, a possibility made actual, what is it that accounts for the reduction of all these beings from potentiality to actuality? What brings things into being?

Everything in the universe that exists is a contingent being. If one does not accept this, but argues that not everything is a contingent being, then the argument becomes much easier. For we are trying to prove just that, namely, that there is a non-contingent being besides contingent beings. So the question at this point is that if everything that is is a contingent being, a possibility made actual, what is it that accounts for the reduction of all these beings from potentiality to actuality? What brings things into being?

 

Let’s begin by defining our terms. First, the word “contingent”, from the Latin “com” and “tangere”, (‘to touch upon’). Contingent means “that which need not be the case”, or “something which just happens to be the case”. A contingent being is a being that need not be.

It is not necessary that the oak tree in your backyard be. It was planted by your grandfather, perhaps, but he need not have planted it. It just happens to be the case that he planted it. You can also purchase an ax and cut it down tomorrow. Hence, it need not be. It came into being at one time, and it can cease to be at one time.

You and I are contingent beings. It is not true to say that “you cannot not be”. If that were the case, you’d have always existed. In other words, you and I are not “necessary beings” or non-contingent beings.

Now we’d like to know if there is a non-contingent being that exists. Just defining it does not show that it actually exists. So, we begin by assuming that everything that exists is a contingent being. In the diagram above, the circle represents a contingent being. A contingent being is a composite of essence and existence. It is “what” it is (represented in blue), but it “has” an act of existing (represented in green).

The circles above, then, will represent every contingent thing that had existence, has existence, and will have existence (consider them all in the present). The question is whether we need to posit anything else besides contingent beings..

Now, as was said above, a contingent being has existence. That is, it has an act of existing (esse). This act of existing does not add anything to the nature or essence of the thing. For example, you and I can come to understand the nature of an atelopus exiguus (a type of frog) without knowing whether or not such a thing actually exists. Should the frog be discovered to actually exist, its being will not add anything to the nature of the frog as you understand it already.

And so a contingent being that actually exists is a composite. A composite of what? A composite of “essence” and an “act of existing” (essentia et esse). That is why knowing what a thing is does not tell me whether or not it is, and knowing that a thing is does not tell me what it is. For example, some of those contingent beings represented in the diagram above are presumably entities that we have never encountered before. We can know that something exists on Mars by certain effects, for example, without knowing what it is specifically. In other words, essence and existence are really distinct.

At this point, recall what an analogy is. For example, consider the following analogy: cat is to meow as dog is to ______. The answer, of course, is “bark”. Or, 2 is to 4 as 3 is to ______. The answer is clearly “6″. Now think of the following analogy: Essence is to existence as potentiality is to actuality.

What this means is that a contingent being is a potential being that has been reduced to an actual being (it has an act of existing). 200 years ago, your oak tree did not exist. Now it actually exists. It has an act of existing. Now, one cannot say that it was impossible for the oak tree to exist. It exists now, in your backyard, which proves that it was possible for it to be. The oak tree is a possibility that has become an actuality. It is a unity of potency and act, or essence and existence. We can know what it is (essence), and we can know that it is (existence). Consider the analogy:

  • what is to that as essence is to existence as potentiality is to actuality

Now the act of existing is an act. The essence is related to the act of existing as potentiality is related to actuality. The atelopus exiguus does not actually exist any more. It is extinct. They were a potentiality to be, and as actually existing beings they were composites of essence and existence.

As a composite of essence and existence, this particular frog is now a potentiality not to be (it can cease to be). To prove this, note that the atelopus exiguus is now extinct. They no longer have actual being. So too, your children do not exist. At this point, they are a potentiality to be.

Consider now the diagram above. Everything in the universe that exists is a contingent being. If one does not accept this, but argues that not everything is a contingent being, then the argument becomes much easier. For we are trying to prove just that, namely, that there is a non-contingent being besides contingent beings.

So the question at this point is that if everything that is is a contingent being, a possibility made actual, what is it that accounts for the reduction of all these beings from potentiality to actuality? What brings things into being?

There are three possibilities:

  1. A contingent being brings itself into being.
  2. Contingent beings bring contingent beings into being.
  3. A non-contingent being brings things into being.

We can rule out the first two possibilities.

1. A contingent being brings itself into being. This is not possible. If a being does not have an act of existing, then it isn’t a being. It is merely a potentiality. But a potentiality without an act of existing does not exist. It is nothing. And nothing brings itself into existence. In order to bring oneself into being, one would have to exist before one exists. But this is absurd. And if a thing does not exist, it cannot do anything.

2. Contingent beings bring contingent beings into being. Contingent beings cannot impart the act of existing. That is, contingent beings cannot reduce a being from potentially existing to actually existing. It is not possible for you or I to bring something into being from nothing. All we can do is bring something into being from already existing material. Even reproduction, for us, is not creation. We do not create our children. We reproduce. We provide our kids with their genetic material, but we don’t create them from nothing. We receive them. So, whatever contingent beings do, they must first exist in order to do it, and whatever contingent beings act upon must first exist in order for them to act upon it. Hence, contingent beings do not impart existence.

So it is reasonable to ask: “What accounts for the existence of contingent beings?” Contingent beings do not account for the existence of contingent beings. In other words, contingent beings do not cause existence. Whatever they do, they must first exist in order to do it, and whatever they act upon must first exist in order for them to act upon it.

Now a contingent being did not cause itself to be, rather, it was caused to be. Its existence was caused. A contingent being can cause, but it does not impart existence. So as a cause, a contingent being is a caused cause. For example, a carpenter causes the house to be, and so a carpenter is a caused cause. But no contingent being causes being or existence.

Hence, only a non-contingent being causes being, that is, only an uncaused cause causes existence. Only a non-contingent being can account for the existence of contingent beings. A non-contingent being is not a possible being, but a being that cannot not be. A non-contingent being is a being whose essence is to be. It is his nature to exist.

In order to have a universe of contingent beings, there must be an uncaused cause. An uncaused cause does not have existence. Rather, an uncaused cause is his own existence. This uncaused cause is what we mean by God. For the uncaused cause is eternal, never came into existence, is the cause of the being of all other beings, and can only be one.

Possible Objections and Replies

Possible Objection:

  • Matter cannot be created or destroyed. So matter is not contingent.

Reply: This is not quite true. We cannot create or destroy matter. But matter, as the world of science understands it, is contingent. We speak of kinds of matter. The nature of matter is distinct from its existence. This is especially clear when we are dealing with the elements. We can know what a particular element is, and this knowledge does not tell us whether or not that matter actually is. All matter is a composite of essence and existence. If it was not, it could not be multiplied. Its essence would be to exist, and so it would be pure actuality. What is pure actuality, that is, pure act of existing, can only be one, not plural, as we will explain later.

  • Logically, the assumption that we have not always existed does not mean we aren’t necessary now. Spiritually, how can we know that it is not necessary for God’s plan for us to be here?

Reply: The very fact that you did not always exist is enough to show that you are not non-contingent, at least absolutely. You are not eternal. You have a received being.

  • Contingent beings couldn’t create themselves so a non-contingent being must have. But your logic works equally well on a non-contingent being. If it didn’t exist how did it get there in there first place?

Reply: The non-contingent being does not have a received being. Its nature or essence is to be, whereas your nature is to be human. Its nature is not distinct from its existence. If it were, it would be contingent, and we’d still have the giant question mark hanging over us.

  • And if it was always there, a contingent being could have been always there, too.

Reply: Even if we suppose that a contingent being always existed, the explanation for its “existence” is not contained in itself, that is, in its nature. Its being is still received. Its essence is still distinct from its existence (otherwise it would be non-contingent). So it would still need an explanation. We could still ask: “What is the cause of its being?”.

  • Interesting that it went from an it to a him.

Reply: The ‘him’ is just generic. It is appropriate because “him” refers to a principle of a generation (fatherhood), whereas her refers to woman, to whom it belongs to receive and nurture new life in the womb. But since this non-contingent being does not receive existence, but imparts it (as the man imparts his seed, and the woman receives it), it is for the most part appropriate to use “he” instead of “her”. Creation is more accurately referred to as her.

  • Another flaw I see is that you are assuming just because it is something’s nature to exist, it does. It was that extinct frog’s nature to exist, but it doesn’t.

Reply: Actually, it isn’t the frog’s nature to be, otherwise it would still be. It was its nature to be a frog, to croak, swim, etc. What belongs to a thing’s nature does so necessarily. For example, if I know that you are human, because someone told me, then I can say that you are necessarily rational, risible, and sentient, etc.

But I can’t say that you necessarily exist. You might have died a year ago, and it is your brother who is telling me about you. If you do exist, and you are human, you are necessarily rational. Just like a triangle necessarily has three sides. But it isn’t necessarily yellow. Yellow does not belong to its nature. And blond hair does not belong to the nature of man, otherwise we’d all be blond, or those of us who are not would not be essentially human. Existence does not belong to our nature, if it did, we’d necessarily be (we’d be non-contingent). So if a thing’s nature is to be, then it necessarily is.

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On the Distinction between Essence and Existence — Doug McManaman

November 4, 2013
The above diagram is merely a visual representation of a being whose essence is distinct from its existence, such as a human, or a dog, a carbon atom, etc. Now, recall that the definition of a thing expresses a thing's essence. Whatever belongs to a thing's essence belongs to it necessarily. A triangle is a three sided figure. Hence, a triangle is necessarily three sided. Man is a rational animal. Hence, all men, no matter who they are, are necessarily rational creatures. Whatever does not belong to the essence will not be included within the definition of the thing, and therefore will not belong to the thing necessarily, but contingently or possibly. Notice that metal, yellow, large, etc., is not included in the definition of triangle, even though some triangles are metal, yellow, and rather large. This means that a triangle is not necessarily metal, yellow, and large, but possibly.

The above diagram is merely a visual representation of a being whose essence is distinct from its existence, such as a human, or a dog, a carbon atom, etc. Now, recall that the definition of a thing expresses a thing’s essence. Whatever belongs to a thing’s essence belongs to it necessarily. A triangle is a three sided figure. Hence, a triangle is necessarily three sided. Man is a rational animal. Hence, all men, no matter who they are, are necessarily rational creatures. Whatever does not belong to the essence will not be included within the definition of the thing, and therefore will not belong to the thing necessarily, but contingently or possibly. Notice that metal, yellow, large, etc., is not included in the definition of triangle, even though some triangles are metal, yellow, and rather large. This means that a triangle is not necessarily metal, yellow, and large, but possibly.

Doug McManaman is a Deacon and a Religion and Philosophy teacher at Father Michael McGivney Catholic Academy in Markham, Ontario, Canada. He is the past President of the Canadian Fellowship of Catholic Scholars.We liked his simple and straight forward introduction to Aquinas in this and the following posts. Reblogged from LifeIssues.net

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Although Aristotle takes matter more seriously than Plato does, it can be argued that St. Thomas Aquinas takes matter much more seriously than does Aristotle. For Aristotle, essence is, as it was for Plato, the form. But this is not so for Aquinas. If the essence was simply the substantial form, then matter is outside the essence of a thing. But am I not essentially a material kind of being? For Thomas, the essence of a material thing includes matter and form. A human being, an animal, a rock, are essentially material things.

But what accounts for the fact that a person is “human”? The answer is the substantial form, that is, the soul. What accounts for the fact that a human person can di.e.,? The answer is his matter. Form exists in matter, and matter is the principle of a thing’s potentiality. What accounts for a thing’s extension? The accident ‘quantity’. What accounts for one’s ability to laugh? One’s power of intelligence.

But what accounts for the very fact that a thing exists? There is nothing in the substance itself that requires it to be. Prime matter is the material cause, rendering a thing perishable, the substantial form determines the matter to be a certain kind of thing, i.e.,, rabbit, or gold. Quantity gives the rabbit or the gold parts outside of parts. Quality is the accidental form that qualifi.e.,s the gold in a particular way, etc.,.

But there is a distinction between what a thing is, and the very act of its existence. One can study “what something is” without knowing “whether or not it actually exists”. We can study certain frogs, that is, we can come to understand “what they are”, but that very knowledge does not enable us to determine whether or not those frogs actually exist. For St. Thomas, there is a real distinction between essence, which answers to the question “what is it?”, and existence, which answers to the question “is it?”. This is a departure from both Plato and Aristotle, for whom ousia meant essence or being.

For Aquinas, a being is a habens esse: that which has an act of existing. In other words, a being is not simply substance. A being is a thing that has an act of existing. This means that for St. Thomas, the whole substance is in potency to existence. It does not have existence by nature. You and I have a received existence. Consider that it is correct to say: you are human (you are your essence).

But it is not correct to say: you are existence (you are not your existence). Rather, one correctly says: you have existence. An existing being exists not by virtue of its substantial form, but by virtue of its esse, that is, its received act of existing. The substantial form is the act of matter, but the esse of a being is the act of being. The act of being is the act of the substantial form, as well as the act of the accidents. Without esse (the act of being), there is no being to speak of.

