The Emergence of the Act of Existing in Recent Thomism

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Helen James John, S.N.D.International Philosophical Quarterly 2 (1962): 595–620.

Text of The Emergence of the Act of Existing in Recent Thomism

  • CONTRWPORARY CURRENTS Trinity College Washington

    The Emergence of the Act of Existing in Recent Thomism

    Helen James John, S.N.D.

    THE THOMISTIC notion of being has undergone a genuine transformation within the past thirty years. This statement appears at once as a truism and a paradox. The importance and validity of recent studies showing the central position of the act of being and the doctrine of participation in Thomist metaphysics are now almost universally acknowledged within the school. In 1928, so "progressive" a Thomist as Father Mart~chal could take as an unquestioned starting point Wolff's definition of metaphysics as "the science of essences, or of possibles."1 For Thomists of the fifties, "Wolffian" and "essentialism" have become terms of abuse; and the philosophy of Aquinas is hailed, misleadingly enough-as an "existential metaphysics."

    The paradox of the situation derives from the relation of Tho-mistic metaphysics to that of St. Thomas: unless the former-at least in its most fundamental teachings-is identical with the latter, the name is meaningless; but if there is such an identity, it seems preposterous to speak of transformation some seven hundred years after the death of Aquinas. For the change in question is not simply a development, an accumulation of new applications of old prin-ciples or addition of new insights in areas heretofore neglected; the Thomists claim, not to have added to the store of truth of their tradition, but to have recovered the original insight into being which formed the vital source of the whole Thomistic synthesis. It is a change precisely in the idea of being ascribed by Thomists

    1 Joseph Marechal, S.J. "Au seuii de la metaphysique: Abstraction ou intuition 1" Reprinted from Revue neo-scolastique de philosophie (1929), in Melanges Joseph Marechal (Brussels, 1950), I, 104.

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    to St. Thomas, and as such, it constitutes a remarkable case-history for what we may barbarously term meta-metaphysics: the study of the historically conditioned understanding and evaluation of metaphysical doctrines.


    From its beginnings in the late nineteenth century, the Thomist revival was, of its very nature, a revival of realist metaphysics-a radical enough innovation in the prevailing climate of post-Kan-tian idealism. First the natural desire to establish contact with colleagues outside their own school, and then, about the turn of the century, the grim necessity of defending the rational praeam-bula fidei against the attacks of modernism led Thomists to direct their most serious efforts to the construction of "critical" founda-tions for a metaphysics which they accepted ready-made, so to speak, as a legacy from the Middle Ages.

    The thought of Fr. R. Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., formed once and for all in the fight against modernism, offers a striking and influential example of this epistemological orientation. Over his long and prolific career, this recognized defensor fidei of "strict-observance" Thomism has kept as the dominant theme of his philo-sophical works a constant insistence upon the absolute value of the principles which provide a rational approach to the truths of faith. Thus, for Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, the object of metaphysics is in-telligible being, the first and adequate object of the intellect, which sees in it, directly and spontaneously, the unquestionable evidence of the first principles.2 In this idea, which the mind abstracts from its contact with sensible reality, there appears first of all the oppo-sition of being to non-being; and this perception is at once expressed in the principle of non-contradiction or identity (the two are seen as simply the negative and positive formulations of the same principle). Then come the principles of sufficient reason, of substance, of efficient and final causality, all grasped as necessary and universal laws flowing directly from the notion of intelligible being.3

    2 Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., Le realisme du principe de tina lite, (Paris, 1932), p. 210. An earlier work of the same author, God: His Existence and Nature, dates from 1918.

    a R. Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., La synthese thomiste, (PariS, 1946), pp. 61-68.


    The first of these principles, that of non-contradiction, serves as basis for the capital assertion that being is necessarily prior to be-coming: Becoming cannot be the most fundamental reality, for that which is coming to be is not that which is. Here we are at the very heart of the Thomist synthesis, as Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange under-stands it.

    It has been said that a true philosopher has really only a single thought, in the sense that he relates everything else to this; thus the traditional philosophy derives all its force from the principle of contradiction or iden-tity and from the priority of being to becoming.'

    This insight leads naturally, through the principle of causality, to the affirmation of the existence of God, but our author is care-ful to point out that the metaphysical notion of being is by no means an intuition of the Supreme Being: "The first intelligible object grasped by our intellect joined to the senses is the intelligible being of sensible things, their essence indistinctly apprehended, which has only an analogous similarity to the Supreme Being."5 Accordingly the princi pIe of identity-the most universal and necessary of all truths-can bear directly only upon the essences of finite beings. Existential judgments referring to sensible reality attain only con-tingent existences and for the human mind the necessary existence of God is not a principle but a conclusion.6

    To sum up, we may say that for Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, the object of metaphysics is intelligible being, the first and adequate object of the intellect drawn by abstraction from contingent sensi-ble reality: "l'etre intelligible des choses sensibles, leur essence confusement connue." But this idea of being is absolutely univer-sal, though analogously so, in its application; and the evidence which it offers to the mind gives rise, directly and immediately, to the spontaneous grasp of the first principles as necessary and universal laws of being. The first of these principles, that of contra-diction, forms the focal point of the whole philosophical synthesis, the first truth from which, ultimately, all else is derived. Moreover, this doctrine is regarded as the complete expression of the tra-dition which begins with Aristotle:

    SyntMse thomiste, pp. 613, 615. Translations from works cited in for-eign editions are our own.

    5 Realisme, p. 30 (our italics). 6 Reaiisme, pp. 30, 32.

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    This metaphysical synthesis elaborated by St. Thomas is much more perfect than the doctrine explicitly taught by Aristotle; butfrom the philo-sophic point of view it is the development of principles formulated by the Stagirite. We may say that it is the same philosophy, but now full grown.'

    This approach to metaphysics appears as a radical reaction against the threats to rational certitude and the supremacy of being which confronted its author in the first quarter of our century: Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, now, as at the turn of the century, champions a Thomism in which being appears primarily as the logically necessary object of the first principles. Being is what it must be in order that the principles of identity, of sufficient reason, of causality, may be regarded as absolutely certain, self-evident and universal. Our idea, of course, has its origin in the real beings given in sensible experience; but being attains metaphysical value only when consid-ered as an "indistinctly grasped essence," in the absolute universality of the principles of logic. Here the real, but contingent, existence of the sensible beings of our experience seems practically devoid of philosophical interest.


