Note on the first two modes of the per se

To say something per se is to say it essentially. But the essential pertains to the definition, and so either a.) what is said is in the definition of the subject; or b.) the subject is in the definition of what is said. For a.) Line belongs per se to triangle, and point per se to line for b.) even and odd are said per se of number. In a.) triangles (the subject) have lines by definition and lines have points; In b.) Though we say “numbers are even (or odd)” number is used in defining odd even though it is the subject. The first sense is what we first means when we talk about what is predicated per se; for the perseity belongs to the actual act of predication as opposed to belonging to the predicate.


  1. Matthew said,

    February 25, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    Does Thomas or Aristotle make this point explicitly anywhere that you know of?

    If someone claimed that philosophy is influenced per se by theology then this would mean that theology belongs to the essence of philosophy (and thereby would be giving some sort of fideistic understanding of the relationship between the two)?

  2. February 26, 2011 at 6:03 am

    Sure – this is just St. Thomas’s commentary on book I (lectio 10) of the Posterior Analytics (it’s Aristotle’s chapter 5 or so.) Even the examples are taken from STA there. Richard Berquist does a particularly good job at developing the point at greater length in the Dumb Ox series of translations of the Commentary on the II Analytics.

    In logic there are three modes of the per se: two interior (the ones given here) and one where something is said per se but not such that it enters into the definition of the subject or predicate.

    My larger interest is that (as a theologian) if one isolates simply the first mode of the per se, that is, the per se simply – which is most of all what we are trying to speak of when we speak of the per se – then the answer to “what exists” is “God”.

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