“Active and Passive Potency” in Thomistic Angelology by Howard P. Kainz Ph. D. (auth.)

By Howard P. Kainz Ph. D. (auth.)

A. "SEPARATE elements" AND lOR" ANGELS"? it's attention-grabbing to notice that, in an expressly theological treatise comparable to the Summa theologiae, St. Thomas mostly makes use of the time period "angel", rather than "separate substance"; whereas in works with a much less particular theological motive - e. g. the Summa contra gentiles and the De substantiis separatis 1 - he usually prefers the time period "separate substance". yet at any expense there's no doubt that the 2 phrases, "separate sub­ stance" and "angel" have a definite interchangeability and equivalence within the works of St. Thomas. In different phrases, "the separate substance" is resembling "the angel, insofar as its life and attributes are knowable via human cause alone". And this has led Karl Barth 2 to cost that St. Thomas' angelology is basically a philosophical presenta­ tion, with little relevance to theology. 1 we'd say that those works are "philosophical" insofar as arguments from cause are emphasised in them, instead of arguments from revelation or religion. in spite of the fact that, as Lescoe issues out (in the creation to his variation of the De substantUs separatis, p. 8), the treatise on separate ingredients leads as much as theological subject-matter in Ch. 's XVII ff- specifically, an exposition of Catholic instructing as present in Sacred Scripture, the Fathers, and particularly Dionysius. And Chenu continues that the Summa contra gentiles is largely a theological paintings, since it not just leads as much as theological subject-matter in Bk.

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Can we have "analogical" knowledge of God? In order to respond to this question, one might make an analogy to Kant's third antinomy (Cf. Kritik der Reinen Vernunft, A 444, 445, B 472, 473). In this third antinomy, we vacillate between two opposite conclusions in regard to freedom: For a) if every event has a cause, then there must be some first uncaused (spontaneous, free) cause to get the whole series of causes started; but b) since this first cause is, by definition, uncaused, it must be completely outside the series of events which are caused, and unable to "effect" this series, at least in the usual sense of the word, "effect".

In other words, in separate substances, there is never a "time" when the thought of some action to be done is conceived, without having already been done; never a "time" when some principle is conceived, without the conclusions being immediately and explicitly conceived also. When we speak of the "powers" of separate substances, therefore, we are not just referring to a "principle of activity" in the usual sense. For the powers of separate substances neither pass temporally from act to more perfect act, as do corporeal vegetative potencies; nor are they merely the active aspect of one integral power, as is the case with the agent intellect in man 2.

IX, § 48, p. 86 : "Ultra hune modum fiendi necesse est secundum sententiam Platonis et Aristotelis ponere alium altiorem ... Oportet ... supra modum fiendi quo aliquid fit, forma materiae adveniente, praeintelligere aliam rerum originem, secundum quod esse attribuitur toti universitati rerum a primo ente quod est suum esse". 34 THE THOMISTIC DOCTRINE ON POTENCY existence - a ground which becomes at the same time a mode of expressing existence. And "essence" supplies such a ground. The essence, indeed, gives complete metaphysical shape, and possibility of existence, to a thing.

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