Thomistic participation

Three ways of saying “can fly”

1.) Insects fly (some do, some don’t)

2.) Falcons fly, 757’s fly (all do, and this follows from what a falcon or a 757 is)

3.) Things that create more lift than drag fly (this is the definition of a thing that flies)

or again, three ways of being white:

1.) The man is white (if he is, it’s not qua man)

2.) The snow is white (snow is white qua snow)

3.) Surfaces that reflect all wavelengths of light are white (this is not just a necessary truth but a truth first of all)

In medieval speak, the first two are “per participationem” and the last one is “per essentiam”.

Thomas teaches that God exists, is good, is true, knows etc. per essentiam while all creatures do so per participationem. This is Thomas’s bona fide theory of participation.

The obvious objection is that that if God : existence :: things that create more lift than drag : fly then God is a property of creatures. The response is clearest in Banez: existence is not formally an accident or property, even in creatures. Banez is strikingly emphatic about this:

Thomas saepissime clamat, Thomisticae nolunt audire 

Thomas shouted this claim as often as he could, and today’s Thomists still don’t listen.  

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