The above diagram is merely a visual representation of a being whose essence is distinct from its existence, such as a human, or a dog, a carbon atom, etc. Now, recall that the definition of a thing expresses a thing’s essence. Whatever belongs to a thing’s essence belongs to it necessarily. A triangle is a three sided figure. Hence, a triangle is necessarily three sided. Man is a rational animal. Hence, all men, no matter who they are, are necessarily rational creatures.

Whatever does not belong to the essence will not be included within the definition of the thing, and therefore will not belong to the thing necessarily, but contingently or possibly. Notice that metal, yellow, large, etc., is not included in the definition of triangle, even though some triangles are metal, yellow, and rather large. This means that a triangle is not necessarily metal, yellow, and large, but possibly.

So too, blond hair and blue eyes do not belong to the essence of man, otherwise all men would have blond hair and blue eyes, and anyone who does not is not a man. Hence, it is necessary that Mike be rational, senti.e.,nt, that he have a will, that he have the potentiality to walk, the power to see, remember, etc., but it is not necessary that he be tall, blond, German, etc. Moreoever, if the power to walk, see, or hear, etc., cannot be realized in a human person, it is not due to the person’s nature, but to some deformation rooted in poorly disposed matter, i.e., eye damage, oxygen deprivation to the brain, no legs due to an accident, etc.

And so whatever belongs within the blue area in the above diagram, belongs to the thing necessarily. Anything outside the essence belongs to it possibly or contingently.

But if existence were part of the “what” of Mike, that is, part of his essence (within the blue area), then Mike would necessarily exist (since whatever belongs to the essence of a thing belongs to it necessarily). In other words, it would be essential for Mike to exist. And just as a triangle cannot not have three sides, and a human being cannot not have the power to reason, and a bird cannot not have wings, Mike could not not exist. He would have always existed, exists now, and ever shall be. But we know this not to be the case. The act of existing is received. Mike came into existence. He is not existence, rather he is human. The act of existing is had.

Some Points on Epistemology
Aquinas agrees with Aristotle that “nothing is in the intellect that is not first in the senses.” But the passive intellect does not just become a form. The passive intellect receives the essence of the thing known. The essence receives a new kind of existence in the intellect. Outside of the mind, the essence is particular, in the here and now.

That tree has existence outside of the mind. It is there, now, actually green and brown, actually large, etc.,. And it is particular. But essence and existence are really distinct. The active intellect abstracts the essence from its individuating conditions, and after impressing the essence onto the passive mind, the essence acquires a new kind of existence (an intentional existence, or a logical existence).

The essence exists universally in the mind. The tree has not changed. The tree is still there, a composite of essence and existence. But the essence is existentially neutral (it can exist in the mind or outside the mind). It need not necessarily exist in any particular way. The intellect, in knowing things, gives the essence a new existence (an intentional existence). The essence is capable of existing universally, because the essence is a potency to existence. It receives a different kind of existence in the mind, an immaterial existence, a universal mode of existence, an abstract mode of existence, unlike its existence outside of the mind.

The Acts of the Intellect
The intellect apprehends, judges, and reasons. But there is a difference between them. The first act of the intellect is called simple apprehension. This act is the apprehension of the thing’s essence. Now the intellect apprehends essences, but essence is not existence. I can know what a thing is, but that knowledge is not a knowledge of whether it is or not. So, how does one apprehend existence? By a distinct act of the intellect. This is called existential judgement. This marks the second act of the intellect. And the third act of the intellect is called reasoning. When we reason deductively, for example, we draw a conclusion from two prior premises: All men are mortal, John is a man. Therefore, John is mortal.

I know what a thing is (essence) through simple apprehension. At the same time, I know that it is (existence) through judgement. The two activities occur simultaneously.

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The Oblivion of Being 1– Fr. Ernesto A. Lapitan Jr., O.P

October 30, 2013
Justus van Gent (or Joos van Wassenhove), Justus or Jodocus of Ghent, or Giusto da Guanto (c. 1410 – c. 1480) was an Early Netherlandish painter who later worked in Italy. His painting of Thomas Aquinas is in the Louvre.

Justus van Gent (or Joos van Wassenhove), Justus or Jodocus of Ghent, or Giusto da Guanto (c. 1410 – c. 1480) was an Early Netherlandish painter who later worked in Italy. His painting of Thomas Aquinas is in the Louvre.

