A ______ of Banez’ Commentary

A ______ of Banez’ Commentary on Aquinas’ 1 Q3, A4.

(I don’t know what to put in the blank. To call this a translation would be an abuse of language. I wasn’t interested in translating Banez so much as trying to find a voice in him.)

The conclusion of this article is de fide: Ex. 3 “I am who am”. The Fathers all agree to this conclusion. How then, can it be proved? Because we can understand many things, which to deny involves denying the faith.

This article contains very subtle ideas, and before we come to them, we should understand:

1.) How are proper accidents caused by essential principles? The cause here is a certain kind of efficient cause, not one making a new substance, but working through emanation, the way the nature of the sun produces light in the air, or the way ice makes water cold, or even as a stone can be said in a way to be an agent cause of its own fall.

2.) Why is it that no thing suffices to be the cause of its essence, if its esse is caused? We can, for example, account for why man can laugh, simply by pointing to his definition. Why can we not account for esse in the same way? We state, for now, that proper accidents already presuppose some essence in act, emanating the proper accident, so for esse to be a proper accident implies contradiction. A thing can only be said to cause its essence in the way that the transparent causes light. Esse, then, is received into essence composed from essential principles and it is specified by them. Yet esse receives no perfection from this specification, in fact, esse is more constrained by this- descending to the level of the secundum quid, sc. the esse of this man, or this angel- it is not perfection simpliciter. No Thomist would dare deny that esse is the act of all form and nature, or that it is other than received and perfective of what receives it. In a certain sense though, since it is received, we might say that it is because of this imperfect.

3.) Re. The second proof that Aquinas gives: Why is it that goodness, or humanity aren’t spoken of as actual, unless esse is spoken of as given? Cajetan says that this is grounded in the idea that nature stands to esse as potency; that goodness or humanity are only seen as actual when we say “humanity is”. The solution isn’t wholly satisfactory. Something is spoken of when it has a corresponding thought, but be can have a perfectly formed thought of something that does not exist- say, a circular orbit. When Cajetan responds to this sort of objection saying that esse is a sort of ultimate act, we say that esse seems more like the first act, than the ultimate one. It seems to me that St. Thomas means that with respect to how we understand esse, either it really exists, or it only exists potentially. Thomas’ doctrine is grounded in the fact that ens is the object of our intellect. In all things other that God, we can abstract from either esse actu, or non esse actu, and define according to this abstraction.

4.) Concerning the solution of the second argument: When we say “God is” we seem to mean “God has esse”. And so since it’s true to say “God is”, and yet at the same time we affirm that God is esse, the proposition seems both true and false at the same time. To this, we say that the esse of God is simpliciter what we seek in asking in the question “what is God?”, but it isn’t sought simpliciter in the question “does God exist?”, except as it is a sort of ground for the truth of the proposition. In natural things, we don’t seek esse when we ask “what is it?” And we seek esse simpliciter when we ask “does it exist?” Because of this, we don’t just understand the proposition to be true, but we also understand the very esse of the thing- and we know it in the very way it is knowable. When we answer the question “does God exist?” we understand esse as it relates to the truth of the proposition, but not as it relates to the very way God is knowable.


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