Recently, Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, NY hosted a workshop on the theme Aquinas on Metaphysics. I spoke on the topic of “The Distinction of Essence and Existence.” Audio of the talk has now been posted online at the Thomistic Institute’s Soundcloud page.
This topic is, by the way, covered in some depth in Five Proofs of the Existence of God, which will be out in a few weeks.
What would be the Thomistic response to the objection that God cannot be Being Itself because being nevertheless needs a further ground beyond Being?ReplyDelete
What I have in mind here is the Parmenidian notion of "that which is and in no way is not," and "The One" from the first hypothesis in Plato's Parmenides.
Now, what the objection that there must be a ground beyond Being that grounds Being itself says is basically the Dionysian line of thought that holds that God, as infinite, must lie beyond Being because being somehow implies form which implies limitation.
Hans Urs von Balthasar also made a similar critique of the way Gilson and other analytical Thomists ''conflated'' God and Being.
I think those who believe in an ultimate beyond being are understanding being more narrowly than Thomists e.g. univocally with the "being" of creation. If being is understood analogically - sth which underlies all categories rather than being in a category - then Thomas' Being does not contradict Dionysius' teaching on God. In God's case Being is not in a genus for Thomas and this seems to be not the same as a "being" that implies visible form or limitation.Delete
If you need being to ground being itself, you'll get a vicious infinite regress, won't you?Delete
"Now, what the objection that there must be a ground beyond Being that grounds Being itself says is basically the Dionysian line of thought that holds that God, as infinite, must lie beyond Being because being somehow implies form which implies limitation. "Delete
Hmm. C.E. Rolt's introduction, pages 11 and following are always thought provoking.
Pure Being (what the Advaitans call "Ishwara", depicted with his "head" in the "dark")is not properly Infinite in itself.Delete
Of course, neither is it a "part" of creation in any way, but it proceeds from a yet more fundamental principle, the Divine Essence (the Plotinian "One"--primordial Unity presupposes "metaphysical zero"), in and relative to whom there is no distinction whatsoever--whether one of form and matter (which only applies to the coropreal domain strictly speaking), essence and existence, or even Being and Non-Being (not synonymous with "nothing").
To clarify the above: Being itself, although uncreated, invisible, and supra-formal, cannot really be Infinite precisely because at its "level" there is still a distinction between uncreated and created, God and not God.Delete
Relative to the genuinely Infinite Divine Essence, on the other hand, there is no creation and no creator. Rather, in it, every possibility is permanently and eternally realized. If we tried to reduce the Infinite to Being we would undeniably end up with a fundamental dualism that goes against the Thomistic insistence that the Divine Essence cannot enter into relationality with anything whatsoever.
To clarify even further, I am not here proposing a more or less crude "pantheism" that would subvert the relationship between Being and mere beings. Individual beings derive all their reality from Being (by "participation" as it were), and "Non-Being" is not something posited over and against this truth.Delete
Being (Father) polarizes itself into Essence (Son) and Universal Substance (Holy Spirit), and only then, following these immutable Three, can there be any question of creation. Naturally, Essence and Substance considered in themselves remain comfortably in the bosom of Being, which in turn (to the extent that it is not manifested, implying distortion and derivation) resides in the Divine Essence, which is radically simple.
The very first (needless to say we are not here concerned with temporal priority) creation, then, is Holy Wisdom (the "mirror" fashioned by the Nous, virgin nature who is to manifest, to the extent possible, Infinite Perfection), frequently symbolized by the Moon.Delete
Here, distinction between the "uncreated heavens" and the "created heavens" becomes relevant (in the words of Genesis, "fiat firmamentum in medio aquarum et dividat aquas ab aquis"), precisely because one is Infinite and the other is merely the most exalted of finitudes.
To enter into the "narrow gate" (or, in Hellenic symbolism, to pass between the Symplegades), then, is to be liberated from the "lower waters", which effectively amounts to reorienting the desires and passions of one's soul from "the world" to God. To accomplish this, we must first return to what is most essential in this world, namely, Sophia, the Queen of Heaven (a virgin of perfect chastity and modesty).
Also, correct me if I am wrong, but it looks like the Existential proof does not depend on any A-T metaphysics in order to work.ReplyDelete
It looks like the only thing needed to ground the argument is the real distinction and maybe a PSR.
So it really does seem like the Existential proof is so powerful that it can work without any additional metaphysicd tacked onto it.
Is this right?
I think you're on to something. Do you know any good books, articles, essays that give a decent presentation of the Existential proof?Delete
This is not a direct answer to your query, but it seems to me the claim "Existential proof is so powerful that it can work without any additional metaphysicd tacked onto it." is more an optical illusion than an actual insight. The reason why it may seem so, is that being and existence are the most fundamental, basic concepts we have. Maybe it is possible to disentangle it from the rest of AT metaphysics (I really do not know), but even if it were possible, what exactly is it that you think it would be gained? The real distinction between essence and existence is not the kind of thesis that is easily swallowed, or commends itself as self-evident to the intellect -- something that Prof. Feser admits, and further evidenced by the fact that even Scholastics like Scotus and Suarez dispute it.Delete
Gaven Kerr has a good book on the existential proof. It's called "Aquinas's Way to God."
The general approach he took was to use the essence / existence distinction to justify a version of PSR. Then he appeals to the distinction between per se and per accidens causal series to demonstrate a being whose essence is existence.
In other words in it's barest essentials it's not too different from the way Dr. Feser presents the 2nd way in Aquinas.
Are you sure that the essence/existence distinction is hard to swallow?
It seems like it should be a very simple and obvious thing to grasp once one is introduced to it.
For example, the real distinction can be summed up with the question ''Does it exist?'', where the ''it'' refers to the essence part of the distinction while the ''exist'' part obviously refers to existence.
So it seems to me that the distinction isn't hard to swallow at all.
Of course, there are debates as to whether it is just a formal distinction or a real one among the Scholastics, but the very basics of the distinction should be fairly obvious, and the reasons proposed why the distinction is a real one should be fairly simple to understand too
I'm wondering what a Thomist might say to a theistic personalist who views God as something that has existence as a part of its essence rather than as identified with it. Sometimes a skeptic, too, will posit some basic material reality that underlies all of reality and say that this material reality is self existent because existence is part of it essence. One may object that this wouldn't work because in both cases we're dealing with a being that isn't simple, so there would need to be a reason why their parts (existence included) are united. But couldn't they just retort that we don't need divine simplicity if we say that said being has, as part of it essence, a property of self-composition? That is, its essence is that which explains its unity.ReplyDelete
I'm also wondering, Dr. Feser, whether you have a good retorsion argument for the existence of essences. Perhaps in your upcoming book?
well these sorts of confusion arise because different philosophers mean entirely different things when they use the terms like essence or even when they call themselves essentialists or take themselves to be defending essentialism.Delete
Like there is this debate concerning so called modal essentialism vs serious or Primitive essentialism (one could probably get lost in the terminology itself)
where some define essence as some essential property of object without which it is impossible for that object to exist( which could be analysed as that object having that property in all possible worlds)
and some define something's essence as just what it is to be that thing
Then there is his Anti-Realist essentialism too..
this is a very crude picture but what I am trying to say is that there might be number of ways a complex God could have existence as part of its essence or something close to that in some philosopher's system but in case of such a philosopher,one needs to ask or know what he means by these terms he is using?,is his account coherent?
From The Last Superstition, Chapter 3B:ReplyDelete
What is even clearer from this argument than from the Unmoved Mover argument, though (though it is also deducible from that one) is that God would have to be an absolutely simple being. … Angels, not being material, are pure forms or essences on Aquinas’s view, but even with them their essence needs to be combined with existence in order for them to be real, so that they too are composite.
I'd like to respond to your arguments for a real distinction between essence and existence.
Let me begin with your definitions: what something is its essence; whereas the fact that something is its existence. You add that a real distinction between A and B does not imply the separability of the two.
In reply: I object to your definition of a thing's existence. A thing's existence cannot be the same as the fact that it exists. Here's why.
1. A contingent thing's existence is often time-conditioned, but facts are inherently timeless. For instance, a plant's existence is transient: it springs up today, and is gone tomorrow. Facts, however, are timeless and not transient.
2. A contingent thing's existence depends on the existence of other things. Facts, however, do not depend on things. They can only depend on other facts.
3. Facts are simply true or false. A thing's existence, on the other hand, cannot intelligibly be said to be true or false. We do not say that a unicorn's existence is false; we say that unicorns do not exist.
4. There can be no Being in which essence and existence are identical. For suppose there were. Then such a Being would be identical with the fact that it exists. But it makes no sense to equate a being with a fact.
(To be continued...)
I'd now like to address your three arguments for there being a real distinction between essence and existence.
1. You can know a thing's essence (i.e. what it is) without knowing whether or not it exists.
Reply: all this argument shows is that "what" is not the same as "whether" - which is hardly surprising, as the question whether something exists is a binary (True or False), whereas a thing's "whatness" is not a binary; it's a noun.
2. If the existence of a contingent thing were not distinct from its essence, then it would have existence just by virtue of its essence. Such a thing would not be contingent at all, but necessary. If existence were just part of what it is, then it would not need something else to cause it.
Reply: the objection assumes that essences don't require anything else - i.e. that they are independent. But if an essence has a cause, then if its existence is identical with its essence, its existence will also have a cause, so no problem arises.
3. If there is something whose essence and existence were not distinct, then there can only be one such thing. For suppose there were such a thing. Then its essence would be Existence itself. Suppose there are two things that are Existence itself: what differentiates them? The things would have to be Existence plus something else. If there is such a thing, then it would have to be absolutely unique.
Reply: the argument is fallacious. If there is something in which essence and existence are not distinct, it does not follow that the thing's essence is "Existence Itself," whatever that term means. All that follows is that the thing's essence is identical to the thing's existence. And if another thing's essence is identical with its existence, then all that follows is that that thing's existence is not the same as the first thing's existence. Why not? Because their essences are different, that's why. What's the problem?
I might conclude that the very notion of something's being "Pure Existence" is utter nonsense. In particular, it is absurd to equate God with Pure Existence. For, as even Ed will concede, God is a concrete particular. It makes no sense to say that Pure Existence is a concrete particular. Consider the following sentences: God is tri-personal. God made the world 13.8 billion years ago. God became man. God wants you to obey the commands of the Church. Now substitute "Pure Existence" for "God" in the above sentences, and you get gibberish.
Finally, the argument for a real distinction between essence and existence does not go back to Aristotle, but to Avicenna. And the claim that God is Pure Existence goes back to Augustine. Neither is a part of Church doctrine.
I hesitate to wade into a battle of minds far greater than mine, but here is my initial reaction of Vincent's argument:
1. The proper, relevant Thomist distinction is between esse and essentia, not existentia and essentia, that is, the act of being (rather than the fact) vs the mode of being. This undermines the whole line of reasoning based on defining existence merely as binary fact, at least insofar as it applies to Thomism as such, despite the logicality of it. That is, you are right if existence is defined merely conceptually in Thomism, but it is not.
2. If the argument, you admit, shows that there is a distinction between "what" and "whether", then that means the distinction between existence (even as fact) and essence has been secured, given that existence is the whether-it-is-ness and essence the what-it-is-ness. You have effectively conceded the point.
3. An essence considered in itself without existence does not have a cause, it is a timeless truth, at least consonant with your own above reasoning on facts about existence, since it is the whole set of intrinsic facts about a potential entity/substance. Thus essences can not fairly be said to be caused, substances are, by the actualisation ("be-ing") of essences.
4. I take the phrase "not distinct", as used by Ed, to exclude any distinction, as would obtain if one concept wholly included another plus other elements. Although the larger concept would include the smaller, it would be distinct from it by virtue of non-identity. That is, the set (A,B) is distinct from the set (A). Therefore, Ed's argument assumes a strict identity of Be-ing and Essence, so that this being cannot be construed as "be-ing of this", as this immediately re-distinguishes esse and essentia. So, his argument for uniqueness succeeds, as your alternative construal re-introduces the distinction through the back door, rather than genuinely following Ed's logic.
5. While sympathetic with the perception that "Existence Itself" and similar terms are unhelpful, I think that they can be understood better and more meaningfully if all contingent essences are first re-conceptualised for people as delimiters, finitisations of being, rather than something added to being. Also, if it is explained that all contingent entities are not be-ing strictly speaking, as they are not responsible for their own existence, but are instead "Actualised" or, if you'll pardon my awkward neologism, "be-eds". In this way, Absolute Being can be better appreciated for its fullness and uniqueness. At least, so I argue in an MA I am working on. Please note, none of this is new philosophy, it is just old Thomism and some suggestions about how to communicate it cognisant of these objections.