 

An Overview of Metaphysics and Mysticism in Aquinas, Eckhart and Heidegger by Ernesto A. Lapitan Jr., O.P. Fr. Lapitan Jr., O.P. is a member of the Dominican Province of the Philippines. He holds a Licentiate in Arabic and Islamic Studies from the Pontificio Istituto di Studi Arabi e dIslamistica (PISAI) in Rome, Italy.

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Introduction
One of the most serious charges that Heidegger leveled against the entire history of Western philosophy is Seinsvergessenheit or the oblivion of Being. This oblivion of Being is very evident in the philosophical field called metaphysics.

It is rather quite paradoxical that metaphysics whose subject matter is Being can be forgetful of Being. However, according to Heidegger, it is precisely because Western metaphysics is concerned with the difference between Being and beings that metaphysics has forgotten that which grants the difference. It is the difference that grants the difference between Being and beings that Heidegger says is and should be the concern of thought. In Heideggers reckoning only the Pre-Socratics came close to thinking about this difference and after them the entire history of Western philosophy has not thought about this difference.

Thomas Aquinas, one of the pre-eminent thinkers on Being has not escaped this charge of Seinsvergessenheit. In his metaphysical system, Thomas thought profoundly of the difference between Being and beings. He has said that Being is preeminent because in it the concepts of essence and existence are one. Being’s essence is its existence. Whereas in other beings, the concept of existence is not included in their essence; existence comes as a sort of addition. In short, they are merely contingent beings, their existence depends upon the bestowal of the ipsum esse subsistens.

This kind of thinking of Thomas Aquinas is radical and different from the rest of the secular thinkers. Consequently, he equated Being with God, a being whose essence it is to exist. It is on this point that Heidegger claims that Aquinas has not gone out of the metaphysical and theological mode of thinking and thus falls into the trap of the oblivion of Being.

Caputo in his intrepid work entitled Heidegger and Aquinas: An Essay on Overcoming Metaphysics makes a confrontation between Heidegger and Aquinas. In his introductory remarks, he has noted that most of the Thomists who have undergone a confrontation between Heidegger and Aquinas have failed. This is so because the method of confrontation they have applied is that of word for word and text for text. Obviously, under such conditions, Aquinas cannot escape the charge of Seinsvergessenheit, for even in this kind of thinking Aquinas moves within the Being-beings difference but does not go beyond it. Caputo suggests, therefore, that we look into the mystical element of Aquinass thinking, for it is in there that we find the thinking that is not forgetful of Being.

The texts that Aquinas handed down to us must be read and deconstructed in the light of the experience of Being. The texts should give way to the ipsum esse subsistens. This mode of thinking can be visually seen in a painting of St. Thomas done by the fifteenth- century Flemish painter Justus of Ghent that hangs at the Louvre.

In this painting, the hands of the saint are very prominent for they are at the center of the painting. A closer look at the hands reveals that the right index finger is pressing the left thumb, as if the magister is teaching some pupil a point. But even though the hands occupy a central position in the painting, the whole figure of Aquinas must be taken into account. The figure is a picture of stark serenity. Aquinas is calmly seated with everything seemingly unperturbed by anything. If the hand were a picture of ratio, then the whole figure is a picture of intellectus. Thus, Caputo explains that

the way in which one can meet the Heideggerian critique of St. Thomas is to meet it on its own grounds: not by showing that “existential metaphysics” satisfies everything which is required by the “thought of Being” and eludes the oblivion of Being – for it does not; but rather (and this all the commentators have missed) by showing that in St. Thomas metaphysics itself tends to break down and pass into a more profound experience of Being – even though the elaborate machinery of St. Thomas Scholasticism tends to conceal this fact.
John D. Caputo, Heidegger and Aquinas: An Essay in Overcoming Metaphysics

With this, Caputo is eager to show that Aquinas knows a step back out of metaphysics and in fact has overcome metaphysical thinking.

Caputo shows that Aquinas can escape the charge of Heidegger by appealing to the mystical experience. His arguments have carried him forward to considering Eckhart as the middle term between Aquinas and Heidegger.3 He claims that the fullness of the Thomistic arguments on mystical experience can only be seen through the consideration of the arguments of Eckhart. It is Eckhart who unfolds the possibility of Thomistic mysticism.

It is interesting to note that a way out of metaphysics is mystical experience. Mysticism escapes the objectifying lenses of metaphysics and views Being in its pristine form. Caputo argues that “mysticism, though not identical with thought, lies outside the sphere of influence of the principle of sufficient reason and, like thought itself and genuine poetry, is a non-representational, non-metaphysical experience of being. Mysticism too takes a step back out of metaphysics.”

