On this feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, I offer what I consider to be the relevance of the Thomistic Metaphysics to what is completing it, namely, the notion of the person (divine and human) as constitutive relation. Peter Kreeft has done same, but failing to able to copy and paste his “Thomistic Personalism – A Marriage Made in Heaven, Hell, or Harvard? (2011), I offer the paper I published in the 1991 in the Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association, Volume 65, 1991, together with a slight commentary on it. I vanely add that I had suggested the idea to Fr. Clarke in 1989 which he ran with and published widely. It still has not caught on because the epistemological horizon it must be developed in is not available to us in this reductionist culture, but Pope Francis may be leading us down that road.
* * * * * * * *
Relational Esse and the Person
My purpose in this paper is to propose the Thomistic act of existence as the explanation of the relational dimension of person as well as its unique substantiality. Both relation and substantiality are equal as dimensions of that act of existence. Relation is not considered as the predicamental "accident" but as the constitutive expansiveness of the act of existence understood "intensively." That act of existence, when it is intensively intellectual, is the person.
The topic falls under the rubric of "Christian Philosophy" because as the act
of existence or esse, as I will now refer to it, may have involved the revealed notion of creation for its discovery, the notion of person certainly involves the revelation of the Trinity of three Persons in one God. If this is so, and if the One God is considered substantial Being, then the Three Persons, revealing themselves in dialogue, can only be subsistent relationalities, dialogue being a relational ontologic. St. Augustine remarks: "In God there are no accidents, only substance and relation." Explaining himself, Augustine says: "He is not called Father with reference to himself but only in relation to the Son; seen by himself he is simply God."
Cardinal Ratzinger comments that "this means that the First Person does not beget the Son in the sense of the act of begetting coming on top of the finished Person; it is the act of begetting, of giving oneself, of streaming forth. It is identical with the act of giving. Only as this act is it person 3 What is being affirmed here is that the notion of person is constitutively expansive as relation. Therefore, the notion of being has to be rethought and reformulated in the dyadic terms of substance or intrinsic existence and its constitutive relationality.4 So also, the purpose of this paper is to confront the challenge which Cardinal Ratzinger throws down to a metaphysic which has affirmed being only as substance without a constitutive relational dimension: `Therein lies concealed a revolution in man's view of the world: the undivided sway of thinking in terms of substance is ended; relation is discovered as an equally valid primordial mode of reality ... a new plane of being comes into view ."5 It could also be mentioned here that the Second Vatican Council has wanted to suggest the parallel between the relational character of the Divine Persons and the relational character of the human person when it says: "man can fully discover his true self only in a sincere giving of himself."6 I might also insert here the recent statement of Walter Kasper which says that theology needs a metaphysics which has been developed precisely within theology. He comments:
The regaining of the metaphysical dimension appears to me, therefore, one of the most important tasks of contemporary theology. This holds true, even though many contemporary theologians, to use Hegel's terms, keep a safe distance from metaphysics as if it were a leper. But without a transcendent ground and point of reference, statements of faith are finally only subjective projections or social and ecclesial ideologies...one cannot
... adopt this theologically necessary metaphysics `from the outside.' Rather, one must develop it on the basis of the testimonies of revelation and the understanding of reality implicit in them... Up to this moment, the analysis of person has traditionally been made from the bottom ups That is to say, man has been viewed as a part of nature to which has been superadded the distinguishing ingredients of rationality and free will. This has also been the analytical procedure of Aristotelian anthropology, shepherded through the Middle Ages under the guiding thought of Boethius in to the present day. Boethius defined person as the naturae rationalis individual substantia. Person, then, has traditionally been defined from the side of essence as substance, which in Thomistic existentialism is the source of finitude and limit. Even when it has not been defined that way, as in the case of Capreolus, esse was seen only as the actuality of essence and not as intensive in itself and intrinsically expansive.9 Hence, even when person was constituted
from the side of esse, esse was not considered in its expansiveness but as the "thin" actuality of essence. Therefore, as long as the metaphysical model for describing a person was Aristotelian substance and relation was always an accident, then being as relation would never be able to pass from its immanentized domestication within the Trinity, to man and thereon to all reality as relational being. The cultural effect of understanding being to be relational in its very intrinsicness has been admirably presented by David
Schindler in a number of articles in recent years. The proposal, then, is to accept the theological elaboration of person as constitutively relational as expansive and offer the Thomistic esse as 'the ontological explanation of that expansiveness.
Three major points will be considered: (1) esse as intensive act; (2) the relation of intensive esse and agere; and (3) the transmutation of the subject or person from limiting essence to expansive esse. We will assume the dynamic character of the Thomistic esse as expounded by Gerald Phelan when he comments:
What was my joy, then, to read in the very first article of St. Thomas's Quaestio Disputata De Veritate, that reality, unity, truth and all the transcendentals were general modes of being (modi essendi), not properties or attributes of beings (entia) and that all those things we are accustomed to designate by nouns-substance, quantity, quality, relation and the rest-are likewise modes of being [(modi essendi, mark you, not modi entis or modi entium)]. They are, therefore, more accurately expressed by adverbial adjuncts to the verb "to be" than by the customary substantives.”11
The proposal, then, is to see this "to be" (esse), not as an actuality of substance, but as an intensive act in its own right of which agere, and expansiveness as an agere is another "mode" of that esse. Thus, agere is "esse-becoming" and so constitutive of "esse's
esse. I will offer a presentation of essence as limit not as "exercising" subject of esse. The final development will be to suggest the transference of agency from essence to esse. When esse is intelligere the agent is the person.
