Thomas Aquinas: Philosophy in an Hour

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His commentaries on Sacred Scripture and on Aristotle form an important part of his body of work. Furthermore, Thomas is distinguished for his eucharistic hymns, which form a part of the Church's liturgy. The Catholic Church honors Thomas Aquinas as a saint and regards him as the model teacher for those studying for the priesthood, and indeed the highest expression of both natural reason and speculative theology. Also honored as a Doctor of the Church, Thomas is considered the Catholic Church's greatest theologian and philosopher.

The episode audio is being processed and will be ready shortly. Register or Sign In. Sorry we couldn't complete your registration. Please try again. You must accept the Terms and conditions to register. Could 1, 2 and 3 be restated in that second form? This grounds the distinction between the grammatical subject of the sentence expressing a change and the subject of the change. Only in 1 is the grammatical subject expressive of the subject of the change.

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This makes clear that the different expressions of the change involve two things other than the subject of the change, namely, the characteristics of the subject before not-musical and after musical the change. These elements of the change get the names that stick from another example, whittling wood. The term for wood in Greek is hyle and the term for shape, the external contours of a thing, is morphe. In English, form, a synonym of shape, is used to express the characteristic that the subject acquires as the result of the change, e.

The characterization of the subject prior to the change as not having the form is called privation. Using this language as canonical, Aristotle speaks of the subject of the change as its hyle or matter, the character it gains as its morphe or form, and its prior lack of the form as its privation. Any change will involve these three elements: matter, form and privation. The product of a change involves two things: matter and form.

Change takes place in the various categories of quality, quantity, place, and so on. In all cases the terminology of matter, form, and privation comes to be used. So the terms applied in these different categories will be used analogously. The terms bind together similar but different kinds of change—a subject changing temperature is like a subject changing place or size.

The analysis of change and the product of change begins with surface changes. Some enduring thing changes place or quality or quantity. But enduring things like men and trees and horses and the like have also come into being and are destined some day to cease to be. Such things are called substances. It is a given that there are substances and that they come to be and pass away. The question is: Can the analysis of surface change be adjusted and applied to substantial change?

What would its subject be? The subject of substantial change is known on an analogy with the subject of incidental or surface change. That is, if substances come to be as the result of a change, and if our analysis of change can apply, there must be a subject of the change. The subject of a surface or incidental change is a substance. The subject of a substantial change cannot be a substance; if it were, the result would be a modification of that substance, that is, an incidental change.

But we are trying to understand how a substance itself comes into being as the result of a change. There must be a matter or subject but it cannot be matter in the sense of a substance. In order to signal this, we can call the matter prime matter , first matter. But it is important to recognize that this prime matter is not a substance, and does not exist apart from any particular substance. It is always the matter of some substance that exists. When the discussion moves on from what may be said of all physical objects as such to an inquiry into living physical things, the analyses build upon those already completed.

The peculiar activities of living things will be grouped under headings like nutrition, growth, sense perception, knowing, and willing. Since a living thing sometimes manifests an instance of such activities and sometimes does not, they relate to it in the manner of the incidental forms of any physical object. But they are not incidental in the way that we might think of the shade of color of one's skin at any particular time, or the particular height or weight of an individual, since as activities the ability or power to engage in them proceeds from what the substance in question is.

Thomas at times will call the powers through which they are achieved necessary accidents, using accident in a sense different from more recent philosophy. While the abilities need not be exercised at any particular time or may be impeded from exercise by some condition, the substance nonetheless possesses them in principle as long as it exists.

The form such a subject takes on as the result of the change cannot be an incidental form like size or location or temperature. Substances do not become or cease to be substances as a result of changes in these incidental features. As the analysis of incidental change makes clear, the substance previously existed without the form it acquires in the change and it could lose it and still be itself. In a substantial change, the substance itself simply comes to be, or ceases to be.

The form in a substantial change must be that which makes the substance to be what it is. Call it substantial form. Here we see the semantic plasticity of the term 'matter'. Initially in the analysis of change, 'matter' refers to the substance that takes on or loses some incidental categorical modification of that substance. Then the term is extended by analogy to cover whatever is the subject of a change of substance. Socrates or Bucephalus is a substance strictly speaking. The forms and matter of Socrates and Bucephalus are not.

They are substantial principles without being substances or quasi-substances in their own right. So the point to notice about this analysis is that substantial change is spoken of on an analogy with incidental change. The analysis of incidental change is presupposed and regulative. Moreover, the language used to speak of the elements of incidental change are extended to substantial change and altered in meaning so as to avoid equivocation.