In Caputo’s view then mysticism can be way out of oblivion of Being, but in another respect we find mysticism to be not the same as thought. Here in this paper, an overview of metaphysics and mysticism in Aquinas, Eckhart and Heidegger will be explored. As a corollary, it will be determined whether mysticism is a sufficient means to step back out of metaphysics thus escaping the Heideggerian charge of Seinsvergessenheit.

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G.K. Chesterton and ‘The Dumb Ox’ 2 – Ian Ker

October 22, 2013
All that Lutheranism was unreal -- yet `Luther was not unreal': `He was one of those great barbarians, to whom it is indeed given to change the world.' `a great map like the mind of Aquinas, the mind of Luther would invisible', it was `not altogether untrue to say... that Luther epoch; and began the modern world'. It was said that Luther 'publicly burned the Summa Theologica and the works of Aquinas':

All that Lutheranism was unreal’ — yet “Luther was not unreal: He was one of those great barbarians, to whom it is indeed given to change the world.” “On a great map like the mind of Aquinas, the mind of Luther would be almost invisible…” “It was not altogether untrue to say… that the Luther epoch began the modern world.” It was said that Luther “publicly burned the Summa Theologica and the works of Aquinas.”

These two saints (Francis of Assiss and Thomas Aquinas) were `in the most exact sense of the term, Humanists; because they were insisting on the immense importance of the human being,’ because they were `strengthening that staggering doctrine of Incarnation’. The more `rational or natural’ they became, the more `orthodox’ they became. Both `the Thomist movement in metaphysics ‘with its recovery, thanks to Aristotle, whom Thomas had `baptized’ and miraculously `raised… from the dead’, of `the most defiant of all dogmas, the wedding of God with Man and therefore with Matter’ — and also `the Franciscan movement in morals and manners’ were `an enlargement and a liberation’, both were `emphatically a growth of Christian theology to to , within’ and `emphatically not a shrinking of Christian theology under heathen or even human influences’.

Both Francis and Thomas `felt sub-consciously that the `hold’ of Christians was `slipping on the solid Catholic doctrine and discipline, worn smooth by more than a thousand years of routine; and that the Faith needed to be shown under a new light and dealt will’ from another angle’. It had become `too Platonist to be popular. It needed something like the shrewd and homely touch of Aristotle to turn it again into a religion of common sense.’

Christian theology `tended more and more to be a sort of dried up Platonism; a thing of diagrams and abstractions … not sufficiently touched by that great thing that is by definition almost the opposite of abstraction: Incarnation’. The Platonic influence was definitely tending towards a Manichaean philosophy, which existed outside the Church in the `fiercer’ form of the Albigensian heresy and inside the Church in the `subtler’ form of an Augustinianism that ‘derived partly from Plato’ .

Thomas’ ‘Optimism’ was in direct opposition to all this pessimism it about the body and the material: `He did, with a most solid and colossal conviction, believe in Life…’. Against `the morbid Renaissance intellectual who wondered `To be or not to be — that is the question’, the `massive medieval doctor’ would `most certainly have replied `in a voice of thunder’: To be — that is the answer.’ He was `vitally and vividly alone in declaring that live is a living story, with a great beginning and a great end’.

The whole Thomist system rested on `one huge and simple idea’, that of what Thomas called in Latin Ens, unfortunately translated by the English to `being’, which, Chesterton complained, `has a wild and woolly sort of sound’, whereas Ens `has a sound like the English word End’: `It is final and even abrupt; it is nothing except itself.’ And it was upon `this sharp pin-point of reality’ that `There is an is’, that Thomas had reared ‘the whole cosmic system of Christendom’.

Thomas was not `ashamed’ to say that his reason was `fed’ by his senses and that as far as his reason was concerned he felt `obliged to treat all this reality as real’. For him there was `this primary idea of a central common sense that is nourished by the five senses’. As `one of the great liberators of the human intellect’, he `reconciled religion with reason.. . expanded it towards experimental science. . . insisted that the senses were the windows of the soul and that the reason had a divine right to feed upon fact that it was the business of the Faith to digest the strong meat toughest and most practical of pagan philosophies’. It was Thomas who was the real `Reformer’, while the later Protestants like Luther, for whom the reason was `utterly untrustworthy’, were `by comparison reactionaries’.

Now because Thomas `stood up stoutly for the fact that a man’s body is his body as his mind is his mind; and that he can only be a balance and of the two’, this did not in the least mean he was a materialist in the modern sense, for this conviction was `specially connected with the startling sort of dogma, which the Modernist can least accept; the Resurrection of the Body’.