    The early thirties saw the publication of several important stud-ies showing a noticeable break with the epistemological approach to being, and a new interest in metaphysics for its own sake. In France, especially, the influence of Bergson had made the philosoph-ical world much safer for metaphysics, and Thomists, like Berg-sonians and idealists of the Hamelin type, felt the necessity of a return to the concrete. Thus Maritain, while maintaining almost intact the notion of being of Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, began to claim for Thomism an intellectual intuition of being even richer and more concrete than that of Bergson, and to refer to Thomism as an "ex-istential" philosophy.s

    But beyond question the most significant product of this return to the concrete was the thesis of Aime Forest, La structure mel a-physique du concrei selon S. Thomas d' Aquin.9 The avowed purpose

    Synthese, p. 98. 8 Jacques Maritain, Sepi Ie{:ons sur I'eire, (Paris, 1934), pp. 28-30 et passim. First published in 1931. We cite from the 2nd ed. (unchanged), Paris,



    of this study was to apply to the thought of St. Thomas that histor-ical method which consists in studying the sources of a system so as better to understand the original and personal form which the philosopher has imposed upon them; and this it accomplished with notable success.10 But perhaps even more important was its author's view of the whole approach to the object of metaphysics. Where his predecessors started from the "abstract" notion of being in general, Forest proposes to begin with the analysis of the con-crete existent, "marking its principal traits of perfection, of compo-sition and of unity, to search out the principles which enter into its structure."l1

    A number of smaller works published about the same time pre-sent this approach both as characteristic of Thomistic realism and as best adapted to the needs of "dialogue" in the climate of French idealism around 1930. According to Forest's interpretation of the opposition between Thomism and French idealism, the latter cur-rent regards the concrete individual as the focal point of metaphys-ics; from this point of view, a presentation of Thomism centered upon the idea of being in general seems to offer only an impoverished and colorless view of reality.12 The idealists, in contrast, propose to restore the metaphysical value of the concrete individual by means of a system of thought which would be its correlative.1s For, from their point of view, "Ie concret, c'est la perfection, la richesse in-terieure et en quelque sorte inepuisable .... "14 In the context of his dialogue with the idealists, as in the actual planning of his his-torical thesis, Forest presents Thomism as an "analytical" philo-sophy, in the sense that starting from the consideration of any concrete existent, it proceeds, by a dialectic which brings into relief at once the relative perfection and the insufficiency of the finite individual, to attach it to the absolute by which it is sustained in being,15

    In a series of lectures on the spirit of Thomism, Forest gives an even more explicit formulation of this method. Here, having pro-posed to describe the procedure of "a philosophy which sets itself to reflect upon the very fact of existence," he continues:

    10 cr. Structure, p. 2. 11 Structure, p. 33. 12 A. Forest, "Esprit de la philosophie thomiste," Revue des cours et con-

    ferences, XXXIV (1932-33), 577-82. 13 A. Forest, La realite concrete et la dialeclique (Paris, 1931), Avant-propos. 14 "Esprit," p. 583. 11 Realite concrete, pp. 1-3.

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    From the outset, it will face the greatest difficulties in order to ac-complish its task; it will resist the temptation of thought to unify too soon and perhaps too easily. The world of philosophical reflexion will be identically the world of our experience and of science. By an anal-ysis which constitutes its starting-point, its special method, it will ex-tend to existence itself the Platonic notion of participation, show that existence is not that rigid absolute against which thought must strike or which would halt its progress. The idea of being, far from excluding that of relation, rather calls it forth, for in the analysis of the concrete being we will discover the necessity of the absolute toward which it points. The concrete existence sends us on to the abstract idea of being in gen-eral, of which it is only an aspect, and this latter to the absolute exis-tence which encompasses all things.16

    From this text it is clear that for Forest, the "abstract" and uni-versal idea of being properly 2ppears, not at the starting point, but almost at the close of the dialectic proper to metaphysics. In the order of discovery, its first object ,,\'ill be the concrete existent.

    La structure metaphysique du concret is concerned only with this first and fundamental analysis of the real individual in all its com-plexity; it stops before it reaches the stage of exposition of the uni-versal notion of being as being. Moreover, Forest expressly dis-courages any hope of finding in the philosophy of St. Thomas "an initial datum from which to hang the chaiil of the other truths," or "a first fact which might be given in inner experience and which would allow us to set aside the difficulties which arise by an a priori analysis of notions. "17

    What he does offer-and what constitutes the value of his book, which has become one of the few real classics of contemporary Tho-mism-is a series of detailed analyses of the compositions which en-ter into the structure of finite being: matter and form, nature and faculties, essence and existence. The Garrigou-Lagrange school had rather lumped these all under the general head of po-tency and act, which was important to them mainly as a means of safeguarding the principle of identity in the changing world of sense experience. Forest, for his part, examined each at length, bringing to bear upon them a remarkable wealth of histori-cal data on the sources employed by St. Thomas. And from Forest's study, the composition of essence and existence begins to emerge as the crucial doctrine of Thomism. For of all the compositions which enter into the finite being, Forest finds, it is this which as-

    18 "Esprit," pp. 14-16. 17 Structure, p. 324.


    sures its unity. The central factor in the metaphysical structure of the concrete existent lies in the fact that "the very being of [its] nature plays the role of a form, an act, a complement, a perfection . . .. Concrete existence signifies more than the mere positing of a being; it is rather the being of a nature, and this nature in turn is composed of structural elements." This insight into the being of the finite individual leads directly to a sweeping panorama of the universe of Thomism:

    If we live in a real world which by its very act [of being] proclaims the glory of God who is pure Actuality, this world offers itself to our understanding precisely inasmuch as its own ultimate actuality is that of a potency, or even of several potencies, so that we cannot regard it either as an absolute or as a brute fact. Esse est illud quod magis inti-mum est cuilibet et quod profundius omnibus inest, cum sit formale res-pectu omnium quae in re sunt. [Sum. Theo!. I, q. 8, a. 1 JI8

    Thus the metaphysical analysis of the finite existent leads Forest to see the central intuition of Thomism in "the affirmation of a world of substances, each possessing in itself, with the coherence of being, the character of unity."19 And in Forest's new historical perspective, the Aristotelian concern for the "solidity" and struc-tural coherence of the beings of our experience appears as a neces-sary condition for a valid Christian philosophy. It is by reason of his loyalty to Aristotle that St. Thomas, holding fast to the Sta-girite's view of metaphysics as the consideratio ipsius esse univer-salis, arrives at what Forest describes as "the simple idea from which the whole system proceeds," that God acts sicut zmiversalis causa essendi .... Thus, to arrive at the metaphysical necessity of God, we have only to understand the structure of individual things."2o Moreover, while holding fast to Aristotle's insistence on the coher-ence of the real world of our experience, St. Thomas yet appeals beyond experience to the Platonic notion of participation. Whence Forest concludes, "Everything happens as though the Platonic phi-losophy of participation could be preserved only in an Aristotelian philosophy of experience and of the real. "21 It hardly seems neces-sary to mark the contrasts between this view of Thomist metaphy-sic;" centered upon the "solidity" and complexity of the real finite

    18 Structure, pp. 38-39. 18 Structure, p. 326. 10 Structure, pp. 324-25, 70-71. 11 Structure, p. 307.

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    existent, and that of Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, which placed at its starting point the universal and necessary idea of being as being, carefully isolated from merely contingent existence.