The philosophical vocabulary arises out of analysis of what is most obvious to us and is then progressively extended to more and more things insofar as the later is made known by appeal to the prior. We see that matter and form apply in an analogous way to the various kinds of incidental change and then to substantial change.

The analysis of form and matter provides a rule for knowing and naming that will characterize Thomas's use of Latin in philosophy and in theology as well. Focusing specifically upon perception—seeing, feeling, hearing, and the like—how can we best analyze it? In continuity with what has gone before, the questions are put in this form: How best to analyze coming to see, coming to feel, coming to hear, and the like? Seeing these on the analogy of change as already analyzed, we look for a subject, a privation, and a form.

The sensing subject is the animal, but the proximate subjects to which they are attributed are the powers of sight, touch, hearing, and the like. An instance of seeing is describable as the power's moving from not seeing to seeing. Since the object of seeing is color, the change from not seeing to seeing issues in the power having the form of color. Consider an ordinary physical change, a substance acquiring a color. Coming to see a color is not the same kind of physical change as a substance acquiring a color. To be sure, while there are physical changes involved in sensation—the organs are altered in the way physical bodies are—that is not the change involved in perception as such.

Consider again that in feeling a warm or cold body the hand's own temperature is altered by the contact. But feeling cannot be just that, since any two physical bodies that come into contact undergo a similar alteration of temperature. But not all physical bodies feel the temperature. Feeling the temperature, becoming aware of it, is another sort of change, however much it involves a contemporaneous change in the organs of sense similar to ordinary physical change.

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Having the color or temperature in this further sense is thus made known and named by reference to physical change. The fundamental difference between the two ways of acquiring a form is this: in a physical change of color, the change produces a new numerical instance of the color. In grasping or sensing a color, a numerically new instance of color does not result.

And yet what was potentially visible becomes actually visible. There is actuality in the world where before there was only potentiality--an actuality of the seen color, and an actuality of color not in the mode of existence that color has in physical things. We have here the basis for talk of immateriality in perception. If the acquiring of a form by matter in physical change results in a new instance of the form and this is not the case with perception, we can make the point that acquiring the form in sensation is not identical to the acquiring of the form by matter in the primary sense.

Thus, we both want to speak of the subject of sensation on an analogy with physical change and to distinguish the former from the latter. This is done by speaking of the immaterial reception of a form. Nonetheless, the sense power is implemented in a physical organ, and thus matter for the change of form in sensation in an analogous sense. Because in sensation the sense organ is physically altered and the matter of sensation in this analogous sense, we can say that actual sensation is in some respects physical, and in another not.

It is important to pay attention again to the order of learning and naming, and what we are justified in saying at this point about the use of the words involved in describing this change. Now, in his interpretation of Aristotle's De anima Thomas defends a view that was as contested in his own time as it is almost an orphan in our own. Among the tenets of so-called Latin Averroism was the view, first held by Averroes, that the move from perceptive acts to intellection is not one from a lower to a higher set of capacities or faculties of the human soul.

Aristotle contrasts intellection with perception, and argues that the former does not employ a sense organ because it displays none of the characteristics of perception which does employ an organ. Thus insofar as sensation can be said to be in some respects material and in others immaterial, intellection is said to be completely immaterial. But on the Latin-Averroistic view, Aristotle is not thus referring to another capacity of the human soul, the intellect, but, rather, referring to a separate entity thanks to whose action human beings engage in what we call thinking.

But the cause of this, the agent intellect, is not a faculty of the soul. Aristotle had distinguished at least two intellects, a possible and an agent. The proof for incorruptibility which results from an activity that does not employ a corporeal organ is therefore a statement about the incorruptibility of this separate entity, not a basis for arguing that each human soul is incorruptible because it has the capacity to perform incorporeal activities. The Latin-Averroists consequently denied that Aristotle taught personal immortality.

Given this consequence, Thomas's adoption of the opposite interpretation—viz. Thomas is frequently said to have baptized Aristotle, which seems to mean that he fitted him to the Procrustean bed of Christian doctrine. Of course, the full Christian view is not simply that the soul survives death but that it will be reunited with body, and Thomas nowhere suggests that there is any intimation of this in Aristotle.

Oddly enough, it is often friends of Thomas who suggest that he merely used Aristotle and was not chiefly concerned with what Aristotle might actually have intended. However, this is an extraordinary approach to reading Thomas. It would be less of an accusation to say that he got a passage wrong than that he pretended it meant something he knew it did not. However, the important point is whether Thomas's reading is or is not supported by the text.