The first order of business is to establish the priority of esse as on and source of all reality. Rev. Gerald B. Phelan was taught at Louvain that esse is the only act which "God gives when he creates,"12 and understood it to mean that "God gives esse and nothing more .... Just nothing but esse, writ small."13 "The act of existence (esse)," says
"is not a state, it is an act and not as any static definable object of conception. Esse is dynamic impulse, energy, act- the first, the most persistent and enduring of all dynamisms, all energies, all acts. In all things on earth, the act of being (esse) is the consubstantial urge of nature, a restless, striving force, carrying each being (ens) onward, from within the depths of its own reality to its full self-achievement ...14
Our purpose here is to see what kind of act esse is so as to be able to discern if it is merely the actuality of essences which would be the subjects receiving and exercising esse. Rather, might it be a constitutive relationality because of its intensity as intelligible act and so be a wo candidate for the ontological category of person. The gambit then is: where there is intensity, there is relationality. Relationality means intensity. Vivere, sentire, intelligere are hierarchical gradings of directly proportional relationalities and corresponding intensities of being. If personality is defined by relationality (and we saw that this was the offering from Trinitarian theology and reinforced today by the Magisterium of the Church) then the principle of relationality should be the principle of personality as intensity. If we can show the Thomistic esse to be intensive and therefore relational, it should be the principle of personality. And if essence, thick or thin, is to be considered merely as limit of esse, then finite esse, as limited, should not only be considered the principle of personality but the subject, the being of the person himself.
I have three texts of St. Thomas on a major issue, namely, the "kind" of esse that belongs to the soul, that enables it to be immaterial and by nature intrinsically related to matter at the same time. The whole conundrum of whether an intellectual soul can be at the same time the form of the body is resolved by St. Thomas through his understanding of esse:
...the human soul exists through its own esse; and matter shares in this esse up to a point without completely enveloping it, because the dignity of such a form transcends the capacity of matter. And that is why nothing prevents the soul from having an operation or power beyond the reach of matter. 15
Now, the esse of the soul which becomes the esse of the body is not just the actuality of the soul extended to the body, but an intelligere which is of a completely different order of intelligible density than the esse of the composite. Esse as intelligere is not "thin. "17 It has an intensity, a "thickness," an intelligibility,(18) and an immateriality which the body cannot exhaust in its own way of being. Man exists, then, "in his totality and in his compositeness through an act of existence which is wholly
intellectual."(19) Anton Pegis sums up his article on the subject affirming, that "Man is an intellect, an incarnate intellect, and this by nature."
To clarify the use of the word "intelligere," St. Thomas makes a distinction between two meanings of the word: "Sensation and intelligence, and the like, are sometimes taken for the operations, sometimes for the existence (ipso esse) of the operator.” (21)
And so, St. Thomas is talking about esse, but not as some homogeneous actuality or facticity, but about a real "quo" which is on a different level of density in a hierarchy of real beings.
Exactly the same idea appears in his De Spiritualibus Creaturis, when he answers the 14th objection:
Intelligere is sometimes understood as an operation, and as such its origin is a power of the soul or habit. At other times it is understood to be the existence (ipso esse) of an intellectual nature. Arid so, the origin of this “intelligere" is the essence of the intellective soul. (22)
Again what he is affirming is that the esse of the intellectual nature is not just simply esse as facticity or actuality but an expanding and relational esse which, as finite and immaterial, has the power of becoming, as intelligere, an infinity of other beings in an immaterial, intentional way and thus increasing its density as act. As finite act, this being is only this being. As an expanding esse, an intelligere, it has the power to become all things. St. Thomas's first part of the answer to objection 14 presents the point clearly:
the soul, in so far as it is the form of the body, according to its essence as substantial form, gives esse to the body. But it also gives an esse of a certain kind which is vivere, in so far as it is such a form, i.e., soul. And it also gives a vivere of a certain kind, i.e., of an intellectual nature, in so far as it is a certain kind of soul, i.e., intellective. (23)
The same point is made in the `"I'reatise on Separate Substances" where St. Thomas says:
(I)n immaterial substances, their esse itself is their vivere, and their vivere is not other than their intellectivum esse. Therefore they are living and understanding from the same principle by which they are beings. (24)
And again, in the "Quaestiones de Animae,' in that all important first question, St. Thomas answers the 17th objection in the following manner:
Although esse is the most formal of all perfections, still it is also the most communicable, although it is not shared in the same way by those beings which are lower and higher. Hence the body shares in the esse of the soul but not so excellently as the soul itself does. (25)
Notice that the esse of the human body is of a higher intensity than what would be the esse of body taken as mere material conglomeration. It is much more than a given order of heterogeneous parts. It is a dynamic ordering. And ordering always involves an intellect sighting a purpose. There is no order that is not purposeful, that is not relational toward a "telos." The very to be of the body is relational to the "telos" of the
person. The eye is an ordering of parts "for sight." But one sees in order to know. This expansiveness of the esse of the person, immaterial at its level of intelligere, impacts on every organized structure from the biochemical through the physiological to the gross anatomical. 26
The body is an instrument of relationality, of knowledge and love. It is person enfleshed. Notice that St. Thomas emphasizes that this esse in man who is mineral, vegetable, sentient and intelligent is one: "It is necessary, if a soul is the form of a body, that there be common to both one esse which is the esse of the composite."27 This esse of the body is the intelligere which I am suggesting to be the very person. The teleology of the body orienting it toward the very goals of the person is due to the fact that its esse is the personal intelligere. My point here is that esse is not just actualization of essence or facticity of being but rather it is relational, teleological, even in its generation of the body. If "person" means relationality on the level of intelligere, then esse as intelligere is "person."