But, although Thomas’s argument for revelation was `quite rationalistic’, it was also `decidedly democratic and popular’: for he thought that `the souls of all the ordinary hard-working and simple-minded people’ were `quite as important as the souls of thinkers and truth-seekers’, and he wondered how the masses as opposed to the intellectuals could `find time for the amount of reasoning that is needed to find truth’. He believed in `scientific enquiry’ but he also had `a strong empathy with the average man’, concluding that Revelation was necessary since `men must receive the highest moral truths in a miraculous manner; or most men would not receive them at all’. In a similar way, because he had a `strong sense of human dignity and liberty’, he insisted on free will: `Upon this sublime and perilous liberty hang heaven and hell, and mysterious drama of the soul.’

The `materialism’ of Aquinas was nothing other than `Christian humility’, for he was `willing to begin by recording the facts and sensations of the material world, just as he would have been willing to begin by washing the plates and dishes in the monastery’. Anyway, Christianity had brought about a revolution in the human attitude towards the senses, toward sensations of the body and the experiences of the common man’, which could now be regarded `with a reverence at which great Aristotle would have stared, and no man in the ancient world could have begun to understand’:

The Body was no longer what it was when Plato and Porphyry and the old mystics had left it for dead. It had hung upon a gibbet. It had risen from a tomb. It was no longer possible for the soul to despise the senses, which had been the organs of something that was more than man. Plato might despise the flesh; but God had not despised it.

Since `there was in Plato a sort of idea that people would be better without their bodies; that their heads might fly off and meet in the sky in merely intellectual marriage, like cherubs in a picture’, it was not surprising that there was in the pre-Thomist Augustinian world `an emotional mood to abandon the body in despair’.

Yet, once `the Incarnation had become the idea that is central in our civilization, it was inevitable that there should be a return to materialism, in the sense of the serious value of matter and the making of the body’. And indeed there was in Thomas an unmistakably ‘positive’ attitude to creation, a mind `which is filled and soaked as with sunshine with the warmth of the wonder of created things’. He was positively `avid in his acceptance of Things; in his hunger and thirst for Things’:

It was his special spiritual thesis that there really are things; and not only the Thing; that the Many existed as well as the One. I do not mean things to eat or drink or wear, though he never denied to these their place in the noble hierarchy of Being; but rather things to think about, and especially things to prove, to experience and to know.

Aquinas passionately believed in the reason, but he also thought that everything that is in the intellect has been in the senses’. And he was a philosopher who remained `faithful to his first love’, which was `love at first sight’: `I mean that he immediately recognized a real quality in things; and afterwards resisted all the disintegrating doubts arising from the nature of those things.’

Underlying this philosophical realism was `a sort of purely Christian humility and fidelity’, which ensured that he remained `true to the first truth’ and refused `the first treason’, unlike the many philosophers who `dissolve the stick or the stone in chemical solutions of skepticism; either in the medium of mere time and change; or in the difficulties of classification of unique units; or in the difficulty of recognizing variety while admitting unity’.

But Thomas remained `stubborn in the same obstinate objective fidelity. He has seen grass and gravel; and he is not disobedient to the heavenly vision.’ Even `the doubts and difficulties about reality’ drove him `to believe in more reality rather than less’: `If things deceive us, it is by being more real than they seem.’ If things seemed have a relative unreality’, it was because they were `potential and not actual’, `unfulfilled, like packets of seeds or boxes of fireworks’.

No , other thinker, Chesterton asserts, was `so unmistakably thinking about things and not being misled by the indirect influence of words’. There was an `elemental and primitive poetry that shines through all his thoughts; especially through the thought with which all his thinking begins. It is an intense rightness of his sense of the relation between the mind and the thing outside the mind.’ The `light in all poetry, and indeed in all art’ was the `strangeness of things’ — that is, their `otherness; or what is called their objectivity’.

For Aquinas, `the energy of the mind forces the imagination outwards’ not `inwards’, because `the images it seeks are real things’. Their. `romance and glamour’ lay in the fact that they were `real things; things to be found by staring inwards at the mind’. Far from the mind being ‘sufficient to itself’, it was ‘insufficient for itself’: `For this feeding upon fact is itself, as an organ it has an object which is objective; this eating of strange strong meat of reality.’