When he commented on the De anima , he seems not to be concerned with the flare up in Paris over Latin Averroism. This is the basis for dating the commentary in , before Thomas returned to Paris. The commentary, accordingly, cannot be read as though it were prompted by the controversy. Of course, some might still say that Thomas had long term interests in taming Aristotle to behave in a Christian way.

On the contrary, as it happens, during the second Parisian period in the thick of the Latin-Averroist controversy, Thomas wrote an opusculum dedicated to the question: what did Aristotle actually teach? The work is called in the Latin, De unitate intellectus contra averroistas , On there being only one intellect contra the Averroists. This little work is absolutely essential for assessing the nature of Thomas's Aristotelianism. He provides us with an extended textual analysis to show that the rival interpretation cannot be sustained by the text and that the only coherent reading of the De anima must view the agent and possible intellects as faculties of the human soul.

His interpretation may be right or wrong, but the matter must be decided on the basis of textual interpretation, not vague remarks about Thomas's intentions. Philosophers nowadays will want to know how this account of substance places Aquinas on the question of the relation of body and soul with respect to Dualism and Physicalism. Not easily. Aquinas maintains that the soul is capable of existing apart from the living body after the death of the body, because the soul is incorruptible.

However this picture fails to recognize the Aristotelian terms of the account that Aquinas provides of soul and body. Thomas knows and accepts Aristotle's assertion in De anima II. The soul is indeed capable of existence apart from the body at death. This incorruptibility results from the actualities of understanding and willing that are not the actualities of any bodily organ, but of the human animal as such distinguished by the rational form.

A subsistent is something with an operation of its own, existing either on its own or in another as an integral part, but not in the way either accidental or material forms exist in another. Existing on its own is not distinctive of substances alone. A chair is a particular thing, and thus a subsistent. But on Aquinas' account it is not a substance; it is rather an accidental unity of other subsistents which may or may not be substances.

A hand has an operation distinctive of it as an integral part of a living body, an operation different from the operation of the stomach; it is a particular thing and also a subsistent. Summa Theologiae Ia. And yet being an integral and functional part of a substance, it does not have the complete nature of a substance. A substance, on the other hand, is something that is both subsistent and complete in a nature—a nature being an intrinsic principle of movement and change in the subject. A human soul is a constitutive element of the nature of a human substance.

It is the formal principle of a human substance. It is what is specified when we say what the substance is. But it is incomplete. What it is for a soul to be is to be the form of some substance. As the principle of a nature, its nature is to be the formal element of a complete substance. Consequently, it doesn't have its own nature and is not a substance in its own right, even if it is capable of subsisting apart from the living body.

It is because it is naturally incomplete as subsisting apart from the body that Thomas sees this state as unnatural for it, and an intimation of, but not an argument for, the resurrection of the body. Question Ia. Thomas begins 75 by pointing out that his concern is the concern of a theologian, and that the theologian is concerned with human nature primarily in relation to the soul. He is concerned with the body only in its relation to the soul. The body of the question is filled with philosophical argument, and yet its order and point is theological. That theological order and point, however, can lead to certain philosophical distortions concerning the soul if one isn't careful.

So Thomas is very careful. Considered as a substantial form of a material body, the soul exists in a living being as the substantial form of an animal. Here it is important to clarify. In the first way, any form as such is immaterial because it is not a material principle. It is distinguished as a principle of actuality in a being from the material principle which is a principle of potentiality and change in corporeal beings. In that sense, any substantial form whatsoever will be immaterial, including the substantial form of an oak tree or the substantial form of a dog.

And so also is the substantial form of the human immaterial in that sense. Aquinas is explicit about this when he proves that the human soul is immaterial in Summa Theologiae Ia. It is immaterial in just the way in which any form whatsoever is immaterial. But in the second way, 'immaterial' is said of subsistent forms—forms that subsist without matter like angels or spiritual substances in general. In But then immediately in The souls of other animals are incorporeal in the sense of Socrates, the man, has vital activities that are the activities of a living animal, like sensation, nutrition, reproduction, and so on, activities that are not distinctive activities of the soul itself as intellect is in the human case.

Since these are activities of Socrates and not activities of the soul, Socrates and the soul are not identical. And so Socrates, if anything, is a living animal just like the other animals. Tacitly this leaves open the possibility that there might be an animal soul for Socrates that is not identical to the intellectual soul, and as shown in This possibility of two souls in Socrates, an animal soul and an intellectual soul will only be excluded later in question But in conjunction with the result of This result shows the soul to be a subsistent form that can exist without out matter.

And so it is now seen to be an immaterial subsistent in the second sense described above, not just the first sense. Now 'immaterial' characterizes its mode of existence, not just the negative fact that it is immaterial like all other forms are immaterial. So the difference between the human intellectual soul and the souls of other animals is that while both are immaterial in the first sense, the sense of not being material principles, the intellectual soul is an immaterial subsistent in the second sense while the souls of other animals are not immaterial subsistents.

A material form is a form that is not an immaterial subsistent; it exists either as an accident in a corporeal subject or as a substantial form in a corporeal subject, and does not subsist. So the substantial forms of bodies, particularly the souls of living bodies, are in general material forms with the exception of the intellectual soul. The souls of other animals are immaterial in the first sense and material with regard to the second sense, while the human soul is both immaterial in the first sense and immaterial in the second sense.

Confirmation of this distinction of senses of 'immaterial' comes when in the very last article of the question, The souls of other animals are not directly generated and do not directly corrupt. It is the living animal that corrupts. But their souls can be said to corrupt with the animal. Quaestiones Disputatae De Anima 2 However, the human soul, because it is a subsistent immaterial form, does not corrupt with the death of the human being.

So when all these results are put together the intellectual soul is an incorporeal, immaterial, incorruptible subsistent, an immaterial form in the second sense, which looks an awful lot like an angel, since angels are also incorporeal, immaterial, incorruptible subsistents, and immaterial forms in the second sense. Angels are complete in their natures as incorporeal, immaterial, incorruptible subsistent forms—they are thus substances properly speaking.

Three Minute Philosophy: Thomas Aquinas

But Thomas had insisted all along that the soul is incomplete in its nature, even as it is an incorporeal, immaterial, incorruptible subsistent form—it is not a substance properly speaking. Still, the soul can be called substance by analogy, insofar as it is the formal principle of a substance. The argument of We've already seen that Thomas, following Aristotle, thinks asking questions about the union of soul and body makes little sense for the philosopher. But because of the potentially distorting view of the theologian, the latter in a sense is forced to do so; the theologian has to ask philosophical questions the philosopher need not ask, in order to avoid a distorted view of the soul.

So in question 76 Thomas argues for the complete unity of soul with body against various alternative positions to be found among his contemporary theological interlocutors. Thus question 75, proceeding as it does from the theological perspective, gives rise to philosophical aporiae to be solved in question And just as it was the theologian's use of philosophical arguments in 75 that threatened a distorted view, it is the theologian's use of philosophical arguments in 76 that solves the aporiae , and avoids the distortion.

Apart from anything else Thomas does in the two questions, taken together they provide an exemplar of the use of philosophy within theology, not just to advance certain theological positions but to assist the theologian in avoiding error given the exclusivity of his theological perspective. Thomas fulfills what he himself had said is one of the roles of philosophy within theology in the first question of the Summa. There are at least three important results of Ia.

In the first place, in It might be tempting to think of the human substantial form as a kind of layering of quasi substantial forms or as composed out of them. One substantial form for the corporeality of the body, perhaps one to account for the vegetative activities of the human being, yet another for the animal activities, and then a final one for the intellectual activities of the human being. Recall that However, Thomas decisively rejects this plurality on the basis of the manifest unity of the human being in his acts. If there were multiple substantial forms there would be no unity to being human—multiple substantial forms implies multiple substances and multiple beings.

And yet the human being is one, a single substantial unity manifested in his or her acts. Here Thomas is relying upon the substantial unity that is obvious to the philosopher to reject a kind of substance plurality, not just soul-body dualism. In particular he relies upon the fact that it is Socrates himself who engages in intellectual activity.

Again, in However, what he did not claim in In fact, now in 76 he claims it is Socrates' activity. Socrates has vital activities that do not belong to the soul alone, and yet the activity that belongs to the soul alone, understanding, is one of Socrates' activities. But the soul is the principle of activity in living things. Thus the animal soul and for similar reasons the vegetative soul is identical in Socrates with the rational soul. There is no plurality of substantial forms because of the unity of Socrates' activities, including both animal activities and reason.

Neither is the human soul composed of any quasi-substantial forms. This is the second striking result of Socrates and his soul, while not being identical, are subjects of the same activity—not subjects of the same type of activity, but subjects of the same token instance of an activity. In 75, the soul as a subsistent with its own operation of understanding was said to be the subject of existence esse per se.

In the case of other animals it is the animal itself, the living substance, that is the subject of the act of existence, and both soul and body have existence through the substance. Here in the human case, the soul is said to be the subject of the act of existence because it has its own operation. Of course, Socrates is a substance with operations that pertain to him, animal activities, but also the operation of intellect; it is Socrates who thinks in virtue of his intellect. So he too is the subject of the act of existence. And yet the operation in virtue of which the soul is the subject of the act of existence, intellectual activity, is the operation in virtue of which Socrates is the subject of the act of existence, again, not the same type of operation but the same token of operation.