Having considered esse as intensive act, let us now consider it as expansive. In so doing, we take up more directly the challenge of Cardinal Ratzinger: "relation is discovered as an equally valid primordial mode of reality.. .a new plane of being comes into view." esse as expansive and hence relational must do so as agere. The question, then, is: what is the relation between esse and agere?
The Greek Fathers of the Church, particularly Gregory of Nyssa, offer light on this point in their implicit and original metaphysics where ousia and energeia are one and the same simple Reality, the Trinity of Persons. The Magisterium of the Church responded to the rationalism of an Arius or a Eunomius with the homousios. This term meant that the one simple Being of the Godhead was at the same time a generating
and proceeding reality. The ousia or esse of God is constituted by the energeia or agere of generation and procession. The same is true of Jesus Christ; Cardinal Ratzinger affirms that the starting point of all Christology is "the identity of work and being, of deed and person. 28
The point of this section is to lay heavy stress on finite agere as an intrinsic and constitutive dimension of esse rather than as an accident of substance. The best way to consider it is to see agere as finite esse itself in its state of expansion. Gilson glosses the mind of St. Thomas in the following way:
Not: to be, then to act, but: to be is to act. And the very first thing which "to be" does, is to make its own essence to be, that is, "to be a being." This is done at once, completely and definitively... But the next thing which "to be" does, is to begin bringing its own individual essence somewhat nearer its completion. (29)
Gilson makes it clear that the primacy of esse as dynamism radically transforms the Aristotelian dynamism of form. When St. Thomas made this transformation,
the whole philosophical outlook on reality at once became different... .Instead of a self-achieving end, form becomes an end to be achieved by its own esse, which progressively makes it an actual being. To be (esse) is to act (agere), and to act is to tend (tender to an end wherein achieved being may ultimately rest.(30)
This is a critical point of the proposal because expanding esse (i.e., relational esse), which is implied in the magisterial formulations concerning the Trinity and in the theology of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Greek Fathers, is axiomatic to Thomistic metaphysics. Esse achieves: its expansion precisely as agere.
Now, to the charge that agere must always be an accident of created: being, let me suggest the following. Agere varies according to the hierarchy of being. The more limited the esse, the more extrinsic or transitive the action is, the greater the effect on the exterior and the, more limited the extent of relation. The charge of a bull or a landslide is almost totally extrinsic, devastating and limited. On the other end, of the spectrum, the higher the degree of being, the more immanent the action, the less the exterior manifestation and the wider the extent of relation. A man in love with God may have a zero exterior manifestation, yet with an intense universal relation to every man and to creation itself. From the perspective of substance, we place the charge of the bull in the; category of "action" while the love of God would be categorized a "quality." They would both be accidents.
From the point of view of esse as the primum metaphysicum, however, they would both be manifestations of esse, as "modes," according' to the degree of limit constricting it. To see substance as a subject receiving, specifying and exercising esse with agere and intelligere as accidents of it is to miss the intensive character of the Thomistic esse while reducing it to the actualization of reified metaphysical components, substance being one of them. Again, if Fr. Phelan is correct in his evaluation of De Veritate, 1,1, (p. 7, n. 16), substance is a mode of being, a kind of limited way of
seeing esse. (3l) Therefore, instead of seeing different kinds of accidents, it would be truer to see hierarchical levels of limitation of esse producing different kinds of agere, remote and sporadic like the charge of a bull, or intrinsic and constitutive like the thought and love of a man. Thus, instead of seeing agere as the manifestation of the nature of a substance and hence an accident of the substance, it would be more true to
see it as esse itself at various levels of limitation. The less limited manifestations would be levels of intelligere and velle. Where there is no limitation, esse is agere as in the case of the Person of Christ and the inner life of the Trinity. My point is to connect esse and agere as states of one another32 without perfectly identifying them except where they
reach infinity. As Fr. de Finance remarks:
Esse accidentale will not be anything else than a particular aspect of the unique act of existence; operation (agere) will truly be more being, not another being (l'operation verait vraiment un plus etre, non un etre de plus).