    The two outstanding contributions of Forest's thesis-the his-torical understanding of St. Thomas' positions and the stress upon the composition of essence and existence in finite beings-marked out in advance the areas of greatest development in the Thomist metaphysics of the thirties. Fr. Andre Marc, S.J., published in 1933 his thesis on L'idee de Nire chez saini Thomas ei dans la sco-lasiique posterieure.22 This work places the distinction of essence and esse (the act of being) at the focal point of the Thomistic no-tion of being. Where such of his fellow-scholastics as Scotus and Suarez drew their notion of being from the analysis of simple appre-hension (which, as it were by definition, leaves out the existence of the being apprehended), St. Thomas drew his from the judgment, and so attains a notion of being which is precisely the expression of "the proportion of essence to esse, and, inversely, the adaptation of the latter to the former-in short, their mutual correlation."23


    The real climax in the transformation of Thomist metaphysics comes with the pUblication in 1939 of Father Fabro's study of par-ticipation in the teaching of St. Thomas. 24 For in this work, and in a series of articles published about the same time in a major controversy with Pere Descoqs, the Thomist revival offered for the first time an interpretation of metaphysics completely centered upon the act of being-the actus essendi.

    In the preface to Partecipazione, its author explains how his research led from the study of causality (a crucial problem for the epistemological approach) to the doctrine of participation, which soon appeared to him as the most characteristically "Thomistic" method of establishing the principle in question. From this discovery the way led to a new awareness of the central position of participa-tion in the whole Thomist synthesis, and a new perspective in the

    21 In Archives de philosophie, X (1933). 13 L'Idee, pp. 55-56. 24 Cornelio Fabro, C.P.S., La nozione metafisica di partecipazione secondo

    S. Tomaso d' Aquino (Milan, 1939). Throughout this section, page numbers in parentheses refer to this work.


    historical interpretation of Thomism. Fr. Fabro's study thus con-tained the basic insights of a radically new understanding of the traditional metaphysics.

    The originality of this work is nowhere more apparent than in its presentation of the object of metaphysics. Its author distinguishes three successive phases in the elaboration of the idea of being by the human intellect. The first and most all-pervasive of human ideas is that of ens in commune (Dingsein), which appears spontaneously at the very dawn of intellectual life. Grasped by a "quasi-formal" abstraction from the objects of sense-perception, this notion is directly extended to each new object as it comes along. But while its extension expands indefinitely, its intelligible content remains the same, that of the vaguest and poorest of all our ideas. When philosophical reflection succeeds this first grasp of being, it distin-guishes from the outset three separate notions: the logical being of the true judgment (Wahrsein); being considered formally, ens nominaliter sump tum, the essence or Etwassein; and, finally, ac-tual being (Wirklichsein), ens participialiter sump tum as designat-ing the act of the essence (pp. 192-3).

    To go beyond this first level of philosophical reflection, "formal" thought must give way to "real" thought: the mind turns from the consideration of the abstract form to rej oin the concrete individ-ual in an activity which engages all the cognitive faculties. The proportional relation of essence and act of being-the razione di essere, the proportion of being, in Fr. Fabro's terminology-here becomes the formal object which determines the course of metaphy-sical reflection, the order of its problems and solutions. For at once the mind is struck by the contrast between the abstract form, al-ways identical in content, and the real act of being with all the richness of the individuality which it connotes; from the viewpoint of the act of being, each individual realizes the abstract notion in a different way (pp. 135-8).

    With this insight into the paradoxical diversity-and-sameness of finite beings, there begins the dialectic proper to metaphysics. While all beings agree in having each one its own proportion of being, this latter notion, since its content is different in every individual, cannot be more explicitly defined. The notion of being, then, re-mains intrinsically incapable of expressing once and for all the real-ity it designates; its content must be explicated separately for each new object. Thus in metaphysical reflection we come to real-ize that however rich and varied may be the determinations which it represents in a given case, the proportion of being always transcends

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    them-"that is to say, it remains always inexhaustible and open to still other determinations, because all of them may be included within the range of its intelligible 'irradiation,'" and so it becomes clear that the proportion of being considered in itself designates a perfection and formality superior to all the determinations to which it is applied, and by which it is at once specified and limited (p. 138).

    In the third and final phase of the understanding of being, this dialectic culminates in a notion which synthesizes the being-essence and being-act disengaged at the beginning of metaphysical reflec-tion. Here the mind forms from the whole range of perfections actuated by the actus essendi, held co-present before the mind in a sort of panorama, a single "synoptic" idea, that of a "supreme formality" which gathers into itself the "absolute totality" of all particular perfections. In Fr. Fabro's own words,

    This proportion of Being is no longer something confused and inde-terminate, but has in itself a content which is fully intelligible-since it designates the fullness of intelligibility. In relation to it, all the other modes of being, from the most universal down to the particular, appear as restrictions and partial negations, which are more or less diminished as they approach more or less closely to Being, by the negation of imperfections and of limitations.

    And here, at the summit of metaphysical speculation, we see the whole range of reality drawn into a singlc "rational harmony" of beings (p. 138).

    In this ultimate vision of being, obtained by an activity to which Fabro gives the name of intensive metaphysical abstraction, the human mind in some measure regains, by an elaborate effort of reconstruc-tion, the metaphysical unity and wholeness of being lost in the multitude of beings which alone is given to our experience (p. 291). At the same time, this approach to the plenitude of being under-scores the value of the concrete; for here the actus essendi, separa-ted from all the forms which specify and so limit it in our experience, yet manifests itself as an "abstraction" of a very special kind-for it is at once emptied of any intelligible content if we attcmpt to understand it without reference to the "concrete" in which it is realized (p. 141).

