Selections from the Writings of Charles De Koninck Compiled by Bart A.

(c) 2013 Bart A. Mazzetti §


TEXTS OF CDK 1. Natural Science as Philosophy (repr.; Québec: Laval University, 1959) 2. “The Unity and Diversity of Natural Science,” Mélanges à là Memoire de Charles De Koninck 3. The Hollow Universe, Ch. III, “The Lifeless World of Biology”. p. 84 4. “Three Sources of Philosophy” (Reprinted from the Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association, The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, 1964, pp. 13-17) (excerpts) 5. “The Unity and Diversity of Natural Science,” Mélanges à là Memoire de Charles De Koninck, pp. 5-25 (excerpt) 6. “Introduction to the Study of the Soul”. Preface to Stanislas Cantin, Précis de psychologie thomiste (Quebec: Laval University, 1948) (Eng. tr. Bruno M. Mondor, O.P.) 7. Prefatory Remarks to A General Introduction to the Study of Nature by Charles De Koninck. Manual, Prentice Hall. Corrected by T. De Koninck and C. De Koninck 8. Resume of lecture notes of Methodologie Generale given by M. Charles De Koninck. 1938-39 (Page 1) 9. Letter to Mortimer Adler, Quebec June 15, 1938 (excerpt) 10. “Le Cosmos,” Laval (1936) (typescript, pp. 40-44) (insertions [in square braces] by B.A.M., as are the footnotes) 11. “The Wisdom That is Mary”, The Thomist, vol. vi., no. 1, April, 1943, pp. 2-3 (excerpts) 12. “Education Before the Age Of Reason”. Taken from “The Importance of Education Before the Age of Reason”. Commencement Address to the Graduates of Saint Mary’s College. Notre Dame, Indiana (June 2 & June 3 1960) (Rpt. Fidelity Magazine, Vol. 12, December, 1992, pp . 17-21) (excerpt) Supplement: 1. Emmanuel Trépanier, In Memoriam Charles De Koninck §


TEXTS OF CDK 1. Ancient and modern: The distinction between philosophy and science. n. 1. Charles De Koninck, Natural Science as Philosophy (repr.; Québec: Laval University, 1959), p. 1:
We are often told of a distinction between philosophical psychology and experimental psychology. This is a distinction that I do not understand. Take the beginning of the De Anima, where Aristotle shows that even here we must provide natural definitions as distinguished from the logical or dialectical. His example is that of ‘anger’. It is true that anger is ‘a desire for vengeance’. But this definition is purely formal, somewhat like the definitions of mathematics, i.e. ‘per species’. Now, in mathematics, formal definitions are sufficient to the subject, since the subject is abstract; anger, however, is also something physical, as may be seen in the behavior of any person in a rage. If we are to form a natural definition of what anger is, we will have to add something to that ‘desire for vengeance’, such as ‘attended by an effervescence of the blood about the heart’. A psychology which would confine itself to formal definitions would be no more than dialectical. (Notice, however, that this natural definition of anger is itself only dialectical, but dialectical in a different sense. For propositions—and a definition is virtually a proposition—may be called dialectical for two different reasons: either because the composition or division of the known terms which it comprises is no more than probable; or because one or both of the terms themselves are insufficient, which is the case of purely formal definitions of natural things. We have to do with something less than dialectical when the terms are themselves no more than likely constructs, even though they have some basis in experience. Such was the case of Aristotle’s ‘incorruptible’ heavenly bodies, and of Dalton’s ‘atoms’.) In the definition of anger as ‘a desire for vengeance attended by an effervescence of the blood about the heart’, the former part is certain, though dialectical; the latter part, taken by itself, is natural, yet dialectical qua insufficient even as a natural definition. Natural, because it refers to something sensible; dialectical because no more than provisional.

n. 2. Charles De Koninck, “The Unity and Diversity of Natural Science,” Mélanges à là Memoire de Charles De Koninck, pp. 5-25 (excerpt):
On the question of where the study of nature should begin, Aristotle’s teaching is clear and familiar. His first treatise on natural science, the Physics, tells us, at the very beginning, that the investigation of nature must start from the things which are more knowable and certain to us and proceed towards those which are clearer and more certain in themselves; for the same things are not “knowable relatively to us” and “knowable” absolutely. So in the present inquiry we must follow this method and advance from what is more obscure by nature, but more certain to us towards what is more certain and more knowable by nature.— Now what is to us plain and obvious at first is rather confused wholes, the elements and principles of which become known to us later by analysis. Thus we must advance from vague generalities to particulars. For it is a [vague] whole that is more known to sense perception, and a generality is likewise a kind of whole, comprising many things within it, like parts. Much the same happens in relation of the name to the definition. A name such as “circle,” means vaguely a sort of whole; the definition analyses this whole into its parts [i.e. defining parts]. Similarly a child begins by calling all men “father,” and all women “mother,” but later on distinguishes each of them. 1


must become more and more specific and detailed. turning pale. or growing. in his attempt to arrive at a real definition of movement. radical. just as through a microscope you can see the bacilli in impure water which without the microscope are not discernible. What he there establishes is meant to apply to every kind of change.” Hence it is that Aristotle. place. he wrote of a “prejudice” which he describes as “perhaps the most important in all my thinking. but we no longer ask just what are the realities which these words are intended to mean.” . distinction between our first approach to nature. in the first treatise of natural science. This applies not only to the structure of physical things. and the more particular knowledge acquired as we move forward? It would be disastrous to fall back into the ancient confusion that sciences are distinguished according to degrees of generality.2 Now. St. Notice. Of course no intellect with a speculative vitality can rest in these generalities however reassuring in their certainty. we shall find no support for our suspicion in one of the more advanced expositors of the scientific outlook. such as walking. are quite certain. as commonly used is a very imprecise term covering a number of different things and a number of different states from certainty to slight probability. . which is where we ought to begin a study of nature? The method described means that we should begin with generalities which. ‘Knowledge. but as it approaches articulations appear and one discovers that it is a man or a woman.. I find that by fixity of attention divisions and distinctions appear where none at first was visible. time. though vague. The mind wants to know as much as it can about as much as there is to know. as we progress. studies mobile or changeable being in general. Thomas’ own Proemium to the Physics distinguishes the various branches of natural science according to what is less and less universal. but quite fits such concepts. will conclude that there is no such thing and reduce it to an illusion arising from a succession of immobile states. as when a man comes to be or dies. nominal. for example. It seems to me that those who object to analysis would wish us to be content with the initial dark blur. The real question is. Just last year. that analysis gives new knowledge without destroying any of the previous distinct knowledge. Knowledge. however. just as it has invalidated much of Aristotle’s cosmology. something which seems indubitable but which I cannot express without any precision. or a horse or a cow or what not. etc. In fact. what can such a mode of procedure have to do with our question. the Physics. This is concerned with method. ought we to make some formal. starts from that curious and unsatisfactory state of mind in which complete certainty without being able to say what one is certain of. many a modern author. but it has seemed to me evident. Not that we refuse all value to distinctions based upon degrees of generality. then to the special kind of change called motion. Belief in the above process is my strongest and most unshakable prejudice as regards the methods of philosophical investigation.Should the thought occur to us that modern science may have rendered the mode of procedure obsolete. It would be easy enough to show how he reaches his 4 . with its vague certainties. It seems to me that philosophical investigation. The process that results from prolonged attention is just like that of watching an object approaching through a thick fog: at first it is only a vague darkness. . I go through a process which is like that of first seeing something with the naked eye and then examining it through a microscope. namely Lord Russell. as “animal” is more common than “man. definition of movement. we accept some initial. as in the ease of the impure water. infinity. if by generality is meant community of predication. that in the modern study of nature there is nothing that corresponds to the problems and discussions of the Physics. as far as I have experience of it. My method invariably is to start from something vague but puzzling. There are many who decry analysis. For instance. First to absolute change. and natural science can hardly proceed without divisions based upon decreasing generality.

in terms of place and time. The aim of the study was to discover laws governing the universe. Allow me to call your attention to the fact that. But symbols. For this reason. For example. My high school textbook of physics—nearly forty years ago—began with La dynamique celeste. with both of these latter items left equally undefined except as to name. we move on towards more concrete knowledge of the organic power of sensation and its object: 5 . that the investigation of living things is from the outset based upon a new kind of experience: the experience of being alive which we ourselves enjoy as we have sensations. in the fourth of these treatises. The reason is. no exceptions are known for certain. time. Aristotle’s third treatise on nature is about change according to quality: On Generation and Corruption—the two terms of alteration. such as the way a movement is measured. From the De Anima. So by starting the study of nature with this kind of motion. in his treatise on living beings. and movement. if we abstract from our inner experience of being alive. it is of a special kind nonetheless. but that he should begin with a study of the soul: De Anima. as St. Finally. But this is not my subject. it may well be true that all natural things are subject to such alteration. may easily leave the basic issues as obscure as ever. The subject of the De Caelo was mobility according to place. by means of which the universe itself is defined. At any rate. Though local motion is the most common sort of change. in On Generation and Corruption. If we abstracted from this experience. we will find ourselves surveying living things from a point of view which can never acknowledge even the most obviously living things to be alive. the denial of these differences is implicit in those thinkers who believe that the ultimate explanation of whatever there is to be explained in nature will be a mathematico-physical one. we could never arrive at any definitive reason for distinguishing the living from the non-living. and place are soon replaced by symbolic constructions which some will interpret as substitutes more exact than the names—Which in a sense they are. whereas the modern one tends to be entirely quantitative. an aim which is still that of physics today. living being in general. Indeed some moderns already find themselves at this point. in growth and decrement. which is surely a less common object in nature. swelling and growth have become the same thing. science must overlook what all kinds of change have in common. The unpredictable behavior of some animals might always be attributed to our ignorance of the relevant data. and the operation of mechanical computers are identified with thought. Thomas explains. no matter how much life there may be on as many other planets as you choose. This is the living being. All I mean to stress is that in fact modern researchers often fail to begin by analyzing vague generality first conveyed by the word “movement. Of course there is also an impressive number of eminent physicists who reject this over-simplification. as distinguished from sheer external sense experience. Still. first of all.curious conclusion. however precise the rules for their use. The mind is applying itself immediately to their differences and will soon be led to deny these. Aristotle applies himself to the kind of mobile being that changes according to quantity. there are many who point out that his view of nature was essentially a qualitative one. should start. such as hot and cold. motion according to place obviously remains more universal than change of quality and the kind of coming to be or passing away attendant upon it. it is exceedingly important to notice that the Philosopher. reproduction is perhaps mere copying. Now. atoms are said to repair themselves. What has been lost sight of is that the only way of achieving true success in such investigations is by deeper and deeper understanding of what was at first only vaguely known. namely cosmology. For them.” Right from the start they want something exact. In other words. which defines the principle of life and its differences in kind. which could in some measure be held to correspond with the treatise De Caelo. Aristotle pays chief attention to sensible qualities. and how it is quite beside the point. as he has taken mobile being in the Physics. not by considering. wet and dry. Although it is only in relatively familiar living creatures that these absolute terms of qualitative change are verified beyond a doubt.

to all at any rate who have eyes to discern the reasons that determined their formation. when the strangers who came to visit him found him warming himself at the furnace in the kitchen and hesitated to go in. Yet both Einstein’s theory and Aristotle’s definition have to do with nature in some way or other. and the resultant end of her generations and combinations is a form of the beautiful.De Sensu et Sensato. and especially to those who are naturally inclined to philosophy. give immense pleasure to all who can trace links of causation. but also. In still further treatises the scientist must become even more concrete and apply himself to the particular way in which various animals come to be. it is true. De Morte et Vita. to this kind of knowledge.3 But let us return to our problem. of the whole. because they disclose the mimetic skill of the painter or sculptor. De Motu Animalium and De Progressione. and simultaneously. The first living beings to be considered in their totality are the animals. We therefore must not recoil with childish aversion from the examination of the humbler animals. For if some have no graces to charm the senses. and reflection upon this experience (which we call “internal”). however lowly. I refer to the treatises De Generatione. toward more distinct knowledge of the part. of course. Then he will want to know why the various kinds of animals. that by reason of which a living. as even in that kitchen divinities were present. so we should venture on the study of every kind of animal without distaste for each and all will reveal to us something natural and something beautiful. The knowledge he amasses is first descriptive of the type recorded by Aristotle in the De Historia Animalium. In the study of life we begin with confused knowledge. with growing dependence upon external experience. to the best of our ability. Every realm of nature is marvelous: and as Heraclitus. De Somno et Vigilia. Such study will lead man into the jungle. and back to the laboratory. From this we progress gradually. the Philosopher. This is the subject of the De Partibus Animalium. namely. differs from a mere body. I can see that Einstein’s theory does not depend upon a definition of time of the type which Aristotle provides in his Physics. reproduce and get around. Absence of haphazard and conduciveness of everything to an end are to be found in Nature’s works in the highest degree. yet it is knowledge not of an integral whole. if not averse. Stated as a principle. would we be going from science to philosophy? But can we in fact practice the one without the other? Relativity and quantum theory are often said to be scientific and not philosophical. The point is: 6 . sea. When we move from the realm of the Physics into that study which today takes the place of the De Caelo or from the De Anima to the De Animalibus. primarily the animal. should be built as they are and behave as they do. yet even these. Experience of sensing. it would be strange if mimic representations of them were attractive. is reported to have bidden them not to be afraid to enter. thing. Then follow the Parva Naturalia: De Memoria et Reminiscentia. air. Indeed. are we going from philosophy to science? Or. without omitting. In other words. this distinction puzzles me. desired to know why dogs run a little slantwise! The man whom in our day we call a philosopher is quite indifferent. if the order were reversed. and of their ultimate coordination. remain in the foreground. Aristotle. but we are now bent upon relating sensation to the physical tools which it implies and upon which it depends. Notice that the later two studies refer to states that are common to all familiar animals and even to all forms of life. and that the ancient definition does not depend upon time as Einstein describes it. and the original realities themselves were not more interesting. within biology itself. we are following an order which in a sense is the reverse of that observed in proceeding from the generality of the Physics to reach biology. by disclosing to the mind the architectonic spirit that designed them. We should be reminded of what his great forerunner declared in the De Partibus Animalium: We now proceed to treat of animals. any member of the kingdom. but of an integral part. De Juventute et Senectute. For the study of that which makes a living thing to be alive must eventually entail the study of each of its organs. including man.

in the other. our description or definition must include sensible matter. First. yet we use it to manifest nature. if one of these is natural philosophy it would appear to be something other than the these diverse ways relate to diverse purposes? To put it more exactly: do they divide the subject-term of the study of nature? It might be remarked that of course their purposes differ: in one case the aim is to know just what time is. the mathematical. even though they proceed through mathematical principles.5 True. in this way the animal is a species of natural body. though mainly natural. and of these there are. how this plurality is explained: One science can be subject to another in two ways. 4 The latter kind of subordination is called subalternation. are formally mathematical? The reason is that sciences are formally distinct according to their modes of defining. to know what time it is. the whole point is 7 . there are the definitions of metaphysics. is about subjects and their properties that follow from our mode of understanding— consequuntur ex modo intelligendi. for mathematics. optics and harmonics are formally mathematical. a science which constructs its own subject and has no more than a remote foundation in reality. There is subordination in another sense. Finally. since in them we apply to subjects of sense experience mathematical knowledge which. which is impossible except in a verbal way. or how to define simultaneity at a distance.” 7 Why should all the divisions of natural science be no more than material divisions. the natural. Let us see how the second also fails to generate an entirely new science. though they would need it to exist outside the mind where they would cease to be mathematical. 8 only three. Geometry. remains mathematical.6 Though only materially natural. Thomas themselves use language which seems to support a real distinction between philosophy and science. and this is to define in the natural mode. and the metaphysical. how to measure a length of it. Notice. it will become clear that. to take up our own example. Now. are defined without sensible matter. Any other mode of defining would have to be of non-sensible things with sensible matter. The subjects of mathematics. so that the science of animals is subordinate to natural science. not for the sake of furthering geometry. because they speak of “natural sciences” in the plural. Whether it be man or rainbow that we describe or define. although their real existence is not easy to establish. even when applied. so that. That the first kind does not have this effect is plain from the example: the study of animal is clearly an extension of the study of body. however. but does it oblige me to conclude that the time of mathematical physics has nothing to do with the time known and named before mathematical physics began? Let me refer again to the text we quoted from the De Partibus Animalium: it is a “thirst for philosophy” that sets one on to investigate sensible things in a fashion now called scientific as distinguished from the philosophic. they do not truly divide the subject of natural science. when the subject of one science is a species of the subject of the higher science. Yet Aristotle and St. But. For this very reason we call such sciences “more natural” than mathematical: “because everything is named and specified by its terminus: hence because the business of these sciences terminates in natural matter. namely. The difference is plain. generically. is used in optics for the sake of manifesting sensible phenomena. the subject which we aim to reveal is nonetheless natural. in this respect akin to logic. including even the distinction between the purely natural sciences and those which. Mathematics is not about nature. if these two kinds of subordination be properly understood. they are more natural than they are mathematical. of subjects which are entirely separated or separable from sensible matter. though they do give rise to distinguishable fields of study. An instance of this is the way the science of optics is subordinated to geometry. however. when the subject of an inferior science is not a species of the higher one but when the subject of the inferior science compares to that of the superior one as what is material to what is formal. sicut est abstractio mathematicorum et huiusmodi .

is largely a logical fiction. It turns up in all other measurements—even in the most unexpected of these. The atom. is the name we have given to a certain physical object of our own making.” it would be circular. like “Oscar. we must not deviate. Copies of this bar are kept elsewhere. Now this is an individual thing from which. If the definition of meter were intended as an authentic one. They are not even nominal.) Let us look a bit more closely into this subject. and that “meter” can be said of each.” as Bertrand Russell calls them. which means universally “that by means of which the quantity of a thing is first made known. a fact ironically brought out by Newton’s famous hypotheses non fingo. The raw materials of his type of knowledge are already the result of measurement and experiment.” We have fair copies of the meter. though he failed to realize that they were fictions. But the objection ignores the real issue. the definitions of mathematical physics are no longer definitions in the strict sense of this term. and the Parisian one cannot be predicated of 8 . It should be understood as a proper name. although he uses words in describing measurement and experiment. and that seems to justify the distinction between philosophy of nature and natural science. it is symbolic. He has his own mode of defining and it is not even nominal. For “meter” does not mean simply “measure. look at what has happened to atoms since Dalton’s days. although the definita are most positive. the real Oscar. the product of a convention. one which is more obvious in our time.” “Meter. for the matter of that.” The mathematical physicist can get nowhere with such a definition.” Yet. They are fictions in the strict sense of this term. the meter. is in Paris.” for in physics the mental constructs must have some foundation in experience and experiment. else they could hardly lead to further knowledge of nature. but by reason of different modes of defining. The ancients did not respect the prodigiously fruitful role of fictions—“logical fictions. and their definitions are in this sense. For the platinum iridium bar is called a meter long when its temperature is 0° C. It is a “definition” only in the original sense of “delimiting” and thus “setting apart. so long as the convention holds.that “sensible matter” is a generic and univocal term. whose power we must not underrate. in the definition of temperature which enters into the “definition” of the meter. or some similar device. unlike “sensible matter. namely. But “matter” is said analogically of “sensible” and “intelligible. We must consider still another difficulty. (Newton actually contrived most fruitful fictions.” which may be verified by pointing to the sun or the moon. Metaphysical subjects are defined by excluding all matter.” or “standard of length. with sensible matter? Yes and no. for instance. namely. gathered into and expressed by measure-numbers that are symbols. Now there is a curious fact about these symbols: they must in the end refer to a very particular concrete object found near the capital of France.” One might object that there ought to be something universal about the meter.) The contemporary mathematical physicist knows that he can probe into the world of nature only by means of mental constructions suggested in part by experience. For no metal bar anywhere is a meter except to the degree that it is a fair copy of the original one in Paris. as can be seen in the radically distinct modes of construction. and the mercury column of our thermometer has a scale which is a graduated length. (I say “largely. in a laboratory or dry goods shop but the authentic one. If you have any doubts.. since there are many copies of the one kept in Paris.” “intelligible matter” gives rise to specifically distinct sciences not because of the specific differences. Is the mode of defining in mathematical physics today still the same as in earlier times— namely. when this bar is at 0° C.” though the word comes from the Greek metron. like we gave of “measure.” in physics. like the “intelligible matter” of mathematics9—such as the continuity of a line or the units of a number. His definition of the meter is “the distance between two lines on a certain platinum-iridium bar kept at the International Bureau of Weights in Paris. whether sensible or intelligible. in part by mathematics. The astronomer cannot make much headway with nominal definitions of “sun” or “moon. negative. Nor did Galileo or Newton. First of all. or 32° F.

the symbols. Though we move on in great strides. have a relatively stable meaning. but their connection in a proposition. Atoms are not atoms in the way apples are apples. and further knowledge will depend upon these. mathematical physics. And the reason offered is that we achieve undeniable results. conceived as billiard balls. Just because we can set down the word “atom” does not mean that there are atoms in the way that there are apples. we would construct another. and of hypotheses to be improved upon by further hypotheses. whereas what “world” or “eternal” stand for are not. Now a knowledge which continues to depend upon individual things may hardly be called “science” in Aristotle’s sense. universals ut nunc. but does this require that theoretical knowledge. but can we in truth say the latter of the former? The notions of “world” and “eternal”. Dalton’s atoms. He can scarcely dare. I pointed out long ago that in the study of nature we must distinguish between strictly scientific knowledge (in Aristotle’s sense) and that which is called dialectical. The mathematical physicist is no doubt after universal knowledge. these are utterly provisional. By episteme Aristotle meant knowledge about a universal subject. but the essential thing is that he no longer pretends to achieve it. at bottom an inquisitive proposition. but the very terms themselves. In other words. The opinion that “the world is eternal” still leaves open the question whether the world really is or has to be eternal. only much smaller. but they were not the last word on the subject. when his entire science must rely upon an individual object. that of the atom. The only stable meaning the word “atom” ever had was that of “indivisible”. must not be over-stressed. nor are the atoms of today..e. but to move towards a term and to have reached it are not quite the same thing. that an opinion is not a fiction in the strict sense of this term. What we are questioning is not the meaning. unlike the terms used in a statement about nature.. not how things are in fact. all this faces us no doubt with a deep enough cleavage between diverse modes of knowing the things in nature. as providing no more than an opinion. for the time being. It is. We are sometimes told that this precarious. self-evident. Our definition of man as a “rational animal” is safe enough. but this tells us nothing about the anatomy and physiology that characterize man. of course. for the simple reason that individual things are never sufficiently grasped. But if it be knowledge of the physical world that we seek. At any rate. Is such a proposition necessary? Is the eternity of the world a fact? But in mathematical physics. and the names we choose to employ for the purpose of communication do not have a stable meaning. Now. the construction. we will soon be launched on a sea of provisional generalizations. but merely how a certain symbolic construction has been laid down. But does this cleavage restrict natural philosophy to our initial gropings under investigation? What we are agreeing to call philosophy of nature is experimental too. nothing final can ever come into sight. we must be aware that. which led to their success be speculatively true? We can launch artificial satellites on the basis of Newtonian physics. however. and proper principles. It is true that if the Paris meter were destroyed. Even to him there was not much of it outside logic and mathematics. e. Much the same is true of all the natural sciences as they advance towards greater concretion. when words are used to describe. but our convention would still hang upon an individual object. though vague. To acquire knowledge of this kind we must perform experiments upon individuals.any but itself.g. i. Notice. we are now entitled to question not merely the connection of the terms. As Heisenberg puts it: “we cannot speak about the atoms in ordinary language. provisional character of even the most exact branch of natural science. We can unfold what we mean by “world” and by “eternal”. acquired by demonstration from first. though not quite after the manner of mathematical physics nor even of advanced biology. and are in fact true or false if it be speculative knowledge that we mean to express. 9 . but does this prove that such physical theory is true? Practical success is always a sign that we are on the right track towards speculative truth. The results may be indeed most practical. served their purpose and were nearer the truth than those of Democritus. opinions are still enunciated in words.” Now.