We will see below how esse/agere correspond to the two states of esse itself: intrinsic existence and relationality.
Up to this point, the positive aspect of the proposal has consisted in highlighting the intensive character of esse as well as its expansive tendency as agere. We now come to the negative side of the proposal which is to suggest that essence be downgraded from its traditional role as limiting and exercising subject and be restricted to the lesser role as limit of esse. Two theories of essence as limit suggest themselves. The one is the "thin" theory pioneered in this country by G.B. Phelan and advanced by William Carlo,34
and W. Norris Clarks, S.J. (35) It maintains that since esse, in the mind of St. Thomas, is all the act and reality there is in being, so as not to fall into contradiction by assigning "reality" to a "really distinct" essence which "receives," "exercises" as well as limits this esse, they maintain that essence "is an intrinsic principle of limitation only, that makes no positive contribution of its own but merely limits or 'contracts'. ..what would otherwise be the de se plenitude of existence.... " (36)
The traditional or “thick” thomistic notion of essence as the limitation of esse consists in esse limiting itself mediately, through essence which in this case is positive, distinct from esse but derived from it. Esse "autodetermines" itself. By "determining" is meant to confer a perfection and to limit a perfection. Esse does both. It gives reality to essence which in turn limits esse specifying and limiting it to be this kind of being and this individual existent.
Both theories of essence as limit have advantages and disadvantages. The "thin" theory is coherent with the vision that esse is all the act there is in being. As we saw above from Gerald Phelan: "God gives esse and nothing more." But it limps explaining how "nothing" limits esse to be this "chunk" of esse; i.e. there is no explanation because there is nothing there,37 since esse is all there is. It also limps explaining the "plasticity" or "tending" of esse. By denying the reality of a distinct potency, it introduces, without
warrant, potency into esse.
The thick theory is the temptress/haven of the reification of principles. Even when essence is not presumed real as "receiving" and "exercising" esse, the awkward situation of esse limiting itself arises because it has recourse to distinct levels of causality. On the positive side, however, it does give an explanation of limit of esse and potency of being.
Still in both cases, essence as limit should be disqualified as on logical candidate for personality precisely because person is coming to us from its theological origin as a positive expansive dynamic, not a limiting(negative) principle, and – as we have seen in Walter Kasper – “one cannot… adopt this theologically necessary metaphysics ‘from the outside.’ Rather, one must develop it on the basis of the testimonies of revelation and the understanding of reality implicit in them.” And not only “testimonies of revelation.” What is essential for both theology and philosophy is to craft a positive metaphysics of being as pure relation so that, on the one side, Christianity not dwindle into mere paradox (one finds self by gift of self [Gaudium et Spes #24]), nor, on the other side, that Being be eliminated with the question of death and God. Hence, if essence is only a limit of expanding esse, it cannot be the principle of personality.
Having presented the act of existence positively as intensive expansive and the essence as reduced to limit and specification of that act, I would like to focus attention on a Thomistically heterodox yet crucial conclusion. If esse as intensive (intelligere) is relational, an person is characterized by relationality, then esse should be the principle of personality. Essence as principle of limit of act and therefore limit relationality should be rejected as subject of being and hence person. The pinpointing of esse as the intersection of intensiveness and relatio ality can be made clearer with this gloss by Josef Pieper on St. Thomas Summa Contra Gentiles 4, 11. He shows the direct proportionate between esse as intrinsic existence and its outreach as relation, as age The greater the relationality of the agere, the more intensive the esse.
The principle that I want to be faithful to here is that which se person as relational energy in God and as image and likeness of God man. Josef Pieper's gloss on Summa Contra Gentiles 4, 11 could put the proposal on display. St. Thomas begins the question:
Following a diversity of natures, one finds a diverse manner of emanation in things, and, the higher a nature is, the more intimate to the nature is that which flows from it.
Pieper gives an elucidation of this principle. He says:
For the notion of ‘having an intrinsic existence’ corresponds to ‘being able to relate,’ so that the most comprehensive ability to relate – namely, the power to ‘conform to all that is’ – implies at the same time also the highest form of intrinsic existence, of selfness. (39)
Pieper identifies "having an intrinsic existence" with a "self" and, makes it the "core" of the emanations or relationalities (agere). He obviously means "being an intrinsic existence" as opposed to "having" and to that effect, says:
The concept of "intrinsic existence" refers to that dynamic core of an entity from which all active manifestations originate and toward which all endurance and receptivity are focused and directed. An entity endowed with an intrinsic existence is ontologically a "subject," a self-contained unified being. (40)
I see esse as "that dynamic core of an entity from which all active manifestations originate." Pieper goes on to explain how a rock has no intrinsic existence (from a common sense perspective) and therefore no proper relationality.
