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Being, Essence and Existence for St. Thomas Aquinas: Being and Its Intelligibility Author(s): William M. Walton Source: The Review of Metaphysics, Vol. 3, No. 3 (Mar., 1950), pp. 339-365 Published by: Philosophy Education Society Inc. Stable URL: Accessed: 15/10/2009 10:50 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at JSTOR's Terms and Cond
  Being, Essence and Existence for St. Thomas Aquinas: Being and Its IntelligibilityAuthor(s): William M. WaltonSource: The Review of Metaphysics, Vol. 3, No. 3 (Mar., 1950), pp. 339-365Published by: Philosophy Education Society Inc.Stable URL: Accessed: 15/10/2009 10:50 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unlessyou have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and youmay use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use.Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printedpage of such transmission.JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact Philosophy Education Society Inc.  is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to The Review of Metaphysics.  BEING, ESSENCE AND EXISTENCE FOR ST. THOMAS AQUINAS BEING AND ITS INTELLIGIBILITY The human intellect is a power proper to rational nature. As a power of a certain nature it is founded in Nature and has a necessary determination to one object. That is, there is an object that it knows in virtue of its very nature, in virtue of what it is. This object is being (ens). Since nature is always determined to one object (ordinetur ad unum), it fol* lows that of one power there is naturally one object... For this reason the intellect, inasmuch as it is one power, has one natural object, of which it has knowledge immediately and naturally. This object must be that under which are com prised all things known by the intellect... This is nothing else than being. Therefore, our intellect knows being na turally, and all things that immediately pertain to being as such. On this knowledge is based our understanding of first principles, such as the incompatibility of simultaneous affirma* tion and negation, and the like. Consequently these principles alone are known naturally by our intellect, while conclusions are known through them. 1 The operation of the human intellect is twofold, however; first, simple perception, 'simple apprehension,' the 'simple gaze of indivisibles' and second, composition and division or judg ment. In considering the principles of human knowledge it is therefore necessary to distinguish simple principles from com plex principles or axioms. It is evident, however, that being is absolutely first of all complex as well as incomplex principles. That which first falls under apprehension is being, the un derstanding of which is included in all things whatsoever man apprehends. Therefore, the first indemonstrable principle is the same cannot be affirmed and denied at the same time, which 1 Conr. Gent. II. 83. [339]  340 William M. Walton is based on the constitutive intelligibility of being and non being: and on this principle all others are based. 2 Being does not come first in the sense that what comes next no longer is being. Being comes first and remains. It accompanies all our knowledge. All our subsequent knowledge must come by enlarging our knowledge of being. All other conceptions are variants or determinations of this primary one. Thus being is totally and absolutely prior to the others. The reason for this is that being is included in the understanding of the others, and not conversely. For that which first falls under the apprehension of the intellect is being, and without this understanding nothing can be grasped by the intellect; just as the first to fall under the acceptance of the intellect are axioms, and principally that contradictories cannot be true simulta neously. Thus all other conceptions are included in a certain way in being unitedly and indistinctly. 3 2 Sum. Theol. la Ilae. 94. 2. Resp. Cf. In IV Metaph. 17, n. 736... for all principles are based on this principle, namely that affirmation and negation are not simultaneously true, and that there is no middle ground between the true and the false .. . these principles follows from the intelligible constitution of being. 3 In 1 Sent., d. 8, q. 1, a. 3, Sol. Cf. In IV Metaph. 6, n. 605 ... since the operation of the intellect is twofold; one by which it knows what something is (quod quid est), which is called the simple gaze of indivisibles: another by which it composes and divides. In both operations there is some thing first: in the first operation there is something first, which falls under the conception of the intellect, namely that which I call being; and there is not anything that can be conceived by the mind in this operation, unless being is grasped. And since this principle, to be and not to be at the same time is impossible, depends on the understanding of being, just as this principle, every whole is greater than its part, depends on the understand ing of whole and part: so also this principle is naturally first in the second operation of the intellect, that, namely, of the intellect composing and divid ing. And no one can know anything by this second operation, unless this principle is known. For just as whole and parts are not known unless being is understood, so also the principle, every whole is greater than its part, is not known, unless the most firm principle mentioned above is under stood. In XI Metaph. 5, n. 2211 ... this principle is to be and not to be at the same time is not possible. This principle is the first for the following reason, namely, its terms are being and non-being, which first fall under the consideration of the intellect. On Truth, XXI. 1. Resp. . . . there is no thing  Being, Essence and Existence 341 In every man there is a natural light through which cer tain universal principles of all the sciences are naturally under stood as soon as proposed to the intellect. 4 Man does not have certitude concerning a conclusion, however, unless it is understood as a conclusion, that is, in so far as it follows from its premises; which premises in their turn must be understood to arise from and be rooted in being. It is not possible to judge rightly concerning conclusions unless they are resolved into indemonstrable principles. 5 There are certain first con ceptions natural to the human intellect, whether these are incomplex, such as the intelligible value of being, or complex, such as axioms. Conclusions that follow necessarily from these self-evident principles must be held as certain while anything that is contrary must be rejected entirely. Anything that is not included in these self-evident principles (or whose inclu sion is not manifest) does not cause science but perhaps of nature (res naturee) that is outside the essence of universal being ... being is that which falls under the conception of the mind. On Truth I. 1. Resp. ...that which the intellect first conceives, as what is best known, and to which it reduces all its conceptions is being ... Whence it is necessary that all other conceptions of the intellect be obtained by adding to being. Sum. Theol. la Ilae. 55. 4. ad 1. That which first falls in the intellect is being, wherefore everything that we apprehend we consider as being. Sum. Theol. Ha Ilae. 1.7. Resp. ...all principles are reduced, as to their first principle, to this one: The same cannot be affirmed and denied at the same time.*' On The Power of God IX, 7, ad 15... That which first falls in the intellect is being, and second is the negation of being ... [to the arguments on the other side] ... Since being is the first object which is conceived by the intellect, it follows necessarily that whatever the intellect conceives, it understands as being. Sum. Theol. I. 11. 2. ad 4 ... from the very negation of being: so what first comes to the intellect is being, secondly, that this being is not that being. In I Sent., d. 24, q. 1, a. 3, ad 2 ... That which first falls under the grasp of the intellect is being and non-being. On Truth XXI. 4. ad 4... that which first falls under the apprehension of the intellect, is being; for which reason it is necessary for the intellect to attribute being to all things apprehended by the intellect. *Sum. Theol. I. 117. 1. Resp. 5 In IV Sent, d. 9, a. 4, Solutio 1.
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