    By this understanding of the metaphysical notion of being Fabro gives new meaning to the traditional Thomist distinction of essence and the act of being. The notion of essence, as we have already observed, first appears merely as that which has being (id quod ha-


    bet esse) in one or another particular fashion. And thus considered in the abstract, the term essence designates an idea as nearly as possible devoid of formal content, so as to be applicable to any being whatsoever-the idea of minimum comprehension and maxi-mum extension.25 But once engaged in the dialectic, each essence, now "concretely" considered, is seen to represent a particular, and indeed a unique, perfection. For the positive explanation of multi-plicity can be found only in the diversity-Le., the inequality-of perfection by which each form is distinguished from each of the others. (Even within the species, matter is only the condition of multiplicity; its positive explanation still demands the inequality, here that of accidental perfection, of the individual essences.) The manifold of essences thus comes to form a hierarchy-here St. Tho-mas loves to invoke Aristotle's comparison of forms to numbers---ordered in terms of a magis et minus of formal perfection, culminat-ing, as we have already seen, in the notion of ipsum esse conceived as the synthesis of the perfection of all the determinations represen-ted by the whole range of real or possible essences (pp. 196-200).

    Over against the essence thus conceived as the positing of a parti-cular perfection, Fr. Fabro sets the metaphysical value of esse, the act by '" hich essence is realized. Considered in the abstract (that is, apart from the essences which specify it and so limit it), this act of being coincides with the esse maximum jormale, the plenitude of formal and transcendental perfection, reached in the intensive abstraction already described. On the other hand, considered in the concrete, it is the act proper to a particular formality, and so that which is most perfect in each finite being, "its share of the divine splendor." Here esse emerges not simply as the fact of exis-tence, but as the root of actuality, source of all value and perfec-tion in the concrete individual (p. 302 ff). But this actuality is al-ways, in our experience, only that of a particular essence: "the forms from which it is really distinct and to which it is only lent, set a limit upon its capacity for indefinite expansion, compelling it to adapt itself to their formal status, and to insert its perfecting only in the line of their perfection. "26

    26 Note the correspondence of this notion of essence (which Fabro rele-gates to the outer fringes of metaphysics) with the "vaguely known essence" which Garrigou-Lagrange identified with intelligible being, the formal ob-ject of metaphysics.

    18 Cornelio Fabro, C.P.S., "Un itineraire de S. Thomas," Revue de philoso-phie, XXXIX (1939), 302.

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    This new conception of esse as the act 01 being-not mere "pheno-menal" existence, but "that which realizes an essence, in which in turn it is formalized"-enables Fr. Fabro to reply to the Suarezian charge of exaggerated realism in the Thomist distinction of essence and existence.27 But at the same time, its transposition of esse from the level of brute fact, directly accessible to experience, to that of the actualitas omnis lormae gives rise to a new problem, that of the explanation of our knowledge of this act. For it is to the essence, as it were by definition, that we must refer all the determinations and perfections directly apprehended by the intellect. This means that, rigorously speaking, the intensive notion of being, as to its formal content, seems to be that of the esse essentiae "which, as St. Thomas says, is that which specifies and draws to itself and deter-mines the esse existentiae." For, as our author goes on to explain,

    The esse existentiae from this point of view is speculatively "empty," since it has no formal content of its own, and as it finds in the subject the ground of its subsistence, so also only from the essence of the sub-ject does it receive its intelligibility (p. 206). Here essence and existence confront us with a paradoxical con-

    trast: the essence, as a kind of image, manifesting some aspect of divine perfection, is in itself intelligible; but however great its per-fection, of itself it is never real; it signifies "being this, or that," but never really being as such. Existence, in contrast, is by defini-tion that which gives reality to everything, and actuates every formality; but where existence "subsisting" in itself would require no explanation, "inherent" in things it presents itself, at least at first sight, as an inexplicable brute fact. The essence, existing in fact when it has no "right" to, and existence itself, discovered "in-hering" in things, together pose a single problem: how to explain the existence of a multitude of finite beings, which, precisely as finite, have not in themselves the right to exist (pp. 206-11).

    This problem serves as context for Fabro's simultaneous ela-boration of Thomist teaching on participation and on the real dis-tinction. Our author is quick to point out that in the perspective of any Christian philosophy, the existence of creatures is, and is destined to remain, a "mystery of love"-a gift freely given, whose intelligibility is rooted only in the liberty of God. But the multi-

    17 Cornelio Fabro, C.P.S., "Circa la divisione dell'essere," Diuus Thomas (Piacenza), XLII (1939), 552.


    plicity of finite beings is more accessible to our understanding; and in the analysis of the formal a priori conditions which their mul-tiplicity requires, we may shed some light upon the manner in which creatures participate in the ultimate act of being.

    If we consider being as forma universalis, it appears that it should be unique: the multiplicity and diversity of the perfection of being can only be explained in terms of its reception in a multitude of diverse subjects. It was the recognition of this logical necessity of a real composition in every finite being that led such authors as Augustine and A vicebron to the theory of the universality of matter in created beings. But St. Thomas, holding by Bible and tradition to the absolute immateriality of the angels (and support-ing this position by Aristotle's thesis on the incompatibility of matter and intellect) had to seek another solution. He found it in a theory which made the essence itself the subject in which the act of existing would be received (pp. 208-215).

    The three basic arguments employed by St. Thomas to establish the real distinction are already given in the very early work, De Ente et Esseniia; and in an article published also in 1939 Fr. Fa-bro is led to analyze them in some detail. The first, generally known as the "logical" argument, appeals to the fact that an essence can be understood without knowing whether it really exists; whence existence cannot properly belong to the essence. The second, the argument from "static" participation, points out that since exist-ence is not a genus, it cannot be multiplied by formal differentia-tion; the differences of beings are themselves beings. Thus multi-plicity of beings can only be explained by a multitude of subjects; "in other words, real being must be composed of a subject and the act of being, of a subject which participates in this act and the act which is participated."28 The third proof is derived from the notion of "dynamic" participation: that which receives something from another is in potency to the act which is received. Thus, the an-gelic essence which receives its esse from God must be related to it as potency to act.

    The complete study of Thomistic texts in Partecipazione enables Fabro to trace the maturation of St. Thomas' thought in his use of these three proofs. The first and third arguments, taken from A vi-cenna and based respectively upon logical opposition and causal dependence, appear most frequently in the early works of St. Thomas. His more mature writings lay greater stress upon the properly

    18 "Itineraire," pp. 297-8.