Plants do possess a true intrinsic existence; animals even more so. The most genuine and highest form of intrinsic existence is the spirit-endowed se1f. (41)
The "emanations" of which St. Thomas spoke, Pieper translates as relation, not as accident of substance, but as an orientation of the subject itself, from the "inside." He says:
Only in reference to an inside can there be an outside. Without a self-contained "subject" there can be no "object." Relating-to, conforming-with, being-oriented- toward - all these notions presuppose an inside starting point.... The higher the form of intrinsic existence, the more developed becomes the relatedness with reality, also the more profound and comprehensive becomes the sphere of this relatedness: namely, the world. And the deeper such relations penetrate the world of reality, the more intrinsic becomes the respective subject's existence. (42)
The rock relates only in the sense of placement. The plant reaches into the soil and toward the sun. The animal senses all material reality and moves with regard to it. Man does all of that and besides he knows all being and relates correspondingly with love, transcending all created reality. He sums up:
to have (or to be) an "intrinsic existence" means "to be able to relate" and "to be the sustaining subject at the center of a field of reference. The hierarchy of existing things, being equally a hierarchy of intrinsic existences, corresponds on each level to the intensity and extension of the respective relationship in their power, character and domain....These two aspects, combined---dwelling most intensively within itself, and being capax universe, able to grasp the universe-together constitute the essence of the spirit. Any definition of "spirit" will have to contain these two aspects as its core. (43)
My proposal is that that core is esse itself as intensive. Although the essence is "thick" or "thin" in its function as limit, it is not a substantialized essence that is the subject at various hierarchical levels. Intensive esse itself is that subject.' There is no doubt that I am transmuting esse from its status as created quo to that of created quis or quod. (45) As quis or quod I understand it to be the principle and subject of all operations. As such, "I" am this finite esse which is this intelligere and velle. As created (46), this esse is finite. (47) As such, it cannot be God, nor can it be strictly identified with agere which alone takes place in God. That is why there is a systole and a diastole between the going forth as relation and the return as self-actualization (an intrinsic existence). I become myself by giving myself. But it is from esse that agere issues. Fr. Phelan comments:
From esse issue all operations, immanent and transient, as from a living source of dynamic power, while essence or nature gives direction and determinant character to that ceaseless flow of entitative energy within which the being (ens) rows and waxes stronger, becoming more and more itself.
The ramifications of a proposal such as this are many. The first, which is the proposal of the paper, is that esse as person subject is the principle of expansion and relation, not the principle of limit. If relation is a dimension constitutive of being itself, then love and ultimately relation to others will not be accidental but constitutive. Sanctity would then be of the essence of personality and not an adjunct to it. So also, freedom
would be transmuted from the narrowness of freedom of choice as indetermination before the finite good, to the dynamic, both divine and human now, of "being-for-the-other." As Cardinal Ratzinger says:
The real God is bound to himself in threefold love and is thus pure freedom. Man's vocation is to be this image of God, to become like him.... For this reason, the person who has become at one with his or her essential nature, at one with truth itself, is free.(49)
The migration of subject and person from the limiting essence to the expanding esse redefines the relationship between God, man and reality. It puts the relationship more in agreement with the Fathers of the Church, particularly the Greek Fathers. Instead of there being a gap between God and creation, there is ontological common ground: infinite esse and expanding esse. Instead of a heteronatural relationship, it is connatural. Freedom and sanctity become constitutive requirements for ontological development instead of accidental exceptions for the elite. The ultimate closing of ground is found in that ontological center where God became man that men might become gods. This is not pantheism but divinization of the created, i.e., finite and expanding esse is touched by Divine Grace and actualized in its steady drive towards union with the Infinite.
If "person" is a being with the relational dimension of knowing and loving, and esse, as intensive and expansive, gives that dimension, and essence is only a limit of esse, then esse as intelligere is the prime candidate to be "person." This would give us a new and more coherent profile of finite being, fashion a more relevant tool for theological speculation, reintroduce metaphysics to ethical reasoning which yearns for a dynamic
grounding and give us an ontologic of freedom and personal sanctity: the pro-structure of being. Being has become love (Agape). This would be the truth that makes us free in its metaphysical formulation.
* * * * * * * * * * *
1. De Trinitate, V, 5, 6 (Patrologia Latina [PL] 42, 913f).
2. Augustine, Enarrationes in Psalmos, 68,1, 5, in CCL 39,905 (PL 36, 385).
3. J. Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity (New York: Herder and Herder,
4. Gregory of Nyssa complained of Eunomius, the Arian, because "he suppresses the names of 'Father, Son and Holy Ghost" and speaks of a "Supreme and Absolute Being" instead of the Father, of "another existing through it, but after
it" instead of the Son, and of "a third ranking with neither of these two" instead of the Holy Ghost." He complains that this substitution robbed the revelation of the Trinity of its constitutive relational dimension. Gregory of Nyssa, Against Eunomius, Book I, par. 14 from A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, ed. P Schaff and H. Wace
(Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Erdmans, 1892), 51-52.5. ibid, 132.