So Socrates and his soul have the same act of existence. The principle for drawing this latter conclusion is that the operation of a subject follows from the act of existing of that subject, as the actuality of a power follows from the actuality of the being. Quaestiones Disputatae De Anima 2. So Socrates, as a living animal substance, is not identical to his soul. Anima mea non est ego Thomas asserts in his Commentary on St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians.

It is because Socrates' soul's act of existence is Socrates' act of existence that the soul's intellectual operation is Socrates' intellectual operation. It is also because of this sharing in the act of existence, that the soul can be the substantial form of the living human animal. Because the soul is a substantial form, it is not complete in its nature, and cannot be a spiritual substance like an angel, properly speaking. Thus the soul receives its act of existence as the soul of a human being, and cannot pre-exist the human being whose soul it is.

And yet, as Thomas argued in The third significant result is that the soul is not composed from its powers as if a unified collection of them. However, this way of speaking is for the purposes of classifying the powers. It does not signal actual ontological parts of the soul. As the first act of a body, the soul is, like all act, ontologically simple, undivided, and un-composed. And Thomas tells us they are formally related to the soul as their principle in what Aristotle calls in the Posterior Analytics the second mode of per se predication—that mode in which the subject of a predication enters into the definition of the predicate, were one to define the predicate.

From this it follows that if the human soul is incorruptible, the powers of Socrates that are powers of corporeal organs cease to exist with the death of Socrates. And yet the power of intellect as a power of the soul without a corporeal organ remains incorruptible with the human soul. However, Thomas is clear in denying that only the intellect survives the death of the human; one cannot have a free floating incorruptible power in existence without the subject of the power in existence.

All of this emphasis upon the unity of the human being comes out clearly in Aquinas' understanding of the mode of human activity as acting knowingly and willingly. Such acting knowingly and willingly is expressed as the rational activity of an animal, that is, as animal activity distinguished formally as rational. Rationality is the distinctive form that intelligence takes in human beings as animals. Rationality involves the back and forth of argument moving from one thing known to another, and advancing in knowledge by such movement.

Thus, for Thomas, while angels and God can be said to be intelligent, they are not rational. This movement in understanding is necessary for human beings because as animals they only ever have a partial grasp of the natures of things, insofar as their knowledge depends upon always incomplete and partial sensible experience of the world. But it is sense experience, as well as the self movement that springs from it, that places human beings within the genus animal.

So human understanding and willing is intrinsically bound up with the sensate activity of an animal; as a result, rational is the form that it takes in that animal. Reason does not cause eating as something separate from it, and as an efficient cause; on the contrary, human eating is not adequately described formally unless it is described as rational eating. To fail to eat rationally is not a failure in its cause, but in the eating itself. And the human animal is not adequately described except as a rational animal, rational providing not another substance or expression of a fissure between soul or mind and body, but the fully adequate description of the human substance.

Reason does not distinguish us from animals; it distinguishes us as animals. So according to Aquinas, while it is true that the activities of intellect and will are not the actualities of any physical organs, they are nonetheless the activities of the living human animal. It is Socrates the animal who knows and wills, not his mind interacting with his body. Another consequence of this insistence on Aquinas' part is that it is inadequate and inaccurate to speak of activities we share in common with other kinds of creatures. So the goods that are the objects of human powers are not specified adequately by such generic descriptions as pursuing eating, reproducing, friendship, etc.

All of this might lead one to think then that, not being a dualist, Aquinas must be a physicalist, there being only two broad possible positions. Now, the difficulties of providing an adequate account of just what Physicalism is are well known. There are actually many variations on Dualism and Physicalism in play in recent philosophy. However, the difficulty of placing Aquinas in the broad outlines of that setting ought now to be clear.

And without an actual demonstration that Aquinas' view is incoherent, one lasting contribution of his thought is to show that the supposed exclusive disjunction between Physicalism and Dualism is inadequate. He poses to us a challenge to think more broadly and deeply about human existence than such an easy dichotomy allows.

To be immortal is not to be subject to death. Living corporeal substances are subject to death through the corruption of their substantial unity—not so much the separation of soul from body, but the dissolution of the soul as the substantial form of the body. This dissolution of the soul is brought about by destructive natural causes acting upon the living body. Living things themselves have various capacities to preserve themselves in existence against the ravages of the natural world around them; that is, in part, what it is for them to live—to sustain their existence in and through their own natural activities.