6. I believe the claim that God is ipsum esse subsistens goes back, not to Augustine, but the revelation to Moses of the Divine name, "He Who Is". Most of the exegetical arguments against a metaphysical interpretation of the Name I have seen have been based either on prejudice or denial of the possibility of any sensus plenior, an unCatholic (and unbiblical) assumption.
Line 3: "reaction to", not "reaction of". Oops.ReplyDelete
One more point, I can't speak for Ed, but calling God a concrete particular seems inaccurate on Thomist assumptions. God, as Ultimate Reality, transcends the concrete/abstract and particular/universal distinctions. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, with his incarnational "scandal of particularity", is also the God who is love, and He who is.ReplyDelete
"Moreover, if there is some thing in which no accident is present, then in this thing the abstract must differ in no way from the concrete. This is most evident in the case of God."
[Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Metaphysics, sect. 1380]
Thank you very much for your long and thoughtful response. I'd like to address some of the key points you raise. I'll highlight your words in bold print, for ease of reference.
1. The proper, relevant Thomist distinction is between esse and essentia, not existentia and essentia, that is, the act of being (rather than the fact) vs the mode of being. This undermines the whole line of reasoning based on defining existence merely as binary fact...
Actually, I agree with you here. I was very surprised indeed to hear Ed defining existence as the fact that something is. At 2:05 in his talk, Ed declares: "So we can distinguish between a thing's essence and its existence, between what it is and the fact that it is." Those are his words, not mine.
But let us suppose, charitably, that Ed mis-spoke, and that by "existence," he means a thing's act of existence (or act of being). A distinction between essence and existence based on this definition won't work, either.
For if there is an act of existence, then the question arises: what is it that performs this act? For any act (e.g. the Sun's act of shining), we can distinguish between agent and action. Only in God does the agent/action distinction break down.
Now, if that which performs an object's "act of existence" is something existent, then adding "existence" to such a thing will be superfluous. But if it is is something non-existent, then we are attributing an action to a non-existent entity, which is absurd. Nor does the absurdity disappear if we say that the thing is a potential existent. Only actual existents can act. That should be obvious.
2. "If the argument, you admit, shows that there is a distinction between "what" and "whether", then that means the distinction between existence (even as fact) and essence has been secured, given that existence is the whether-it-is-ness and essence the what-it-is-ness. You have effectively conceded the point."
I'm quite happy to concede - indeed, I insist - that a thing cannot be the same as the fact that it exists. (The same goes for God.) But it doesn't follow that a thing's what-ness and its whether-ness are two parts of that thing. I wouldn't describe a binary fact as being a part of anything. It's just a Boolean.
3. "An essence considered in itself without existence does not have a cause, it is a timeless truth, ... since it is the whole set of intrinsic facts about a potential entity/substance. Thus essences can not fairly be said to be caused, substances are, by the actualisation ("be-ing") of essences."
First of all, I think the real reason why we can't know whether something exists merely from understanding what it is, is that a thing's form is distinct from its underlying matter. The intellect grasps forms without knowing whether anything material realizes those forms. That's the distinction you need, in order to explain why we can't know whether the Thylacine (a.k.a. Tasmanian tiger) still exists or not, merely from grasping its essence.
Second, I wouldn't describe forms as uncaused. They are thoughts in the Mind of God, and as such they require a Cause. And although the form of a Thylacine is not confined to a particular time, it can still only exist withing our own space-time framework.
To be continued...
Back again. I'd just like to add to my remarks on point 3 above. I originally wrote: "But if an essence has a cause, then if its existence is identical with its essence, its existence will also have a cause, so no problem arises."
If one thinks of an essence as a thing's form, and nothing more, then it doesn't have a cause in the ordinary sense of the word. An essence is caused only in the sense of being thought by God.
However, if one defines essence as a composite of form and matter, then essences do indeed have a cause, and are not timeless. [A Thomist might respond by distinguishing between common and signate matter, but the matter found in actual objects is signate matter, and a composite of form and signate matter does indeed have a cause.]
4. "Ed's argument assumes a strict identity of Be-ing and Essence, so that this being cannot be construed as "be-ing of this", as this immediately re-distinguishes esse and essentia. So, his argument for uniqueness succeeds, as your alternative construal re-introduces the distinction through the back door, rather than genuinely following Ed's logic."
I'm not sure what your point is here. The distinction I draw is between form and matter. I also insist that a thing's "whatness" is necessarily distinct from its "whetherness," even in the case of God. I don't think either of these distinctions implies that there's a distinction between a thing (or essence) and its act of existence.
5. "While sympathetic with the perception that "Existence Itself" and similar terms are unhelpful, I think that they can be understood better and more meaningfully if all contingent essences are first re-conceptualised for people as delimiters, finitisations of being, rather than something added to being."
If I understand you aright, what you're saying is that finite things are limited by their forms, whereas God is Unlimited Reality, because His essence is simply to exist. A finite thing's form renders it into Unlimited Being minus perfections X, Y, Z, etc., and by taking away perfections from the infinite, thereby limits it.
I don't buy this argument, because it equivocates between two meanings of "unlimited": (i) unlimited by virtue of being indefinite; (ii) unlimited by virtue of being infinite. Pure existence is unlimited in only the first sense; it's so vague as to mean nothing. Hence it is fallacious of Thomists to infer that because Pure Existence is unlimited, it must be infinite.
6. "I believe the claim that God is ipsum esse subsistens goes back, not to Augustine, but the revelation to Moses of the Divine name, 'He Who Is'."
There are various exegeses of the Divine name. Have you had a look at Rashi's Jewish commentary at http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/9864/jewish/Chapter-3.htm#showrashi=true ? You'll notice that God's name is translated as "I will be what I will be," which is quite different from "I am Who am." Rashi's gloss on this text is as follows: "'I will be' with them [the Israelites] in this predicament 'what I will be' with them in their subjugation by other kingdoms." I'm not endorsing his explanation; I'm just saying that to interpret Exodus 3:14 as a confirmation of Thomist metaphysics is a bit of a long shot.
Thanks once again for your reply.
Some time ago, Ed did concede that God is concrete and particular, as opposed to abstract, while continuing to insist that God is not "a Being." I could dig up the reference, but it would take a while; it's in one of his comments.
The problem with identifying the abstract with the concrete, even in God, is that abstractions can't act, whereas God can.
