Being is said in many ways

Being is said in many ways is itself something said in many ways.

1.) On the one hand, it can mean that that copulas do not always link subjects and predicates in the same way. My daughter went through a phase where, whenever her sibs said “I’m hungry” she’d offer her hand and say “Nice to meet you, Mr. Hungry!” In doing so, children with philosophers for fathers expose themselves to the danger of a boring lecture about how qualitative predicates are said differently from substantive ones.

More simply, one can be either a substance or a predicate, but substances and predicates are different, so being is also. The same sort of argument divides different intentions:

Man is a species

John is a man

John is a species

2.) Being is also said in different ways of what is on a Porphyrian tree.

a.) If “being” is just the least designated description of Barack Obama (i.e. if it is the upward limit of Obama —> man—> animal—> living entity—> being), then “being” in this sense is contingent, since Obama is also. If “being” is taken not just as the least designated description of some individual but in its state of universality, then it is a second intention and not a first intention, like “man” above.

b.) If we take “being” as meaning “what exists” then the bottom level of the Porpyrian tree is a being, while all the levels above it are not beings unless (as said in [a]) we take them as just less-designated descriptions of the individual at the bottom.

c.) If I ask “are my father and I the same being” the answer is pretty clear that if “being” is taken as a nature, the answer is yes, if it is taken as an individual or person, the answer is no. So being also divides into nature and individual.

3.) We can also consider second intentions as things with existence in some entity. Asking whether your idea is the same thing as mine does not give the same answer as asking whether my father is the same thing as me. An idea (or any sort of knowledge) differs from other sorts of existence in that its being common does not preclude its existence in a concrete subject. And so when we take knowledge as an action or modification of a subject it cannot be taken in the way that some accidents are actions or modifications of subjects, since an accident cannot be both particular and shared except per accidens, the way you and I might share the same steak by eating different parts of it or be warmed by the same fire by standing around different parts of it.

In sentience, this commonality of the idea is ontologically inseparable from a physical modification of the subject, and because this physical modification is not able to be shared by many subjects the sense idea is always bound up with something not objective. Intellection consists in overcoming one sense of this failure of objectivity, so that even while what’s cold to you might not be cold for me what is two or pi or man or sociology or constitutional monarchy etc. for you can be just the same as it is for me.*

And so (a) the accident of action/quality (b) the action of sensing and (c) the action of intellection are said to be in different ways too, from which it follows that the substance of all three must also be different.


*In finite intellection, i.e. in all intellection that falls short of the Trinity, there is some failure of objectivity in the idea as well, so far as there is always something in the individual that is not also wholly present in what is common. The difference between finite and infinite intellection is also a case of being that is said in many ways.

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