The latter kind is nothing short of paradoxical. 10 . and that where we carry out investigations further. must in the end include sensible matter. how certain or provisory. the most important and to neglect them will eventually spell disaster. how much there is that he does not know. do they divide the purpose of the study of nature? Will the three different methods require that science be formally divided in accordance with them? Do these provide us with different subject-terms? It may be useful to consider two extreme positions on this question. knowledge about nature will always be derived from. for these is no doubt that we must examine first of all the things we first name. Both of these conceptions are partly true. since greater exactness is paid for by increasing instability. the status of his own mind with regard to his particular subject. no matter of what kind. but to rest in “man is a swarm of atoms” is no less reprehensible. The second opinion we described is likewise partly true. place. knowledge that is tentative. no matter how important and how certain these may be? Is there anything unworthy about investigating man’s organic constitution. as expressed in ordinary language. These distinctions are quite relevant. infinity. Some hold that if there is to be a natural philosophy it must remain confined to common generalities. the definitions of motion. that philosophy of nature must be simply philosophy of science. such as knowledge of what the word “man” stands for. such as the conditions of absolute becoming. The doctrine of prime matter. or the activities of slugworms? It is of course true that no single individual can in our time ever hope to know the whole of even a single ramification of natural science. A man may be a skillful investigator. Yet no matter how general or how particular. to set a rigid frontier between philosophy of nature and science of nature. and is no more than a reflection on their method and on their present achievements and implications as compared to those of earlier science. therefore. provisional even as to the very terms we use to express it. but our great question is. we then practice experimental science. To rest in vague generalities is unsatisfactory to the inquisitive mind. and that of terms that are themselves provisional—whose meanings are accordingly unstable. and these are vague generalities.It should now be plain that our study of nature can proceed on three different levels: that of science. But the great shortcoming of this opinion. the descriptions and definitions. that of opinion. it will never confine itself to one narrow domain of nature or become indifferent to findings achieved by a particular research. external or internal. etc. of the kind we have in dialectical propositions. for the simple reason that intelligence must demand a connection between this statement and the knowledge we already have of man. nor even list the unlimited number of questions men may eventually learn to ask about a relatively narrow domain of nature. There is no doubt that in point of certitude there are radical distinctions between these various modes of investigating nature: between vague knowledge that is certain and definitive. Natural philosophy and philosophy of science would be much the same. But is it the sole function of the natural philosopher to be stubborn about the validity of such problems. Others. in a sense. and must return to experience. a human person would be no more of an individual than an individual pile of bricks. and knowledge that is both tentative and known to be provisional. In each and every case. believe that natural philosophy presupposes the experimental sciences. time. such as astronomy and botany. for instance. but he will never be master of his science until he knows just what it is that he knows. if the knowledge is to be of nature. For if philosophy is to deserve its name. about their possible and even definitive solutions? Does he cease to be a philosopher when he asks more concretely what a man is? When he asks what is the anatomy and physiology of the human brain? Or what are its chemical components? Why should the mind interrogating nature rest in vague generalities. For if we held that man is no more than an accidental superstructure made up of electrical charges. It does not seem possible. and to which all later knowledge must be related. They are. is essential to save the unity of the human individual. if only vaguely. is its inevitable failure to pay explicit attention to the vague generalities with which all thinking about reality must begin. again. and until he comes to realize. as in seeking to know what the speed of light is.

however. Such a philosopher would be not worthy of the name. future. Some writers seem to argue. You cannot apply Mathematics as long as words becloud reality. man is still in search of this true constant speed. To my mind. he is to the true man of science what a laboratory technician is to the physicist or biologist whom he serves. “the number of a movement according to the before and after of movement. nor the scientist to be much of a philosopher. Has that earlier definition of time broken down along with the structure of the universe as he conceived it to be? The article on Time.g. Let me use time as an example. if the philosopher cannot hope to be much of a scientist. declared that “the first step in explaining relativity theory must always consist in shattering the dogmatic belief in the temporal terms past. or what he is made of.. else it would not occur to us to ask what time is. in the Encyclopedia Britannica. as in Book IV of the Physics. if not wholly inane. present. an outstanding mathematician. But will his statement be true if interpreted to mean that the time of mathematical physics has nothing at all to do with time as first named? Weyl was too good a philosopher to adhere consistently to such an interpretation of his words. The name “time” is in common use.” but it is equally true that most eminent “scientists” are. very much concerned with philosophical questions. whereas the scientist’s problems can become real and meaningful when he can reduce them to the simplest kind of questions. surely this is a state of things which both ought deeply to regret. tells us that time is still defined in terms of speed and regularity. and I think he is 11 . and how. for example. he would most probably object to being called a scientist in this new and exclusive sense.” and if one explained this to him. The answer is that time is a measure of movement. There is a great deal of equivocation about the relation of the familiar world to the scientific one. I fail to see. Where to search for it is a question specifically pertaining to mathematical physics. it is only in virtue of a change in the imposition of the term “science.when we ask what man is.11 There is a sense in which this is so. I have heard a skillful biochemist maintain that philosophical questions are impossibly difficult. and to see how this relates to his earlier knowledge? I grant that there do exist skillful scientists who see no point in “philosophical’ questions. And so I suggest that the existence of these two types of scientists can scarcely oblige us to divide the study of nature into two ideally distinct endeavors. there is no doubt that in the study of nature we are faced with two very different kinds of questions.”10 A wholly legitimate question may now be raised: does not our very criticism of these two opinions imply a distinction between natural philosophy and natural science? Does not our criticism allow that a man may be a skillful scientist without any desire to reflect upon what he has believed. If a single man cannot engage upon specialized research in so many diverse fields. So we do have some vague knowledge of time. what is the chemical structure of a protein molecule? —so much so that a philosopher would consider them unworthy of his attention. the distinction is a purely contingent one. without exception. its measurement. As already suggested. since a measure must be homogeneous with the measured. more precisely. And so we are led to the further question: where in nature is this movement to be found? Aristotle found it in the outer sphere of the universe. It will have the nature of measure by reason of its regularity and speed. According to Max Born. If he be called a scientist. The skillful scientist who has no further preoccupation is really only a tool. and used in a significant way. how uncertainty as to where time is to be found can affect its original definition. The late Hermann Weyl. either that the one has nothing to do with the other.” Now this requires that time itself be a movement. But it is not merely as a movement that time is the measure of movement. or that only the “scientific world” is true. These questions he assumed to be entirely direct and clear—e. Heisenberg puts it this way: “Even for the physicist the description in plain language [as distinguished from that of theoretical physics] will be a criterion of the degree of understanding that has been reached.

as Aristotle said. who maintain that science teaches only a narrow aspect of the world. for the solution of a given problem. Indifference to the phenomena of sun and moon. scientists have failed to do so. Professor Max Born has stated our case well: Physicists form their notions through the interpretation of experiments. Nor does a man bear witness to a temperamentum philosophicum if he does not realize that scientific investigations. There is no reason why physics should deprive zoology of elephants. I know that such an attempt will not find favor with some philosophers. Wise men would have considered the consequences of their activities before starting on them. Eddington was prone to over-stress. They have gained prestige as men of action. would be preposterously unscientific.right. It is true that many scientists are not philosophically minded and have hitherto shown much skill and ingenuity but little wisdom. but they have lost credit as philosophers. this only goes to show that the problem was not about the elephant. The practical applications of science have given us the means of a fuller and richer life. or. but I shall try to regard it with the attitude of the philosopher. 13 Born seems to be understanding wisdom in a practical. moral sense. and are inclined to philosophy”. then. The elephant may have disappeared from our consideration. to put it another way. as I understand it. and only recently have they become conscious of their responsibilities to society. My material will be taken mainly from physics. “provide immense pleasure to all who can trace links of causation. If. especially in his analogies. The fact that no mathematician now knows more than part of mathematics ought hardly be taken to mean that the only subject of the science is confined to the part that he knows. for the simple reason that the true physicist must be a philosopher who realizes the limitations of his particular branch of science. being what he is. But I think he has more in mind than this. Why. but also the means of destruction and devastation on a vast scale. our indebtedness to him should not allow us to forget that whatever slides down his grassy slope will be a thing of some kind or another. the role of mental construction in physics and did not sufficiently emphasize as Einstein had. or that it is a self-contained whole. Still. the elephant can be replaced by two tons of a something else. The knowability of a subject should not be restricted to and identified with what a given man may actually know of it with some 12 . even though some biologists seem to believe zoology must eventually surrender to them despite protests from ranking physicists who would not know what to do with elephants as such. but decidedly not a pointer-reading. and I hope that the results obtained will be of use wherever the concepts of cause and chance are applied. has the wholly artificial distinction between philosophy and science been so readily accepted? It has in some measure been forced upon us by inevitable specialization. he has not disappeared from reality Eddington made a good point. Belief that his part is the whole. and one which is of no great importance to man’s mind. help the mind to escape from ignorance and. In this sense I shall attempt to investigate the concepts of cause and chance in these lectures. What Born means. The essential point is that the familiar elephant and the scientific one are not in different worlds: the scientific one does not banish the one who slides down the grassy hillside. by the limitations of the single brain. But these limitations are not to be projected upon natural science and its subject. a word still used for physics at the Scottish universities. of course. to bugs and elephants proves the absence of philosophic temperament. taken in the narrower sense we have described. This method may rightly be called Natural Philosophy. no matter how skillful or ingenious. cannot be looked upon indifferently by the physicist. is that. the fact that such construction is utterly empty unless related to experience as the first and ultimate norm. I need hardly to enlarge on this subject. no one can be a true scientist without being a philosopher. but about two tons of whatever you choose. Practical wisdom is one that follows upon awareness that man.

if you wish. and to show that determinism is an unsound hypothesis? I should say that the wise scientist too. It is again from Born. Such a scientist. On the other hand. but general though vague. This means materialistic determinism. To call attention to the extreme relevance of our first and vague knowledge of reality. Small wonder if minds convinced of such a doctrine want to reduce all philosophy to a hopeless metaphysics in the empty air of unqualified verbal “being.” So far as I am concerned. they are derived from experience obtained by refined experimental tools. Are we to conclude from this that it is precisely the business of the philosopher. utterly lacking in wisdom. whom we call philosophers. “An unrestricted belief in this type of causality leads necessarily to the idea that the world is an automaton of which we ourselves are only little cogwheels.” 14 If the physicist’s knowledge were believed to be quite divorced from common concepts and ordinary language. in this redirection of their work. The need to bring out connections between our “common concepts. fact of experience. seem to be more stable in the expression of knowledge than the precise terms of scientific language.” yet. Hypotheses of this type are those of a scientist gone mad or. This is another way of saying that what is knowable as to us must not be confused with what is knowable in itself. It is true that they are not very well defined and may therefore also undergo changes in the course of the centuries. namely. The man who putters in a laboratory may not have time to concentrate upon the outcome of his convenient generalizations.” and the mathematical scheme of theoretical physics has been felicitously stressed by Werner Heisenberg in his Gifford Lectures. knowledge which can be explored up to a point without moving on to a further concretion. my contention is that if. derived as an idealization from only limited groups of phenomena. There is. just as reality itself did. if only because it ignored human responsibility. but a mere tool. Remember the passage already quoted: “Even for the physicist the description in plain language will be a criterion of the degree of understanding that has been reached. that the future is wholly predetermined in the past. Here is that relevant passage from Heisenberg’s Gifford Lectures: . nonetheless. It was no doubt an “idee claire et distincte. Still. This is in fact not surprising since the concepts of natural language are formed by the immediate connection with reality. if only because it clashed with a hard though intangible. of a bad philosopher. vaguely defined as they are. No one may possess a head big enough to contain all the knowledge of nature now available. I refuse to renounce myself for a mere swarm of electrical charges. but they never lose the immediate connection with reality. was unscientific. knowledge we do have. and are precisely defined through axioms and 13 . they represent reality. the scientific concepts are idealizations. should know as much. since he does and must philosophize. Yet there ought to be someone able to warn us of logical consequences that clash with the whole of experience. would not even be a true scientist. He has in mind Laplace’s idea of causality. to defend things such as human freedom. . they are projecting this limitation upon nature as if real things stood in different worlds according as they are seen by philosopher or scientist. reared upon a still primitive astronomy.” expressed by socalled “natural language. The unscientific limitation just mentioned finds ample illustration in the history of science. the sort that we express in ordinary language. I repeat. just as obvious as the succession of night and day. a historical case for the distinction we reject in principle.” Such a generalization. they see anything more than a limitation forced upon them by the shortcomings of the human brain. no matter how much I may stand in need of them and know that I cannot exist without them. One of the most important features of the development and the analysis of modern physics is the experience that the concepts of natural language. .exactness. Let me quote an example of what I here intend. like most such ideas. then we would of course have the kind of scientist who is not a philosopher. as distinguished from the scientist. may be the self-imposed task of some people.

one sees that—after the experience of modern physics —our attitude toward concepts like mind or the human soul or life or God will be different from that of the nineteenth century. In doing so we will use ordinary language. it is well known that the concept of infinity leads to contradictions that have been analyzed. symbolic terms are inadequate: to isolate them from the concepts of natural language is to divorce them from nature and therefore from real science. Here is the passage in question: All nominal definitions. Modern physics has in many ways increased this skepticism. For instance. Therefore. in Human Knowledge. must lead ultimately to terms having only ostensive definitions. one may say that the human ability to understand may be in a certain sense unlimited. but we may have to learn at the same time a new meaning of the word “understanding. Only through these precise definitions is it possible to connect the concepts with a mathematical scheme and to derive mathematically the infinite variety of possible phenomena in this field. and in the case of an empirical science the empirical terms 14 . It is true that we will also realize that these concepts are not well defined in the scientific sense and that their application may lead to various contradictions. whose concepts appear more stable than the precise terms of “scientific” knowledge.15 Heisenberg has made our point. in mathematics. for the time being we may have to take the concepts. conveyed the same idea. though he seems to forget it when he declares ‘Mr. and finally against skepticism itself. The concepts still correspond very closely to reality in that part of nature which had been the object of the research. If we keep the total aim of natural science in view. as it were. Bertrand Russell. The general trend of human thinking in the nineteenth century had been toward an increasing confidence in the scientific method and in precise rational terms. we may use these concepts as they have been used at all times. we must be constantly ready to sweep into reverse. those of religion. Whenever we proceed from the known into the unknown we may hope to understand. but it has at the same time turned it against the overestimation of precise scientific concepts. because these concepts belong to the natural language and have therefore immediate connection with reality. but it would be practically impossible to construct the main parts of mathematics without this concept. The skepticism against precise scientific concepts does not mean that there should be a definite limitation for the application of rational thinking. It may be useful in this connection to remember that even in the most precise part of science. unanalyzed as they are.” We know that any understanding must be based finally upon the natural language because it is only there that we can be certain to touch reality. In this way modern physics has perhaps opened the door to a wider outlook on the relation between the human mind and reality. lest contact with reality be lost. He has described for us the full meaning of natural philosophy. we cannot avoid using concepts that involve contradictions.definitions. Keeping in mind the intrinsic stability of the concepts of natural language in the process of scientific development. Having started with the concepts of natural language as we move on into the realm of symbolic construction controlled by the test of experience. but still we know that they touch reality. and hence we must be skeptical about any skepticism with regard to this natural language and its essential concepts. But the existing scientific concepts cover always only a very limited part of reality. Smith’ to be no more than a collective name for a mere bundle of occurrences. But through this process of idealization and precise definition the immediate connection with reality is lost. and the other part that has not yet been understood is infinite. On the contrary. But the correspondence may be lost in other parts containing other groups of phenomena. against a too optimistic view on progress in general. if pushed back far enough. and had led to a general skepticism with regard to those concepts of natural language which do not fit into the closed frame of scientific thought — for instance.

and to pursue the enquiry down to the last detail. ad quod applicatur generis ratio. for there will always be logical terms. 10. 1. It appears so much more simple to have a neat set of theses called philosophy of nature.. 35. secundum quod est naturalis. is very different from what we see. my “Abstraction from Matter. Bk. II. 439.must depend upon terms of which the ostensive definition is given in perception. everything appears precise. but it is the presence of terms derived from experience that makes an interpretation empirical. cit.. In I Sent. On the Heavens. The question of interpretation has been unduly neglected. q. must always involve the use of terms which have an ostensive definition derived from sensible experience. of course. 2. Bk.” Science. is twofold. 5. ch. is surely a pursuit which deserves to be called philosophy. p. Physics and Philosophy. “Nam geometria considerat quidem de linea quae habet essc in materia sensibili. natural science. and each of these remains open to infinity. 8. 12. XCII (1940). 16 There is no doubt that our view is not popular among contemporary scholastics. My Philosophical Development (New York. the unexpected limitations of any human mind. Et simili modo loquendi dicuntur astrologia et perspectiva species mathematicae. quae est linea naturalis: non tamen considerat de ea in quantum est in materia sensibili. at the same time.. Until this matter has been cleared up. sed inquantum est physica. 1.— It is true that physic-mathematical sciences are sometimes called species scientiae mathematicae. for instance. 291b25. op. Ibid. p. I. all the branches of natural science should be brought into play. d.. 11. 5.1958). when complete. but when we seek to interpret them it turns out that the precision is partly illusory. Thus an empirical interpretation of a set of axioms. 645a-25. 13. 1. Born. The Astronomer’s sun. The bewildering progress of natural science reveals not only the bottomless depths of nature and the ineffable variety of nature’s works shows. “The Mathematical Way of Thinking. ut dictum est. Cf.. Post. 9. when considered as science in the strict sense of this term. 7. 5. 1. 1959) p. 3.5.” In II Phy. inquantum principia mathematica applicantur materiam naturalem. 184al7-184bl4. and to relegate more concrete investigations to the “scientists. As St. 1. 8. 1-20. we cannot tell with any exactitude what any given science is asserting. 2.. In I Anal. even in the study of things immediately around us. 1949) pp. sed abstracte. and merely reflects the impossibility for an individual to work in all the fields of this one subject.” Summa Theol. Cf. 168. (Oxford. But this does not mean that they are a species of a genus in the way animal is a species of body. Sed perspectiva e converso accipit lineam abstractam secundum quod est in consideratione mathematici. contain only such terms. Physics. ch. each of which has its own mode of defining without sensible matter. et applicat eam ad materiam sensibilem. (New York.3. et sic determinat de ea non inquantum est mathematica.” in Laval theologique et philosophique. a. On the Parts of Animals. Natural Philosophy of Cause and Chance. So long as we remain in the region of mathematical formulae. The word “generically’’ is used because of mathematics which. 12.3. Still. To answer such a question. XVI (1960) 53-69.. and the devious modes of knowing it must resort to. At least this much we know.” But such a distinction is a purely pragmatic one. 6. 1. XIII (1957) 133-196. I-II. 133. to enquire what any object of nature is. but it must have a definition derived from the ostensive definition of the word ‘sun’ which we learnt in childhood. 4. 15 . Thomas explains: “Interdum tamen dicitur aliquid esse species alicujus generis propter hoc quod habet aliquid extraneum. It will not. namely arithmetic and geometry.

Charles De Koninck. something that may be quite certain. several of whose meanings are retained in our word ‘reason’. Unless we call the grunts and groans of man or beast “language.14. It was further imposed to mean what the thought names. N. Heisenberg does not mean a language that is natural to us as our organs of speech are natural. Then it can mean the thought itself which the sounds are aimed to express. again. Human Knowledge (London. It may also mean proposition. discussion. Take. as if nature provided us with a language the way that she produces feet and brain. a knowledge which may lead us to further knowledge of things. unqualified. for instance. e. 1964. III.” which first meant breeze or breath. The common conceptions of the understanding: Three Sources of Philosophy. requiring either new impositions upon words already in use.B. 13-17): 16 . Op.g. unanalysed meaning of ‘word’ is more known to us. the definition or ‘what it is that the name signifies’. 84: Of all our normal language it is true that. Finally it has other abstract meanings such as ‘notion’. inasmuch as the plain. a new word. It can also mean proportion. n. 200-201. as distinguished from the thought they are intended to convey. 4. I do not mean that in doing so we spell out a new word. the notion of circle. § 2. or meanings long worn out and now revived. De Koninck’s paper “Abstraction from Matter”. Prescinding here from the historical order of its various impositions. n. as in judgement. whether its words be used as metaphors. too. phrases. explanation. rule. or ‘the flat triangle has its three angles equal to two right angles for the reason that its exterior angle is equal to the opposite interior angles’. the exercise of this power. argument. p. the faculty. 3. discourse. they still imply reference to something already known. But the first imposition remains throughout important.. and. 1948). except by metaphor. pp. The Catholic University of America. The point is that in virtue of the imposition the name now has a single meaning incommunicable to anything else. The same word was again extended to mean the power of reason. given new meanings. justification. simply. An example of a new imposition would be the word “soul. Charles De Koninck. Ch. “Three Sources of Philosophy” (Reprinted from the Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association . nor even. p.” this term refers to artifacts that signify by convention. and once known we impose the name as entirely proper to Him. and hypothesis. and speech. 16. pp. 2516. cit. or treatise. Washington. the Greek ‘logos’. no matter how fuzzy at the edges. opinion. DC. an instance of a new word is “God”—no matter what its etymological origin—for God can be known only at the term of a discourse. as in ‘Xanthippe threw a pail of water on Socrates for the reason that he came home too late’. logos first stands for the conventionally meaningful sounds or written signs produced by man for the purpose of communication: words. or the reason or ground for something. Using ordinary language we should always be able to refer its words back to common knowledge of things first known. 15. while all the other meanings of ‘logos’ are somehow related to this first one. “The Lifeless World of Biology”. then. By “natural language” Prof. The Hollow Universe.1 1 All analogical terms are examples of what is meant. One should also consult Dr.

we would ask no question about anything. the one that is most known and apparent to us is motion. they are least knowable in themselves. namely form. place and time as we first know and name them on the one hand. the common ones…. As was suggested above. whether expressed by word or proposition. is a proper conception whose value must depend upon what is already vaguely known….Discussing the fact that we first say all of three—of only two we say both—St. or being. no matter how good and true. But the crucial point is that our proper conceptions. should never be divorced from. the possibilities of defining something badly or inadequately are as countless as the ways of missing a target…. Since words are signs of intelligible conceptions. “this name act. as St. nor would we communicate with one another except by sniffs and grunts. as to the origin of the term. we become more engaged. Thomas observes that we follow this way of speaking because conceptions that are commonly held by all proceed from an inclination of nature that is prior to any deliberate and constructive endeavour to learn. or time are conceptions narrower in scope but still common. The reason for the difficulty of reflection upon our common conceptions is that. and then substituted for. lect. we first impose names upon the things we first know. at least not in the same sense in which we speak of a piece of bread. as known to us sensibly. such as the act of any sort of operation whatever. And I take as examples the distance between motion. and on the other. even though these be posterior in the order of nature. As Heisenberg observes. we do not speak of a piece of water. for instance. Paul Valery wrote: “Every man knows a prodigious amount of things. expressing more distinctly what the thing is. Proper conceptions can become hopelessly out of touch with the common ones which should engender them. Ordinary language holds a vast number of such conceptions. and reveals distinctions not always easily accounted for. the definitions we compose to bring home to us more distinctly what these things are. What we call movement. [15-16] 17 . For instance. 1 Other examples of common conceptions would be those gathered under the word one. Thomas explains. 2. or same.” Valery’s remark may be an exaggeration. there is a direct proportion between the [14-15] inescapable certitude of the things most commonly yet most vaguely known and the difficulty of defining or describing them. the definition. while most known to us. Hence it is upon this act the name act was first imposed. Yet. inasmuch as [13-14] 1 In I de Coelo. infinity. yet it is an instructive one….” As we move away from first and common conceptions and from such earlier meanings of words. The things we are most certain of. of which he does not know that he knows them…. Conceptions are called common not only because they are commonly held by all but also because of an intrinsic commonness that explains why they are proportionately vague or confused. or place. is derived. Whereas the definiendum is a common conception. and from motion it was extended to other things.” This search alone exhausts philosophy…. and the like. chiefly from motion. This constructive endeavour gives rise to proper conceptions— propriae conceptiones uniuscujusque—and a way of speaking appropriate to these. just as what is most knowable in itself is least knowable to us—except in mathematics. if we did not have such preexistent knowledge. and the gulf between the former and the latter can even become infinite. in proper conceptions and expressions appropriate to them. Now among all other acts. are less exactly known in direct proportion to our greater and greater certitude…. which is posited to signify actuality and completeness. as we should.

on the foolish assumption that what all in fact agree upon can be of no importance and must be irrelevant to the high pursuits of philosophy. Meanwhile. we shall soon find ourselves trapped in verbiage and. [16-17] In other words. we substituted Aristotle’s definition of motion for what the definition defines and then forgot all about the definiendum. cannot escape the implication that this statement likewise must be false.B. But. or that all is contingent. and within each language there would be as many systems as there are diverse meanings of the words referred to in that way…. accordingly. regardless of awkward fact. drifting away from our moorings.* Yet it is precisely our common conceptions that are sometimes called trivial. how to construct one. since at least the statement that all things are contingent is held to be necessary by the one who makes it…. divorced from what we really know before inquiry. a philosophical system is one that starts from proper conceptions as if they could be substituted for common ones. 1. It is true that if we shut ourselves rigidly within notions or propositions “quae communiter cadunt in conceptione cujuslibet intellectus” we shall never begin to philosophize. 18 . lect. we can indulge in endless acrobatics within our heads. This approach has the apparent advantage of a freedom to which we may never lay claim so long as we must insist on the priority of common conceptions. we are on the way to a system. see further below. Now. We would in fact have as many irreducible systems as there are languages.. Should we attempt to cut ourselves loose from the common conceptions. 3. or that not all things are contingent. when a name that stands for a common conception is thereafter used for its elaborated definition as if the definition henceforth became its first and sole meaning.”1 In Boethii de Hebdomadibus. we maintain the common conceptions as the first inescapable source of philosophy for the reason that “in hujusmodi principiis stat omnium demonstrationum resolutio. If. We choose our definitions and follow through by assuming the reality of the definita we have posited by defining. As Spinoza and Hegel understood it.In II Meta. § * N. lect. once something second is taken as first. The distinction between common and proper conceptions allows us to define what a philosophical ‘system’ is and. I give the text with my own translation elsewhere. Definitions now become arbitrary. for instance. 3. lect. in the inescapable terms of common conceptions. But philosophy nevertheless depends upon knowledge that is prior to and independent of philosophy. The correct reference is to Book IX. we can fabricate as many philosophical systems as we please. after committing ourselves to the wrong sort of beginning. and the first and final term of resolution would be to that name. forever arguing against their relevance—much as the person holding that all statements are false. we would at once have materials for a system….

even though these be posterior in the order of nature.2 § 3. The method of knowing. St. 13 (tr. which is posited to signify actuality and completeness. 3. For whatever is peculiar to individuals in their way of speaking seems to arise from the particular conceptions of each. et istum modum loquendi sequimur communiter omnes. cum enim nomina sint signa intelligibilium conceptionum. Here is that relevant passage from Heisenberg’s Gifford Lectures: 1 tertio ibi: assignamus autem etc. he proves at [8] the same by appealing to the general way we speak. et dicit. lect.Cf. And he says that we even assign names to things according to the aforementioned method. 5. Since words are signs of intelligible conceptions. chiefly from motion. 2. Charles De Koninck. qui sensibiliter a nobis videtur.” expressed by socalled “natural language. Charles De Koninck): (And he says that) this name act. Thomas Aquinas. because na ture so inclines us. n. but a mere tool. et alia huiusmodi. as known to us sensibly. the one that is most known and apparent to us is motion. dicimus quod sint ambo. Remember the passage already quoted: “Even for the physicist the description in plain language will be a criterion of the degree of understanding that has been reached. In I de Coelo. Now among all other acts. I repeat. 19 . ea enim quae sunt propria singulis in modo loquendi. et duos homines dicimus ambos: non autem de his dicimus omnes. licet sint posteriora secundum ordinem naturae. et a motu ad alia derivatum est . And we all in general use this way of speaking.” Mélanges à là Memoire de Charles De Koninck. Thomas Aquinas. “The Unity and Diversity of Natural Science. veniunt maxime ex motibus quantum ad originem vocabuli. videntur provenire ex propriis conceptionibus uniuscuiusque: sed id quod observatur communiter apud omnes.” and the mathematical scheme of theoretical physics has been felicitously stressed by Werner Heisenberg in his Gifford Lectures. we say “both. 5-25 (excerpt): The need to bring out connections between our “common concepts.. we first impose names upon the things we first know. videtur ex naturali inclinatione provenire. quod hoc nomen actus. probat idem per communem usum loquendi. et dicit quod etiam assignamus vocabula rebus secundum modum praedictum. propter hoc quod natura ad hoc nos inclinat. but what is generally observed among all would seem to arise from natural inclination. In IX Meta.1 Cf. et ideo ei primo impositum fuit nomen actus.. such as the act of any sort of operation whatever. pp. venit autem ostendit quid sit esse in actu. namely form. 11 (tr. scilicet formam. illis primo imponimus nomina.” 14 If the physicist’s knowledge were believed to be quite divorced from common concepts and ordinary language. is derived. inter alios autem actus. n. and from motion it was extended to other things. maxime est nobis notus et apparens motus. lect. Such a scientist. si enim aliqua sunt duo. in which perfection agrees with the number 3.” – thus we speak of two men as “both” – but we do not say “all. quae primo intelligimus. would not even be a true scientist. then we would of course have the kind of scientist who is not a philosopher. Larcher & Conway): 13. Thirdly.” which we use for the first time in the case of three. 2 secundo ibi. St. quo scilicet perfectio competit ternario. Hence it is upon this act the name act was first imposed. and the like. as to the origin of the term. n. quod ponitur ad significandum endelechiam et perfectionem. sicut sunt quaecumque operationes. For when there are two things. sed primo hoc vocabulo utimur circa tres.

The skepticism against precise scientific concepts does not mean that there should be a definite limitation for the application of rational thinking. seem to be more stable in the expression of knowledge than the precise terms of scientific language. Therefore. Only through these precise definitions is it possible to connect the concepts with a mathematical scheme and to derive mathematically the infinite variety of possible phenomena in this field. and are precisely defined through axioms and definitions. but we may have to learn at the same time a new meaning of the word “understanding. In this way modern physics has perhaps opened the door to a wider outlook on the relation between the human mind and reality. for the time being we may have to take the concepts. and the other part that has not yet been understood is infinite. The concepts still correspond very closely to reality in that part of nature which had been the object of the research. against a too optimistic view of progress in general. just as reality itself did.15 Heisenberg has made our point. Modern physics has in many ways increased this skepticism. Keeping in mind the intrinsic stability of the concepts of natural language in the process of scientific development. But the existing scientific concepts cover always only a very limited part of reality. This is in fact not surprising since the concepts of natural language are formed by the immediate connection with reality. those of religion. we must be constantly ready to sweep into reverse. Having started with the concepts of natural language as we move on into the realm of symbolic construction controlled by the test of experience. but it has at the same time turned it against the overestimation of precise scientific concepts. On the contrary. vaguely defined as they are. lest contact with reality be lost. . because these concepts belong to the natural language and have therefore immediate connection with reality. we cannot avoid using concepts that involve contradictions. In doing so we will use ordinary language. it is well known that the concept of infinity leads to contradictions that have been analyzed. It may be useful in this connection to remember that even in the most precise part of science.. But through this process of idealization and precise definition the immediate connection with reality is lost. they represent reality.” We know that any understanding must be based finally upon the natural language because it is only there that we can be certain to touch reality. unanalyzed as they are. . But the correspondence may be lost in other parts containing other groups of phenomena. and had led to a general skepticism with regard to those concepts of natural language which do not fit into the closed frame of scientific thought — for instance. Whenever we proceed from the known into the unknown we may hope to understand. we may use these concepts as they have been used at all times. The general trend of human thinking in the nineteenth century had been toward an increasing confidence in the scientific method and in precise rational terms. and finally against skepticism itself. and hence we must be skeptical about any skepticism with regard to this natural language and its essential concepts. For instance. He has described for us the full meaning of natural philosophy. one sees that—after the experience of modern physics—our attitude toward concepts like mind or the human soul or life or God will be different from that of the nineteenth century. one may say that the human ability to understand may be in a certain sense unlimited. as it were. in mathematics. they are derived from experience obtained by refined experimental tools. the scientific concepts are idealizations. but it would be practically impossible to construct the main parts of mathematics without this concept. It is true that they are not very well defined and may therefore also undergo changes in the course of the centuries. It is true that we will also realize that these concepts are not well defined in the scientific sense and that their application may lead to various contradictions. whose concepts appear more stable than the precise terms of 20 . derived as an idealization from only limited groups of phenomena. On the other hand. but t hey never lose the immediate connection with reality. but still we know that they touch reality. One of the most important features of the development and the analysis of modern physics is the experience that the concepts of natural language.

though he seems to forget it when he declares ‘Mr. contain only such terms. a new word. natural science. but when we seek to interpret them it turns out that the precision is partly illusory. and to pursue the enquiry down to the last detail. and each of these remains open to infinity. 16. an instance of a new word is “God”—no matter what its etymological origin—for God can be known only at the term of a discourse. It appears so much more simple to have a neat set of theses called philosophy of nature. Thus an empirical interpretation of a set of axioms. a knowledge which may lead us to further knowledge of things.. The bewildering progress of natural science reveals not only the bottomless depths of nature and the ineffable variety of nature’s works shows. and to relegate more concrete investigations to the “scientists. as if nature provided us with a language the way that she produces feet and brain. Op. I do not mean that in doing so we spell out a new word. and the devious modes of knowing it must resort to. Bertrand Russell. The question of interpretation has been unduly neglected. the unexpected limitations of any human mind. conveyed the same idea. and once known we impose the name as entirely proper to Him. Unless we call the grunts and groans of man or beast “language.” this term refers to artifacts that signify by convention. At least this much we know. at the same time. is surely a pursuit which deserves to be called philosophy. § 21 . when complete.“scientific” knowledge. for there will always be logical terms. p. Smith’ to be no more than a collective name for a mere bundle of occurrences. but it must have a definition derived from the ostensive definition of the word ‘sun’ which we learnt in childhood. and in the case of an empirical science the empirical terms must depend upon terms of which the ostensive definition is given in perception. except by metaphor. 15. everything appears precise. requiring either new impositions upon words already in use. if pushed back far enough. So long as we remain in the region of mathematical formulae. 200-201. cit. Human Knowledge (London. Here is the passage in question: All nominal definitions. The point is that in virtue of the imposition the name now has a single meaning incommunicable to anything else. must always involve the use of terms which have an ostensive definition derived from sensible experience. of course. 2516. 1948). An example of a new imposition would be the word “soul. even in the study of things immediately around us. but it is the presence of terms derived from experience that makes an interpretation empirical. nor even. By “natural language” Prof. must lead ultimately to terms having only ostensive definitions. <…> 14. and merely reflects the impossibility for an individual to work in all the fields of this one subject. pp. simply. to enquire what any object of nature is. 16 There is no doubt that our view is not popular among contemporary scholastics. all the branches of natural science should be brought into play. If we keep the total aim of natural science in view. It will not. symbolic terms are inadequate: to isolate them from the concepts of natural language is to divorce them from nature and therefore from real science.” But such a distinction is a purely pragmatic one. Until this matter has been cleared up. for instance.” which first meant breeze or breath. is very different from what we see. we cannot tell with any exactitude what any given science is asserting. Still. To answer such a question. Using ordinary language we should always be able to refer its words back to common knowledge of things first known. The Astronomer’s sun. in Human Knowledge. Heisenberg does not mean a language that is natural to us as our organs of speech are natural.

couldn’t be said just as well. We say “as much 22 . That is why one must never pass cursorily over the preliminaries of a doctrine. “Introduction to the Study of the Soul”. that of the animated mobile being. Charles De Koninck. in general. and of which many of the theories remain more or less provisional. of things which come into being and perish at the term of a movement according to quality. at first sight. others have a body and magnitude. as St. all our attention…. however. just as plants and animals. Preface to Stanislas Cantin.P. is not the common attribute of living. those of the soul in particular would secondly be sought. the living body. the deviation will increase thousands of times as a natural consequence. called alteration. THE STUDY OF THE SOUL AND THE STUDY OF LIVING THINGS If one deviates slightly from the truth in the beginning. which is restricted to animated beings. The books of the Physics had for their subject mobile being as such. and it is only in the last place that the general consideration of living things can be entered upon: “But in the last place is ordered the book which pertains to the common consideration of living things”. whereas the books of the Physics. Nevertheless. in the book the Physics. but that very thing in virtue of which we call them. that we are here in the philosophy of nature: we are studying natural things. among the latter. if not better. in the inverse order that one ought to proceed. this reason leaves a doubt. which is the object of this discourse. Précis de psychologie thomiste (Quebec: Laval University. Such is the order to be followed. In fact. the study of which demands very circumstantial experience. Thomas expressly affirms. of this treatise.n. the De Caelo treated of mobile body. more precisely. Mon-dor. however. We suppose as known the principal problems touching mobile being in general and its major divisions: mobility according to place. You are beginning at present the study of the third species of mobility. and their principal part is the soul—likewise it is more according to the soul than according to the body that these things are what they are”. Wouldn’t it be convenient to consider and define in the first place the natural living being in general. that which all these species of living things have in common. and mobility according to quantity. Bruno M. of the living body. The word psychology signifies that it is indeed the soul. animated things. Thomas says that it is necessary to consider first the things which are common to all animated beings. But that increases the difficulty. O. or presume that they are sufficiently known. and not the living or animated mobile being. now what is first common to all animated beings is the soul: “for in this they all agree”. are in a great measure outdated and replaced by physics and chemistry. Therefore. and behold! the first difficulty is raised on the subject of the very title of this treatise. Now. These last two works which treat of subjects. just as stones and other inanimate things. they merit. Aristotle has discussed the principles and properties of mobile being and its major divisions. is that they are living beings? Let us not forget. It is. and then to show what is the characteristic of its form? The general properties of living bodies as such once established. From the outset of his commentary on the De Anima. tr. St. And yet. the treatise on the soul studies at first onset not the animated mobile being.): I. “there are some which are simply bodies and magnitudes. and for a very good reason. In order not to be obliged to repeat with respect to each species all that each species has in common with the others. The De Caelo et Mundo and the De Generatione et Corruptione study in particular the two first species of mobility. on the contrary. which is the most common. The study of living things ought to begin from the study of the soul in itself. science must very reasonably treat in the first place about that which is common—as much as possible. but resolutely that which is in short only a principle of the natural living beings: their proper and intrinsic principle which we agree to call the soul. 6. that by which living bodies are what they are. the De Generatione et Corruptione. insofar as they do not resort to phenomena and to theories which depend upon subsequent treatises are impervious to time. 1948) (Eng.

on the one hand science must begin with what is most known by us. insoluble. conforming to the method which St. with which a science begins. but in the course of history. nevertheless. and what is the soul of the beast”. it is the soul which is known first. in order to know what is the soul of the plant. It must be admitted. but we doubt whether the sense of this principle of method is always understood and whether its import is always seen. It is. it is necessary that the common things be at the same time most knowable for us. which one ought we to study first? We fear that the answer will come to us too promptly. that we will seek to define first. namely. some elements common to all natural beings. the reason of economy: in order not to have to repeat for each of the multiple species all that they have in common among themselves. reserved to the philosophy which searches in a dark room for a black cat that is not there—as has been said of Metaphysics. But. and very certain. For example. the soul. that the first data may be easier to know.” just as modern philosophy never ceases to prove. it is true. therefore. the soul. that if the fact of movement is easy to ascertain. There is. when its existence has been denied by so many persons among whom are numbered philosophers and savants of renown? And wouldn’t honest folk be astonished if they were told that the carrot has a soul and this is not a metaphor? <…> V. Thomas calls processus in determinando. Then. the previous question being useless. of all living beings. On the other hand. and on the other hand. the science of life begins.…Since the forms and the operations of the living things that surround us are of a great diversity. but with cytology. then. not with the study of the soul. it is very necessary that this most common thing. In his commentary on the De Sensu et Sensato which is placed immediately after the treatise on the soul. according to its “communissima ratio”. it is better to study the communia at the beginning. Furthermore. while they are no longer divided into other things differing in kind”. Indeed. what is most common is not always the most known. The disagreement on the most elementary notions is so radical that most of the learned men turn away from them (when they do not declare them vain) in order to apply themselves then and there to the particular: the “fundamental problem of movement” possible” for. Since it is here a question of apprenticeship. it does not follow that their study and the research of the common properties to be defined and to be demonstrated will be equally easy. but rather that in virtue of which it is living. once and for all. in studying the Physics. we have learned for a long time that science ought to proceed from the general to the particular. that this process has borne some fruit. envisaged in all its generality. be also the most known by us. since in all strictness elements must be understood as “the things into which bodies are ultimately divided. in opposition to processus in demonstrando? For the reason given above. there are without doubt. And in that case. THE ORDER TO BE FOLLOWED IN THE STUDY OF LIVING THINGS . “it is difficult to see in what it consists. a problem of mechanics which begins with the law of inertia. air and fire) could have always been resolved into more primitive entities.… Consequently. We get a clear idea. is only the first part of the study of the living. Thomas outlines the study of the living: the 23 . what is the soul of man. it is necessary to seek what is its soul. “we ought not to content ourselves with the common definition. how could it be affirmed that. It is with a purpose that we asked ourselves what order is to be observed in the study of the “living”. we do not consider first of all the living as such. for each species of animated being. It is precisely in the doctrine touching upon these common things that the errors are very numerous and consequently very widespread. in fact. and not only the soul. What order is to be observed in the study of the living. but seek the proper definition of each part of the soul. the souls that are their principles ought also to be diversified. St. all that the sciences have taken for elements (for the ancients water and earth. But we have already pointed out that this question is not so simple. The treatise on the soul.

to knowing things by that of which they are made. namely. With regard to the intermediate study. that is to say. The first of these studies is contained in the book De Anima. Such would be. as if he were studying it in an abstract manner. or of closed curves. Now. nevertheless. our knowledge is confused. The entire book II of the Physics is consecrated to this part of the general method of the 24 . … VI. is determined by the principle that we ought to go from the more known to us to the less known. the second can vary from one science to the other and even according to the different parts of one science. While the first process is common to all the sciences. we try to know in the first place what is proper to a thing insofar as it is mobile. etc. besides. more universal: for the polygon is equally a figure. We find this order. he proceeds by the mode of concretion. In the science of nature. through the mode of application to the body. that is. some of which are living bodies. he considers the soul in itself. In the process in determinando we go from the less determined subject to the more determined subject: we seek to know first of all the nature and the properties of the soul in general. Moreover. he is more distinct. of application of the principles common to determined mobile things. each of the multiple natural sciences which already have to borrow from the field of the others. we consider things according to that which. as much in intellectual knowledge as in sensible knowledge. Likewise in science. all the natural sciences. The process in demonstrando also. that which is most known by us and more certain is the confused. being animal and reasonable. that it is a closed curve. the order which he would have to observe in order to have a well-ordered overall view. We are advancing from subject to subject following this order of community. to go thus by degrees toward that which is more knowable in itself: for. the circle is a closed curve. A last term of all this process would be. or to several genera of animals. it would be impossible for one man to embrace the vast domain which separates the consideration of the mobile being and that of the flight of the dragonfly: that is. he studies the things of the soul in a concrete manner. in the books De Animalibus et Plantis. Certainly. by that which makes them. can extend indefinitely in its own bosom. Thus it is that we notice first of all that this object is a figure. and by the good which moves the agent to produce them. man is known first as an animal. manifestly. Likewise. we do not distinguish it from the other species of figures. in the second. or even to all the living: this is the object of the present treatise”. the study of the characteristic gait of the elephant. THE PROCESS OF CONCRETION IN THE STUDY OF LIVING THINGS The process in determinando is the order which we follow in the consideration of the different subjects and principles of a science insofar as they are more known by us. but by adhering to the generalities. natural science applies itself. as long as man is not known in that which distinguishes him from the beast.Philosopher “begins the teaching of natural science by starting with that which is most common to all things of nature. As long as we know the ellipse solely as a figure or as a closed curve. in the third. and then the nature and the properties of its different species: whereas the process of demonstration is the order which is followed in the acquisition of the scientific knowledge of a given subject. But it differs from the first by the order which we follow in the research and the demonstration of the properties of a given subject. by determining what is proper to each species. he applies all these considerations to each species of animals and of plants. then what is true of it with regard to its mobility according to place. man is more knowable in himself than animal. and the horse is an animal. movement and the principle of movement: then in the end. more in act and consequently more knowable in himself. But this confused knowledge is also more common. in them. Thus mathematics and the physico-mathematic sciences demonstrate through the formal cause alone. and finally that it is an ellipse. With these he begins again the same procedure. for example. it is found included in the books which he wrote on the subject of things which belong commonly to either all living animals. dividing his study into three parts: in the first. is first of all more known. the third.

Through an abstraction of this kind. Science being the perfection of the intellect that seeks this perfection. the nature and the properties of the species were able to be inferred. Whence it manifestly follows that the complete science demands that we do not stop at generalities. in distinction to universality in praedicando. It is the author of the Metaphysics and of the De Anima who wanted to know why dogs run obliquely. For he who knows a thing in general actually knows something about that which is the proper reason of this thing. The universal. The perfection of our knowledge of the universal in causando will depend on the degree of distinction according to which we will know the of nature which we call the process of demonstration. but the rest. In this process of concretion. but that we proceed to the species…” The proper being of things is. nor with animated body. VII. as St. as long as we are still in the general and confused—we are far from the determination. comets. a thing is absolutely perfect when it is in ultimate act. the more do we approach that very way to a universality which. The first demonstration which you will learn in the present treatise is precisely of this sort: the soul is the first act by of a natural body endowed with organs. Likewise for science. Likewise. et alia hujusmodi”. the science which is had of a thing only in general is not a complete science according to the ultimate act. where the most known by us can. and it is by going gradually toward the specification of objects. Now. THE TWO GENERA OF UNIVERSAL CAUSES IN THE STUDY OF LIVING THINGS.e. universal] by its actuality. but each treatise will have besides its particular procedure. The more the process approaches the distinct knowledge of the particular. from the point of view of demonstration. from the perfection. taken in the sense in which we understand it in the present process. Thomas. but relatively perfect. in principle. the genus: the constitutive differences of the species. their ultimate difference. from the nature and the properties of the soul envisaged in all its generalities. like the abstract to the concrete. one naturally wishes to know what makes a beaver a beaver. nor with the quadruped. move and think. feel. At the beginning—that is. therefore. The process in determinando is at the same time a process of concretion. namely. And in this the process of concretion consists. is compared to the particulars of which it can be affirmed. in the intermediate state between pure potency and pure act it is not absolutely. There is. But in natural science most of the proofs remain a posteriori. therefore. It is. what makes a man. is added another which is in some way the inverse of the first. by its extreme determination which embraces the multiple in its variety and its distinction. that the perfection of science is to be found. it is something intermediate between pure potency and ultimate act. the demonstrations will be a priori: the reasons given by us are at the same time the first reasons in themselves. to the relation of the universal to the particular of which we have just spoken. no cause to attribute to ourselves an Hegelian method. with the most known in itself. nor with the beast. earthquakes. therefore. Thus it is that in mathematics. “nothing is perfect as long as it is in potency. “In natural things”. in no wise in bridging the gap between the different subjects of the process in determinando as if. he who only knows man insofar as he is an animal only knows in act one part of his definition. says St. in fact. their concretion. which attracts us and liberates the intellect from this indetermination of the universal. our knowledge is very poor. we live. in this direction. is such [i. then. lightening. from the knowability proper to things. 25 . with regard to all that distinguishes them from all other things. that science is enriched. he knows only in potency. because it is “that by which” and “primarily”. toward their ultimate distinction. rain and snow. The process in demonstrando consists. so scorned by a certain type of philosophy. Thomas says when beginning the study “of shooting stars. body and soul. He did not rest content with mobile being. man. which confuses the two processes. he does not as yet know in act. but only in potency. be identified. like “movement” to “local movement”.

Hence. and it is by its form of horse that the horse is animal. is more than an animal. the particular includes the more universal et amplius: “according as the less common contains in its notion not only the more common. we grasp precisely this relation upon which the species is more common than the genus. knowledge of the integral whole remains confused. in reality.Let us remark first of all that if. perhaps that science ought precisely to surpass the particular. the unity of the genus which we predicate of man. the species is not in any way an elaboration of the genus. As long as we do not grasp distinctly these actual parts. we would point out that potency in cause is defined precisely in the line of predication in which the predicable is like a form in comparison to all that of which it can be predicated. from the point of view of the things signified. Thus. we have from that moment. was envisaged as a whole is now a part. of horse. in the attribution: man is an animal. from another point of view. free to return to the particular to view it from above as a restricted concretion of the universal—participation. Yet. In the first chapter of his treatise. a soul in itself. St. like that which we have of the subjective parts of a potential whole. Aristotle points out that “we must be careful not to ignore the question whether the soul can be defined in a single unambiguous formula. In effect. Thus it is that man. It is fitting to pause here in an introduction to the study of the soul. in this regard. (Thus. a common form by which the different species of animals would be animals. is in itself an integral whole which contains the genus as a part. It will be added. and that by which the horse is horse. this genus is founded upon the natures and it is posterior to these. as is the case with animal. nevertheless. abandoned more comprehensive universality which expresses the unity of innumerable species. is at the same time the form by which he is animal. that is to say. A number of modern philosophers would conclude from this that here. There is not. What. etc. Thomas recalls that in fact the Platonists affirmed the existence of separated universals. Now in this regard. it is a question of totally different relations. he is moreover reasonable. to know the animal distinctly is to know it insofar as it is man. is a part greater than its whole. for particular things. but also other things. is purely logical. so that the principle of contradiction itself would be set aside. for them. But if we said that it contains them only in potency and that the potency is a potency for an act. who can be called animal. or bee. as man [contains] not only animal. for example. not withstanding.. but also rational”. then. man. the predicable of other species. of forms and ideas which were. in the first perspective. As soon as we consider animal in the species. god (in the latter case the ‘universal’ animal—and so too every other ‘common predicate’—being treated either as nothing at all or as a later product)”. the species is the subjective part of the potential whole which is the genus. But shall we say. in nature. as we have indicated.) In effect. but only in potency. that of distinct knowledge. or: the horse is an animal. it is in the natures distinct according to their ultimate form that actuality is found. but never in the genus which owes its unity and its universality to the abstraction from this actuality. The species. it is no more than a part of a more comprehensive whole. or horse. in fact. in order to go towards an ever-greater universality. and this is the reason why they are called subjective. the genus which is found thus surpassed. The universal whole which is the same genus animal does not contain its parts in act. therefore. the predicable genus animal has its form and its unity from reason which can abstract from the differences. which 26 . as we do for horse. but a subject—since man. The form by which man is man. causes of their existence and of knowledge (which we have of them). in addition to the form by which man is man. dog. We have not arbitrarily chosen this objection. being no longer a form. man and horse are subjects and animal is the form. the relation of the universal to the particular is in some way inverted. etc. is an animal by his form of man—is no longer. from the point of view of predication. animal. or whether we must not give a separate formula for each sort of it. But from that moment when we know them in a distinct manner. it is impossible to be. there existed a separated soul. of the bee. without which.

the definition of the soul in general should signify at the same time the very perfect and universal cause of all the species of souls. In reality. Thus. because of the belief of those philosophers in the divinity of celestial bodies which they said were animated. on the contrary. Nevertheless. “Artisan” should signify more. therefore. not only because it is the determined cause of all the intermediary causes up to the garment. the art of the carpenter. as certain instruments. ultimate causes. we should take upon ourselves the inverse direction of that which we have just described. higher. and the universals were nothing in reality. as the philosophers of nature said. whereas the cobbler is only a particular cause. he is. Still.served as cause and idea to the particular souls. anterior and universal. Be this as it may. etc. as much as possible. anterior and universal. Thence the question: is it necessary to seek only the common notion of the soul. There is. to the question: who makes shoes? the response: the artisan. When we affirm that science ought to seek to know things through their primary. We ought without doubt to inquire about the causes higher. (Aristotle) says “of God”. has a power extending to the infinite. a cause higher. In fact. as is the case with other animals. it is the proximate cause. we recognize in the human intellect a universal final cause. in comparison to “carpenter”. the perfection with which we will know such a cause will depend always on the degree of distinct knowledge which we have of things with regard to which it is a universal 27 . according to the conception of the Platonists. in the logical order. since by their means man can make for himself instruments of an infinite variety. which causes leave us in confusion with regard to the proper nature of things. when we demonstrate that in nature “all other things preexist. we must not abandon at the same time the search for causes which are universals in the very line of causality. Insofar as man is in some way the end and principle of all the arts. Instead of all these. is an anterior cause. or the notion of this soul or of that soul. universals were only particular substances. the expressions “cause higher”. therefore it cannot be limited by nature to certain fixed natural notions. proximate and proper. Consequently. are fundamentally equivocal. yet it is necessary to be aware of them. universal. and the Platonists would reply easily that the indetermination in which this generality leaves us comes from the darkness of an intellect imprisoned in a body. which is the last perfection intended in the operation of nature”. “the universal”. or even to certain fixed means. or of the God. In the example given. So that. According to the philosophers of nature. the souls of which are endowed with knowledge and power in regard to fixed particular things. But if more often we should not know how to grasp them. etc. supreme. Likewise. and for any number of purposes”. carpenter. the mason. But doesn’t it follow that the knowledge of the reason of things becomes deeper in proportion as we rise to a more confused generality? Indeed. it is manifestly not a question of causes which are such in the order of predication. in this respect. the art of the tailor is a particular cause and first in a given order. preparatory to the understanding. mason. whether of defense or of clothing. a universal cause. “proximate”. it seems. For we have not deceived ourselves that such causes exist and that in them we will have a more perfect knowledge of particular things. according to predication. but not according to causality. etc. from this came all that we find in these particular souls. would be more pertinent than the response: the cobbler. man has by nature his reason and his hands. which is the primary and supreme cause in the order given. in rejecting the apparently easy conception of the Platonists. as the Platonists said. This cause may be called universal according to causality. the soul of the horse or of the man. Thus it is that “artisan”. the doctrine in question was not so simple. namely. since it can equally be affirmed of the tailor. But why this art? Why these garments? Why doesn’t nature clothe us? We will find finally the primary reason in the intellective soul which “ as comprehending universals. which are the organs of organs ( De Anima iii). universality only expresses the indetermination of our knowledge of the cause. but because it is still that which is the cause with regard to the art of the cobbler. up to the art which conceives it and produces it.

In this regard. Thomas was able to write the words we have just cited. On the one hand we cannot grasp simultaneously in one and the same concept many distinct objects except at the expense of distinct knowledge. of all the vegetal and animal proliferation. It will not truly be free excepting if the latter were at the same time at the beginning of our knowledge. Doubtless we will never know the fundamental and universal laws which command the process or organization of the matter in view of the intellective soul. the universality of the predication remains essential to the unity of our science. Let us suppose that we were treating in an isolate manner of the different species. For. we can know in a general way that these laws exist. etc. St.cause. although the natures of which we say the same thing are not the same in virtue of a common natural form. and quite another thing to have the simultaneous consideration of the same objects by means of one single concept. will not change in the course of the treatise. General knowledge of a very precise reason in itself is immediately the occasion for precise questions. Hence it is absurd in this and similar cases to 28 . Those latter were the most successful sophisms of history. VIII. Besides the fact that the general definition of the soul. What is Andromeda doing here. if that which is most actual in things were also most known by us. however difficult it may be to see it in a concrete manner.” says Aristotle. but also we would have to know that we repeat them. and what separates them from all other things. Not only is it essential to the order of apprenticeship and to the state of imperfect science. but others embarrassing like the remarks of an enfant terrible. In fact. not only would we have to repeat often the same things. if it is necessary to attribute to our intellect the confusion in which the general definition of the soul leaves us with regard to the different species. however. the fly. “that a single definition can be given of the soul only in the same sense as one can be given of figure. Consequently. the hippopotamus. to say nothing of the clod of earth—poor relative of astronomy—awkward sine qua non for the astronomer. it is nevertheless founded on them and what we say of the soul in general is true of every soul in particular: it is true that the rational soul is the first act of a body furnished with instruments. some of which are fruitful. when it is a question of a science properly so-called—of a certain knowledge through causes—the progress of this science according to the process of determination will not consist in substituting the new for what had been previously been established. This means that in the knowledge of this cause there will be for us degrees of endless perfectibility. we cannot consider the unity of many objects except by grasping them simultaneously. distinct from that by which man is man and cat. THE INTERMEDIATE CHARACTER OF OUR SCIENCE Have we distinguished the two genera of universality to exclude from science the universal in praedicando? Not in the least. Nevertheless. which is developed in a successive consideration. From this is seen the intermediate character of our science which always wavers between the confused universal of which it cannot rid itself. so here there is no soul apart from the forms of soul just enumerated. It is now evident. and the universal in causando which it never seems to grasp completely. cat. on the other hand. Now. for example. and innumerable species which we would never have known. we can however grasp what they have in common only by means of such a universal.. So here in the case of soul and its specific forms. as in that case there is no figure distinguishable and apart from triangle. it is fitting to recall the proverb: fools shouldn’t see things half-done. teaching a doctrine of evolution. that man is the good of the whole cosmos. and that it is true also of the soul of the cat. It is true that a highly general definition can be given of figure which will fit all figures without expressing the peculiar nature of any figure. but it is necessary to all human science however perfect it may be. although the universal in praedicando does not exist in things. it remains nonetheless true that this definition expresses in a relatively distinct manner what the different species have in common. without. For it is one things to have a distinct knowledge of many objects. In fact.

in order to consider afterwards the least general. there is the order of maintenance of the work. that is impossible.e. what is its soul. in order to apply it then to the matter. but we have called attention to the fact that such a knowledge is for us as a limit which we cannot reach. and that of the soul will be entirely definitive. On this point. Why is this so? The answer is unanimous: the measurements upon which the whole scientific construction is established are never more than approached.g. i. <…> XVI THE PROCESS OF INTENTION AND COMPOSITION We have seen that the ancients thought that they knew these first principles. there is the process according to the order of apprehension. is not provisory. The builder of houses. grasps in the first place the form of the house in an absolute manner. it is necessary to consider first the impossibility of an infinitely precise measurement in the domain of the continuum.demand an absolutely general definition. which will fail to express the peculiar nature of anything that is or again omitting this. But why can’t we proceed. in order to be adequate. it is necessary to define the physical properties by description of their process of measurement. In the consideration by speculative reason. a similar definition of the nature of light would be an intolerable barrier. It would be necessary. should comprehend and express all the circumstances of the mensuration. But whenever it is a question of seeking the universal and fundamental principles of this order. according to which the artisan lays first the foundation upon which rests the other parts of the house. animal. Thirdly. as Eddington says. is simple by hypothesis only—“accipitur ut simplex per suppositionem”. This is what we have called the process of determination. that the standard of measure be a magnitude equal to zero. this standard. e. well beyond the treatises of natural living things. which. every lack of precision is of consequence. In reality. in effect. in which the stones are cut. Firstly. each successive term of which potentially contains its predecessor. the sensory power the self-nutritive. Now. that he will determine the cause absolutely and universal in causando. in this order of things. there follows the process according to the order of composition. however small it may be. we can distinguish four processes. the testimonies of the most eminent savants are not wanting…. for example. And fourthly. man? Why the terms are related in this serial way must form the subject of later examination. On the other hand. as we have done in the Physics and as we will do in the abstract study of the soul? The definition of movement. what is the soul of plant. But it is only at the end of the Metaphysics. The cases of figures and soul are exactly parallel. which corresponds to the order of apprehension in the arts. Secondly. there is the process according to the order of intention: the artisan intends to construct the house in its entirety. In practical reason’s consideration of a house. Why isn’t the advance toward these principles that of the process of concretion? We shall find the answer to this question by dwelling on the Prooemium to the De Caelo of St. for example. Thus it is that we consider first the most general. Thomas. Hence we must ask in the case of each order of living things. we can find processes corresponding to those of practical reason. we 29 . Thus in the study of nature. the square the triangle. for it would be necessary previously to know in a precise manner the principles which govern the totality of the physical world: it would be necessary to be a separated intellect who would not have any need of experience in order to know the world—“a god contemplating the external world”. in order to assemble them into a wall. to look for separate definitions corresponding to each infima species. Secondly. In this regard. and it is in view of this totality that he does everything that he does with regard to the parts. for example. for the particulars subsumed under the common name in both cases—figures and living things—constitute a series.

namely. postquam vero illa quae sunt propria cuilibet rei animatae”. non qualecumque. and we will soon see the reason for it. In the third place. However. in brief. are “partes materiae”. Therefore. such a comprehension of the totality would be limited to what it is in virtue of these common parts taken as such. the simple bodies. that in order to have the perfect definition of man it would be necessary to know him with regard to the elements without which he could not be man. in order to see the role of the components in the constitution of the totality. the universal principles do not suffice to explain the living body insofar as it is living. These wholes. But. the consideration of the whole according to the order which corresponds to the intention of practical reason. This is manifestly the case with living bodies. sicut carnes et ossa in diffinitione hominis”. Besides. Let us note. we would not be able to define semicircle without circle. in the universe. Let us note. This is the reason why we made the treatise De Caelo correspond to experimental physics. these “partes speciei” of the universe were nothing other than the elements. principal parts of the universe in other respects. we go from simple things to composed things in order to know the latter as much as we can know them through their simple components. From the point of view which occupies us at present. which has as subject mobile being insofar as it is mobile: and we shall do likewise in the study of living things. this means that we cannot attain knowledge of the material universe in its totality except in proportion as we know its formal parts. the principles of the physical world considered in itself— are applied just as well to living bodies as to non-living bodies. however perfect this knowledge may be. the rational soul. we do not act contrarily to the laws of the physical world. in which we proceed from the ensemble. sed partes quae sunt secundum materiam et quae sunt individui”. or man. Then follows the order which corresponds to that of the intention. without which we cannot truly know it: “hujusmodi enim partes sunt priores in consideratione quam totum. nor would we be able to consider Socrates without man. The principles which are primary in this universal order—that is to say. without Socrates. and the body composed of flesh and bones. moreover. but very precisely to the parts according to matter. the same parts of the universe. the formal parts (“partes speciei et formae”) are essential to the consideration of the whole. in effect. that is to say. The “partes diffinitivae” of man are not those of other natural living things. will depend on the knowledge of the formal parts. In digesting food or in lifting an arm. wholes which do not owe all that they are to the formal parts alone which constitute them as parts of the universe. consider the whole. as opposed to the parts according to species —“prout scilicet totum est prius in consideratione quem partes. have in turn proper formal parts by which they differ specifically from every other totality. Thus we can consider the circle without considering the semicircle. and not “partes speciei et formae”—they are not part of the definition of the whole in question. which begins with the consideration of the “communia omnibus animatis. It is especially this order of composition which will detain us. nor foot without animal. the parts which are essential to everything insofar as it is a part of the universe. but which involves nevertheless. These parts of the universe and the laws which govern them are common. We are here in the presence of a composition which is other than that of the universe. those operations cannot be brought back to the sole knowledge of the formal parts of the universe and of their laws. there is a process which corresponds to that of composition in the arts. And yet. the whole. For the ancients. however. toward its parts. however. Following this order. Although being verified of those bodies. The material parts are the parts without which we can. For there are. not to any part whatsoever. we would understand the totality which they compose. Knowing the formal parts of the universe. et ponitur in definitione totius. are essential to the definition of a triangle and a man. the living things. on the other hand. or animal without considering foot. The weight of a man placed on a weighing machine is registered just as that of a stone. 30 .commence with the “communissima” of the book of the Physics. it is to be remarked that this whole which we are thus considering in the first place is opposed. Applied to the science of nature. The three lines of a triangle. envisaged from the point of view of gravitation.

” § 31 . 3: …[I]t will be necessary to say henceforth that “reason is employed in another way. It is in pursuing this route that we would soon see the parts of the universe assume at once an altogether other aspect. <…> It would not be sufficient to see in this theory a very primitive outline of experimental science.). Précis de psychologie thomiste (Quebec: Laval University. “Introduction to the Study of the Soul”. Mondor. But the parts which distinguish one thing from another must not be conceived as inserted. after the manner of a wedge. forasmuch as some other theory might explain them. by showing the congruity of its results. in fact. It will become too reassuring to be put into doubt.that these proper parts presuppose the first. tr. the identification of what is first in things from the point of view of matter with what is moreover the best know by us. but as confirming an already established principle. some parts are not mixed with other parts. also Charles De Koninck. as in astronomy the theory of eccentrics is considered as established. however. With regard to man. the totalities in question are no longer reckoned in their specification: the difference of a man and a paving stone placed on a weighing machine is not registered. not as furnishing a sufficient proof of a principle. Cf. 1948) (Eng. as if this proof were sufficient. And so it was held for a number of centuries. and not of fragments. O. not. between the parts of the universe. and this body is a formal part of man insofar as he is man. It is a matter. remained so long inoperative in this domain. the formal parts of the universe. Preface to Stanislas Cantin. sec. of parts by which the whole is defined. It is understandable why the principle of the primacy of experience in natural science. But it is nonetheless true that the man is not a soul associated with parts of the universe: the latter are indeed parts which compose the body of man. and what is more. whenever we concern ourselves with the sole point of view of these parts of the universe envisaged as such. And as. because thereby the sensible appearances of heavenly movements can be explained. XIV. by the most “elementary” sensible qualities.P. as hypothetical as this might be. Bruno M. touch is the sense of certitude par excellence. in effect. Cf. are parts of man by the form of man. “The Equivocation of ‘Sensible Matter’”: His theory concludes at the coincidence between what is most elementary in itself in material things and what is the most elementary for us in our knowledge. whatever they may be. Surely. will not be less tenacious. also excerpt from PART XIV p. It is important before all else to grasp its fundamental hypothesis: the primary and “elementary” material causes of things are defined by the proper sensibles. principle on which Aristotle insists in the treatise where he sets forth the theory of elements.