And yet nature teaches us that corruptible things inevitably corrupt. What of Socrates? Socrates is an animal. Thomas is unambiguous about this fact in But, if Socrates is an animal he should be as subject to corruption as is any corporeal substance, and as subject to death as any animal. Here it is important to make an initial distinction. As we've seen, living things act to preserve their existence through their vital activities, and succeed in doing so for a time, even if they eventually succumb to the reaper. So we may say they are naturally subject to death because of their composed corporeal natures.

And yet, it does not follow that they must corrupt and die; by and large their lives consist in preventing the corruption to which they are subject. This fact alone shows that there are causes with the power to fend off death, even if not to fend it off permanently. However, it is then at least possible that some other cause, a cause with much greater power than the natural causes of living things possess, could fend off death for them without end and preserve them alive without end.

The obvious candidate for this cause is God by miraculous intervention; if living things have limited power to fend off their own deaths, presumably God has unlimited power to do so for them. So what is corruptible by nature may not in fact corrupt. While animals are naturally subject to death, they could be supernaturally immortal. So also even if human beings are naturally subject to death, it may well be within the power of God to keep them from dying by a preternatural gift. This condition of having been given a preternatural gift preserving them from death would be the condition of the first human beings in the biblical account of Eden, the preternatural gift lost by Original Sin through which death entered into the world, however else one understands those data of revelation.

But philosophically we can say no more of them than that human beings are naturally subject to death but need not die. However, the world we live in is not an Edenic paradise into which death has not entered. Living things die. Human beings die. Socrates died. On the other hand, according to Thomas, Socrates' soul is incorruptible where the souls of other animals are not.

It is not even naturally subject to death by corruption. Is there a possibility for immortality, particularly personal immortality, here in the incorruptibility of Socrates' soul? One might be tempted to say yes. One might say that in the first place the incorruptible soul of Socrates looks like a person in the current sense of that term. It is a thinking or conscious thing, since it is clearly a thing at least in the sense of a subsistent, and it has the power of intellect, even if it has no other conscious cognitive powers of the animal for which it formally was a soul.

What person? Well Socrates was a person in that very sense as well, although he had more conscious cognitive capacities than does his soul after death. It seems incongruous to suggest that we have two persons—Socrates and Socrates' soul. After all that would seem to strike against the unity Thomas was at pains to maintain. While Socrates was alive, were these two persons present?

There is but one person, and it is Socrates. But then upon the death of Socrates, what happens?

Thomas Aquinas

Does the person who is Socrates cease to exist, and a new person that is Socrates' soul come to exist? But, it seems much easier and simpler to say that upon Socrates' death the person that was Socrates survives as Socrates's soul. Before death Socrates was composed of a soul and a body. After death he is composed simply of a soul. If we hold that position then, because of the incorruptibility of the soul, while the animal that Socrates was dies, the soul that Socrates becomes survives, and thus Socrates himself is immortal, and not subject to death, not subject to death even by nature as the animal is.

Socrates is simply immortal. However as an interpretation of Thomas this approach will suffer several severe difficulties. First, on its own terms it is hard to avoid the conclusion that before Socrates' death, there are two persons present. It was that the intellectual soul as such is a particular thing and subsistent, and that includes while it is the soul of a living thing. So if we are going to take the recent minimalist account of person that the term expresses in this proposed interpretation, a thinking or conscious thing , then we have the person that is the particular and subsistent thing that is the soul before the death of Socrates.

But Thomas thinks Socrates thinks, and is thus a thinking thing. So we also have the person Socrates. Is the person that is the soul identical to the person that is Socrates? It seems not, given the argument of So this interpretation suggests that even if after death there is only one person, Socrates, before death there are two persons, Socrates and Socrates' soul. In the second place, this interpretation explicitly relies upon an equivocation on the term 'person'. Thomas accepts from Boethius the definition of a person as an individual substance of a rational nature.

Summa Theologiae IIIa. It does not have a nature, but is one of the principles of a corporeal nature along with matter. And when we do so speak, what is meant is that its nature is to be the substantial form of an animal. Again, that is why it is not an angel. So strictly speaking, the human soul, even as a subsistent, is not and cannot be a person, unless one equivocates on the term, and in so doing abandons the Philosophy of Nature and Metaphysics within which Thomas thinks.