Or perhaps one should say that the reason why abstractions can't act is that they are forms that lack the matter they require to give them actual existence. God requires no matter to act, however; He is inherently active. Cheers.
The claim that abstract things can't act is an arbitrary assertion. What could possibly count as evidence of the existence of an abstract thing that doesn't in any way act? If anything actually is, it must act according to the way that it actually is; so if any abstract things actually are, they act in some way; alternatively, if abstract things do not act in any way, they do not exist in any way.Delete
In SCG I, Thomas refers to God as "ens," "res" and "natura". It sounds as though God is a particular, a τοδί, not an abstraction.Delete
'Abstraction' is the wrong word here; 'abstraction' is strictly speaking an action, or the product of the action. The question is whether God is abstract or concrete. And Aquinas's answer is that He is both; that is, the distinction between abstract and concrete depends on assumptions that do not apply to God, so that one attributes things to Him as if He were both concrete and abstract. Here is an example that might help. Both of the following are legitimate in the case of God:Delete
God is loving
God is Love
But in the first we are predicating of 'God' as if God were a 'concrete particular', and in the second we are predicating of 'God' as if God were an abstract universal.
Ah! So that finally answers my question that I posted in the recent Open Thread!
I asked that, since God is Being itself, and being and non-being are abstract concepts we grasp, that this could mean that God Himself is just an abstract concept.
But as you pointed out, God is both concrete and abstract, and it seems that this answers my question!
You say: "Now, if that which performs an object's "act of existence" is something existent, then adding "existence" to such a thing will be superfluous. But if it is is something non-existent, then we are attributing an action to a non-existent entity, which is absurd. Nor does the absurdity disappear if we say that the thing is a potential existent. Only actual existents can act. That should be obvious."
But this ignores the sentence where I previously addressed this issue: "... all contingent entities are not be-ing strictly speaking, as they are not responsible for their own existence, but are instead "Actualised" or, if you'll pardon my awkward neologism, "be-eds"."
That is, their act of existence is not their act, it is God's. God's act of existence is Himself, and is not a bringing into existence or causation but an eternal dynamism, so avoids your dilemma.
We agree that existence as fact is not a metaphysical component of a substance, and I think Ed would too.
You say: "However, if one defines essence as a composite of form and matter, then essences do indeed have a cause, and are not timeless. [A Thomist might respond by distinguishing between common and signate matter, but the matter found in actual objects is signate matter, and a composite of form and signate matter does indeed have a cause.]"
The problem here is that you are basing your definition of essence on actualised essence, importing existence into it by definition. Essence conceived as possible but not necessarily existent, can be based on form + matter, as you note, but only as form + undesignated matter according to Thomism. You beg the question in your favour when you base your definition on this: "the matter found in actual objects is signate matter, and a composite of form and signate matter does indeed have a cause". The key word here is actual. We are not considering essences already actualised, but essences simpliciter, that is, essences considered before the question of their existence.
Now, since undesignated matter is an abstraction, rather than concrete, essences in themselves need not be conceived as caused (in the substantial sense). That is, their causation, as substantially instantiated, consists precisely in their receiving participation in be-ing.
You say; "I'm not sure what your point is here." My point was that by saying Ed's identification of be-ing with the essence did not preclude multiple such beings because each could simply have its particular essence identical to its particular existence as this or that, you implicitly import differentia between this or that, that is, you contradict the original assumption that there is no essence additional to the act of Being.
As to your argument based on apparent equivocation in the use of terms like finite or limited, I think you are forgetting or dismissing the analogia entis. The word "being" as applied to God does not mean exactly the same as "being" applied to creatures and, indeed, the term can only be applied properly (supereminently) to God, and analogously to all else. It is precisely because we naturally conceive of finite essence as the rich reality added to the minimalist boolean of "existence" that you refer to, that Pure Existence or Existence Itself seems empty or vague. But once we see the cosmological argument pointing to a Necessary Being, whose very essence is to exist, we can start to parse being hyperphatically, from Absolute Being downwards. Then we see Be-ing as not some mere on-switch for essences, but as the Ultimate, Infinite Reality, with particular essences as "subtractive", so to speak. Created existents do not themselves exist (in the active sense) unqualifiedly, only Existence Itself does. They are brought into existence and kept as existent from without. So, Being in the supereminent sense is not empty, and its unlimitedness is not a mere absence of essence, it is the absence of finitising essence, and so "undefined" in that sense. And I think this is the way Aquinas renders the concepts in "On Being and Essence".
Finally, I am happy to accept the understanding of YHWH ("He Who Is") common to East and West, as epitomised in the great syntheses of St John of Damascus and St Thomas Aquinas.
For if there is an act of existence, then the question arises: what is it that performs this act? For any act (e.g. the Sun's act of shining), we can distinguish between agent and action. Only in God does the agent/action distinction break down.Delete
Now, if that which performs an object's "act of existence" is something existent, then adding "existence" to such a thing will be superfluous. But if it is is something non-existent, then we are attributing an action to a non-existent entity, which is absurd. Nor does the absurdity disappear if we say that the thing is a potential existent. Only actual existents can act. That should be obvious.
Vincent, I am afraid you may have equivocated here. The "act" is not an "action" in the sense of a "going forth from an actor" that we mean when John acts to pound a nail, it is "actuality". Actuality in its proper meaning is being-at-rest, being that is without any implied ongoing activity of going out from. (It can also be engaging in such activity, but it need not in principle.) For a creature, it has this actuality when God composes its form and matter into a being. As Matt says, it receives this as God operating, not as its own operation. But when God so operates, the subject being IS, and thus IS in act. The recipient of the "action" is the being, because it is God's action, and the result of God's acting is the act - the existence - of the thing.
The word "being" as applied to God does not mean exactly the same as "being" applied to creatures and, indeed, the term can only be applied properly (supereminently) to God, and analogously to all else.Delete
Matthew, I agree with the analogical rather than univocal use, but I think that St. Thomas says it goes the other way. Our proper human mode of conceiving runs from things that we sense, and thus which (a) are material beings; and (b) have form and matter; and (c) have esse distinct from essence. We humans cannot properly, in our natural mode of operating, conceive of the Being that supercedes these, not as such. It is true that such Being is, in himself, more intelligible simply, but he is not more intelligible to US, because of our natural progression from the material to the immaterial. Hence, as St. Thomas says in the Summa, we can only speak of God by negating what is limitation:
We cannot know what God is, but only what He is not. So to study Him, we study what He has not -- such as composition and motion.