5. J. Ratzinger, op. cit., p. 132.
6. Gaudium et Spes, #24.
7. Walter Kasper, "Postmodern Dogmatics" in Communio, Summer 1990, 189-90.
8. "Whereas in the days of Aristotelian hegemony the task was to integrate the world of the person into that of nature, the task now is to constitute the world of personhood (both inter-human and divine-human) and then integrate the world of physical nature into it (ecology). Now only persons are transcendent in that they alone can constitute a world of mutually intelligent interaction. Only personal relationship can be normative, and even the 'otherness' of physical nature can only be respected when mediated by the doctrine of creation seen from the vantage point of the covenant with God." Quoted from David Novak by David Bruckbauer in The Recovery of Classical Reason in The Wanderer,
9. Capreolus affirms that "the human person adds something positive over the individuated nature. That positive "something," however, is the actus naturae... i.e., the esse actualis existentiae which is the actus essentiae. Even though person is esse, esse only actualizes a nature. Person continues unrelational." Ref. Defensiones Theologiae
Divi Thomae Aquinatis, ed. Paban-Pegues, t. V, 105a.
10. "Is America Bourgeois?," Communio 14 (1987),264-90; "Catholicity and the State of Contemporary Theology: The Need for an Ontologic of Holiness," Communio 14 (1987), 426-50; "Once Again: George Weigel, Catholicism and American Culture," Communio 15 (1988), 92-120; "On Meaning and the Death of God in the Academy," Communio
17 (1990), 192-206; "U.S. Catholicism: a `Moment of Opportunity'?", 30 Days (1989) 57-60.
11. G.B. Phelan, "Being, Order and Knowledge," Selected Papers (Toronto: PIMS, 1967), 127.
12. Ibid., 125-26.
13. Ibid., 126-27.
14. Ibid., `The Existentialism of St. Thomas," 77.
15. De Unitate Intellectus, III; Editio Critics, Leo W. Keeler, S.J., Romae aupd Aedes Pont. Universitatis Gregorianae, 1957, 53.
16. The same point can be found in the answer to the 18th objection of Question 1 of the Questions on the Soul:
"Although the esse of a soul belongs in some way to the body, still the body does not succeed in participating in the
esse of the soul according to the soul's full excellence and power; and consequently:-there is an operation of soul in which the body does not share." J. Robb, Questions on the Soul (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 1984), 51.
17. This notion would seem to differ from the "orthodox" position as exemplified in the works of Fr. Joseph Owens. Following the vocabulary of St .4 Thomas himself, Fr. Owens always refers to esse as "actuality." The intelligible density and operational power which I am attributing to esse, for him, seem to come from the form of which esse is the actuality. But esse itself is not "dense." In this regard he says: “The positive character of the essence, however, is actually positive only through the being that actualizes the essence. Considered in priority to the actualization by being, the form can function only as potency ... it is receiving its actuality. “The Accidental and Essential Character of
Being in the Doctrine of St. Thomas Aquinas,” Medieval Studies 20 (1958), 38.
18. "In the verb exists we have the act of existing, or a super-intelligible. To say that which exists is to join an intelligible to a super-intelligible; it is to have before our eyes an intelligible engaged in and perfected by a super-intelligibility." J. Maritain, Existence and the Existent (need place of publisher: Pantheon, 1948), 34.
19. J. Robb, "Intelligere Intelligentibus Est Esse,"An Etienne Gilson Tribute ed. Ch. O’Niele (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 1959), 224.
20. A. Pegis, "St. Thomas and the Unity of Man," Progress in Philosophy (Milwaukee: Bruce, 1955), 1972.
21. Summa Theologiae, 1, q. 18,2, ad 1m.
22. De Spiritualibus Creatures, Art. XI, obj. 14 and ad 14m. 23. Ibid.
24. De Substantiis Sepamtis, XI, #61, ed. LescQe, 100-01.
25. St. Thomas Aquinas, Quaestiones de Anima, ed. J.H. Robb (Toronto: PIMS, 1968), . p.63
26. "I will argue here that organisms are systems which are intrinsically teleologically organized and that this fact is a permanent obstacle to reduction. This is not to say that organisms are made of any special matter or that biological phenomena will not be a complete account. The claim I will explicate is that because of the teleological
organization of organisms there is an explanatory relation that goes from the level of organization of the entire entity as a system to the subsystems and parts and processes that constitute the entity. There is an intimate relation between the character of organisms as complex, developing wholes and their being teleologically organized ... Hierarchical
organization is explanatory with respect to (at least some of) its components and not merely consequent upon them," Jonathan Jacobs, "Teleology and Reduction in Biology" in Biology and Philosophy 1(place of publisher: D. Reidel Publishing Company,
27. Quaestiones de Anima, q.1. ad 13m, 62, op. cit.: (..si anima est forma corporis, quod animae et corporis sit unum esse commune quod est esse compositi).