In the third place, this interpretation would make hay of Thomas' argument in There Thomas relied upon the vital activities of Socrates to make that argument--Socrates has vital activities that the soul does not possess as a subject or subsistent. But they are Socrates' activities as agent just as much as is the operation of intellect. The powers that those activities manifest are powers of Socrates in just the way the power of intellect is. So if one were to ask which of the powers might be thought to be not quite Socrates' power in the full sense, one ought to opt for the intellect, not the vital powers of the living body, since it seems that intellect belongs to something other that Socrates and is at best shared with Socrates.

But then why would Socrates become identical to the subject in virtue of a power that is not quite his, rather than cease to be with the powers that are properly his? Such questions, and the answers one might give to them, are again senseless if we situate what Thomas thinks back in what he wrote. The reason that intellectual power is no less Socrates' power than it is the soul's is because the act of being of Socrates is the act of being of his soul. It is a mistake to think that because Socrates is not identical to his soul, his soul forms some other being with which he would share some power.

Again, this has to do with the soul being his substantial form. In the fourth place, this interpretation would suggest, in Thomas' terms, that the body with its powers is per accidens related to Socrates' being. If Socrates is a substance, and the body is per accidens to his being, then the body is per accidens to his substance. In which case he is not a corporeal substance or animal at all, even in this life. The interpretation seems to return to giving the appearance that the intellectual soul is a kind of angel, only now adding that this angel is Socrates for a time associated with bodily powers.

But recall Thomas' rejection of the Plurality of Substantial Forms position. His own account of the soul is that the animal powers of the soul are as much powers of the human soul as is the intellectual power—they are all powers in the second mode of per se predication. In that respect they are all alike, and the human soul is thus per se the substantial form of a living body, not per accidens , and the person Socrates is that living body.

When that living body ceases to exist through death, so also does the person who is Socratres. Finally, Thomas clearly understands and accepts the implications of his view that Socrates is the living animal, namely, that the continued existence of the human soul after death is not sufficient for the continued existence of the human person. If the living animal no longer exists after death, then neither does Socrates. If the living animal is not immortal, then neither is Socrates. Consider these objections that Thomas himself considers.

There is no resurrection of the body; only the souls of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob live after death. Thomas writes in response that the soul of Abraham is not Abraham, and the life of Abraham's soul is not sufficient for the life of Abraham. The whole composite of Abraham's soul and body must live for Abraham to live. Thus if only Abraham's soul lives after death, Abraham does not. Summa Theologiae Of course Thomas does not think that the resurrection of the body is demonstrable in philosophy.

For him it is a revealed truth, not one of the praeambula fidei. Earlier we saw how Thomas' use of philosophical analysis helped to avoid the potentially distorting view of the theologian upon the nature of the soul. Here, we see how a revealed truth helps the philosopher avoid an equally distorting philosophical account of the soul and personal identity that would skew the philosophical books toward a personal human immortality without having to live as a human animal.

When Aristotle rejected the Platonic Ideas or Forms, accepting some of the arguments against them that Plato himself had devised in the Parmenides , he did not thereby reject the notion that the telos of philosophical enquiry is a wisdom which turns on what man can know of God. The magnificent panorama provided at the beginning of the Metaphysics as gloss on the claim that all men naturally desire to know rises to and culminates in the conception of wisdom as knowledge of all things in their ultimate or first causes.

For much of the twentieth century, Aristotelian studies had been conducted under the influence of Werner Jaeger's evolutionary hypothesis. On this view, Aristotle began as an ardent Platonist for whom the really real lay beyond sensible reality. With maturity, however, came the sober Macedonian empiricism which trained its attention on the things of this world and eschewed all efforts to transcend it.

As for the Metaphysics , Jaeger saw it as an amalgam of both theories. The passage just alluded to at the beginning of the work is ascribed to the Platonic phase. Other passages have a far more modest understanding of the range and point of a science over and above natural philosophy and mathematics. Platonice loquendo , there are entities which exist separately from sensible things and they constitute the object of the higher science.

The more sober view finds a role for a science beyond natural philosophy and mathematics, but it will deal with things those particular sciences leave unattended, e. But these tasks do not call for, and do not imply, a range of beings over and above sensible things. Jaeger found both these conceptions of metaphysics juxtaposed in a crucial passage of Book Six. Jaeger invites us to see here a monument to a lost hope and an abiding reluctance to bid it a definitive farewell. Aristotle mentions the possibility of an immovable substance, something existing apart from the natural realm.

Without such a separate substance, natural philosophy will be first philosophy. If there is such a substance, it will be a kind of being different from material being. The science that studies it will bear on a certain kind of being, immovable substance, immaterial being, not on being as being. It will be a special, not a universal, science. Jaeger sees Aristotle seeking to glue on to the special science the tasks that belong to a universal science, to make a theology into an ontology.