Tony, you are right as to initial epistemology, but I think you'll find Aquinas does show that analogy is not identical to apophatic statements, and that the Transcendentals find their supereminent sense in God Himself, including Being. I'm afraid I don't have a reference handy, but I'm pretty sure I've got that right. We work our way up to God from the senses and abstraction. But then we can see, to some extent, back the other way to put reality in a more accurate perspective.Delete
Here is where Ed "conceded" that God is an abstract particular. It was very easy to find. I don't think that "concede" is a particular apt characterization of what went on, but anyway, here is the link.Delete
(See the comments).
An interesting corollary to the essence-existence (I would prefer to use the terms "essence" and "universal substance", but this is quite incidental) polarity is that Existence, from the point of view of the highest Essence, is strictly nil.ReplyDelete
Since Existence in its highest aspect of "Universal Substance" ("Prakriti" and "Moon" being other symbols of this reality) is not absolutely real, it is even more eminently true that individual and angelic (supra-formal, therefore purely intellectual) "existents", being merely derivative of Essence and Existence as such, which are themselves derivative of the Divine Essence.
It should strike us that we are, as humans persons, far less important and "central" and at the same time, from a more genuinely intellectual (beyond rationalism) point view, far more so than could ever be allowed by the narrow mental horizons of naturalists.
I find it hard to resist assimilating, in their highest possible aspects (at which point each will, undoubtedly, be identical with the Divine Essence and therefore admitting of no absolutely real "relationality" with creation, whether "Spirit" (supra-formal reality), "Soul" (psychic/formal reality) and "Body" (corporeal reality), all of which radiate on a "spectrum" from hierarchically "superior" to "inferior" (again, only from the essentially limited and contingent point of view of temporal manifestation as such), with the Divine persons or hypostases of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Logically, there need not here be any contradiction with Christian orthodoxy, for the Scholastic tradition has always maintained that the Divine Essence can never in any way be said to be limited by any created realities.
Given Boethian and Thomistic doctrines of identification by intellection (which need not remain purely "theoretical", moreover) by "comprehending" so to speak that which is above form (for only the supra-formal could contain the merely formal).
It may be due to my limitations, but I find your post almost incomprehensible. Many of your sentences appear to be incomplete grammatically, which does not help.
No, you're right, this is quite incoherent. I have a pretty debilitating cold and shouldn't have written this post so early in the morning.Delete
In any case, my point is that, since from the perspective of the Divine Essence, the totality of creation amounts to "nothing". The Absolute cannot "really" enter into correlation with anything outside of itself--it is the Infinite, that which by definition comprehends the "all" in the highest sense. Therefore, there can, properly speaking, not be a distinction between the "Self" (in the Upanishadic sense) and the Divine Essence.
It irks me that I cannot edit the posts in retrospect, I am far too trigger-happy and English isn't my native language. In any case, I hope this has illumined matters.Delete
It has, somewhat, but I think the problem now really is my limitations: I know nothing about what what the '"Self" (in the Upanishadic sense)' means.Delete
I see what you mean about editing. But I suppose if you see an error after a post you can if you wish select & ctrl-c it, delete it, then immediately re-post but edit it by first ctrl-v-ing the first version into the combox. Unfortunately, that means the updated post will be in a new position in the thread, however.
Thank you for your considerations, Matthew. I intend to simply be more careful in the future!Delete
The "Self" (union of "Atma" and "Brahma qualified") is the ultimate principle, which would correspond to the scholastic Divine Essence, the Neo-Platonic "One", the Pythagorean Monad, and so forth.
From the specifically Christian point of view, each "term" (if such a word were permissible) of the Trinity is conceptualized as identical with the Divine Essence.
This same truth is expressed in different forms in Hindu doctrines (Being proceeding from and returning to "Non-Being"), in orthodox Platonism (same thing except with "Nous" and "the One"), in Pythagoreanism (the Monad begetting the Dyad), in Islam (the "Supreme Identity" of the self and Allah), as well as in Buddhism (the extinction of the self in Nirvana), et cetera.
While there is nothing specifically "Trinitarian" about these formalizations, they nonetheless proceed from truth. The Trinity is perfectly true in its own domain (namely that of Pure Being relative to creation), but this point of view is by no means essential for understanding truths of a higher order.
Of course, false assimilations must be avoided. For example, assimilating the Plotinian "One", "Nous", and "World Spirit", which in Christianity would correspond (in a quite different domain) to Father, Son (not in his purely celestial condition), and the Virgin Mary, to the "terms" of the Trinity.
Thank you for your reply. With regard to my objection that a thing's act of existence must either be attributed to an existent thing (in which case it is superfluous) or a non-existent thing (in which case it is nonsensical), you suggest that for contingent beings, "their act of existence is not their act, it is God's." I have to say I was shocked when I read that, because it is totally contrary to Aquinas' thinking.
If a thing's act of existence is not its own but God's, then by the same token, any of that thing's actions are not really its actions, but God's actions. In other words, when a candle burns my skin, it's not really the candle burning me; it's God Who is burning me. This is occasionalism - a doctrine popular with many Muslim philosophers in the Middle Ages, but anathema to Aquinas (see SCG Book 2, chs. 64–70). Aquinas also writes: "Even though we say that God is existence alone we do not fall into the error of those who said that God is that universal existence by which everything formally exists." (De Ente et essentia, chapter V.)
You add: "We agree that existence as fact is not a metaphysical component of a substance, and I think Ed would too." I'm afraid you're misreading Ed. He expressly states that essence and existence are metaphysical parts of a substance, in a 2013 blog post: "Actuality and potentiality, existence and essence are thus components of any thing that has both -- even if they are metaphysical components rather than material components -- and their composition entails that such a thing depends on a cause, on something that actualizes its potentials, that imparts existence to its essence." (See http://edwardfeser.blogspot.jp/2013/10/why-is-there-anything-at-all-its-simple.html .)
In response to my assertion that a composite of form and signate matter does indeed have a cause, you reply that I am basing basing my definition of essence on actualised essence, importing existence into it by definition.
It seems that we are operating with different mental pictures here. As I understand it, Ed (and Thomists in general) are saying that a contingent thing is a composite of essence and existence, and that its essence [if it is a physical thing] is a composite of matter and form. It follows that a contingent physical thing is tripartite: matter plus form, plus finally, existence (the icing on the cake, as it were). That's what I think Thomists are saying. (If they're not, then they're doing a very bad job of communicating their message.)