1. One might suggest that this statement could be symbolized by the sign ‘S’. (A final version of this is Random Reflections on Science and Calculation. ‘subject of a science’.) PREFATORY REMARKS The purpose of this Introduction is to show what are the subject and principles of what Aristotle calls the science of nature or natural philosophy. By length. But the interpretation of the symbol would have to refer to the statement made in words. Even the terms ‘exact’. What then? The first thing to be noted is that all that will be said in this Introduction will be expressed by means of words. Science of nature and the use of words. ‘principles of a science’. which is otherwise defined as ‘what is extended in one dimension’. Cosmology—will feel impatient when we show some measure of solicitude for the scientific climate that is proper to our day. 7. The reader should know from this very beginning that we are not wholly unaware of the extent to which the meaning of the words just employed has changed—viz. We have the mandate to teach the subject. The mathematical physicist does not know what he is talking about until he can have recourse to symbols that are not names. we cannot afford to neglect this fact. is there such a subject? For some reason or other we may be already convinced that there is. the standard of length can of course have no length. for instance. One would compound the confusion by ignoring the difference. Yet the fruits of modern science grow with cosmic violence. so let us get down to business. and ‘nature’ he employs as words intended to mean something in the way that words do.and apply it successively or by division to know the distance between A and B. It would be most unfair to let the student believe that what is meant by ‘science’ in the philosophy of nature must be roughly the same as what is meant by ‘science’ today—only to learn eventually that they really have no more in common than a dog and the constellation that goes by the same name. It has latterly become rather obvious that the giant strides of the mathematical study of nature are concomitant with a general emancipation from the use of words. and it is difficult to see how one could make such statement in any other way. ‘symbol’. he. But that is not the point.. when in teaching one must begin from what is known to the listener. Why should we bother about it. viz. ‘science’.. Precisely. Corrected by T. means ‘when we take a reasonably fair copy of a certain platinum-iridium bar kept in Paris.n. Many a teacher called upon to give an elementary course in the Philosophy of Nature— which sometimes goes under the title of what is actually only one of its parts. Prentice Hall. can we reasonably get down to it? In fact. De Koninck and C. We shall attempt this by way of an exposition of the first two books of his Physics. Plainly. It would be difficult to find a single instance in which the same words still mean the same thing. Now his preliminary information—if only that which was gathered from the headlines—in an elementary course in some special subject of philosophy is very different from that of the beginner of some half century ago. Prefatory Remarks to A General Introduction to the Study of Nature by Charles De Koninck. the result of the operation may be expressed by Lx. No philosopher we hold in esteem thought he could neglect the opinions of his times. so that length only is once the 32 . and that these are expressed in terms of mathematical symbols. When Sir Arthur Eddington shows so convincingly that the exact science of nature can get nowhere until it has reduced its definitions to measure-numbers. he might say. as a mathematical physicist. De Koninck. when there is no other standard.’ Thus defined. in LTP. Indeed he does so while showing just how the physicist obtains his measure-numbers and is concerned only with them. ‘science’. Manual. and ‘science of nature’. At the same time this very statement uses nothing but words. not words. he uses words to show it.

.etc. the following statement made by Einstein: It is my conviction that pure mathematical construction enables us to discover the concepts and the laws connecting them which give us the key to the understanding of the phenomena of Nature. It is interesting to note that if only this type of definition were valid in any field.’ he would refer to a mode of definition which aims to state ‘what’ a thing is absolutely. Having thus defined length he may tell us “this is length”.. The same holds for the very expression ‘mathematical physics’. but because he could not resolve them by operating on names. We are sometimes led to believe that the use of symbols is a way of economizing words.. all knowledge about reality begins with experience and terminates in it. then the definition of ‘man’ would have to be like ‘when I tread on something and it produces a series of sounds such as “Where do you think you’re going?” And that is man. and so on for all the basic definitions. Hence. and to what he already know ‘reality’ to mean. In turn. so far as Reality is concerned.measurement is had. but the truly creative principle resides in mathematics.’. then the other. He would not try to define in terms of measure-numbers what the word ‘nature’ stands for. and the ‘symbolically constructed fictions’ of mathematical logic.. We are confident that he would not have confined himself to ‘Nature is when using such or such a standard of measure. and the test of the relevance of rational construction to his purpose. The symbolic world of mathematical physics. is imposed upon us according to what we wish to express. starting from and referring to metrical structure—but that whatever the symbols convey is not all that the world is.. Take.’. Conclusions obtained by purely rational processes are. If the physicist said ‘length is.’ instead of ‘length is when. Experience can of course guide us in our choice of serviceable mathematical concepts. 33 . experience of course remains the sole criterion of the serviceability of mathematical construction for physics. In mathematical physics definitions should be no more than interpretations of the symbols chosen. weight is ‘when using a weighing-machine.. it cannot possibly be the source from which they are derived.. does not use symbols instead of names for the sake of abbreviating his equations. That is not the whole truth. to employ either words or symbols is not a matter of choice: now one. The importance of ‘when’ in these definitions can hardly be exaggerated. Their use certainly economizes thought. and not merely what the name or symbol is intended to mean. 1 We do not know how he would have interpreted the names ‘Nature’ and ‘Reality’ though he might have suggested that to the physicist they are what the measure-numbers somehow refer to. as well as the mathematician. but this only another way of saying that that is all he can be concerned with. Once Eddington has made it clear that from the mathematical physicist’s standpoint the world is a symbolic one—in the sense that what he knows of it can be conveyed only by symbols and involves a generous share of fiction. He makes clear what he means by physics when he adds that by itself such construction can give us no knowledge whatsoever of the world of experience.’ It is also plain that when interpreting the time-symbol t the mathematical physicist does not intend even a nominal definition of the word ‘time’ as this term was and is still used without specific reference to the way in which the measure-number is obtained. entirely empty. meaning a certain type of knowledge about ‘nature’. he goes on using words to bring home his thoughts on the subject. by describing how the measure-numbers were obtained.—although in doing so there would be reference to nature. 2.. although we might point out that even his kind of definition has something to do with what we call nature. for instance. But it is far more important to realize that the mathematical physicist.

even as we do. or allowed to sleep. and ‘time’ may well have meant something we do not have enough of.As we shall see further on. The question we are trying to raise here is this: can there be true knowledge of what the names we use about nature are intended to mean? Can the things they refer to be defined and used to demonstrate something in a way which deserves to be called scientific? Must the term ‘science’ be restricted to the art of calculation and its application? What did we mean by ‘change’. and ‘time’ before we defined them by measurenumbers? Has their meaning now become mere fancy? It has been suggested that the only reason why we shall continue to use words is that they are necessary to communication in the order of behaviour—that language is essentially practical. it is only as what turns up for breakfast or is summoned to pay taxes. or ‘nature’. Could we really replace what the word ‘man’ meant by referring henceforth to no more than the mathematical physicist’s view of him as a swarm of electric charges? This no doubt man is. Now what about the objects that neither mathematician nor mathematical physicist is concerned with? What has happened to the number. So we continue to believe that Mr. and in some event even to study physics. e. or to the ‘time’ we named before we manufactured the measure-number by the clock? The operations upon the symbols may have been so proficient that we forgot. apparently they must use them when they want to convey what their knowledge is about and especially what it is not concerned with. In saying that they cannot be concerned with things as they are named. If the thing (while even ‘thing’ may be distressingly unscientific) we call ‘man’ does persist. And there is no denying that many of the words which for centuries remained basic in philosophy. but numbers and figures as well. ‘three’. which we had named before putting it into an equation. ‘action’. however little scientific a curiosity about such things may seem. they are using names to say it. 34 . like ‘man’. but the form is their concern.g. like ‘matter’. or believed we should now forget. Where words remain in use. and that these things would not be told unless in using words our thought were turned to something recognized as their meaning. But why would we call it a man unless it were like what we already identified as a man? 3. ‘horse’. but the relations between the objects. Surely these facts are worth looking into. the art of calculation simply cannot be concerned with objects in the sense of what names refer us to.. things like man and his doing are irretrievably left behind. so long as the relations do not change. originally referred to the order of making and doing. and not to the things of nature. and that he after all still has rights and obligations. ‘form’. though they are admittedly not speaking qua mathematician or mathematical physicist. It is no doubt significant that words are used to tell us these things. Even what the ancients had named ‘number’ or ‘figure’ is of no formal interest to it. And the objects that are of no concern to him are not merely those like horse or apple. H. Poincare said Mathematicians do not study objects. If neither the mathematician nor the mathematical physicist can be no more than hampered by the use of names. and all such things expressed by names—and apply ourselves to scientific investigation. Smith is there in some fashion or other perhaps not too clear. Not the matter. But it seems that so soon as we forget about the practical order—about how we should behave and treat our neighbour. ‘movement’. Nor is it less significant that the practical life should force their use upon us. but is it ‘what it is to be a man’? It must be true that if the physicist could produce that particular kind of swarm he would have indeed produced a man. ‘infinity’. No court of law would excuse manslaughter as being no more than a disturbance produced in a particular swarm of electric charges by another swarm reasonably like the former. what those names meant while we were using them. it is therefore indifferent to them when the objects are replaced by other objects.

It is of importance only to know in what manner a circle may be given (namely. is a metaphysical entity about which we can never feel sure that it exists or that we have tracked it down. the class of all couples will be the number 2. The only unity two possesses in such an equation is the unity of a symbol. On the other hand. that a point lies on this circle means that OA = OP. whereas the number 2. Lord Russell puts it this way: We naturally think that the class of couples (for example) is something different from the number 2. whether applied in mathematics or in physics: to define is simply to interpret the symbol by explaining how it is to be taken. according to our definition. but only of what can be expressed by the symbols of logic and in calculation. than to hunt for a problematical number 2 which must always remain elusive. then what we say about this or any other kind of knowledge in using words could hardly be true. In this context. If it must be assumed that there can be no true knowledge of things as we name them. Whether two here is actually ‘one two’ or ‘two ones’ can make no difference. meaning that we cannot know what they are but only what is that name we use to signify them. and is certainly useless. Aristotle’s definition of number as ‘a plurality measured by one’ must appear awkward. 35 . Definitions of the same type appear in connection with geometry. In that activity. But there is no doubt about the class of couples: it is indubitable and not difficult to define. by O and by A) and what is meant by saying that a point P lies on the circle thus given. the art of calculation will never try to tell us what two is. If. “All definitions are of names. as follows. In fact. But Aristotle was trying to convey what number is.4. and since there cannot be a science of the names themselves in as much as they signify no more than by convention. and of names only”. however tentatively. the concept of circle is introduced with the help of the ternary point relation of congruence. For instance. two is only a term with a function similar to what which it fills in an equation like ‘2 plus x = 5’. in any other sense. Thus the number of a couple will be the class of all couples. because what two is never enters into the operation of calculation. It is therefore more prudent to content ourselves with the class of couples. It is admittedly difficult to see how any other way of being two could be relevant to the equation ‘2 plus x = 5’. which appears in the axioms. therefore. OA = OB. the ‘circle about O through A’. If all definitions were to be of names or of symbols only. “A point O and a different point A determine a circle.” For the mathematician it is irrelevant what circles are. what Mill says applies literally to the symbols of the art of calculation. Hermann Weyl had this to say in illustration of what he meant by ‘creative definitions’: Thus. Only in statements of this latter form or in statement explicitly defined on their basis does the concept of a circle appear. in geometry. when asked to define the ‘number two’. such that the things named cannot be defined in themselves. not by stating what the thing named is. not what an operational symbol may stand for. it is clear that there can be no science of anything to the extent that it is named. as Stuart Mill said. Accordingly we set up the following definition: The number of a class is the class of all those classes that are similar to it. which we are sure of. and what ever sort of unity 2 may enjoy apart from that assigned to it as an operational symbol is quite irrelevant to a definition derived from its operational use alone. Let us put it still another way.

these subjects are to be defined in metaphysics. what is it? How has it actually entered in so definite a way into our experience? Two tons is the reading of the pointer when the elephant was placed on a weighing-machine. 36 . like the pieces of wood that make up a table. The addition does not fabricate the number but merely brings to mind new kinds of number which. viz. one must at any rate refrain from giving them independent existence. as we were told. Now. then. Number. better still. The matter of a number is the units that compose it in the order of material cause. isnot the same as two mere units of any kind. here. The particular kind of unity that is proper to any given number depends upon the homogeneity of its components. 5. or. We may perhaps make clear what has happened by comparing what Poincare said to be the concern of the mathematician—viz.” And to the geometer in particular. he meant the particular kind of unity and order which is exhibited by adding a unit to a unit. thus understood. like the limbs that make up the body of a man. By the form of a number.) Turning now to the mode of definition in mathematical physics. It was never intended to reveal what weight is apart from this particular mode of defining. the subject of arithmetic. Now it is important to note that these constructions are not intended to replace those subjects absolutely. it is also irrelevant ‘what circles are’. the form. Hermann Weyl lays out his understanding—most mathematicians do share his view—of what is now meant by the ‘concept’ of number: If one wants to speak. and so on for all the integers. Hence. they who would continue to apply their mind to those subjects would be seen as moving about on slippery ground. We have been told that the mathematician is not concerned with objects. any proper measure must be one in kind with the measured. is defined as ‘a plurality measured by one’—one being the principle of number. We must be aware of the implication of this fact with regard to what was previously called mathematical science. Aristotle distinguishes a matter and a form that constitute a number intrinsically. because. According to Aristotle. this being either number. Just what is implied when we are told that science is no longer concerned with ‘objects’. a unit to the number obtained. and which had to do with quantity. meaning. they being related as potency to act. all the same. The latter are simply left out. he cannot get very far with the number. nevertheless are considered as having certain properties which are true even when we do not actually consider them. (They certainly are not concepts in the sense of Aristotle’s theory of abstraction. it is said. Otherwise we have no more than “a sort of heap” (Metaph. of which Lord Russell says that it “is a metaphysical entity about which we can never feel sure that it exists or that we have tracked it down. 1044a). like two. but replaces them by symbolic construction or creative definition. the subject of geometry. that to be in number the units must be of the same nature.Especially deserving of attention is the neat statement that “For the mathematician it is irrelevant what circles are. their being exhausts itself in the functional role which they play and their relations of more or less. though they are not conceived as existing in reality the way Socrates does. by describing how the physicist obtains this kind of measure-number. of numbers as concepts or ideal objects. and not the object that he also calls the matter —with what the Greeks (Plato and Aristotle in particular) called the matter and the form of a number. we can never feel sure that they exist or that we have tracked them down. while the mathematician assumes them. we have Eddington’s incontrovertible statement about what a definable with is: Never mind what two tons refers to.” Further on. The number two. or continuous quantity.

this is the number which has been defined as the class of all those classes which are similar to it. thus understood. and apart from any particular feelings. Thus we have a number that applies to the heterogeneous elements of a heap or mere aggregate. of all things it is true that two and two make four. To possess what is left we do not even have to discuss whether anything corresponds to the fictions. the relations of reason that we have in mind. This is what is meant by calling mathematics an abstract science. as Aristotle and Euclid understood it. coughs. It is a convenient fiction which our mind has produced. whatever the operation may be applied to will by that very fact be such a number. to the ideas of the mind and to the bones of the body. Perhaps we ought to make explicit that the nature of things is indifferent to the point where all that Whitehead mentions can be gathered under a single number. no matter what their kind or the the kind of their elements. thing or no. This type of number arises in the act of sheer counting. The science of arithmetic. 37 . Nor do the couples or their units have to be couples or units in any positive sense. is admittedly not an object in the sense in which the number two that is one two is an object. will belong to it. Whatever is to the right of the symbol of equality is essentially the same as what is to the left of it. is about the numbers that are per se one. whereas it should certainly not refer to logic in the Aristotelian sense of this term. subtraction. 6. Arithmetic. and division. Though a fiction. we can count them nevertheless. it is nonetheless proficient. nor whether these are only in the mind. what the things are is of no account to the calculator. these must be one per se. The expression ‘mathematical science’ now has a new meaning. or emotions. It is enough that ‘logical’ should refer to logismos. has nothing to do whatsoever with the subject of what the ancients called by that same name. if it is a couple no matter what of. A further point is worth noting here. like zero. chairs. it does not abstract from what the things are that it applies to: to be the subject of a science as they understood this term. or an irrational number. or whether it is a one that is divisible yet not divided.Still. for if number is defined by the operation. desks. Thus. even ‘logical’ in ‘logical fictions’ does not have to be tied down to what is in or of the mind. in any way connected with them. The nature of the things is perfectly indifferent. even when objects are not of the same kind. as it is understood in this context. like the objects in this room—persons. or a fraction. a number which we use to express how many objects are there in the room. unlike logismos. to apples and to angels. What Whitehead says about arithmetic is true only of the art of calculation which the science employs: Now. This is what Lord Russell implies when he says its subject would be something “about which we can never feel sure that it exist or that we have tracked it down. Thus mathematics as it is understood today has put aside everything that might be called into question in any way. Thus ‘1 + 1 = 2’ is exactly the same as ‘1 + 1 = 1 + 1’. multiplication. Thus the number 2 is the class of all couples. it is provided in the operations of additions. Its unity is independent of what the things are that we refer to as being such or such in number. To save their value. or sensations. the first noticeable fact about arithmetic is that it applies to everything. Thus we write down as the leading characteristic of mathematics that it deals with properties and ideas which are applicable to things just because they are things. In fact. as can be see from the fact that we can count things regardless of what they are. The art of calculation does not take into account whether a number is a group of actually divided elements. It is the number of the art of calculation which was called logismos or logistike number may have. there is no doubt about the class of couples: anything. And number. to tastes and to sounds. and even those which we ought to have but do not. most moderns would say that what the ancients had in mind was not a science at all. absences.” On the other hand. The indifference of this number with regard to the nature of the numbered is equaled only by the indifference of the heap as a heap.

. In terms of the calculus of classes. etc. Of the infinite no more is required than that we should be able to define it operationally.Hence. then. whether a line contains an infinity of points in potency or in act. § 38 . Moreover. Such is the case of all the basic laws of the art. whether ‘2’ stands for one two. Thales. or the unit is not present in it in complete actuality. All this implies that logismos side-steps the distinction between what is per se and what is per accidens. We cannot name what it is to be such a particular accidental ensemble—although it may be ‘Oscar’— but we can make a symbol stand for it. either as to being or as to unity.g. That the mind can transcend this division is plain from the fact that we can string together the following incidentally connected ‘baldheaded pale barn-building flute-playing thrice-married ill-tempered barber’. for two is either not one. or for two ones of any kind. and the product may be represented by the single arbitrary sign ‘h’. ‘pale’. who is said to have defined number as a bundle of units]. We may neglect. Infinite classes can indeed be easily definied in this way. is indifferent. The distinction between act and potency is simply beside the question. whether the line is actually divided or only potentially so. anything which is all those things together belongs to the class that is the logical product of the classes ‘baldheaded’. is completely indifferent. whether a number is an aggregate of units. as is said by some [e. To it. such questions can be no more than obtrusive. ‘barn-building’. Whether the number it applies to is actually one or actually many is of no account here. The ‘mathematics’ that abstracts from the distinction between ‘per se’ and ‘per accidens’. Likewise with regard to magnitude. 7. is irrelevant to the art of calculation when applied to it. But whether there is an infinite class in the way there is a number that is per se one is a matter irrelevant to what the art defines and applies to.

that non-being is absolutely outside being. in all frankness. that is. This is a paradoxical idea: one can know all and know nothing in a certain manner. in quantum totius entis comprehensiva est suo intellectui” III CG 112. without which nothing else can be known. Other means simply object. that is. we have an opposition of contradiction. for if it did it would know itself as other (in the cognitive sense). which is. Charles De Koninck. and absolutely universal. but in the case of the intellectual soul. No need for demonstration. The soul is in a certain manner all things. [end of p. which consists in becoming another as other. How could the question arise unless you knew all things? The reply is implied in the question. all which is not nothing. “Nam unaquaequae intellectualis substantia est quodammodo omnia. it is a question of all things in a completely rigorous sense. Being is not opposed to nonbeing in a certain respect. for although it extends to all things. To the question: what is the extent of our intelligence. merely a little dialectics to cause the fact to be observed. there is an absolute co-extensivity between being and non-being. The principle applies to everything which is possible. being and the impossible. That is a definition of objectivity which at the same time manifests what subjectivity is. This is necessary to understand if we are to know what science is. and this without exception. is that we know all. Therefore. All this is implied in the principle of contradiction. How do we know all things? It is impossible to pose the question without at the same time knowing all things. Resume of lecture notes of Methodologie Generale given by M. 1] 39 . What exception can be imagined? The exception is again among the things which are. 8.n. II. The sensitive soul of the animals is in a sense all sensibles. Hence we arrive at the paradox that it is impossible to know nothing sans knowing everything. It does not know itself. This manifests the nature of our intelligence. that a thing cannot be and not be at the same time and in the same respect. the impossible is excluded absolutely from being. Knowledge in general. One cannot know that he does not know all without knowing all. but it is entirely opposed to it. As this opposition between being and non-being is absolute. all which is not impossible. Intellectual knowledge. and since this principle is first. is closed to all that which is exterior to it as it is closed for itself. All things. A being which is purely and simply subject is incapable of going out from itself. the reply. yet considered in itself it is in potency. it is impossible that we know something without knowing everything. This knowledge extends to all things absolutely. 1938-39: I. or rather that it is impossible to know that one knows nothing without knowing everything. since everything is implied in this principle.

a term essentially immobile. but will be above time by reason of its spiritual form – this is man. that is in so far as our universe is subject to evolution and profound novelty. pp. 40 . “No movement properly so-called called”. since the Universe has its end in God. otherwise movement itself would be a contradiction. b) No movement properly so-called 1 can be simply an end in itself. it is the same in all bodily beings – Prime Matter as pure indetermination 1 The text reads. In spite of essential difference[s] the four have something in common: men are animals along with dogs. Now if the universe was intrinsically predetermined as to the various lines along which this evolution must take place. movement consists in going toward something. animals.n. starting from any given mobile being. that the universe must evolve toward mind: i. These only are philosophically definable. hence the final term of every mobile being must be something immobile: a being which insofar as it is the terminus. and Form. (1) The sum total of bodily beings that make up nature is partitioned in four species: men. as are the footnotes). although one in substance. There would be no reason why the term of evolution should not exist from the start. he is one being (not several substances conjoined). there is no middle. etc. Yet man is not the mere sum of [the] four (an aggregate). History is essential to nature because of time: it is essential to nature sub statu motus existens. this growth must assume a spiral form. they in turn are vegetative along with plants. Now all this we may show a priori. philosophy of history is philosophy of nature. (3) Man is the raison d’etre of Matter – the Matter in every bodily being is an appetite (a desire) for the human form. as in all dialectics.M.e. inorganic substances. has not to pursue its existence. there cannot be just movement for movement[‘s sake]. I will add to this a few points on the philosophy of history. plants. 40-44) (insertions [in square braces] by B..” Laval (1936) (typescript. Spiritual immobility alone is an immobility which has ratio termini. it will have a successive existence as a composite being. If there must be evolution along relatively unpredictable lines. Prime Matter. “Le Cosmos. Letter to Mortimer Adler. (2) Man is the raison d’etre of the Universe (the final explanation and end of all other earthly beings) For: a) Nature cannot be ordained to God except through man. has two substantial principles. Matter is pure potency. Charles De Koninck. They are essentially different (ontological species): one has or has not life.A. one has or has not intellectual life. As science. n. by way of successive substitutions.e. and along with inorganic substances they are bodily beings. Bergson’s position. one has or has not sense life. I distinguish it as I do with philosophy of nature: science and wisdom. viz. it must be that it is capable of a return to its Source. These four obviously constitute a hierarchy: one higher than the other in perfection. I would readily agree with you that the history of philosophy grows in spiral form. philosophy were the history of philosophy. I understand. Charles De Koninck. Quebec June 15. On the contrary experimental science evolves essentially in spiral form. 10. this being. that would mean that matter is intrinsically disposed to the human form: then history would not exist. We can show. Here we join Maritain with his distinction between univocism and analogy in the conception of history. The history of philosophy describes a spiral in so far as it is dialectical. complete heterogeneity of the various stages) if Maritain has not done so. unless as in Hegel.. 9. and only an intellectual creature [is capable] of that return. We might add equivocism (i. pure determinability. 1938 (excerpt): 12. But I do not think that this holds for philosophy itself as science. For: a) every bodily being.