Aquinas understood that the mind was ‘it merely receptive, in the sense that it absorbs sensations like so much blotting-paper; on that sort of softness has been based all that cowardly materialism, which conceives man as wholly servile to his environment’. But neither did he think that the mind was `purely creative, in the sense that it paints pictures on the windows and then mistakes them for a landscape outside’: `In other words, the essence of the Thomist common sense is that two agencies are at work; reality and the recognition of reality; and their meeting is a sort of marriage.”

It was in fact `a matter of common sense’ that Thomism was `the philosophy of common sense’. For Thomas did not `deal at all with what many now think the main metaphysical question; whether we can prove that the primary act of recognition of any reality is real’. And that was because he `recognized instantly… that a man must either answer that question in the affirmative, or else never answer any question, never ask any question, never even exist intellectually, to answer or to ask’. It was true in a sense that one could be `a fundamental skeptic’ — but then one could not be `anything else’, and certainly not `a defender of fundamental skepticism’.

In his robust rejection of skepticism, Chesterton is anxious to emphasize, Aquinas supported `the ordinary man’s acceptance of ordinary truisms’. Unlike contemporary intellectuals who despised the masses, Thomas,`the one real Rationalist’ who was given to `the unusual hobby of thinking’, was `arguing for a common sense which would… commend itself to most of the common people’.

Chesterton concludes his remarkable evocation of the mind of St. Thomas Aquinas — a mind, as perceived by him, so highly congenial ‘ to his own in its insistence on the fact of being, in its commitment not only to reason but also to common sense (with its consequent affinity to the common man), in its love of the limitation of definitions — on a dark and sinister note. For there came a day when, `in one sense, perhaps, the Augustinian tradition was avenged after all’ — not that either Augustine or the medieval Augustinians `would have desired’ to see that day.

Nevertheless it was an Augustinian friar who took his revenge on Thomism three centuries after Thomas: `For there was one particular monk in that Augustinian monastery in the German forests, who may be said to have had a single and special talent for emphasis; for emphasis and nothing except emphasis; for emphasis with the quality of earthquake.’ And that emphasis was on the Augustinian emphasis on `the impotence of man before God, the omniscience of God about the destiny of man, the need for holy fear and the humiliation of intellectual pride, more than the opposite and corresponding truths of free will or human dignity or good works’. It was this tradition that

came out of its cell again, in the day of storm and ruin, and cried out with a new and mighty voice for an elemental and emotional religion, and for the destruction of all philosophies. It had a peculiar horror and loathing of the great Greek philosophies, and of the scholasticism that had been founded on these philosophies.

It had one theory that was the destruction of all theories; in fact it had its own theology which was itself the death of theology. Man could say nothing to God, nothing from God, nothing about God, except an almost inarticulate cry for mercy and for the supernatural help of Christ, in a world where all natural things were useless. Reason was useless. Man could not move himself an inch any more than a stone. Man could not trust what was in his head any more than a turnip. Nothing remained in earth of heaven, but the name of Christ lifted in that lonely imprecation; awful as the cry of a beast in pain.

Chesterton’s searing indictment of Martin Luther is as striking as Newman’s own great, extended denunciation in the last of his Lectures on the Doctrine of Justification (1838) of Luther’s alleged religion of feelings. Chesterton insists that nothing `trivial’ had `transformed the world’. One of the `huge, hinges of history’, Luther’s `broad and burly figure enough to blot out for four centuries the distant human mountain of Aquinas’. Not that Luther’s pessimistic theology of `the hopel all human virtue’ was a theology that modern Protestants wouli dead in a field with; or if the phrase be too flippant, would be anxious to touch with a barge-pole’. All that Lutheranism was’: unreal’ — yet `Luther was not unreal’: `He was one of those great barbarians, to whom it is indeed given to change the world.’ `a great map like the mind of Aquinas, the mind of Luther would invisible’, it was `not altogether untrue to say… that Luther epoch; and began the modern world’. It was said that Luther ‘publicly burned the Summa Theologica and the works of Aquinas’:

All the close-packed definitions that excluded so many errors and extremes; all the broad and balanced judgments upon the clash of loyalties or the choice of evils; the liberal speculations upon the limits of government or the proper conditions of justice; all the distinctions between the use and abuse of private property; all the rules and exceptions about the great evil of war; all the allowances for human weakness and all the provisions for human health; all this mass of medieval humanism shrivelled and curled up in smoke before the eyes of its enemy; .and that great passionate peasant rejoiced darkly, because the day of the intellect over.

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