Aquinas writes: "Signate matter is not included in the definition of man as man, but signate matter would be included in the definition of Socrates if Socrates had a definition. In the definition of man, however, is included non-signate matter: in the definition of man we do not include this bone and this flesh but only bone and flesh absolutely, which are the non-signate matter of man." (De Ente et essentia, chapter II.)
Although he never says so explicitly, it seems that Aquinas is committed to saying that Socrates is composed of his signate matter plus his form, plus his existence. What I'm saying is that (a) the last component is superfluous, and that (b) the reason why we don't know whether Thlacines exist merely by understanding their essence is that when the intellect grasps the essence of something, what it grasps is common matter plus form, rather than signate matter plus form. No essence- existence distinction is required.
Sorry for posting my reply (above) in the wring place. I'd just like to offer a couple of concluding points.
You write: " My point was that by saying Ed's identification of be-ing with the essence did not preclude multiple such beings because each could simply have its particular essence identical to its particular existence as this or that, you implicitly import differentia between this or that, that is, you contradict the original assumption that there is no essence additional to the act of Being."
What I argued was that if there is something in which essence and existence are not distinct, it does not follow that the thing's essence is "Existence Itself"; rather, all that follows is that the thing's essence is identical to the thing's existence. I'm not contradicting the assumption that there is no essence additional to the act of Being. Rather, what I'm saying is that "being" has many different meanings, because it can be realized in infinitely many ways: a dog's being is intrinsically different from a man's, and so on. Now, Aquinas might want to claim that "being," considered in itself, is undifferentiated, and that therefore the only thing that can account for the diversity of beings is the diversity of essences that participate in the infinite and unlimited Being of God, but I would say that he's begging the question. Why couldn't it just be the case that there are many different types of existence?
Finally, you suggest that the cosmological argument points to a Necessary Being, whose very essence is to exist. While I agree that it points to Necessary Being, I would deny that God's essence is to exist. The problem I have with this view is that it seems to treat existence as if it were the ultimate action, with all other actions being subtractions from this ultimate act. But thinking and loving cannot be characterized as subtractions from Infinite Being. Nor does it make sense to say that thinking and loving are fundamentally the same as existing. Nothing in the notion of "existence" seems to imply the occurrence of any act of thinking or loving.
Instead of saying that God is all-knowing and all-loving because He is Infinite Being, I would put it the other way round: insofar as we can describe God as Infinite Being, it is only because He is all-knowing and all-loving. "To be," in God's case, simply means to understand and love perfectly. That's my two cents, anyway. Cheers.
When you say "types of existence", you are saying the same thing as "modes of being", which is what essence is in Thomism.
I did not simply say Ed denied that existence and essence were metaphysical components, I claimed that he would not posit "existence as fact" as one of those components. Remember, I distinguished, as is common, between existence as fact and existence as act. The latter is the relevant metaphysical component.Delete
My claim is not that God IS the existence of everything else, but that he enacts/actualises the existence of everything else, thus making that actus primus which is esse for creatures a divine act. Their "ownership" of that act is participatory, passive or received. In SCG,III,66(4), Aquinas says: "being is the proper product of the primary agent, that is, of God". I don't see a problem here with what what I've said. But I'm interested to hear what other, better Thomists than me say.Delete
i have a question: if the universe is eternal does'nt that mean that everything in it has to be eternal and unchangeable? (or am i completly wrong)ReplyDelete
Not at all if what you mean by eternal is temporal extension into the past and the future--that is, that the universe has always existed. The various material constituents could go in and out of existence (a dog dies and gives way to dead matter) but the whole (the universe or multiverse) can still remain.Delete
"The Trinity is perfectly true in its own domain (namely that of Pure Being relative to creation), but this point of view is by no means essential for understanding truths of a higher order."ReplyDelete
Caeliger, as I understand it, this is basically the position of Advaita Vedanta. From this perspective, the first of all "discriminations" or "discernments" in universal metaphysics, is that between Atma and Maya. Expressed in Advaitic terms, it is fundamentally the discernment between the Absolute (Atma) and the Relative (Maya). According to this doctrine only the Divine Essence ("Beyond-Being") is Absolute, whereas the Creator or Personal God ("Being"), as the first self-determination of the Divine Essence, is already within the domain of the relative. The Creator, nevertheless, is "absolute" with regard to His creation and, in view of this, is qualified as the "relative Absolute". This term, although apparently illogical, harbors an important meaning. The Personal God ("Being"),as originator of creation, is the "prefiguration of the relative in the Absolute."
Some people have suggested that this teaching mirrors the Eastern Orthodox doctrine of God's Essence and Energies. But, I don't think that is true because Christian theism insists that the ontological distinction between the Creator and creation is a description of the ways things are in the ultimate sense- that it is not just an "appearance" as the non-dual Advaitan would say.
Hello, Chris! I think Eckhart was of the same persuation as well, but unfortunately he has influenced some very dubious people who seem to make an "egoism" of his distinction between the Essence and the external "face" of God.Delete
If the Divine Essence is indeed truly Infinite, it must by definition not be limited by anything whatsoever. But the simultaneous coexistence of a "really real" creation would obviously limit the purported Infinite in some other way, no matter how "significantly" in itself.
We must admit that from the perspective of the Divine Essence, everything that is just is, eternally and unqualifiedly. Therefore, relative to this truly Absolute perspective, there is no longer a creation. This is all implicit in Divine simplicity, really. If not, we have to admit that notions like "infinite" and "eternal about of possibilities" are meaningless.
"Abode", not "about". Bleh.Delete
It seems to me that the bhaktic theist and the jnanic non-dualist are at loggerheads over the meaning of the Absolute. The non-dualist would say, I think, that the Absolute, to be Absolute, must be Infinite, all-possibility and all-inclusive. Whereas, the theist would claim the opposite- that the Absolute, to be the Absolute, must be absolutely transcendent or totally other. Classical theism doesn't take the view that a "really real" creation is limiting because creation is absolutely ontologically dependent on God. Several schools of Vedanta, (Dvaita and Dvaitadvaita for example) have taken that very position in opposition to Shankara's unqualified non-dualism.