We are naturally metaphysicians. “Id enim per se videtur esse de intentione naturae quod est semper et perpetuum” (St. If one were to say that the composite finds its raison d’etre in the actuation of its accidental powers and potentialities. Mobile beings do not advance on a perpendicular plane to fall flat at the end of their course. and is not the activity or passivity of the mobile of the accidental order? Consequently. and that an infra- 41 . it is potency to all forms. and from that [comes?] the inclination to assimilate the cosmic hierarchy to a series of whole numbers. This must be clearly understood. I. Now these essential principles are the one[s] that are reaching up toward spirituality. as steps from one to the other. Thus matter is in its turn principle of movement. a being would never be what it is. q. and to the immobile hierarchy of pure spirits. Man is as much the raison d’etre of all possible natural forms. is not the perfecting demanded by nature simply of the accidental order? And does not any natural being whatsoever reach its end when it is finished? Let us say that the particular end of natural beings consists in their individual completion of the accidental order. but only Science can discern the devious pattern that nature takes to arrive at it. Thus there is a scale of natural forms. If the form as form were variable. The movement to this end is proportioned to the degree of perfection. and the accidents are only instruments of the substance. (4) In the order of nature Man is posterior to other bodily beings.reunites all material beings in one same matrix. But if it can be said in advance and with certainty that matter will receive the human form – without that the existence of any mobile being whatsoever would be contradictory in advance – philosophy has no means of predicting what intervening forms will actually be realized. Under this aspect every form is invariable and immobile. movement would be contradictory. Under no matter what form [matter] may be. although fulfilled in the measure of the perfection of the form actuating it – and in that measure the composite enjoys a certain finish and rest – remains unsatisfied until it gains the spiritual form of man. But this particular end is not their principal end. But is not nature a principle of movement. since it is in itself invariable. 22). Matter and form are not accidental principles. as he is of Prime Matter. a desire for the highest form (See S. a. We are speaking here of the order of nature. It is true that the more a being is perfect. if the form as such were unmovable. c. 98. The degree of perfection is determined by the form. is to be actuated by the immobile form of man. Intelligence must ultimately come to matter. Gent. But no nature remains closed in on itself. which extends indefinitely beyond any form that it has received. and that their essential orientation toward the spiritual form is entirely accidental. Form is then the principle of the diversity of movement without being itself in movement. nor to form alone. the implication would be that substance is for the accidents. b) Prime matter is an appetite. Thomas. which is common to them all. The mobile as mobile tends toward the spiritual form of man. [40-41] The desire of matter. 1) “That seems to be essentially in the intention of nature which is always and perpetual”. and not for the moment of the order of time. That would be the same [as] to say that their form is the principal end. it reaches out toward more perfect forms. but essential. for by definition a form constitutes a being to be what it is. In order that there be a determined principle of movement there must be at the same time matter and form. The fixity of infra-human forms is then a counterfeit fixity. III. whereas the latter is their raison d’etre. And in this perspective the infra-human forms are much less final states than tendencies. from the highest to the lowest. the more the particular end coincides with the principal end. Every natural form is turned in the direction of man. The essential desire of Prime Matter. (5) A temporal order in the realization of this hierarchy is postulated by philosophical principles. Thomas in C. whereas there is only an analogy between them. since it is necessarily associated with form. But to be principle of movement belongs to neither matter alone.

A nature is essentially a principle of ascending movement. St. But this cycle or movement remains closed in on itself. plants. 11) The reluctance of modern Schoolmen is easily explained. whatever it be. No being can draw from the potency of matter a composite that is superior to itself. animals. Creationism which under all aspects opens the world directly on God bypassing the universal hierarchy. 4. until it reaches a term that is immobile. If a nature were absolutely finished from the point of view of essence it would no longer be hylemorphic. or rather co-created (since it cannot subsist outside of a composite). Be it understood that Prime Matter is created. On the other hand generation of new substances is in no way a creation. a created being. Forms can be contained therein only after the manner of possible cleavages in a line indefinitely divisible. UNITY OF ORDER. The principle of sufficient causality demands that the cause in question be on the same level at least as the effect produced. if there had been always. And. absolutely impossible for any plant to engender an animal as principal cause. and that any composite being whatsoever is. Thomas to prove in a strictly rational way the existence of pure spirits. Every nature tends to surpass itself. True. Prime matter is not a kind of reservoir that contains in a latent state determined forms that only await the occasion to come into the open.human being is willed principally for itself. implicitly rejects what is essential to the universe. Therefore. viz. it is from the very depths of its being a striving upwards. The unfinished character essential to every hylemorphic substance is the cause of time. (See in De Potentia. nor a created being from being its generator. Under this aspect the universe opens directly on God. successive and continuous duration is above all a sign of a qualitative enrichment that “takes time”. It is. From then on no special creative act is necessary to draw them from potency into [41-42] actuality. (6) The notion of generation in nature – Generation and corruption are explained through matter and form. and created cause exists. but the act in which a given composite draws out another from the potency of Prime Matter. The cosmic beings that appear and disappear. one after another. then. it would no longer be nature in the strict sense of the term. but by an influence from above 42 . and they are reduced to potency in their corruption. Since the time of Suarez they have boxed in the universe. provided there exists a sufficient created cause. Suarez by denying the demonstrative value of the arguments of St. man assimilates the cow. An ascending movement of this kind is not realized by the internal push of lower natures ordained to higher. – Some are reluctant to see in nature a generalized ascending movement towards forms more and more perfect from the imperfect forms. inorganic beings. (7) Philosophical principles call for the functioning of natural beings as instrumental causes of the origin of higher natural beings. If we sterilize the world from its very beginning nothing new can come out of it. the generative causality must be attributed to it in virtue of the principle of divine government through second causes. since its very essence is ordained to forms always higher. cut asunder every essential link between the cosmos and the created spiritual world. a. as a finite being. if this sufficient. This brings us to a very important [point]. the cow assimilates grass. Grass assimilates air and water. They want to explain everything in nature by intra-cosmic causes. that from the moment of the existence of the first composite being (granted that the world had a beginning in time) all the natural forms possible were given in the potency of Prime Matter. The hylemorphic substance is perfectible from the point of view of essence. at least not as principal cause. Thomas did not hesitate. A being the essence of which is composed of matter and form can have its complex existence realized only successively. But that does not prevent a composite being from being truly engendered. q. are drawn from the potency of matter by beings already in existence. in this Creationist view there is an ascending movement that actually takes place in the most elementary of vital functions – nutrition. and one from another. The world in this view is open only to individual multiplication.

is realized within well defined extremes: the original cosmos and man. The instrument. 6. We know in advance that this ascending movement can be realized only in a discontinuous succession of substances more and more rich in perfection of being. it must act on natures according to the laws inscribed in them. The spiritual pressure will not draw any nature out of any composite whatsoever. at least. But how establish between them the deep rooted bond that allows us to say that the superior substances were drawn out of the inferior? It is formally realized in dispositive alterations. the perfect ought to precede the imperfect not only in the order of nature (incontestably true). VI. All intermediary forms will bear far reaching traces of these extremes. the individual form of a composite being is invariable.them that they passively undergo. the first of which. although it produces an effect superior to itself under the influence of a superior cause. Yet nature demands an ascending movement by way of alterations. At bottom that is a kind of evolution which is only a dispersion. Accidental capacities are measured only by their determined and invariable substance. This excludes at one and the same time univocity and equivocity: two extremes that destroy the very notion of pure potency. Matter ties together all composite beings in one same natural genus. 23) This pressure naturally exercised on the cosmos – since natures themselves demand it – suffices to draw out of the potency of the composite given in the beginning all the forms that are necessary to reach the end. But the form is not the nature. but equivocal – a superior substance that contains virtually the perfections of that which is inferior to it. Already the inorganic world obliges us to appeal to a spiritual influence or pressure that puts it in motion. (See St. ad 10) St. In other words. moreover. The superior composite being is not something absolutely new with regard to the composite from which it was drawn. for him. We have seen through analysis that the movement deeply rooted in the very nature of mobile being is toward essences more and more complete and perfect. as in 43 . While the evolution of [42-43] substance into substance is impossible. the spiritual agent being the principal cause. matter would be potency of only one species of composite being. Thomas with the ancients thought he recognized in celestial bodies the instruments which spiritual substances use in acting on the cosmos. Thomas made exception for superior animals. that is more powerful and more efficacious than all the subordinate causes. The Ontological view of nature demands something else. How can that be realized without there being already a superior natural substance? Again we run up against a conception of a spatio-temporal universe closed in on itself. the entire composite is capable of an enrichment that disposes it to a superior whole composite. The idea of progress is thus reduced to a purely quantitative increase. Thomas C. And since this pressure is natural. In this ascending movement by which more perfect beings are drawn from less perfect. the new composite being always contains virtually the perfections of its predecessors which it surpasses. Gent. the more will they be in their turn perfect instruments. An evolution of the substance is impossible. III. Further. and as cosmos having no extra-cosmic cause. the composite beings of different species would have nothing naturally common between them. c. but also in the order of time. Or. the given intra-cosmic composite is only an instrument. If it were univocity. Yet. We know that an individual composite cannot of itself produce alterations that would terminate in a composite of a superior order. they must co-exist. Indeed form considered apart from its relation to matter is no longer nature in the strict sense of the term. the inorganic withal not having an active principle of motion within itself. or a regression. in this hypothesis of a cycle closed in on itself in time. The new. a. Without a doubt. St. The more perfect the substances engendered. an ascending movement in the substantial order is called for. a. had to be directly formed by a special intervention of God (although this intervention would be natural. It was given in the potency of matter. (See in De Pot. implies nevertheless essential limitations. if it were equivocity. This spiritual pressure or push comes not from a univocal cause on the level of the effect.

I say First Man.. 9. What we here reject is the view that the living source of life must be a univocal cause. The principal cause of cosmic life and of its ascending upsurge is neither of the same species nor of the same natural genus. 44 .) If we today are incapable of identifying the instrument. Yet in this matter he departs from the tradition of the Fathers for purely experimental reasons (not philosophical): “. This disposition is realized in an incipient way in the measure of progress up the scale of plants and animals. Gent.. XVI. a.”) We have abandoned the doctrine in this particular application. a necessary principle in philosophy.” (De Malo. It would seem that the evolution of the human body would follow lines sketched by St. if all humanity can have its origin in one unique first individual. is not drawn out of the potentiality of matter. True. Therefore. Creationism is a disguised renewal of the old doctrine of “those who deprive beings of nature of their proper activity”. Yet that product is the immediate disposition for the human body..the case of the creation of human substantial forms). This is univocal causality. Gent. Thomas in his teaching on the evolution of the human embryo: a succession of forms. the inferior preparing matter for the superior until finally matter is proximately disposed to the soul (See II C. so this equivocal causality reaches its peak. Why would not human beings arise everywhere without human parents? That is nonsense. the contrary hypothesis is absolutely without reason. when it succeeds in producing an effect that will be henceforth independent. (8) Origin of the Human Soul and the Human Body – the human soul. superfluous. In other words. Thomas (C. sed fortis effectus requirit agens propinquum. however.. c. While we thus re-integrate in the universe the spiritual activity that works in it. it is none the less a living being. and in virtue of ontological economy. Nevertheless every body is ordained to it either mediately or immediately. and if this equivocal causality is even more perfect than that of [a] univocal cause. c. Let us add. Under the influence of pressure exerted in it by a spiritual [43-44] agent entire nature (sic) works toward the bringing forth of this disposition. Just as God manifests His power by creating effects which are cause in their turn. c. the latter would have no reason for its existence. that the passage from the inorganic to the organic probably will never be definable from the scientific point of view – the two are as irreducible as physics and biology. a doctrine energetically combated by St. but it is unquestionably valid for cosmic evolution in general. although Form of the body. one could raise the point that if this spiritual pressure were sufficient to lift up nature even to the disposition for the human body.. The matter that is informed by the human soul must have a proximate disposition to it. and this proximate disposition necessitates that information. since the body is not human save through the spiritual form that actuates it. we do not agree with those of old who saw spontaneous generations spring up on all sides. Cannot an equivocal cause realize the same effect? And is it not natural to invoke it for the disposition of the body of the First Man[?] Yes. (It must be immediately created by God). 69).videmus enim sensibiliter quod aliquis debilis effectus producitur ab agente remoto. Is there any need to point out that the concept here proposed does not in the least touch the adage: “omne vivens e vivo”. The constitution of this univocal cause is precisely the end of the spiritual pressure. It belongs to experimental science to find where under and under what conditions life arises. 89: “Nec est inconveniens si aliquid intermediorum etc. the equivocal cause becomes on this head. III. The disposition that is the product of the working of nature is not constitutive of the human body. from the moment that there is given a sufficient univocal cause. (9) The First Man – Let us say that in the case of man there exists a prior man who as generative cause is sufficient to bring about the disposition for the human soul.. we are none the less necessitated to affirm its existence. We have recourse to equivocal causality only when a univocal cause is insufficient to explain an effect.

. If by “making a human body” we understand the preparatory and dispositive work preceding in time the formal constitution of the human body. Natural beings are contingent because there is in them a real potency for not-being: prime matter.If by human body we mean a subject disposed in its ultimate disposition for the human soul.68 (cited by De Koninck) on the greater unity of higher form. That is why we can conceive of a form which would not be contingent. the form is not contingent because its co-principle is for it a potency towards not-being.(85) Among these beings.(79) and that Aristotelian substantial form is an idea which can be blamed for thousands of years of intellectual (and seeming natural) stasis.the pure spirits. the efficient cause (the spiritual agent and the composite). O. By “seminal reasons” we understand the initial composite (matter and form) of the cosmos.. 123] just by themselves essences . I wish to look at some of the things Charles De Koninck said about species in his presentation of cosmic evolution. What then is De Koninck’s conception? He tells us that Thomas distinguishes between necessary forms and contingent forms. and forms which are contingent secundum quid. Cf. contingent “in a certain respect”.e.(77)(78) This is important because many people would say that the very notion of a “species” is questionable. SCG 2. Thus. we obtain forms that are absolutely contingent. 122-123] I take it that in the above he is calling the human soul a secundum quid contingent form. we must say that the human body originates by way of an evolutionary process.[the forms] of the celestial bodies in an outmoded astronomy and those of men in the definitive future state of our [12/18/08]) 45 .. we must hold with S. Those forms are necessary which are entirely determined. The forms of corruptible beings are contingent. [pp. and which constitute. Thomas that help see where De Koninck is going are such as ST 1. Augustine that the human body was in the potency of matter from the beginning “according to seminal reasons”. and that the evolutionary process had man as its objective from the start. It is the contingency of the form which is the intrinsic reason for the precariousness and the uncertainty of its [the composite’s] existence.. The texts I think of in St.(83) and the general doctrine of hierarchy of form in 3. “The Importance of Substance” (Jacques Maritain Center: Thomistic Institute) (excerpt):1 ESSENCE AND EVOLUTION To complete this meditation on the importance of essence and substance.11. De Koninck says: .(84) I would say that De Koninck is explaining the oft-repeated doctrine that natural forms are “educed from the potency of matter”. (81) He presents a view of these “absolutes” as being very weak absolutes.P. Lawrence Dewan. and the forms which determine their matter sufficiently so as to be inseparable from it . in spite 1 (http://maritain. He goes on to explain his conception of contingent form: Precisely what do we mean by the contingency of the form? Indeed. (80) What I am most interested in in De Koninck’s study is the conception of the forms and essences of material things. the composite is corruptible because its form is contingent.nd. (82) the doctrine of “partial form” in the In De caelo. [p. i.such as men in the present state of the world. being present in matter not actually but potentially. the ultimate end (man). we distinguish those which are entirely corruptible secundum totum et secundum partem. and those which are only in part [corruptible]. on diverse substances or essences as having diverse powers of effecting unity.

The existence of cosmic essence will be complex in its way. If they were determined in the matter. but it is impossible for it to foresee all the concrete ways in which the natural species will be realized.e. even the separated human form implies a relation to matter. Besides. a finite intelligence contemplating the world at the moment when there was in it no thing actually alive. Because the soul of man is all that. the nature of existence is measured by the nature of essence. the possibility of an infinity of other sub-specific forms which can be drawn forth from matter. there would be of each one of them an idea independent of matter. to illustrate this idea. tantum inest ei de virtute essendi. the plant. vegetative. the absolute character of this gradation finds its foundation in the idea of man whose soul is formally sensitive. the ways in which the animal and the plant can be realized would be 46 . not merely eminently but formally. reading the above. which are quasi-genera relative to the sub-species. 125] of the elephant. “knowing”. i. The inorganic. as are the individual-species which are the pure spirits. I was not sure why De Koninck was speaking of “subspecies”. This intelligence could foresee infallibly the coming of man into this world and also all that conditions absolutely the determination of matter in view of the human composite: it foresees the plant and the brute.of its union with matter . Of the cosmic form(90) there cannot be a distinct idea. But it is impossible that the proper determination of the subspecies which realize in a particular way these natural species participate in this certitude.. A non-subsistent form is not a quiddity in the strict sense. These species. i. cannot be absolutely opposed. Otherwise. There he says: . “living”. or else all the forms would come along ab extrinseco. where the composite is incorruptible. because they constitute irreducible degrees of being: there is no intermediary between “being”.(87) and which are the ultimate cause of the essential complexity of mobile being.(89) If the form is not necessary. And the matter which enters into this idea is not determined save as also signifying determinability relative to an infinity of other forms. there would be latitatio formarum. successive and continuous. such as the canine species and that [p. Let us suppose. its existence cannot be totally assured. but since the sub-human natural species are only realized in subspecies.(88) Indeed. Quantum unicuique est de forma. Having thus focused on the ontologically hierarchical character of form. The contingency only affects the sub-species. This comes out much more clearly in his slightly later Revue Thomiste article. This is to say that the different sub-species. underlining indetermination: The upshot is then that the form is contingent because it is not sufficiently determined in itself.the human form after the resurrection. the different natural forms are not contingent from every angle. the importance of this contingency is appreciable. wherein he is much more explicit regarding “natural species” as distinct from “sub-species”.(86) And he continues. and the animal are specieslimits and [are] certain. Indeed. are certain. these degrees of being are susceptible to being distinctly realized outside of him. and form of corporeity. a priori. he goes on: This need for matter which is the form [qu’est la forme] introduces into it [the form] an irreducible obscurity. and “understanding”. it is the lack of determination and the incapacity to individuate itself which call for matter. [an idea] independent of the idea of the composite. and it [matter] would not be pure potency.e. this is also to say that their definition will include the notion of matter.(91) I must say that..

126-127] It is hard to say what to attribute to form. And: The fixity of sub-human forms is thus only a counterfeit fixity. No natural and individual form is an absolute type of a sub-species. but determinate ideas. and what to attribute to matter here. for example. infinitely distant by the real possibility of an infinity of other intermediate sub-species. then generation. [p. “cow” as “cow” is “philosophically indefinable”. would be a pure launching into existence of a form already determined in the matter. there is the possibility of an infinity of more perfect plants and of less perfect animals. in the present case. Consequently. despite all their care. atomism. they are also infinitely distant in that a transition from one species to the other is impossible.determined in advance in matter. so interesting from the viewpoint of evolution. (That is why racism. are infinitely close by their common natural genus. nor [is] any sub-species [an absolute type] of its natural species. Natural sub-species. Differ among themselves only as to more or less.(92) He goes on to say that all sub-species were at a given moment future contingents. None of the elements exhausts the essence of its class. “the carrot” are statistical entities like “the Frenchman” or “the Englishman”. and its contrary. the matter included in the idea of man would signify explicitly all and the only possible forms: this is to say that there would not only be an idea of matter. they are absolutely heterogeneous. the determination which is a material form is something yet to be made [est à faire]. because they do not have in common a physical genus.) [pp. We are told: Two neighboring angelic forms are infinitely close in that they admit no intermediary species. “The dog”. the vegetal realm has no absolute extreme limits. We are naturally metaphysicians: hence. even if this infinity is incompossible. 124-125] We go on.. 126] And at last we come to some remarkable conceptions of the “natural species” and the “subspecies”: . The satirical poet is right to say: All men are fools. Have we lost the property of form here? Perhaps 47 . And what is meant by a “statistical entity”? This makes it seem as though it is the truly statistical mode of knowing which gets at the specific real. Its determinate truth is a posteriori. on the contrary. from the viewpoint of existence. Between the most perfect of plants that exist and the lowest of animals. and. Coming back to the Québec paper. Because the reasonable man also is only a statistical entity. which erects nations as absolute entities. precisely as determination. again. though there exists between them only an analogy. the cosmic hierarchy to the series of whole numbers or to the immobile series of pure spirits. or. we see that De Koninck is able to convey the unforseeability of just what particular forms will emerge as nature moves towards its goal: Thus. the existent varieties are analogous to the cuts made in a continuum which are determinately true only a posteriori. Natural species should be conceived of as zones of probability.(93) Perhaps you see why I wished to qualify the meditation on substance in itself with these observations. the need to see the necessary and to assimilate. now.. are forms of determinism. Thus. Thus. to consider the field of species. If it were entirely made in advance. [pp.