28. J. Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity, Ignatius(1990) 168.
29. E. Gilson, Being and Some Philosophers (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1949) 184.
30. Ibid., 184-86.
31. G.B. Phelan, "Being, Order and Knowledge," Selected Papers (Toronto: PIMS, 1967), 126.
32. The union of action and its agent is therefore much closer than that of subject and its accidents. ..Is there a perfect existential unity? Does the same "esse" bring about the substance and its act at the same time? It seems so... Would it not be more in conformity with the unity of being to conceive the accident, and more particularly, the operation (action) as expanding, so to speak, the capacity of the subject with regard to its "esse," in
permitting it to exercise its function more? Accidental "esse" would not be anything other than a particular aspect of the unique act of existence: operation (action) will truly be a "plus-etre de plus" (translation mine). J. de Finance, Etre et Agir Dans la Philosophie de Saint Thomas (Roma: Librairie Editrice de l'Universite Gregorienne, 1969), 248-49.
33. Ibid., 249.
34. W. Carlo, The Ultimate Reducibility of Essence to Existence in Existential Metaphysics (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1966),1003-104. Also, Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophic Association, 1957, 127-28.
35. “The Role of Essence Within St. Thomas' Essence-Existence Doctrine: Positive or Negative Principle? A Dispute Within Thomism," from Atti del Congresso Internazionale, no. 6: "L'Essere." 36. Ibid., 112.
36. Ibid 112.
37. Carlo's thesis that essence is where esse stops does not explain what makes esse stop. Joyce Little comments: `To say that essence is the place where esse stops does nothing more than state a fact of our everyday experience, i.e. that things are finite. Such a description supposes the capacity (potency) of esse to stop, but provides no analysis of the conditions of possibility which would permit esse to stop." Toward a Thomistic Methodology (Lewiston, New York: Mellen Press, 1988), 92.
38. "Whatever we imagine determines the act-of-being...it cannot be pure nothingness. Therefore, it is something pertaining to being in virtue of an act-of-being." E. Gilson, The Christian Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas (New York: Random House, 1966), 36.
39. J. Pieper, Living the Truth (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius, 1989), 81. 40. Ibid, 81.
41. Ibid, 82.
42. Ibid, 82.
43. Ibid, 83.
44. This coincides with the phenomenological analysis of Karol Wojtyla, but not necessarily with his metaphysical
analysis. Phenomenologically, he asserts that self-determination is the constituting element of the person: "`I do' means that 'I am the efficient cause' of my action, of the actualization of myself as the subject…The concept of self-determination contains more than the concept of agency: man not only performs his actions, but by his actions he becomes, in one way or another, his own `maker'. Doing is accompanies by becoming; and, what is more, the two are organically fused together." K. Wojtyla, "The Structure of Self-Determination as the Core of Theory of the Person," in Congresso Internazionale
Tomasso DAquino nel suo Settimo Centenario (Rome/Naples, 1974), 38 and 40.
45. Frs. Dewan and Owens have debated recently (The New Scholasticism, , 173-82; and ACPQ, , 261-64) over the essential or accidental relation of esse to essence. Insofar as they both weigh essence as suppositum specifying esse (Dewan) or exercising esse (Owens), esse will always be of essence and incoherent with the vision of De Veritate, 1, 1.
46. For those who affirm that only Infinite Esse is, and finite esse cannot be, in the sense of being its own subject, do so by viewing esse as "thin" actuality, i.e., as the non-intensive power actualizing an essence which is its subject. Therefore, to say that "actuality is" is to say the "God is." As a result, any attempt to subsistentialize esse outside of Infinite Esse would be pantheism.
My answer to that charge is to suggest the intensive and relational character of esse making it suitable as subject, combined with its finiteness which characterizes its creatureliness. Cf. Frederick D. Wilhelmsen, The Paradoxical Structure of Existence (Albany: PCP, 1989), chs. 4 and 6.
47. The finitude of "thick" esse is sufficient to dispel any charge of pantheism since finitude of intensity means participation; i.e., the finite being has only "part" of the full intensity of Infinite Being.
48. G.B. Phelan, The Existentialism of St. Thomas, 81.
49. J. Ratzinger, "Freedom and Liberation," in Church, Ecumenism and Politics (New York: Crossroad, 1987), 274.
50. V. Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church (Cambridge and London: James Clarke & Co., Ltd., 1957),10,91-113; also, T. Paul Verghese, The Freedom of Man (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1968), 68.
I add a thesis from an Australian, Jennifer Herrick, [with formatting problems]on same:
Does God Change?
Reconciling the Immutable God with the God of Love
Reconciling the Immutable God with the God of Love
Jennifer A. Herrick
ISBN: 1-58112-191-1 DISSERTATION.COM
Parkland, FL • USA • 2003
As Walter Kasper, in "Postmodern Dogmatics", discerns, theology needs a metaphysics which has been developed precisely within theology. Without a transcendent ground and point of reference, statements of faith are finally only subjective projections of social andecclesial ideologies.376 As long as the metaphysical model for describing a person isAristotelian substance, and relation is always an accident, then being as relation willnever be able to pass from its immanentized domestication within the Trinity tohumankind and thereon to all reality as relational being.377 Thus Connor's proposal is toaccept the theological elaboration of person as constitutively relational as expansive and to offer the Thomistic esse as the ontological explanation of that expansiveness.