There seems to me that there need be no real opposition between these "inner" and "outer" conceptions of the matter, since the latter is true in its own domain, and the former is anyhow only available for a certain few who are in direct contact with the angelic hierarchies, such as was St. Thomas himself. Near his death, he remarked that all his theology ultimately amounted to "straw" compared to the reality that he had at that point perceived. Dante, whose Commedia conveys this same "non-dualist" conception of the Divine Essence, can certainly be said to have left quite the Catholic legacy.Delete
I agree that creation is ontologically dependent on God, but I disagree that ontology is the "whole" or the highest possible domain of metaphysics, though it is "part" of it, the primordial prefiguration thereof.
There can as far as I can tell be no such thing as "absolute ontology", since Being as such is not really absolute. Being is necessarily One, Good, and True, but from the perspective of the Absolute things are quite less conditioned.
The union of Being with its principle, Non-Being, which includes Being, possibilities that cannot be created or "manifested" (such as the "void"), and created things insofar as they are not presently in the domain of manifestation, that is under the authority of Being as such, this is what I must consider the metaphysically comprehensible resolution.
A truly Absolute distinction between creator and created seems to end up as quite "dualist" and unresolved--if Being is absolutely metaphysically fundamental, how can creation be said to be in any wise real and "derivative" of God? Doesn't this imply the real eternity of the Devil?
"...since Being as such is not really absolute."ReplyDelete
I'm not sure that those of the AT tradition would agree- God is simple or "pure act", and fundamentally apophatic.
The Divine Essence is truly apophatic and "simple" (this in no way implying a lack of "complexity" insofar as it lacks limits), but "God" in the sense of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit considered independently from the Divine Essence (which perspective is possible at the purely metaphysical level)is not the Divine Essence.Delete
The Essence directly and atemporally "implies" Being, but in itself it is (infinitely) greater than Being, since it is the unconditioned.
If God is the reality in which all things "live and move and have their being" (Thomas himself was no stranger to alchemy and the seven), does this not then clearly imply by sheer logic that the Devil and the damned are still contained in him forever? How then can God really and not just nominally be the Infinite, that which has no privation whatsoever? The Devil and the damned considered in themselves are certainly not pure privation, for if they were, they would have no existence whatsoever, even an infernal such, which necessarily presupposes God.
Jakob Böhme explained this quite elegantly. In the realm of "becoming", we have:
1. Contraction,the primordial "desire" of all beings to sustain their integrity as beings, perceived or real. Corresponds to minerality and mechanism. In the superior domain, this corresponds to the God who will be "all in all".
2. Friction, the duality of "going beyond oneself". Corresponds to the vegetative soul (this is the domain of Ishwara, with his "head in the dark"--this same idea is related by St. John of the Cross in his spiritual classic). In the superior domain, it corresponds to the Son's fixation on the Father.
3. The centripetal-centrifugal interaction of the two, the "wheel of life". Corresponds to animality and sensitivity. In the superior domain, this is the Holy Spirit's life-giving powers. Thus God is Being (Father), Consciousness (Son), Bliss (Spirit).
These together constitute the "dark" principle, a metaphysically necessary "byproduct" of Being (due to the freedom of beings and the Good being unable to communicate itself). Analogically transposed to the celestial domain they constitute the "supra-human" faculties.
4. The central state, in this world the human state. This is the seat of dialectical reason, which is a purely individual and human faculty that must not be allowed to question orthodox dogma. In effect, the majority of modern humans live in a mostly "subhuman" state of animal passion (and some below even that, lamentably), but reason in itself is unable to understand transcendent realities.
Now we arrive at the celestial part of the septenary. This is the domain in which the Trinity can be understood and not simply accepted on "faith".
5. The inversion of 3, a "higher sensibility". The exercise of reason ultimately must be rooted in good sense, and this is developed when the soul loves God more than this world. Here, in the truly intellectual (in the sense of "intellectus", that which intuitively and actively understands) is true life, and it is Spirit.
6. Inversion of 2. Moral rectitude and non-attachment to worldly conditions allow the Spirit to really see the intelligible light within. Only by an initial act of "faith" in "good sense" can this gradually be realized. The Son's love for the Father.
7. The integration of forces superior, human, and inferior (in that precise hierarchy), forming a perfect whole.
I shall not continue because I have already written way too much, and I am sure that I seem tedious to some, but I have no ill intent at all. I am simply interested in discussion with people who can conceptualize these orders of reality.
"the Good being unable to communicate itself"ReplyDelete
NOT to communicate itself, rather. Being that this is what it is "conditioned" to do.
No, no....It's fine. I'm super interested in the dialogue between the theistic and non-theistic traditions.
My concern with the position that you've sketched out is that it might be incompatible with Christianity. That being the case if it implies that the Trinity is not identical with the Divine Essence?
I would consider myself a (classical) theist, insofar as Eckhart, Plotinus, and Dante were, at any rate. Certainly I can understand if this doesn't seem so from every perspective, though.Delete
The Trinity as such, all "terms" included, is the very same as the Divine Essence. However, each "individual" (must be understood analogically, since at the level concerned there is no individuality) term doesn't in itself, virtually separated from the other two, is not "commensurate" with the Divine Essence.
In this particular case (which of course cannot be manifested, it is purely "theoretical", until that is the soul is in purgatory, whether in this life or in the post-mortem state), the Father as such is Being, the Son is Essence (the "positive" pole of all creation), and the Holy Spirit is Universal Substance (or "Existence" as such).
Since Essence and Substance are perfectly united in Being (in fact, they proceed from it--Substance also immediately proceeds from Essence, hence the filioque)and cannot in fact exist as such independently (being the "positive" and "negative" poles "superior" and "inferior" to all manifestation), One necessarily implies Three, and Three implies One.
Still, though, Being taken purely in itself, virtually abstracted from its inevitable implications Essence and Universal Substance, is not commensurate with the Infinite. Only the three considered in themselves (not as the "Divine Energies" or Holy Wisdom that creation as such can "relate" to), all together, is effectively commensurate with the Infinite, which is not Primordial Unity (the first determination) but the Divine Essence, which is necessarily "non-dual", that is, Infinite.
I would call my "position" a Trinitarian non-dualism, but undoubtedly some may object to this.
Reading about all these deep ideas - about the difference between being, existence, essence and substance, about modal vs serious vs anti-realist essentialism plus I suppose various non-essentialist views, about whether the Absolute is infinite and all-inclusive or else transcendent and totally other or perhaps the union of Being and Non-being - the following questions occur to me:ReplyDelete
1. Do these distinctions matter metaphysically speaking? Would the world we experience now (or will experience in the future) be different if one of these ideas is the correct one and not the other?