the infinity of possibilities. De Koninck. I call attention to this important paper. Quanto magis distant a materia. as far as the nature of sensible things is concerned. pp. The idea is constantly to give us more and more a sense of the nature of corporeal forms. 9 et 10 octobre 1935). De Koninck published a shorter study on the general idea of indeterminism. (96) But only the human form will have an existence which is totally assured. “Le problème de l’indéterminisme”. but I think it merits exploration. is the extent to which it adds to the intelligibility of “educing form from the potency of matter”. 20). Is his argument compelling? His contention is that if the “sub-specific” forms were determinate. Washington. Québec. leaving aside the time which it involves by its union with matter.I would like to have used some material from the recently published “Le cosmos (1936) .. n. in L’Académie Canadienne Saint-Thomas d’Aquin (Sixième session.Extrait”. I have never heard any public discussion of this doctrine of De Koninck’s (perhaps I have just not been in the right place at the right time). Obviously. The merit of it. Revue Thomiste t. we get an important point as to what De Koninck means to say about nature and its evolutionary process. 111-143. without ruining the doctrine of “educing from the potency of matter”. Rather.”L’Action Catholique”. De Koninck is giving us an interpretation of Thomas’s doctrine. matter which is open to an infinity of such partial perfections. by the fact that it is spiritual and that its duration [sa durée]. 68. 48 . the intelligible in act is not something existing in natural reality. quite aside from modern interests in evolution. The question then is: if one can foresee any form at all. . However. Charles. Subsequently he published “Réflexions sur le problème de l’Indéterminisme”. He tells us: The higher one climbs in the hierarchy of species.(97) What is clear is that De Koninck helps us see the many levels of form which Thomas really has in mind. pp. 1937: Catholic University of America Press. 227-252 and 393-409. Laval théologique et philosophique 50 (1994). as I see it. 58-76. the more the forms become necessary and consequently intelligible. In this (p. ENDNOTES <…> 77. pp. tanto magis necessariae. as having something of determination and something of indetermination. in Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association (for 1936).. and even as only a partial perfection of matter. is eviternal. which do not subsist outside of matter. which such matter has.not. 65-159. we would find ourselves in a doctrine of “hiddenness of forms” or else in a doctrine which gives a definite idea or ideas of matter. pp. As Thomas says: . “Thomism and Scientific Indeterminism”. Yet he allows his hypothetical observer to foresee. 43 (1937). (95) De Koninck is challenging us to take seriously the form as perfection of matter. not only the human form. And that is all to the good. 1937: Typ. it might be said that form only comes into its own in intellectual consider-ation. (94) The sensible real is only potentially intelligible. but even the “natural forms” or “quasi-genera”. Here. why cannot one posit that one can see all forms within the “zone” of the natural forms? I suppose the answer must lie in the need to preserve the indetermination. he refers us to the Québec item for more detail.

one cannot have direct recourse to the general notions of metaphysics . And to do that. e. They think that scientific explanations replace the philosophy of nature. In De caelo 1. and the theory of genes explain mutations. cut every essential link between the cosmos and the created spiritual universe. Since Suarez we have resolutely put a plug on the world’s top side: we wish to explain everything in nature by means of intracosmic causes. Let us add to that his hybrid notion of prime matter. i. [130] 79.”).6 (63 [6]). the more a unit [ magis unum] is brought about out of it and matter. It is obvious that if we sterilize the world from its outset. pp. pp. 60. Cosmic repulsion may explain the expansion of the universe. I say that no intracosmic cause can provide for me an ontological explanation of the movement of the moon. but none of that is an explanation of why anything is in motion. but perhaps more [one]: because the more a form conquers matter. but it is the movement of an inorganic phenomenon.68 (para.Two Thousand Years of Stasis”. I set aside for another time discussion of the general conception De Koninck has concerning the philosophy of evolution. particularly as presented in “Le cosmos”. 61. De Koninck (“Le cosmos”) says: And if we do not seem able to follow the Angelic Doctor..we must find appropriate causes. and we arrive logically at the barbarous creationism of our philosophy manuals.g. 49 .. not De Koninck’s. XVI (1965). Michel Delsol.. “The Effect of Essentialism on Taxonomy . 81. If I have a headache because God wills it. He says: . 314-327 and no.. Cf. [129] De Koninck says that since Suarez the Scholastics abandon more and more the ontological study of nature. 1-18. “Où mène la biologie moderne? Questions aux théologiens et aux philosophes”. unless indicated. and it is as such that I consider it. SCG 2. 6. and [does not prevent] its being removable by an aspirin. nothing more can come forth. [129] And he continues: Now. passing to one side of the universal hierarchy.which presents evolution as requiring the causality of an extra-cosmic pure spirit. . The philosophers concentrate only on notions of interest to the theologians. 80. 340-341. Hull. none of that can explain the simple deplacement of a material point from the ontological point of view.The footnotes in what follows are mine. The idea is that the picture of the species as something well defined is to be abandoned: pp. pp. where Thomas concludes: . not that the movement of the moon interests me particularly in philosophy of nature. no. 78. that does not prevent my attributing it to a too long evening. “Hoc autem modo mirabilis. in denying the apodictic value of the arguments presented by saint Thomas for demonstrating on strictly rational lines the existence of pure spirits. 83.. 339-353: the second section is entitled “The Disappearance of the Notion of Species”. is it not because we have excluded from the universe the efficient and sufficient cause moving the cosmos and pushing it upwards? Our timorous attitude is only too easily explained. Suarez. David L.e. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science . implicitly rejects what is essential to the universe: unity of order. 82. But something is not less one [if composed] out of intellectual substance and corporeal matter than out of the form of fire and its matter. Laval théologique et philosophique 52 (1996).. which from all angles opens the world directly on God. Creationism.

at once sensitive. save by virtue of matter [ex materia]. Note nevertheless that a sub-species which constitutes in fact a limit of a natural species is never the absolute limit of this natural species.75. Therefore. In the Québec article. considers the forms as already actual but “lying low”.65. 93. for 2. n. CM 5.. but as such form. 235. Revue Thomiste. (my italics) 88. in Atti del’VIII Congresso Tomistico Internazionale. in a footnote (and again.45. not as form. the coming of forms from outside also views them as having complete being. i.12 (198) and ST 1. Revue Thomiste. absolutely.8. just so much and for so long each thing has of being. Notice here that he has this idea of the human soul in the present state as in a measure “contingent”.e. Cf. ST 1. and so cf. 87. 3. towards its last end . the intellective soul knows some thing in its nature absolutely. 89.e. p.e. He is speaking of the cosmic forms. See my paper. particular substance].the human form. 92. beings employ movement and change to exercise causality upon composite. as calling for that highest form.4. De Koninck gives no reference for this. I would note that the esse of temporal things is only per accidens measured by time. 95. see ST 1. the form of the stone.. through its form. In the last analysis. t. and the form of corporeity. 1] What he seems to mean is that the absolute lower forms are likenesses of what we see in the highest form of matter. 91. By existent varieties I mean the sub-species included within the limits of absolute natural species.. cf. the absolute character of natural species is founded on matter as essentially ordered towards its ultimate act. which calls for forms which possess that sort of likeness. ST 1.. absolutely. p.7. 90. i. “latitatio formarum”. because particular substance does not have it that it be substance and that it be individual in material things. 97. material. 4. viz.6 (1181b4-27) on forms as aiming at incorruptibility. or ST 1-2. V. See especially SCG 3. hence. CM 1. On these two positions concerning form. is in the intellective soul.. Thomas’s doctrine is that higher.2 [5].84. the forms are “hidden” in the matter. i. one much more intelligible when one has read the RT article) he says: ..10 (905): . vegetative. according to its proper formal character. summarized in Endnote b. 96. 3. the stone inasmuch as it is a stone. such texts as ST 1. I would underline that this is true of them. [p. matter is included in the first mode [of substance. spiritual. but it is measured by time.3.3. This means the sort of form which we find in the world of generation and corruption. which bring form out of the potency of matter into act: cf. ST 1.97 in its entirety. i.2. has being. agents. 125. Thomas Aquinas against Metaphysical Materialism”.6 (Spiazzi #62 [5]): each thing is. “St.79. i. but it is doctrinally the same as what is said in In De caelo 1.. Here..1 (449b37-450a5). His eye is on the composite. 50 . just as great as is the power of its form. On the infinity of forms to which matter is in potency. 1982: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.e.85. 412-434. 85. which is formally and in eminent fashion. De Koninck. obviously. Vatican City.5 (444a6-11): . This is a recognition of the essential incompleteness of the human form. 86.76. It tends towards a limit which is to be found at infinity.e. and that it is matter. 94. 234.

I think. because I feel a similar duty of piety to De Koninck and to this community. by the strong realization. six 10-hour days. before turning to a sketch of De Koninck’s account of the world. and died in Rome in February of 1965 . The Importance of Substance. McInerny where the photocopied class notes came from. Thomas was followed because his starting points were the inevitable ones. McInerny recalled his time with De Koninck more than 50 years before. as he thought such an account was available to the philosopher of the 20th century. And Charles De Koninck was the liveliest Thomist I have ever known. one could go far beyond the text of the master while at the same time claiming that what one said was simply an organic extension. I mention these things.Jacques Maritain Center: Thomistic Institute. McArthur and Mr. Cf. and later I found more old class notes in an file cabinet at Notre Dame. 2011:1 Charles De Koninck was born in Belgium in July of 1906. tonight. De Koninck taught Mr. manually. So I think it is fair to say that we would not be here. It is only in this second way that a tradition can live. Berquist both said that they entered philosophy because of hearing Dr. Mr. enjoying the hospitality of Thomas De Koninck. and of the intellectual tradition of the Catholic Church.P. and Mr. So I did. The archive has now been scanned. Or. Lecture given at Thomas Aquinas College on March 11. about 10. without De Koninck. I offer to you my own view that De Koninck is in every way at the heart of what enables this College to stand in the tradition of living Thomism. of what an extraordinary blessing it had been to be a student of De Koninck. also Dave Quackenbush. Dr.he was 58. Next thing I knew. Mr. and is readily available to anyone interested. for what it is worth. So. De Koninck lecture. When I asked Dr. and to the faith and spirit that inform it. son of Charles. In a memoir written several years ago.000 pages of mostly unpublished notes and article drafts. Lawrence Dewan. “De Koninck’s Cosmos”. Ralph McInerny was another Thomist who studied with De Koninck. Dr. and a very kind gentleman. What I will principally sketch for you tonight is De Koninck’s account of an adequate philosophy of the cosmos. McInerny told us this project was motivated by piety. we should turn to him in gratitude . a philosopher himself who has continued his father’s work. I spent. As a College. and this was the case with De Koninck and other giants of the Thomistic Revival. and by acknowledging and seeing where they 113e9xNK_yw/edit?h [3/29/11]) 51 . And he devoted himself in the last years of his life to a strenuous effort at producing an English edition of De Koninck’s collected works. Berquist. Neumayr. as he neared the end of his own days. Discipleship seems to have either of two results. he told me about the Charles De Koninck archive at the University of Laval. I met De Koninck in some old mimeographs the tutors were reading during my senior year. I want to start by reading a bit from that: De Koninck once wrote that his ambition was simply to be a faithful student of his master Thomas Aquinas. The disciple never emerges from what the master had accomplished and is content to retail his thought. McArthur. some more general remarks about the significance of that 1 (https://docs. photocopying non-stop. But first. we had decided that I should fly up there and photocopy the whole thing.

point to make about natural philosophy as De Koninck understood it . Reality had become a rather ungainly. about reality. in his first years at Laval. in the mid-30’s. During these same years. Perhaps most startling. including the human. over the past 3 billion years. In recent centuries. De Koninck thought that the Catholic philosopher ought also to want it all. While still quite a young man. De Koninck loved and mastered the formalities of philosophy. and its goodness. in order that from such knowledge might arise a wisdom of the source. The Catholic philosopher has reason to expect the whole cosmos to be a sign for him. by a knowledge of the immaterial. and governing. that they were born at particular times in the cores of stars. overwhelming majority of kinds of living things that ever existed. the philosopher asks about the cosmos. He attends to it in all its dimensions of time and space. But while Aristotle could. was that the Catholic philosopher knew. and moving. ordered and complete set of living kinds. we now know that we see only the latest living edge of life on earth. The difference. precisely in remaining true to itself. he believed. in which he heaped contempt on those distressed by the force of Nietzsche’s affirmation of will. Some might see presumption here. target for specu-lation. and of a size that threatens. to want to know the meaning of the whole world. to overwhelm our capacity to imagine. I see a confirmation that philosophy must arise from a great and daring love of wisdom. seeks to be surpassed by metaphysics.” Let’s notice first what a remarkable thing it was for a man to compose a book with such a title before he was 30 years old. Inevitably then. the simple and the complex. about the entire world and what it means. from its astonishing details to its mysterious totality. De Koninck saw in Nietzsche a kind of providential sign of the revolt of nature against the diminished desires of modern man. he asks what to make of the whole thing. but he never forgot that the divisions of philosophy are subordinate to the pursuit of Wisdom. Above all. Natural philosophy. De Koninck taught a class on Nietzsche. are extinct. Aristotle did so. and trust as well that the ordinary experiences of common substances would reveal the unchanging nature of the first material principles. This is the first. a means of knowing and loving God. We have discovered that the periodic elements themselves did not exist for hundreds of millions of philosophize is to ask about the whole of things. In what Aristotle thought he saw as a permanent. and that the world we seek to know has something to do with this. after billions of years of a lifeless cosmos. as one thing. The philosopher studies the natural world. trust hopefully that gazing at the night sky would reveal fundamental signs of the causal unity of the cosmos. we have become aware that the material cosmos is billions of years old. things were a bit more complicated for a philosopher in the 20th century. and that those very particles are more like dances of mathematical energy than Newton’s inert bits of stuff. the kind of love characteristic of the energy of youth. Nietzsche wanted it all. we now know that the vast. that the various species of living beings have shown up in a bizarre and glorious pageant. as a fruit of faith. in my case quite successfully. the very small and the very large.account. and Charles De Koninck thought that there was no good reason for a Catholic philosopher in the 20th century to shy away from doing so as well. roughly in order from the imperfect to the perfect. perhaps. We have learned as well that life began relatively recently. that the Good itself wants to give itself to us. but didn’t know what that meant. and the distinctions between disciplines. even to understand. he wrote a book called “Cosmos. We wonder what Aristotle could not – whether they lived in vain? 52 .

as a tour.The very structures of living things have. What follows is not so much an argument. And man himself. 53 . in a naturally eternal. It is hard to imagine a moment more apparently hostile to the hope of discerning a conclusive meaning to the whole of material creation. So. Thomas – and Dante – understood the causal order of the world to be embodied. perhaps culminating. you are not paying attention. theory of Belgian priest Monsignor George Lemaitre – also at Louvain – that the universe was expanding from an original condition of unity. Edwin Hubble. miraculously. De Koninck thought we are tempted by this situation to do one of two things. we now see. In this he spoke out of the heart of the true perennial tradition. in the visible sky. announced to the world that the Milky Way Galaxy was not the whole of creation. much has been revealed by science to the philosopher. potentially upsetting. God does not cease speaking to us through creation as we understand it better. the young Charles De Koninck composed his daring account of the whole shebang. can we doubt that it is part of God’s providence that man should come to be increasingly provoked by the nature of creation? Is this increased knowledge of nature itself a principal aspect of cosmic history? Are the histories of the cosmos. And at this. within and without. disorienting. is embedded organically. time of transformation of the scientific account of the world. De Koninck thought we could do better. time to be a Catholic natural philosopher. Either we conclude sadly that our hope of understanding the world passed away along with the celestial spheres and the four elements. mysteriously. in this amazing world. 10 years before De Koninck wrote “Cosmos”. Surely. one history – and if so. as he wrote “Cosmos. those of science have not always been very welcome. it is hard for us even to imagine what it would be like to believe [in] such a thing. Perhaps “revelation” is a loaded term for this situation? Let’s think about that. Aristotle and St. De Koninck thought that modern Thomists simply didn’t know what to make of the situation. appeared to be incarnate in their now surpassed image of the cosmos. It was a dizzying. at a determinate moment in the past. is 100 billion Milky Ways. And yet we read texts of Aristotle and St. And as with all revelations. And when we contemplate the astonishing turn this knowledge has taken in the recent past. been revealed to be complicated and wonderful in ways that compete quite well with more cosmic stunners like 100 billion galaxies. through history. in the past century. Today. or we claim that our philosophy survived.” De Koninck was aware of the brand new. literally. an astronomer in Pasadena. can reason begin to anticipate the culmination of this history? De Koninck tackles all these questions in the remarkable book of his youth. either of them bad. 10 years later. in my own experience. for our masters. or we abandon the conviction that such philosophy depended in any way for them on that image. of some of the principal judgements at which De Koninck thought natural philosophy could arrive regarding the cosmos. we must say that God intended for the cosmos to be revealed to man – and by man – gradually. unscathed from the shipwreck of the ancient image of the world. and still extremely controversial. There are new infinites in every direction. Put simply. If you are not astonished almost beyond words by the turn that human knowledge of the universe has taken in the past century. either we abandon crucial parts of the philosophy which. Thomas in which the most fun-damental philosophical questions are considered in light of the truth of this remote image of the world. but a minute island in an ocean of galaxies – the current estimate. Now I’ll try to give you a first glimpse at how he does so. spherical universe. and of man.

So what, according to De Koninck, is the cosmos? The short answer is that the cosmos is mobile being - that the whole of physical reality is fundamentally one creature, moving toward its maturation, its perfection, in order to return to God . De Koninck thought that the much disputed evolution of biological species was, for the philosopher, one aspect of the motion of the entire world toward God. Writing at a time when most Catholic phil-osophers saw in the idea of evolution a threat to Catholic and philosophical truth, De Koninck insisted that we should want evolution, and not just biological, but cosmic, evolution, to be true . The idea of evolution was particularly convincing to him precisely because Divine power is most present where created causes are most causes. An evol-ving cosmos is a cosmos with a nature, an intrinsic principle of motion toward its own perfection. In such a world, the Divine wisdom gives to every creature the privilege of joining in the work of ascent, of return to God the first principle. When we diminish the causal role played by creatures, we diminish the principal good God intended in creation - the universe as one thing, having a unity of essential, and consequently of causal, order. But Is Evolution True? De Koninck thought that evolution – the ascent, forming a cosmic history, of the kinds of physical substances that exist – follows necessarily from the philosophical principles of Aristotle and St. Thomas: The philosophy of nature, being certain knowledge through causes, is able to reach only what is essential to nature, and necessary, such as the matter/form composition of natural substances, the contingency which this composition entails, the necessity of evolution, [and] the necessity of humanity as the final end of this entire ascension of the world. This point is worth repeating – De Koninck identified evolution, and the culmination of evolution in man, as two of the few strictly demonstrable truths of natural philosophy. But what about philosophical objections to evolution, against the higher arising from the lower, or one kind of thing causing something specifically different? Are not the species of corporeal beings eternal? De Koninck thought we need to remember what corporeal beings are, and what makes them different from angels. Modern philosophical objections to evolution, he said: attribute to natural beings . . . properties (that) are specific (to) purely spiritual creatures. Our Philosophy of Nature reeks with sins of angelism, it is often no more than bad angelology. What does this mean? Without noticing it, we too often think about material substances, cosmic beings, as though they were pure spirits, immaterial beings. We don’t, of course, forget that bodily things are, or have, bodies, but we don’t think carefully enough about the difference matter makes. What does Aristotle teach us is the common feature of every cosmic substance? Composition from matter and form. De Koninck contrasts such cosmic essence[s] – the essences of possible corporeal substances – with angelic essences this way: What pure spirits have that is quite specific by opposition to cosmic beings is simplicity and perfect determination of essence. Because the angelic essence is simple, it is received once and for all, in its entirety. Angels have no past or future. They are perfectly what they are, all at once, with no potency to be anything else. This is good. Cosmic beings – rocks, plants, planets, dogs – on the other hand,


have essences that are complex. And one of the principles of their complex essence is purely indeterminate, namely, matter. Since the way things exist follows from what they are, beings with a complex essence have a complex existence. This is, relatively speaking, bad. From such unfortunately complex existence – the story of our cosmic lives – arises the necessity of time. A being with a complex essence must have a complex existence. That means an existence received successively. But this successively received existence must be always that of the same being, so it must be successively and continuously received. But successive and continuous duration is precisely the definition of time. So the career of a cosmic, a physical, a natural being, is inevitably spread out across the dimension we call time. My now is not my then – being what I am now is mysteriously, continually, divided from what I was and from what I will be. I am complex in a way that I experience as a defect of unity, an imperfection in the way I am. This is true of rocks, electrons, planets. “Natural beings are busy in pur-suit of existence, and spend time in doing so.” We are not used to thinking this way, perhaps. But from this perspective, the longer something exists, the more its existence is dispersed, spread out. From this perspective, De Koninck says, “Natural subhuman species should be considered as more and more audacious attempts to detach the world itself from the dispersion of time, in order to dominate it from outside, instead of being borne away by it.” Matter, and the correlative imperfection of corporeal forms, make the course of cosmic existence contingent as well. Only natural beings have a future, and that future cannot be perfectly determined to be one way or another, because natural beings are insufficiently determined, insufficiently real, to make that part of their existence which we know as their future be necessarily one way or another. From these consequences of the matter/form composition of natural substances, De Koninck thought we can see the necessity of evolution culminating in humanity. But he also understood that drawing this conclusion, even from the most basic principles of natural philosophy, was made much easier by the modern scientific discovery that the cosmos has, since its origin, been developing toward structure, complexity, interiority, and life. The vast, cooperative, complex, ordered endeavor of modern natural science to assemble what is, in effect, a cosmic “natural history,” was not available to St. Thomas. It was available to De Koninck. He thought this natural history could provide the philosopher crucial extrinsic support for strictly philosophical conclusions. His argument shows how natural science, although not itself achieving philosophic certitude, can serve the philosopher. Man must be the reason the cosmos exists, the reason matter exists, and the reason that all other natural forms exist. 1. Man is the reason the cosmos exists – its final explanation and its end, or goal. This can be seen in several ways. First: no motion can be an end in itself. Movement is a going toward a good which is not possessed. It is contradictory to think of a motion as good in itself – its very account denies this possibility. So the final term of any mobile being must be something simply immobile, something achieved – which means something above time. This term is man, who as a spiritual being does not pursue his existence in time, although he remains in time in so far as he is corporeal. Further, the universe, and all its parts, have their final end in God. This means that creatures must be capable of a return to God. But the corporeal universe, the cosmos, can only achieve that return to God through man, for only an intellectual creature can return to God. For these reasons, a physical creation without man is literally unthinkable - a contradiction. A world cannot exist in order to be indefinitely separated from its own existence, and indefinitely separated from itself by space. By the very fact that it is made for intelligence, it is


necessary that it be able to be present to itself; it is necessary that an intelligence be able to restore this entire ensemble to its principle, and that the world become a kind of hymn. In order to arrive at that, it is necessary that time be arrested and that it be immo-bilized, and that space be entirely penetrated and present. Now, that cannot be done but in an intelligence, which is as such outside of space and outside of time. And our universe will be immobilized at the moment when intelligence will have made its conquest. So man and his return to the Creator are the reason for which the entire cosmos exists. Man, thought De Koninck, is the way the material creation enables itself to return to God. 2. In addition to being the reason for which the cosmos exists, man is also the reason for which matter exists. The matter in every bodily being is properly understood as an appetite, a desire, for the human form. Matter is intelligible by reference to act – but no act which remains mingled with potency can be the principal goal of matter. As pure potency and determinability, matter is the same in every being. It is an appetite or desire for all forms, the lowest to the highest, but most properly it is a desire for the highest form, which is the form of man. So the human form is desired principally by all matter. 3. Man is also the reason for being of all possible natural forms, as much as he is of matter. Natural forms are like attempts to satisfy the desire of matter for the perfect immobility of the spiritual human form. Accordingly, each natural form is turned in the direction of man. Infra-human forms are attempts at immobile act, as though each were an attempt at the human form. From this perspective the infra-human forms are much less final states than tendencies. They are, recall, “more and more audacious attempts to detach the world itself from the dispersion of time.” And so we arrive at a cosmic hierarchy. The possible infra-human natural forms form a continuum. De Koninck thought that only four natural species are philosophically definable, necessary, within this continuum - inorganic, plant, animal, and man. Man must be a body, he must be a living body, a sensitive body, and he must have a rational soul. Accordingly, these degrees of being must exist. All other, more specific, degrees of being may or may not exist – like particular places one may or may not set one’s foot in a walk with a determinate starting point and a determinate goal. Animal was necessary, turtle was contingent. So the actual infra-human forms constitute a scale, as of steps from one form to the next, whose order has the human form as its principle. This is not to speak yet of an order in time, but an order of natures: The fixity of infra-human forms is then a counterfeit fixity. We are naturally metaphysicians, and so we incline to assimilate the cosmic hierarchy to a series of whole numbers, and to the immobile hierarchy of pure spirits; whereas there is only an analogy between them. This, notice, is what De Koninck means by “bad angelology.” But must we postulate a temporal order in the realization of this hierarchy of actual forms? What prevents the ultimate and intrinsic end of the cosmos from being realized from the beginning?


