two notes on the dignity of human persons and the ground of classical metaphysics

-A person is an individual of a rational nature. What ever dignity it has, therefore, belongs to it either as an individual or as a rational nature. But it is ridiculous that dignity would belong to it as an individual, because then a person would have no more dignity than a plant or a cockroach, which are undeniably individuals. Because of this, the dignity of the human person rests at least formally on their nature.   

-We say what things are, and because of this the number of ways that things are follows the number of ways we speak of them. This is the fundamental and common teaching of St. Thomas and Aristotle about being and therefore the science of metaphysics. Their doctrine is all very straightforward when said in simple terms, but it appears controversial when we express it in the sort of English that Aristotle and St. Thomas often corrupt into: for then we say something like “the modes of being are predicamental” or “being is divided into the ten predicates”.  

“Predicate” in English is too technical and too restricted to grammar to be of much use outside of it; and even though “mode” is an English word, it is more a transliteration of the Latin “modus” and it never managed to find a place in English. I have yet to find a time when “way” didn’t work better than “mode”. 

When we look to being as following the ways we speak about things, it makes sense before all else to specify whether we are speaking about them as such or by happening (per se or per accidens). This distinction, first recognized formally in Plato’s Sophist, is primary to classical Metaphysics, and unless it is primary for us we will see no fundamental distinction between wisdom and sophistry. 

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