Connor assumes the dynamic character of the Thomistic esse as expounded by GerardPhelan in his paper "Being, Order and Knowledge". The latter comments on his joy atreading in the first article of Aquinas' Quaestio Disputata De Veritate that reality, unity,truth and all transcendentals are general modes of being, not properties or attributes ofbeings, and that substance, quantity, quality, relation and the like are also modes ofbeing.378 Hill indeed, recognises that the whole metaphysical system of Aquinas pivots on the real distinction between essence and esse. The former explains nature and is thepotential towards existence, the latter is its actus essendi. The ultimate source of suchexercise is the hypostasis379
Principle of Person
The proposal then is to see this "to be", esse, not as an actuality of a substance but as anintensive act in its own right, of which substantiality is a mode. By intensive, Connormeans that esse is expansive as an agere, and expansiveness as an agere is another modeof that same esse. Agere is "esse-becoming" and so constitutive of "esse 's fulfilment". Thus there is proposed here a transference of agency from essence to esse. When esse isintelligere the agent is the person. 380
In establishing the priority of esse as origin and source of all reality, we take time to flesh out Connor's thought. Connor is considering what kind of act esse is; that it might be a constitutive relationality because of its intensity as intelligible act. As such it would be a worthy candidate for the ontological category of person. Where there is intensity there is relationality. Relationality means intensity. If personality is defined by relationality, as offered in trinitarian theology, then the principle of relationality should be the principle of personality as intensity. Thus if the Thomistic esse can be shown to be intensive and therefore relational, it should be the principle of personality. 381
Connor's proposal thus presents the act of existence positively as intensive and expansive and essence as reduced to limit and specification of that act. This gives way to a Thomistically heterodox but crucial conclusion. If esse is intensive, intelligere isrelational, and person is characterized by relationality, then esse should be the principle of personality. Essence as the principle of limit of act and therefore of limit of relationality should be rejected as subject of being and hence person.-191 This pinpointing of esse as the intersection of intensiveness and relationality is made clear by Josef Pieper in his book "Living the Truth". wherein he comments on Aquinas' Summa contra Gentiles 4,11. Here he shows the direct proportionality between esse as intrinsic existence and its outreach agere, as relation; the greater the relationality of the agere the more intensive theesse. Commenting on Aquinas, who states that the higher the nature the more intimate to the nature is that which flows from it, Pieper states that the notion of having an intrinsic existence. k -corresponds to being able to relate. The most comprehensive ability to relate, that is, the power to conform to all that is, implies the highest form of intrinsic existence, of selfness.392
Personal relational energy in God
he principle that Connor is being faithful to is the principle which sees person both, as the relational energy in God, and the image and likeness of God in humankind.393 Theramifications of such a proposal as Connor's are many. Esse as person subject is theprinciple of expansion and relation, not the principle of limit. If relation is a dimensionconstitutive of being itself, then love and ultimately relation to others will not be accidental but constitutive. The migration of subject and person from the limitingessence to the expanding esse redefines the relationship between God, humankind, andreality. It provides the common ontological ground: infinite esse and expanding esse.Being has become love.394 The ramifications of this proposal are profound for a renewedunderstanding of the nature of God's relatedness to humankind and thus for the natureand design of God's immutability.
William Norris Clarke: further contentions
God is perfectly personal being & intrinsically relational.
God is perfectly personal being & intrinsically relational.
Robert Connor's work allows us to more fully appreciate the import of Norris Clarke's contention, made in his later paper, "Person, Being, and St Thomas",395 that the perfection of being, and therefore of the person, is dyadic, culminating in communion. With this noted, it is a suitable point at which to take up again with recent thought of William Norris Clarke.
Quoting Aquinas, that person is that which is most perfect in all of nature,396Norris Clarke recognizes that personal being then, is the highest mode of being. It often fails to be recognized that Aquinas has an explicit, powerful dynamic notion of being, intrinsically self-communicative and relational through action. Not only is activity, which is active self-communication, the natural consequence for Aquinas, of possessing an act of existence, esse, but he maintains further, self-expression through action is the whole point, the natural perfection of being itself, the goal of its very presence in the universe. Operation is the ultimate perfection of each thing.397
To be fully is to be personally
In fleshing out the notion of substance in relation, it should be acknowledged that for Aquinas, when being is allowed to be fully itselfas active presence, it becomes selfpresence, self-awareness, self-consciousness, the primary attribute of person. To be fully is to be personally. A significant implication follows. Being is active presence. To be a person is to be a being that tends by nature to pour into active, conscious selfmanifestation and self-communication to others, through intellect and will, working together. To be a person is to be a bi-polar being that is both present in itself, actively possessing itself by its self-consciousness, this is its substantial pole and actively oriented towards others, toward active loving self-communication to others, this is its relational pole.404 Following this understanding then, God as perfect personal being must be substance-in-relation, must be both present in God's self, actively possessing God's self by God's self-consciousness and actively oriented towards others, toward active loving self-communication to others.