Boileau 1 Robert Boileau 10/18/2007 Dr. John Sceski PHL 401 – Philosophy of Man An Overview of St.

Thomas Aquinas’s Anthropology Anthropology, the study of man, for St. Thomas Aquinas, deals primarily with two major components; the body and the soul. To further examine what makes up a human person for St. Thomas, however, several additional areas must be explored, such as man as a creature, man’s attributes insofar as being a creature created by God, the unity of the human person, and a number of other components essential to man as seen by St. Thomas. To determine the philosophical anthropology of man for St. Thomas, one must first understand that St. Thomas distinguishes man as a creature, created by God, and possessing both an intellect and a will1. As a creature, man is a composite being, made up of both matter and substantial form, for only God is radically simple. These composite beings are composed of matter (hyle) and form (morphe)2. What is unique in distinguishing the human person from all other creatures is their rational soul. The substantial form for a human person is their soul, which is thoroughly different from the perishable soul of other creatures, for example, animals. The soul is the first immaterial principle of life of an organized body3, and regarding a human soul in particular, it is something that is subsistent. Another key aspect of distinctiveness in the human person from animals is that they are created in imago Dei, that is, in the image of God. It is important to clarify however that the creature is like God, and not vice versa. One thing is like another when it has the same quality or form, but since what is in God perfectly is present in other things by way of an imperfect participation, whatever they are alike in belongs to God absolutely, but not so to the creature. And so the creature possesses what belongs to God and is rightly said, therefore, to be like God. But we cannot also say that God has what belongs to His creature, and so neither is it appropriate

Boileau 2 to say that God is like His creature; as we do not say that a man is like his portrait, even though we state that his portrait is like him…4 St. Thomas explains how a human soul is subsistent, meaning it can exist on its own, by way of the intellect5. The intellect can know all physical things; however, it can not take on the form of the thing that it knows, otherwise it would know only that thing6. Taking this into account, it is clear to see that the intellect must have an activity of its own which is immaterial. This immaterial activity is called intellection7, which transcends the activity of the body. In conclusion, this intellective power must exist independently of the body, in order for the intellect to come to know the thing that is known. This intellective power is the human soul, which is incorporeal and subsistent8. The human person is a substantial, composite, natural, metaphysical being9. By being substantial, the human person participates in an undivided act of existing proportioned to a limiting essence10. The human person is also a unity composed of various parts, thus differentiating them from God, who is a simple unity with no parts. This unity of the human person is in the natural order of created things not dependant upon the human agency11. Obviously, the human person is not man-made, therefore it was not by the human agency that man was created, but by a being to which the human person is radically dependant upon; this being is God. Finally, the human person is a metaphysical being, meaning there is an analogous predication of oneness based upon a non-division in the act of existing12. The human person exists as a unity of both body and soul, completely distinct as principles but not as separate entities13. The body and soul of a human person can not be torn apart in any way that would leave that person intact; however both soul and body can be distinguished from one another.

Boileau 3 St. Thomas does not mean that the human soul is a distinct thing in its own right14. By being subsistent, the soul does not subsist as something that is separate from what makes up the unity of the human person. To be a human person, there must be a unity of both body and soul. Therefore, when a person dies, St. Thomas believes that the soul will survive the death of that person; however the soul of that person is no longer that person, because it is now separate from the body15. In other words, the human person only is what they are when there are a composition of both body and soul, and when one becomes separate from the other, the person loses that composition which originally united them. When the human person dies, the soul will continue to exist as a subsistent entity, while the body will begin to perish. Perishing, for St. Thomas, is the loss of form16, therefore when the body begins to perish, it must be concluded that it has lost its form, which is the soul. By this methodology, the soul is not something that is capable of perishing, for St. Thomas states that “it is impossible for a form to be separated from itself; and therefore it is impossible for a subsistent form to cease to exist”17. Ultimately, when the body is destroyed, the human person ceases to exist as a human person, although the soul will continue to exist on its own. St. Thomas argues that it is the whole person treated as a composite unity that knows existence18. A judgment which involves an understanding of how the senses and the intellect are unified in knowing a thing enables the person to assert that something is19. The human person cannot use their senses to know that something is, because there is no sense organ for asserting existence. Just as one is able to use their senses to see, or smell, or hear, one can not use their senses to denote existence. It is only in unifying the senses with the intellect to make an existential judgment that one can “identify the strongest correspondence with the thing-in-act”20.

Brian Davies, The Thought of Thomas Aquinas (New York: Oxford Press, 1992), 208. John Sceski, Class Handouts (Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary, 2007), 6. 3 Sceski, 7. 4 Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles I, 29, trans. Mary T. Clark, An Aquinas Reader (New York: Fordham University Press, 2000), 128. 5 Sceski, 7. 6 Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica Q:75 Art.2, trans. Anton C. Pegis, Introduction to St. Thomas Aquinas (Toronto: Pontifical Institute for Medieval Studies, 1945), 284. 7 Sceski, 7. 8 Pegis, 284. 9 Sceski, 7. 10 Sceski, 7. 11 Sceski, 8. 12 Sceski, 8. 13 Sceski, 8. 14 Davies, 213. 15 Davies, 215. 16 Davies, 215. 17 Pegis, 288. 18 Sceski, 8. 19 Sceski, 8. 20 Sceski, 8.


Works Cited

Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Contra Gentiles. Translated. Clark, Mary T. An Aquinas Reader. New York: Fordham University Press, 2000. Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Theologica. Translated. Pegis, Anton C. Introduction to St. Thomas Aquinas. Toronto: Pontifical Institute for Medieval Studies, 1945. Davies, Brian. The Thought of Thomas Aquinas. New York: Oxford Press, 1992. Sceski, John. Class handouts. Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary: 2007.

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