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    metaphysical content of the formal relations disengaged by the dialectic. Here the notion of participation, implied rather than expressed in the earliest works, receives its full development and so becomes the key to all the problems involved in the structure of finite being.29 It is thus the second argument of the De Ente which predominates in the mature thought of St. Thomas. And this interpretation of the Boethian theme of participation, affirming the real distinction of participans and participatum, is what distinguishes the Thomist doctrine from other forms of Chris-tian philosophy, all of which naturally admit participation taken as the simple expression of the dependence of the creature upon the Creator (pp. 248-49). The "definitive form" of St. Thomas' proof of the real distinction is presented by Fr. Fabro in a kind of schema, drawn directly from his detailed study of all the pertinent texts.

    This proof hinges on the principle that every creature is by par-ticipation, as is clear from the fact "that each of them is merely this or that, and does not comprehend within itself all the pleni-tude of being." But participation requires a composition (and so a division) of participating subject and participated perfection, as of potency and act. "Therefore every creature is (really) composed of act and potency in the order of being ... of the act of to be which is participated and of the participating potency which is the es-sence (or supposit) itself" (pp. 249-50).30

    Here participation refers directly to the relation of finite being to esse subsislens conceived (in intensive abstraction) as the intel-ligible totality which pre-contains in itself all real or possible for-mal perfection; and once the real existence of God is established, it at once becomes clear that this key notion designates not merely a complex of conceptual relations or conditions of intelligibility, but the total dependence in a threefold order of causality---exem-plary, efficient, and final-of all creatures upon the Creator.31 And in this context the real distinction of essence and existence reveals at once the frailness and the solidity of the creature, for the two principles are united, not in the simple "position" of one by the other, but in a kind of mutual indwelling, in which each communi-cates itself to the other so that the finite being derives from the union a real and intelligible consistency which neither principle

    29 "Circa la divisione," p. 544. 30 This proof, drawn verbatim from the texts, is set forth in Latin by Fr.

    Fabro. 31 Note here the synthesis of Platonic and Aristotelian causality.


    alone could bestow upon it, essence giving "content" to the finite act of being, which, in its turn "realizes" the essence (pp. 200-201).

    Where earlier Thomists viewed the essence-existence distinction as a simple application of the Aristotelian doctrine of potency and act, Fr. Fabro concludes from his textual study that the real dis-tinction was first thought out by St. Thomas in terms of participa-tion. Only afterwards would he have made use of the Aristotelian notion to clarify at once the contrast and the analogy between this distinction and that of matter and form. Moreover, in this extension, the Aristotelian notions of potency and act, invoked to give a firmer and more coherent logical structure to the theory of participation, receive themselves a new richness of mea'1ing. 32 Thus, while St. Thomas finally arrived at a rigorous correspondence and equivalence in his use of the term sets participatum-participans and actus-potentia to express the relations of esse and essence, each of the two forms of terminology nevertheless preserves its own irre-placeable function in the Thomist synthesis. For it is only by deri-vation from the Neo-Platonic conception of participation that St. Tho-mas introduces into his teaching a new field-completely unknown to Aristotle-for the Aristotelian notions of act and potency (pp. 249-50). And from the systematic point of view, this extension of act and potency constitutes the most profound innovation of Thomism.

    Along with its new interpretation of Thomist metaphysics, Par-tecipazione drew from the text an abundance of evidence to clarify the relation of St. Thomas' doctrine to that of his predecessors. We cannot here retrace, even in resume, the long first section in which Fr. Fabro brings into relief the inspirations drawn by the Angelic Doctor from Plato and Aristotle; from Augustine, the Pseu-do-Dionysius and Boethius; from the De Causis and from Avicenna. But in this study the author disengages three main aspects of par-ticipation as found in these sources: the Platonic theory, intended to explain the presence in a multiplicity of beings of a single for-mality common to all of them; the doctrine, ascribed by St. Thomas to Aristotle, which explains the realization of the same formality in diverse degrees, according to an order magis et minus, by the relation of all these degrees to a being which possesses the pleni-tude of the formality in question; and Avicenna's teaching on the distinction of essence and existence in contingent beings (pp.116-118). Partecipazione shows how St. Thomas integrates these three doctrines into a single coherent doctrinal complex and so justifies

    II "Itineraire," pp. 301-307.

  • 610 JOHN

    the historical generalizations set forth in its introduction: the phi-losophy of St. Thomas is essentially an Aristotelianism, but a "spec-ulative" Aristotelianism, concerned rather with the development of the Stagirite's principles than with the exact reproduction of his doctrine in its details; moreover, St. Thomas was led by the natural progress of his reflection to assimilate into his synthesis the Platonic and Neo-Platonic notions of participation, supporting them almost always by means of Aristotelian principles (p. 6).

    Here we have, in its first full presentation, the essential teaching of a Thomism centered on the act of existing; where Garrigou-Lagrange saw in finite existence merely the contingent fact of the positing of the essence (to which alone belonged the universality and neces-sity of the object of metaphysics), where Forest saw the finite esse as principle of unity and solidity in the structure of concrete being, Fr. Fabro presents the actus essendi, as originally conceived by St. Thomas, as the share in Being itself, the source of all meaning and value, bestowed upon finite being. There is, in consequence, a kind of "transposition" of Thomist metaphysics, which, while leaving the great majority of the traditional formulae intact, yet radically changes their deeper significance. For here we seem to have truly come back to the original vision of St. Thomas-to the intuition at the heart of the system whence all the principles derive their full force.

    At the same time, we have a definite change in the understand-ing of the relation of Thomism to the thought of Aristotle. Garrigou-Lagrange saw the philosophy of St. Thomas as simply a "grown-up" Aristotelianism; Forest stressed rather the influence of the Stagirite in underscoring the "solidity" of finite being, and observed the importance of the "Platonic" notion of participation in Thomist metaphysics. But it was the achievement of Fr. Fabro to trace out the full place of participation in the Thomist synthesis, and so to manifest at once its indebtedness to the whole tradition of Greek, Christian, and Islamic philosophy, and the powerful originality and fruitfulness of the metaphysical vision of St. Thomas himself. These two aspects come together in striking fashion when Fr. Fa-bro asks the question: Why, out of a host of Christian and Islamic philosophers, all equally confronted with the problem of creation and with the principles of Plato and Aristotle, did St. Thomas alone reach an explanation in terms of the actus essendi? The answer seems to lie in a hidden, but profound, influence of the spirit of Aristotle. For it was he who most insisted upon the "ontological consistency" of the beings of our experience, on their possession


    in themselves of their constitutive and operative principles. It is in this line of inspiration that St. Thomas advances when he elab-orates his personal and original conception of the actus essendi: " ... when we say of creatures that they exist, we simply mean that they really participate in ipsum esse, which is at the same time the real term in the creature of the causality proper to the creator."33

    With the publication in 1939 of Partecipazione, the new under-standing of Thomism was already complete in its main lines. But owing to the war several years were to elapse before Fr. Fabro's works could be made available outside of Italy. This delay gave occasion for a particularly interesting feature of the re-discovery of the actus essendi, for within a few years French and Belgian Tho-mists, pursuing their research independently both of Fr. Fabro and of each other, had arrived by three or four distinct routes at views of being similar to those of their Italian colleague. A good-sized book might well be devoted to the Thomist metaphysics of the forties; but a brief sketch of several distinct lines of approach to the primacy of esse in Thomism will serve here to give a general impression of the transformation which was taking place.

