Seeing all forms as abstract and concrete (1)

St. Thomas is clear that we understand the concrete only through the concrete things composed of matter and form. Applied to God, this means we have to speak of him both by concrete and abstract names; but as far as I know, he is silent about how this doctrine applies to other simple things (though it’s hard to believe that this never comes up). St. Thomas does apply this doctrine to the angels so far as each angel is his own species: i.e. Gabriel is the same as Gabriality or Gabrielness. St. Thomas’s best reason for not applying this to the human soul is that subsistence has to make a substance, and the human soul, even though imperishable, is not a substance. Nevertheless, it’s unavoidable that in speaking of the subsistence of soul that we understand it in the mode of a substance, and so we will trap ourselves in aporia unless we realize that, so far as we are considering the soul as a substance, we have to speak of it using both concrete and abstract terms. For that matter, it’s hard to see how we can avoid doing the same thing when we talk about the form of anything.


  1. curious about Thomism said,

    November 22, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    Do you think non-human animals can apprehend universals?

%d bloggers like this: