Aquinas on Being by Anthony Kenny

By Anthony Kenny

Anthony Kenny deals a severe exam of Thomas Aquinas's influential account of being, arguing that it suffers from systematic confusion. as a result centrality of the doctrine, this has implications for different elements of Aquinas's philosophical approach. Kenny's transparent and incisive research dispels the confusion and provides philosophers and theologians a advisor in the course of the labyrinth of Aquinas's ontology.

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But in saying that God is pure esse we do not mean that he is this universal. For the universal concept neither includes or excludes the addition of other characteristics: for instance, if, like Descartes, I say that I am, this neither affirms nor denies that I am an animal with a body.

34 Our ideas are universal in that they can apply to, or represent, many individuals of a kind; on the other hand, they are individual because they are ideas in individual minds: my ideas are mine and not yours, even though you and I may have ideas of the same things. Following a suggestion of Aquinas, we can think of a statue on a cenotaph: it represents indefinitely many of the fallen, but it is itself a single piece of marble. Thus, Aquinas can defend a robustly anti-Platonic principle: there are no universals outside the mind, not even universal ideas.

There is as we say—echoing the medieval terminology—a transformation. Nothing in the hylomorphic analysis of change, to which Aquinas is here tacitly appealing, justifies the postulation of forms belonging to no matter. Equally, we might say, the hylomorphic analysis of change in material objects offers no argument against the possibility of disembodied minds. What it does suggest, however, is that if that possibility is to be defended it would be better to maintain 10 Quaecumque enim ita se habent ad invicem quod unum est causa esse alterius, illud quod habet rationem causae potest habere esse sine altero sed non convertitur.

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