    The most evident parallel to Fr. Fabro's work was, of course, the scholarly study of the same general subject in the thesis of L.-B. Geiger, O.P., La participation dans la philosophie de S. Thomas d' Aquin (Paris, 1942; second ed., almost unchanged, 1952). More accessible, language-wise, than Partecipazione, Fr. Geiger's work, pursued independently of that of his Italian colleague in the years before the war, has been perhaps even more influential in arousing interest in Thomistic teaching on the hierarchical structure of real-ity. On the other hand, his technical elaboration of the subject in terms of two distinct systems of participation, participation by composition and participation by similitude, gave less occasion for attention to the originality of St. Thomas' conception of esse. Replying in the Bulletin Thomiste (1943-46, VIII, # 644) to some comments on his thesis, Fr. Geiger showed himself nonetheless in full accord with those who stressed the value of a fuller exploita-tion of this notion, especially in the setting out of the quarta via. Hence we do not think it necessary to undertake a detailed analy-sis of this work, since it would lead us into many difficult techni-cal questions not pertinent to our main theme.

    88 "Itineraire," p. 309.

  • 612 JOHN


    For Americans, the new point of view was likely to be seen as that of an "existential" Thomism, for so it was presented by Jac-ques Maritain and Etienne Gilson. The very first description of Thomism as an existential philosophy seems to have been given by Maritain in a series of lectures given in 1932. But here the con-text was far from the later preoccupation with the act of existing of finite beings; rather, Maritain was engaged in "founding" what was essentially the metaphysics of Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange upon an intellectual intuition of being-an intuition surpassing in concrete richness and depth (as also in universality and necessity) Berg-son's duration, Heidegger's angst, and Marcel's experience of crea-tive fidelity.34 Maritain never seems to have arrived at a genuine recognition of the primacy of esse in real finite individuals. True, his Existence and the Existent (first published in French in 1947) exchanges the earlier intuition of being as being for that of the "superintelligibility" of the act of existing. But when we examine the doctrine of the later work, what strikes us most is its fidelity to the earlier metaphysical positions: it is only as possible (that is, when thought of as essence) that finite existence can serve as ground for the universal and necessary certitudes of scientific know-ledge.35 The lyrical praises of the act of existing thus reflect, not a real change in thought, but an adaptation of older doctrines to a new climate, or what we might term a new style of philosophiz-ing, within the Thomist school.

    The changing of the "climate" itself, in America, was largely the work of Etienne Gilson. A prolific writer and lecturer, in English as well as in French, he has served in this country as the interpre-ter par excellence of historical Thomism to non-Thomists. In the late twenties and early thirties he had engaged in several prolonged controversies with leading European Thomists (notably those of Louvain) on the possibility of a specifically Christian philosophy. Here Gilson was opposing what he regarded as an illegitimate and apologetically imprudent concession to non-Thomistic points of view: he insisted that the philosophical doctrines of St. Thomas could not be viewed apart from their context in Christian theology .

    .. Sept iel(ons, pp. 28-30. 35 English version by L. Galantiere and G. B. Phelan (New York, 1948),

    p. 31 et passim.


    His position on Christian philosophy affected Gilson's approach to the primacy of esse in two quite different ways: first, it seems at least partially responsible for his remaining rather aloof from the main currents of European Thomism, and so less immediately affect-ed by the important developments which the thirties brought to the treatment of essence and existence. But at the same time, it led him to the line of thought by which he came to his own "personal dis-covery" of the role of the real distinction in the thought of St. Tho-mas. Already, in the Gifford Lectures for 1931-32, on the Spirit 01 Medieval Philosophy,36 he had presented this distinction as the ex-pression in scholastic terminology of the doctrine of creation (i.e., of divine efficient causality) and hence as implicit in all Christian philosophy; but as late as 1939-the publication date of Parteci-pazione-at least one passage in Realisme thomiste et critique de la connaissance betrays his failure to distinguish the form from the actus essendi.37

    In 1941, in the Powell Lectures on God and Philosophy, Gilson first employed the term "existentialism" in referring to the two capital doctrines of Christian philosophy, creation and the descrip-tion of God as He Who is. But only in 1942, in the fourth edition of Le thomisme did he present his full interpretation of "Thomistic existentialism." In a new chapter headed Existence et rralite, he marks out the radical contrast between essentialist ontologies, which equate being and essence, and the existential ontology of St. Thom-as. This latter is defined in terms of its affirmation of the

    radical primacy of existence over essence: ... the form of the substance is only such and only exists in virtue of the existential act which makes of the substance a real being. So understood, the act of existing takes its place at the heart, or if you prefer, at the very root of the real. It is thus the principle of the principles of

    Another new chapter, headed Haec Sublimis Veritas, treats the real distinction as a philosophical consequence of the revelation made to Moses of the proper name of God-"I am Who am." Gilson tra-ces the career of the revelation of Exodus in Christian thought from Augustine down to Aquinas. And he observes that the Tho-mistic understanding of God as ipsum esse subsistens brought Chris-

    a. New York, 1936 . 1 (Paris, 1939), p. 219 . Le thomisme, 5th ed., pp. 49-50.