Jaeger's hypothesis dominated interpretations of the Metaphysics until very recently. Giovanni Reale's book had to await English translation before it could have any impact in English circles of interpretation. By that time, people were turning from Jaeger's account and toward a more direct reading of Aristotle.

When we reconsider Thomas as a commentator on the Metaphysics , it becomes clear that his reading is in stark opposition to Jaeger's claims. But let us first lay out Thomas's view of metaphysics. His question is Aristotle's: is there any science beyond natural science and mathematics? If to be and to be material are identical, then the science of being as being will be identical with the science of material being. That is what Aristotle rejects in the passage just quoted. It is in the course of doing natural philosophy that one gains certain knowledge that not everything that is is material.

At the end of the Physics , Aristotle argues from the nature of moved movers that they require a first unmoved mover. If successful, this proof establishes that there is a first mover of all moved movers which is not itself material. Furthermore, the discussion of intellect in On the Soul III , to which we alluded in the preceding paragraph, points beyond the material world.

If the activity of intellect provides a basis for saying that, while the human soul is the substantial form of the body, it can exist apart from the body, that is, survive death, it is an immaterial existent. The Prime Mover and the immortal souls of human beings entail that to be and to be material are not identical. Since these are acquisitions at the limit of natural philosophy, they represent possible objects of inquiry in their own right. This is pre-eminently the case with the Prime Mover.

It seems inevitable that there should be a discipline whose principal aim is to know more about the divine. How can it be described? Thomas discusses early the way theoretical sciences are distinguished from one another in the course of his exposition of the tractate of Boethius On the Trinity. The text speaks of three kinds of theoretical science, physics, mathematics and theology, and Thomas invokes the methodology of the Posterior Analytics. A scientia is constituted by a demonstrative syllogism. From a formal point of view, a conclusion follows necessarily from the premises in a well-formed syllogism.

Still the conclusion may state a merely contingent truth. What is needed in a demonstrative syllogism is not just the necessity of the consequence but a necessary consequent, and this requires that the premises express necessary truths. That which is necessary cannot be otherwise than as it is; it cannot change. Science thus requires that it bear on immobile things. There is another requirement of the object of speculative or theoretical knowledge which stems from intellection.

The activity of the mind, as has been mentioned, is not a material event; it is immaterial.


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Since it is the mind that knows, science is a mode of its knowing, and will share its nature. Thomas thus states two essential characteristics of the object of speculation, the speculabile : it must be removed both from matter and from motion. If that is the case then insofar as there are formally different ways in which speculabilia can be removed from matter and motion, there will be formally different speculative sciences.

By this analysis, Thomas has provided the necessary background for understanding the text of Boethius but also more importantly that of Aristotle as it is developed in the chapter from which Werner Jaeger quoted in order to display the failure of the Aristotelian project. Of things defined, i.

And these differ because snub is bound up with matter for what is snub is a concave nose , while concavity is independent of perceptible matter. This makes it clear that the way in which natural things are separated from sensible matter is the way in which the definition common to many things abstracts from the singular characteristics of each. But it is the matter as singular that is the principle of change in things, so the common definition has the requisite necessity for science. This or that man comes to be, but what-it-is-to-be-a-man does not come to be or pass away.

Lines, points, numbers, triangles—these do not have sensible qualities whether stated universally or singularly. The fact that we define mathematicals without sensible matter does not commit us to the view that mathematicals actually exist apart from sensible matter. In the commentary on Boethius to which reference has been made, Thomas has early on recalled another fundamental aspect of Aristotle's thought. The objects of thought are either simple or complex, where complex means that one thing is affirmed or denied of another.

Knowledge of simples is expressed in a definition, that of the complex in a proposition. Thinking of human nature without thinking of singular characters of this man or that is a matter of definition, not of assertion, as if one were denying that human nature is found in singular matter. So too defining mathematicals without sensible matter is not tantamount to the judgment that mathematicals exist apart from sensible matter. These are both instances of abstraction, where abstraction means to think apart what does not exist apart.

Thus it is that the question of metaphysics turns on what Thomas calls separatio. To separate differs from abstraction in this that separation is expressed in a negative judgment, an asserted proposition: this is not that, that this exists apart from that. The relevant separation for metaphysics is the negative judgment that to be and to be material are not the same.

That is, there are things which exist apart from matter and motion—not just are defined without, but exist without matter and motion. What then is the subject of metaphysics? The discussion of definition in effect bore on the middle terms of demonstrative syllogisms. The suggestion is that formally different modes of defining, with respect to removal from matter and motion, ground the formal difference between types of theoretical science.

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