2. Do these distinction matter in our salvation? Does one of these ideas if studied and understood properly motivate us more to follow Christ?
A possible answer here is “Not really, but such speculation helps us reach a better understanding of reality. It helps us find out which is the most intelligible way to think about reality and therefore presumably how reality is – beyond any practical relevance for our condition. And God (or the Absolute, or the metaphysically ultimate) is difficult to think about since by its nature it is far removed from our everyday modes of thought”.
If that’s the answer, and under the premise that intelligibility is a good for its own sake, the following question arises:
3. If such distinctions are about intelligibility how is it that many centuries after Aquinas, and thousands of years after Eastern thought, people still profoundly disagree among themselves not only about which idea is the correct one but also about how each concept should be properly understood?
My worry is that our cognitive condition is such that that we may respond to problems not with a solution but with creating a speculative distinction, and when another problem is encountered by further speculative distinctions, until we get entangled in a complex conceptual structure of our own devising. I say speculation may become an exercise in speculating. I think it is always a good exercise to make a reality check of the kind “Am I using my time productively?” or “What do I gain if I study the meaning and then find the answer to this question?” (To spend too much effort trying to understand the meaning of a question appears to be irrational behavior, but presumably some effort is justified.)
But can classical theism accomodate a "dual-level" (Nirguna/Saguna Brahman) or dialectic within God? As I understand it, the act of Being which is the Divine Essence is itself Infinite, or (as with Ibn Arabi, perhaps) "opens out onto" the Infinite. Being is act, and the primordial act is self-gift (=knowledge,=love). Once it was clear that the self-gift of Being could be perfect within itself as Trinity, and therefore also "at rest" within itself, it was not necessary to posit a higher absolute than Being.ReplyDelete
"The utter transcendence of the Essence is attained not by withdrawing it from all relationship (as "Beyond-Being"), but by recognizing that its very transcendence consists in relationship or manifestation to itself, that God is,in himself, trinitarian love."
- Stratford Caldecott
There is absolutely no question here of a dialectic, which would be quite impossible at the metaphysical level. Ontology as such can only be regarded as "second metaphysics" as far as I am concerned. Even in the case of ontology there can be no dialectic, only examination of how Unity implies Trinity.Delete
If Being is really utterly transcendent to beings, how can the latter in any way relate to the Creator, even analogically? This seems a major obstacle.
That which manifests to itself must in some way be "self-transcendent".
And, furthermore, if the question is so posed, can classical theism accomodate a triple-level "dialectic" within God? Because this is how it will inevitably have to work out if Being recognized as the supreme principle.Delete
Indeed, if the Divine Essence is radically simple and utterly transcendent, why speak of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit at all? These would seem to be obstacles to understanding God (which all Christians should aspire too, not within the domain of reason--which is limited to narrow philosophical conceptions--but with pure intellectual centering), if such is the case.
Unfortunately, we live in a post-Kantian age. The vast majority of people believe that no truths except the most banal and superficial ones at best (if even those) can truly be known. The secular world especially, but also the ecclesiastical world (alternating between catechetical fundamentalism and modernism pure and simple) suffer alike from a sort of phobia of pure Spirit, which is the Intellect itself. Unfortunately for the impossible ideal of egalitarianism, people will always have distinct aptitudes, and some (who need not at all be "intellectuals" with all the connotations this word now carries) really are able to see more or less profoundly "supra-rational" truths and know them to be truths without a shadow of a doubt.
I genuinely apologize if I appear belligerent, I can be blunt and am somewhat clumsy with English but I don't mean to demean anyone.Delete
Perhaps I am just an ignorant clod. But from what I can tell, you are trying to carry into this blog a perspective which more or less assumes the validity of Advaita Vedanta, that the "first discrimination" comes before the "divine essence", etc, etc, etc. That is to say, you are coming in here with more or less a whole aircraft-carrier load of positions and ideas and premises about metaphysics and God, that most people don't believe are compatible with Christianity or with Thomism.
I don't know why you would imagine dropping all of this into this thread makes sense. To me it's sort of like going in front of a professional dentists conference on "preserving natural teeth" to say "consider the advantages of artificial implants."
In any case, the sheer number of points in which what you lay out diverges from Thomism makes it impossible to have a worthwhile engagement. If you have just one point that can be discussed, just one issue that can be talked about without having to also deal with all the others at the same time, that might be worthwhile. All at once will get us nowhere.
happen to coincide with Advaita Vedanta, they are by no means exclusion to this tradition, but may be found, symbolically, in all the more or less orthodox traditions of mankind.Delete
The reason that I am interested in discussion with people here is that I do in fact consider myself a Christian (much like Eckhart, Dante, and others) and agree almost entirely with "Thomism" (which, needs be said, the Saint himself ultimately deemed "straw").
The Christian church quite evidently has its origins in an esoteric "mystery religion" that cannot be limited to the Christian form as such. Just for example, the Celtic legend of the Holy Grail has temporally "pre-Christian" origins but was nonetheless seamlessly incorporated into the orthodox tradition.
I am not dropping by to invalidate y'all's desire to preserve your natural teeth, but rather to inform you that they derive all their power and significance from your supernatural teeth. I have very little interest in artifice.
In my event, I would be happy to discuss my supposed divergences from Thomism (which is, ultimately, a philosophical and theological system, necessarily limited, truthful and good as it is in its own domain).
My comment was cut short by technical issues (as has happened Before), but hopefully it should be sufficiently legible.ReplyDelete
When discussing this topic, we should distinguish as the Catholic Encyclopedia does between the metaphysical or logical essence of a thing and its physical essence as existing in individual substances. Consider the example of a human being, which the Catholic Encyclopedia uses. The metaphysical essence of human being is composed of the genus animal and the differentia rational. This is a composition of concepts. The physical essence would be the body and rational soul that make up the actually existing human being. This is the composition of matter and form. The physical composition of matter and form is the foundation of the conceptual composition of genus and species, but the two are not the same. This distinction matters because one could easily admit that the metaphysical essence of a thing is distinct from its existence but still maintain that the physical essence and existence are identical within beings that actually exist. I agree that physical essence is distinct from existence in created beings, but I believe the distinction between the two notions of essence would still be helpful because it affects what arguments we use.ReplyDelete