  • JOHN

    tian philosophy to a new level. "Thus transcending the Platonic ontology of essence and the Aristotelian ontology of substance, likewise, by that very fact, along with the first substance of Aris-totle, St. Thomas went beyond the God Esseniia of St. Augustine. "39 Moreover in marking this progress consequent upon the discovery of the full meaning of esse, Gilson points out that St. Thomas believed that God had revealed to Moses both that His essence was to exist and that this prerogative belonged to no other being. Leaving to others the problem as to whether it was Aquinas the philosopher or Aquinas the theologian who first arrived at these truths, Gilson concludes, "St. Thomas himself, as philosopher, conceived these two propositions as the inside and outside of a single metaphysical thesis; and from the day he understood them, he always thought that he read them in the Bible. "40


    An approach to the primacy of esse very different from Gilson's was developed about this same time in the theses of the Jesuits Joseph de Finance and Andre Hayen. Working independently of Gilson and Fabro-and also, it seems, of each other-in the years just before the war, each of them had arrived at an interpretation of Thomism fully centered upon the understanding of esse. But where Fabro set out from the study of participation, and Gilson from the philosophical implications of creation, de Finance's Eire ei agir41 and Hayen's L'Inientionne142 shared a single inspiration. A progressive leader of what we have termed the epistemological orien-tation, Joseph Marechal, S.J., had sought to explain the objectivity of human knowledge in terms of a relation, implicit in the very act of abstraction, of the finite essence to absolute Esse. This approach to the understanding of being-what Marechal termed "a reversal of the terms of the problem"-was summed up by Fr. Hayen in the affirmation, "metaphysics is not the grasping (saisie) of the

    89 Le thomisme, p. 135. '" Le thomisme, pp. 137-8. We have taken this account of the evolution

    of Gilson's thought on this problem from chapter II of the unpublished thesis of C.J. Edie, on the Philosophy of Etienne Gilson (Lou vain, 1958).

    41 Paris, 1945. 42 We cite the 2nd ed., Paris, 1954 (1st ed., 1942).


    absolute by our intelligence, but the grasping of our intelligence by the absolute. "43

    Drawing inspiration from this method, both of the two more recent authors make their approach to the notion of being, not by way of the concrete finite existent directly given to our experience, but by reflection upon the relation to the Absolute implicitly pre-sent, as source of objectivity, in everyone of our affirmations. But there are significant and interesting differences in the development of this key idea in the works of the two authors, differences which may be traced to the quite different themes of their research.

    In Eire ei agir dans la philosophie de saint Thomas, Fr. de Finance discovered in the relation of beings to the Absolute Being (the "sub-limated" Esse grasped implicitly in every act of the intellect) the key to a metaphysical understanding of the actuality and activity of finite beings. It was an explicitation of the tendency toward the absolute underlying our knowledge of finite natures, and use of the characteristically Marechalian principle of the rigorous "in-terpenetration" of thought and being, that brought him to his des-cription of esse as act in the strictest sense. And this leads him to what he terms an "actualist" conception of being: the finite esse appears as a dynamic tendency toward the absolute-the counter-part in concrete being of the relation, implicit in every act of man's mind, of the abstract nature to the absolute Esse. The sense that de Finance gives to the Thomistic formulae is thus rather different from that of Fabro or Gilson. Esse is still the source of all value, the term of all becoming, the desirable par excellence, formalissimum omnium, the principle of all intelligibility. But the existence here thought of is not that of concrete beings. It is the "dynamic rela-tion of essences as known to the Absolute Esse which alone explains and guarantees the dynamic infinity of the notion of being." 43a

    The "metaphysics of the intentionality of being" sketched in the conclusion of Fr. Hayen's thesis is likewise reached by reflection not on finite beings as such, but on the conditions of our knowledge of them. In exploring the various uses of the notion of intentional-ity in the works of St. Thomas, Fr. Hayen comes to a general under-standing of the intentionality of a being as "the presence in this being of a force or a perfection (in a metaphysics of act the two terms are precisely synonymous, and both signify a principle of activity) which surpasses it and draws it beyond itself." Such a

    43 L'inientionnel, Avant-propos of 2nd ed., p. 6. ua Eire et agir, p. 322.

  • 616 JOHN

    presence can be only "an active but imperfect identity" of the per-fection with the finite being in question, and this at once from two quite distinct points of view: present as final cause, the perfection gives rise in the finite being to a tendency towards itself; at the same time, received in the being by participation, the perfection is present and active in it as efficient cause. Since the First Ef-ficient Cause and the Last End are identical, participation, ten-dency, and intentionality imply each other, and for Fr. Hayen intentionality represents a kind of synthesis of the other two notions:

    To speak of the intentionality of being ... of the intentional presence of a perfection to the being which participates in it, is to underscore the intimate and total dependence of this being as regards the perfection which transcends it, since it is present to it only intentionally, and which, nonetheless, is profoundly immanent, since its intentional presence is constitutive and creative.44

    It is intentionality so understood which gives Fr. Hayen the key to the understanding of the act of being in creatures:

    ... the finite being which participates is intelligible-and consequently real-only as "something" essentially and intrinsically related to God by the relation of participation. . .. The essence of such a being, as principle constitutive of its reality, will be really, but by no means ade-quately, distinct from its existence. It will be the being itself, inasmuch as it is limited and determined to be "in itself" such a being. Esse, like-wise a constitutive principle of the being in question, will be the being itself, in that it possesses, in dependence on God, its esse.4S

    The finite act of to be is here understood as the intentional pre-sence of God to the creature; at the same time it is "the act which is the creature itselj."46 And so understood, Hayen's notion of esse may be seen as a kind of synthesis of the participated actus essendi disengaged by Fabro and the dynamic "actualist" esse ascribed to finite being by the author of Etre et Agir. And the convergence of these three approaches is all the more interesting when we con-sider together the distinct starting-points of their authors and the fact that they pursued their research at the same time (in the late thirties) independently of each other.

    " L'inientionnel, pp. 16-18. U L'inientionnel, p. 251 (author's italics). " L'intentionnel, p. 253 (author's italics).



    Fabro, Gilson, de Finance, and Hayen had all presented the new understanding of being primarily in historical terms, through ef-forts to find in a return to the texts of St. Thomas new light upon specific metaphysical problems. Msgr. De Raeymaeker, President of Louvain's Higher Institute of Philosophy, had also made a notable contribution in this line, in a chronological study of the meaning of the word esse in the Thomistic texts. Here special emphasis is placed on the relation of essence and esse in the understanding of being as a transcendental:

    At the root of the transcendentality of the notion ens, there lies, cer-tainly, the act of to be, esse, which, by its presence in a subject, makes this subject a being (zijnde): "hoc vero nomen ens imponitur ab actu essendi."

