Aristotle and Aquinas

SINCE our entire book illustrates the featuring of act, there is less call for a special section on it. But let us cite a few passages from the Baldwin dictionary that will sufficiently indicate why scholastic realism should be treated as a speculative enterprise constructed about action as the basic concept.

In Aristotle "things are more or less real according as they are more or less energeia (actu, from which our 'actuality' is derived)." In scholastic realism "form is the actus, the attainment, which realizes the matter." "As Saint Thomas says, and as the whole Peripatetic doctrine teaches, forma per se ipsam facit rem esse in actu (or, as it is often expressed, a form is an act)." And when discussing the characteristic distinction between existence and essence, the article on Aquinas defines existence as "the act of essence." Similarly in his comments on Aristotle Metaphysics, Aquinas refers to the soul as the "act of an organic physical body capable of life." Etienne Gilson God and Philosophy states the matter succinctly in observing that for the scholastics existence is "an act, not a thing."7 And when discussing the "Likeness of Creatures" in the Summa Contra Gentiles, Aquinas brings out a similar stress, in keeping with the agent-act ratio: "It is of the nature of action that a like agent should produce a like action, since every thing acts according as it is in act" (though he is here using the principle to distinguish between God as cause and human agents as effect, a disproportion whereby "the form of the effect is found in its transcendent cause somewhat, but in another way and another ratio").

The most convenient place I know for directly observing the essentially dramatist nature of both Aristotle and Aquinas is in Aquinas' corn

However, to be is the act of acts. Gilson makes much of the fact that the copulative verb is grammatically in the active voice. Sociologically, we may note how well this identification between act and being served a feudal society built upon the maintenance of fixed social status.


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A Grammar of Motives


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