Commentary on Being and Essence

Commentary on Being and Essence

Commentary on Being and Essence

Commentary on Being and Essence

Excerpt

Because a small mistake in the beginning is a great one in the end, according to the Philosopher in primo Coeli et Mundi,2 and since what the intellect first conceives is being and essence, as Avicenna says in the Metaphysica,3 we ought first, lest we fall into error through ignorance of them, state for the purpose of disclosing the difficulty they involve, what is meant by the names of Essence and Being, how they are found in different things, and how they are related to logical intentions, namely, to genus, species, and difference.

1) This remarkable work is divided into two principal parts: the introduction and the treatise which begins with the words, We must observe that, etc. In the introduction, following the art of rhetoric, St. Thomas accomplishes three things. First, he puts the reader in the proper disposition by showing the usefulness and necessity of what is to be said, using this argument: all who err concerning the principles of all intelligibles will err even more in other matters; all who err concerning essence and being are in error concerning the principles of all intelligibles; therefore all who err concerning essence and being will err even more in other matters. It is therefore useful and necessary, in order to avoid the many errors which occur from not knowing them, to set forth the notion of essence and being. The proof for the major of this reasoning is stated in words taken from I Coeli.4 The minor is proved by the text of Avicenna.5

For the evidence of the major and its proof, note well that because the beginning is small in quantity, therefore an error in the beginning is called small; and because the beginning is great virtually inasmuch as it virtually contains all the conclusions, therefore a small error in the beginning becomes a great error in the end. For error grows as the . . .

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