    This insight is found in the very earliest texts, but it is only lat-er that St. Thomas came to lay full stress upon esse as the radical value of being underlying all perfection, actualitas omnis tormae. Here Msgr. De Racymaeker points out the convergence between his own conclusions and those of Fabro, who had shown how, under the influence of Neo-Platonic sources, St. Thomas brought his doctrine of participation to full development in its application to the real distinction of essence and esse, so as to represent the finite entity expressly as a degree of being, existing by participation of the per-fection of esse.47

    It is precisely this later Thomistic notion of being which is sys-tematically explored and developed in Msgr. De Raeymaeker's Philo-sophy ot Being.48 He had already stressed the doctrine of participa-tion in earlier treatises, published in Latin and Dutch; in fact Fr. Fabro, in the preface to Pariecipazione (p. 7) had listed his Meta-physica Generalis (2nd ed., 1935) among the forerunners of his own study. In the French edition this doctrine stands out -for the first time in a systematic treatment of metaphysics-as the fundamental insight pervading and unifying the whole Thomistic synthesis.

    47 "De Zin van het Woord Esse bij den hI. Thomas van Aquino," Tijd-schrifl Door Philosoph ie, VIII (1946), 432-33.

    (8 First French ed., Louvain, 1946; English translation by E.H. Zeigel-meyer, S.J. (St. Louis, 1954).

  • 618 JOHN

    Here the idea of being is seen to express at once, in a paradoxical unity, the finite individuality and the absolute value of being in every reality which offers itself to our knowledge. It is at once absolutely concrete and absolutely universal; and it thus presents, in every case, two irreducible aspects: this being is; and it is such or such a being. This tension, or polarity, at the heart of our notion of being, provides the key to the whole dialectic of the Philosophy oj Being, which passes from the notion of being, revealed to reflec-tion as analogous, to the structural composition of finite being and the relativity which this composition implies, to its culmination in the grounding of the whole order of finite beings in the absolute creative cause, source of the value of being in each of them.

    Moreover, in the course of this dialectic, Msgr. De Raeymaeker draws upon the new insight into the role of the actus essendi to offer clear and elegant solutions to a number of problems long and fiercely discussed among Thomists. For once it is seen that the correlation of the act of being and essence constitutes at once the fundamental structure and the source of unity in finite being as such, such metaphysical complications as the separate esse ascribed to accidents by certain Thomists, and the subsistence posited as a principle of personality distinct both from this individual nature and from its existence, appear at once as superfluous.

    In a very real sense, the publication in 1946 of Philosophy oj Being might be said to mark the close of an important epoch in recent Thomist metaphysics: the transformation of the general understand-ing of St. Thomas' notion of being was essentially complete. The exploration of its implications remains to be done, and may well occupy Thomists for many years to come, giving rise to new contro-versies, new problems, and new solutions. But it seems clear by now that we have acquired, as a common principle among Thomists, the recognition that "the originality of the Thomist position may well be expressed by saying that it shifts from form towards ex-istence the positive pole of the real. "49


    In the years intervening since the decisive work of the above-named authors, Thomists who have accepted this basic "existen-tial" interpretation of the metaphysics of St. Thomas-and they

    4D Eire et agir, p. 116.


    seem to be now definitely in the majority, though all are not happy with the term used to describe it-have pursued their researches in two main directions: historical and doctrinal or systematic. Fr. Fabro has published an extremely rich synthesis of his thought, Participation el causalile selon S. Thomas, in which he has treated both aspects at once and attempted to show the central position of the latter's understanding of being in the whole history of meta-physics.50 The historical work of others has proceeded principally along the line of comparing St. Thomas' own thought with that of other Thomists either immediately following him or in the tradi-tion of the great Dominican commentators. The extremely in-teresting result emerging from most of this work is the discovery that few if any of St. Thomas' professedly most faithful disciples in this early tradition seemed to be aware of the extent of the re-volution in the metaphysics of being that he had operated, or were able to get in focus the central role of the act of existing. Though accepting of course his doctrine of the real distinction of essence and existence, they still continued to understand being (ens) itself in a primarily Aristotelian sense of essence or substance.51

    The doctrinal or systematic work has concerned itself chiefly with drawing out the various implications of the primacy of the of the act of esse throughout the complex network of the Thomistic system, both in metaphysics and elsewhere.52 Many interesting

    M Louvain: Nauwelaerts, 1961, 650 pp. I have already published a long analysis of this work in Modern Schooiman, XXXIX (1961-62), 154-65.

    n A few samples of this line of work ale: J. Hegyi, S.J. Die Bedeutung des Seins bei den klassichen ]{ommentatoren des hi. Thomas von Aquin: Ca-preolus, Sylvester von Ferrara, Cajetan (Pullach: 1959); E. Gilson, "Cajetan et l'existencc," Tijdsclzrift voor Philosophie, XV (1953), 267-86; N.J. Wells, "Capreolus on Essence and Existence," Mod. School., XXXVIII (1960-61), 1-24: this article shows how Capreolus, though holding the real distinction, was so influenced by his strict Aristotelian conception of essence as that which is necessary and proper to a thing in its own right that he was led to the logical conclusion that the essences of creatures are identical with the possibles in the divine mind and hence uncreated. This contradicts flatly St. Thomas' assertion that the essences of creatures are equally as created, or "co-created," as their acts of existence, considered as real metaphysical principles (Dc Poi., q. 3, a. 5, ad 2m). Mediaeval Studies and other journals have also been pub-lishing a succession of scholarly studies on the notion of being among early Thomists, e.g., E. O. Allen, "Hervaeus Natalis: An Early Thomist on the Notion of Being," Med. Stud., XXI (1959), 1-14.

    52 E.g.: G. Phelan, "The Being of Creatures," Proc. ot Amer. Cath. Phil. Assoc., XXXI (1957), 118-31, and the two commentaries on it; the article by W. C. Carlo in this same issue of I P Q; E. Gilson, "Les principes et

  • 620 JOHN

    and challenging conclusions have been proposed, some of which have provoked minor crises within the Thomistic school itself as certain "traditional" formulas or positions have been hrought into question. It is too early yet to assess the results of all this work. But it is certain that it is forcing a vital and often creative rethinking of Thomism on many fronts that is both rich in promise and much needed.

    les causes," Rev. lhomisle LII (1952), 39-63, which has initiated a move-ment of reaction against interpreting the first principles as abstract propo-sitions evident by purely conceptual analysis of their terms; W.N. Clarke, S.J., "What Is Really Real?" in Progress in Philosophy, ed. J. McWilliams (Milwaukee: Bruce, 1955), pp. 63-90, on the status of the possibles, and the resulting controversy with Fr. Conway in the New Scholasticism in 1959-60; the many writings of Joseph Owens, C.S.S.R.; E. Sillem, "The Knowledge of Existence," Downside Rev., LXI (1951), 301-22; and other contributions too numerous to mention here.