How can new natures come to be? Generation of new substances occurs as the term of alterations in existing substances. which desires. Thomas in rejecting the purely philosophical demonstration of the existence and causality of pure spirits. So if a new form. plant and animal. In such generation. To generate is just to draw a possible natural form. suffice to draw out of the original composites with which the cosmos began all the forms 57 . degrees of perfection. to come to be is as the term of alterations of existing substance. a work which consists in eliciting ever more simple quidditative determinations. there must be matter. Only natural science. all by itself. Every natural composite is generated by another natural composite through alteration. This contingency is a universal property of material beings. higher than any existing corporeal or cosmic form.From the beginning. which determines the kind of motion by which the desired end can be pursued. The corresponding incompleteness or imperfect determination of natural forms is a correlative source of the contingency of the natural. into actuality. necessarily pursue a contingent ascent toward the ultimate disposition of matter to receive the form of man. There remains the question of the principal agent. necessarily. speaking of a world of fundamentally contingent events. matter is essentially ordered to man. can discern the actual path that nature takes to arrive at man. more perfect than any previous cosmic beings. we have made two errors. the principle of motion. according to their different.there are infinitely many cuts that might be made. already given in the potency of prime matter. We have unknowingly attributed angelic attributes to corporeal beings – perfect determination and simplicity of essence. But we are still. are contingent. Evolution. The natural way for any substance. De Koninck says. and need only be drawn into act. and form. by means of instruments. higher or not. new kind or not. it will be elicited by the causality of existing corporeal forms. So different natural substances will be in motion toward man differently. this is because orig-inally it is not sufficiently disposed and first much must be done. And we have forgotten that the universe includes intelligent causes at work in the cosmos. be generated without the direct intervention of God? De Koninck’s answer is that modern scholastics have departed from St. How a composite can be changed will follow from what kind of being it is now – from its form. of angels. The cause of this resistance of the world is nothing other than the indetermination of matter. If matter does not have this act right away. For there to be a determined principle of motion. is to be elicited from matter. All possible corporeal forms are given in the potency of matter. Although intelligence must come to matter. consists precisely in the formation of an adequate corporeal instrument to serve the human spirit – the least of the created intelligences. contingent. substantial form is elicited from matter by an agent of generation. Having forgotten the philosophy by which we understand the difference between angels and corporeal beings. How can new beings. The particular infra-human forms have arisen from matter like cuts in a line . or methodical natural history. who as nobler parts of the universe are related to the cosmos precisely as universal causes. The cosmos will. So all infra-human forms more particular than inorganic substance. Both matter and form are essential parts of any nature. After initial co-creation of prime matter in the original composite beings. to this intelligence that has need of passive experience. which entail vegetative life and corporeity. But matter is not. and no way to know in advance which ones will be made. So pure spirits are the intelligent agent causes which. arising from the indetermination of the matter which is an essential principle of them all. no special creative act is necessary for such generation. and only after the fact. then. the manner of its coming is contingent. responding to the natural desire of the cosmos. therefore of sensation and animality.

not isolated men. before the coming of life. culminating in the rational desire called will. an animal labors at the great project of unification. a being is lifted above the conditions of space and time in the measure that it is perfected. the cosmos loves itself explicitly. to touch itself in the intelligence of man. From this perspective. In man. In its local motion. In thus making the world more and more simply one in his knowledge. it must act on natures according to the laws inscribed in them: In the ascending movement by which more perfect beings are drawn from less per-fect. and his intellectual knowledge. and as maker. This. the more will they be in their turn more perfect instruments.” but a “we. But it is clear that the “man” who anticipates this culminating condition is not an “I. the given intra-cosmic composite is only an instrument. Not metaphorically. with accumulated memory of its experience at prior locations. Past and present are increasingly collected in the knowledge of man. What would be the ideal state that we would pursue in time and in thought?” De Koninck asks. a common good. his sense knowledge. he says. Moved originally from without. and which in the final instance is at the service of the exploring intelligence. possessed as such by the perfected human community. in which it can realize (the) explicit return to its First Principle. De Koninck insists that the development of the biosphere is an increasing elevation above time. to the whole of the cosmos. The instrument. “I would wish to exist all at once. but really. and the whole of cosmic existence thus increasingly achieves a unity which.” It is humanity. the entire cosmic ascent can be viewed as well as an ascent of love. This not Baconian hubris – it is the purpose of the world. I would wish that all things be present in me all together. is utterly lacking. And this elevation. We can consider the maturation of the cosmos as a tendency toward the thought in which all its parts are united and lived.” The necessity of humanity as the specific term of the cosmic motion does not mean that the cosmos reached its natural perfection when man came to be. the entire cosmos may be viewed as an impulse toward the perfected life of thought. In fact. a power that frees them from the shackles of their spatiality. in whom the self-possession of the cosmos will reach perfection. the cosmos increasingly desires its perfection with a love from within. corresponds to the degree of life it has. “is the profound sense of the locomobility of knowers. although it produces an effect super-ior to itself under the influence of a superior cause. The perfected cosmos will be. the cosmos increasingly tends as well to transcend its separation from itself in time. he overcomes in himself its separation from itself. I would wish to have a present which has no past. of desire for the good. He tends toward ubiquity by extending his presence. In man. the cosmos thus tends to compenetrate itself. The more perfect the substances engendered.which are necessary for it to reach its end. without man. and which is never separate from the future. 58 . The spiritual pressure will not draw [just] any nature out of any composite whatsoever. I would wish to contemplate them in an instant immobile and indivisible. tends to complete the subordination of cosmic matter to himself. implies nevertheless essential limitations. on this view. Since this angelic causal power is natural. the spiritual agent being the principal cause. in turn. What did the evolutionary perspective imply for De Koninck about the naturally perfected cosmos that lies ahead? Man as knower. To live is to triumph over the separations of space and time.

its matter and form. all that they. If man is the ulti- 59 .” The world tends toward this self-knowledge and self-love. eventually. for the ascending natures. always natural in the degree that it responds to the desire of the lower nature as ordered to the good of universal nature and to the ultimate intrinsic end of the world. When a higher nature is elicited from the potency of a lower nature by equivocal generation. De Koninck says. he saw not only an attempt by the world at self-possession in knowledge – the cosmos also “tends to be united to itself and possess itself effectively in love. Even the essential principles of the lion.” De Koninck articulated both the importance. he says. must in turn be ordered to something higher. doubtless. a gift of self in the precise degree that it is a work of nature. as ultimate end. be more perfect natural beings.” Cosmic development seeks perfect self-possession in preparation for self-donation to God. and the dignity. enables us to foresee the immense effort and the prodigious cost nature invests in the preparation for the coming of man. The whole of nature is essentially a principle of ascending movement. .” he says. But this specific existence itself. And whether he knows it or not. Every part of the universe. at a time of glory and triumph for the natural sciences. for a time. intrinsic and extrinsic. to judge a theory by the abuses that are made of it. and the lion. even the humblest and farthest removed from the One Who is goodness by His essence. I want to conclude by remembering once again the importance. “are love of and desire for man by their very tendency toward the explicit love of God. the immobile act. Nature may bring about many lions so that the leonine nature can continue to exist. But I believe he thanked God more fervently for the blessing of having a glimpse of the higher truths which he believed that science helped the philosopher. he repeatedly said of evolution. And it is on man that this highest hope of the world rests. are ordered to. and to exist well. . an intensifying desire for the culminating good: Lower natures serve universal nature even in generation. this eliciting is . Nor is the species to which every individual is proximately ordered an end in itself. are seeking spirituality. The accidents which perfect the lion as lion may be all that this lion can achieve for itself as an individual toward this goal.” Accordingly. spread out over indefinitely many individuals. but nature seeks perfect lions so that there can. to be all that a lion can be – for it to reach its own individual completion in the accidental order – is not the principal end of a lion. It is unreasonable.Each individual being. for example. “not. At the conclusion of the first part of “Cosmos. while being only a flat projection of what has relief and depth. Nature. of the universe than towards the good of its genus.” entitled “The Scientific Point of View. The scale of natural species is only a scale of assault. “All infrahuman things. has its particular end. of the scientific effort: Science. as what it is. all that they desire. the dignity. to reach. of its kind. is generosity. everything that happens in the world is done for him. in cosmic evolution. and evolution is. But for a lion. and the theologian. and last towards its own. of course. but as the pre-condition of the explicit return to the First Principle by love. He certainly thought the same of the tendency of philosophers to be ungrateful to the sciences. It is good that lions continue to be. To have an essence composed of matter and form is to have a perfectible essence. tends naturally and more intensely toward the good. I expect that Charles de Koninck thanked God fervently for the blessing of being alive when he was. that De Koninck attributed to the natural sciences. But this is not the same as saying that the perfect day of hunting is all that either the matter or the form of the lion are for.

and a promise is made of their publication in a later edition of the Laval Journal. I believe that this is not true. decisive. spent his entire productive life in various forms of banishment from the world of ideas because of those views. great philosopher. the likely reason the book was never published was that De Koninck decided that those who would read it were not ready for it. mention is made by one of the presenters of De Koninck’s well known views on evolution. To mention just one. and of the pain they bear. It saddens me that these two champions of the view that Jesus Christ is the Lord of the Cosmos and of History never met. One of the greatest philosophical souls of the 20th century. Teilhard de Chardin. Those views were substantially the same as De Koninck’s. Catholic intellectuals who publicly embraced evolution were viewed with suspicion.” to be published for the first time. that “the University of Laval at Quebec is about to hold a congress on Evolution. Cosmos. In my view.” entitled “The Cosmos as Impulse toward the Life of Thought. the vertiginous speeds of astronomy are not worth a lily. . at best. . Descartes changed his publishing plans after seeing what happened to Galileo. a French journal devoted an entire issue to honoring him. and holy priest. I believe De Koninck probably took the prudent path as well. It has been suggested that this was because De Koninck reconsidered some of its principal ideas. evolution. had been banished to China by the Jesuits because of the inconvenient popularity of his views on cosmology. Nietzsche speaks of the mask that great men must wear. .” In the publication of the proceedings of the conference. We will only be able to understand ourselves when we understand the universe. New York City. the book. the better we comprehend that we touch it only with the feet. both men are my heroes. Naturally no one has thought (or dared) to ask for a contribution from me. and the place of man in the world. Our present is filled with the past. But 1962 was a long time after 1936. In 1952 Teilhard wrote to a friend from his final place of banishment. that natural science was working in service of the glory of the Lord. 60 . he is nonetheless the primum in intentione. in those confusing years. but in my view. The more profoundly we understand the world.mum in executione. It took courage to trust. And it is not only in the formidable display of power that we should look for this richness: the reaches of space. Teilhard died two and a half years later. For having that courage. still probably thinking that Charles De Koninck was a rear-guard apologist for the Vatican on evolution. Ron McArthur wrote his dissertation under De Koninck on the subject of universal causality. and that with our head we touch the bottom rungs of another hierarchy of which nature is only a fleeting shadow. The all too poor account that we have given enables us to suspect the richness of the human being who contains virtually all the degrees of perfection of that which is below him. whose understanding of the world was remarkably akin to De Koninck’s. Aristotle fled rather than let Athens sin twice against philosophy. a great scientist. De Koninck chose the central chapter of “Cosmos. But we have also seen that we have need of the stars to understand the lily. was never published. the unimaginable masses. I propose that we would do well to recognize in Charles De Koninck – educator of our Founders and liveliest of Thomists – a universal cause of Thomas Aquinas College. and it may still be worthwhile to ask why they didn’t. In 1936. This never happened. in 1962. indication of this: when. hosted by De Koninck.

edu § 61 .dquackenbush@thomasaquinas.

no. 1. what is “order”? Two things are included in the notion of order. pp. John of St. wherein all things that proceed therefrom are. 21. 6 Aristotle. The verb. It would not suffice for it to attain the primary root solely according to knowledge. Thomas. since it implies the notion of origination. n. and know itself as such. or first in a given genus only. If the Blessed Virgin is truly a generator. the absolutely first principle would be in dependence upon that of which it is the first principle.. 744b. sapiential.. 2-3: What is proper to wisdom? The adage says: “ Sapientis est ordinare—To order pertains to him who is wise. T. Wisdom may be predicated substantially of a thing which in its being and operation is of the nature of the first principle whence proceed in a certain way all things by way of origination. 1. inasmuch as nature is “that from which is born [2-3] first the thing which is born: ex qua pullalat pullulans primo. a principle of time. but it grasps things in their primary root. If this root were not at the same time origin. I. to which it properly belongs to know order. as such. Principle is that from which something proceeds in any way whatsoever. the intellect alone can grasp order as order.” says Aristotle. 4 5 In I Ethic. the intellect therefore possesses within itself the primary root and reason necessary for ordering things—comparing them among themselves and establishing a relation of one to the other. “Since the intellect (in opposition to the will) draws things to itself. cap. lect. “It is not to be ordered. “to order. and it grasps this root under its proper formality of origin. a. it can compare and formally grasp the relation of one thing to another. as such. 1.” How are we to understand the term.” 6 That is why wisdom is radical. the mere knowledge of an order is not. “The Wisdom That is Mary”. Proceeding or procession is movement from a principle. vol.” 4 Since order implies principle. Simple apprehension can attain order. 1. movement which can be understood in the broad sense of any action.” expresses this originative primacy.. It is the procession of a living thing from within a living thing conjoined as a principle of life and which assimilates the product of generation to its proper nature by virtue of this very procession. 982 a 15. order will be divided into local order.n. ibid. Cursus Theologicus. because then it would be wise only. Of these three orders the last is the most profound. 4-5. the multiple would then be. Principle implies proceeding. 8-9: Generation means vital origin and assimilation.” Under another aspect order is divided into universal and particular order accordingly as the principle is absolutely first. distinction and principle. 1943. and every science involves a certain order. . Accordingly as the principle is a principle of place. VII.”5 However. (edit. disp. “to order”? To start with. precontained. 11. The Thomist. temporal order and the order of nature. “Because wisdom is the highest perfection of reason. Let us here note that although in 62 . but it must substantially possess the nature of a first principle. Cf. which belongs to the wise man. the nature of a first principle. and principle implies relation. says St. pp. Generation consists therefore in expressing a likeness propagative of the nature of the generator. in a certain way. Vives). “but to order. this definition must truly apply to her. or a principle of nature. I Metaph. Wisdom will only be the highest perfection of reason insofar as it implies an order proceeding from a principle which is wholly first. April. Thomas. Pirotta). It not only shows the interlocking of one thing with another. The generator draws that which is generated from its very substance while forming it. vi. the action of thinking as well as of physical motion. What order is in question in the adage: “It is the part of the wise man to set things in order?” It belongs to the wise man to set things in order. (edit. Charles De Koninck. and proceeds by passing from one to the other.

5. 85b. nevertheless. Birth regards primarily and principally the being of the hypostasis and the person.the act of conception the mother is solely a passive principle which. In III Sententiarum. c. the Blessed Virgin is 31 St. a. Thomas. 4. considered in [45] her relation to the one engendered. q.” says St. An assimilative action takes place formally in the production of the passive principle of conception. ad 2. <. a production which results from the active generative power of the woman. since consubstantiality taken in itself means nothing other than convenientia in substance. while properly a nature. a. T. and to the nature by consequence and secondarily. § 63 . in view of the one engendered.” 32 32 St. p. 28. Birth. “Hence. and this is why she is the mother of God and of the man—although she is not consubstantial with God except with respect to His human nature. dist. [8-9] called the mother of Christ according to the hypostasis. “since birth primarily and principally has respect to the being of the hypostasis and the person.31 the Blessed Virgin is bound to the hypostatic order in the most intimate way possible to a pure creature. For this reason. and secondarily to the nature. the mother is properly an active principle which vitally assimilates the one engendered. the mother participates actively in the vital assimilation of the one engendered.. 35. She is properly a genetrix.> Being truly the mother of God. belongs primarily and of itself to the person. Albert. then. Albert. which hypostasis is God and man.. does not of itself imply an active and expressive assimilation. 4. III Pars.

Now.” For a man. Commencement Address to the Graduates of Saint Mary’s College.…Now. For it is on account of pleasure that we do evil deeds. Notre Dame. attuned to the disorderly cravings of our nature. pp . before the child is sent to school.n. it is less the music that moves than we who move with it. Notice. In this he is not unlike the beast who can only be restrained by the menace of pain. and on account of pain we abstain from noble ones. for the habits he acquires will in the main depend upon the habits and thinking of his parents and of other persons with whom he grows up. Happy is the man who delights in abstaining from excessive pleasure of the kind shared with the lower animals. I think that all here present would agree that the man who is temperate. While the man who is overcome by terror to the point where he prefers moral death to natural life is a coward. “Education Before the Age Of Reason”. all these predetermining qualities. temperance and fortitude in later life will be practically impossible. She is there from the start. or lack of them. if we allow them to believe that there is always a way of avoiding danger and that a man is honest so long as he is not caught. by example. and delight in this or at least not be grieved by it beyond reason. 12. firing things into orbit. he adds. now. if brought up badly. it will be almost impossible for him to act by virtue in later life. and takes on any mould that one wants to impress on it. with which we are concerned…. the life for which we are preparing them is one of misery. 64 . 17-21): . 12. that it is education. Indiana (June 2 & June 3 1960) (Rpt. To be happy one must also be able to stand one’s ground against things that are terrible. while he who is annoyed at restraint is self-indulgent and must rely on random thrills. and who enjoys sufficient welfare. as standing nearest to the child by nature. Fidelity Magazine. is fatal. and good so long as he is good at something such as plumbing. as Plato taught: “do you realize that the beginning of anything is most important. especially for something both young and tender? For it is then especially that it is shaped. This is courage. December. thus providing him with the opportunity to become a good person. Now. Accordingly. When we hear the word “education” we think immediately of school. Aristotle and Menicius consider the right music as essential to child-training. Music imitates the passions in its own special way. it is the mother who is more especially the first educator and teacher. brave. Charles De Koninck. is a good and happy man. if we allow our children to form the habit of over-indulgence in quality or quantity of food. The aim of moral training is to instill into the child the right habits before he can act on his own account. All parents naturally want their child to achieve happiness. 1992. So important is this early formation that Aristotle and St. just and prudent. or making money. playing the piano. though gentle and capable of becoming the most divine of all animals if rightly trained. happiness in a life of action. Vol. Plato. and. whereas the most important and lasting education must normally be provided by parents at home…. But what is happiness for the parents? If it is true human happiness they are after. and as George Santayana so shrewdly observed. We must be aware that a child lives in a condition which is most precarious. unless one has been brought up in a particular way from childhood. By education here I mean both moral training and other teaching. And vulgar music. Thomas went so far as to say that unless a child has been encouraged to like what is beautiful and to dislike the wrong and ugly before the so-called age of reason. Taken from “The Impor-tance of Education Before the Age of Reason”. discipline and word. for passions themselves are movements. come to the child between cradle and school…. can be the most ferocious of all creatures upon the earth.

12 § 65 . 17-21 Fidelity Magazine. Vol. Charles Education Before the Age of Reason December. 1992 pp .De Koninck.

That is what was. very numerous. won for him as many distinctions as honorific invitations. His most important contributions were his defense of Saint Thomas. All his students venerated in him an authentic master. In Memoriam Charles De Koninck: In Memoriam Charles De Koninck by Emmanuel Trépanier It is with the most profound sadness that the Université Laval learned on the thirteenth of February of the sudden death of the eminent dean of its faculty of Philosophy. theological studies in the Dominican Order. like his eminent services. “Un paradoxe du devenir par contradiction” (1956). The reputation of Mr. Commander of the Order of 66 . 1906. All his former students would testify to the decisive influence which he exercised on their orientation and to the complete devotedness with which he showered them. De Koninck published also: “Le Cosmos” (1936). he had just come to participate in the work of a subcommittee of the Council. for seventeen years. certain of them have been translated into other languages. He received his Doctorate in Philosophy in 1934. He had been back at this post since last June. “Abstraction from Matter” (1957 and 1960). De Koninck dedicated his career as professor to the teaching of the philosophy of nature and the philosophy of the sciences. Theological adviser to His Eminence Cardinal Roy at the third session of Vatican II. Let us add that Mr. He collaborated in many reviews in Canada and elsewhere. “Introduction à l'étude de l'âme” (1947). 1. “Sur la primauté du bien commun” (1945). “Tout homme est mon prochain” (1964). in English. “La sobriété” (1951). Born in Thourout Belgium on the twenty-ninth of July. The readers of the Laval Théologique et Philosophique can measure the irreplaceable loss which our review has suffered in his person. Emmanuel Trépanier. had the advantage of preparing their doctorate under his direction. His numerous articles on the Most Blessed Virgin were collected in long volumes: “La piété du Fils” (1954) and “Le Scandle de la médiation” (1962). He was a member of the Royal Society of Canada. Michigan where his family had emigrated.n. member of the Roman Academy of Saint Thomas Aquinas. He returned to his country of origin in 1917 in order to do secondary studies there at the college of Ostende. Charles De Koninck spent his childhood in Detroit. In spite of an attack of grave illness. A direction demanding but attentive. but they awarded him a special favor who. Mister Charles De Koninck passed away in Rome the same morning at the age of fifty-eight. contributing in every manner to the development and to the prestige of a young faculty. he accomplished this last service with the greatest generosity. Mr. immediately afterward he came to Québec where the Université Laval had the exceptional fortune of attaching him to its Faculty of Philosophy in the process of being formed. De Koninck published works in Flemish. Mr. He was its spirit at the same time the most precious of its collaborators. “The Hollow Universe” (1960). in which the student benefitted from the most enriching intellectual and human contact. He held that teaching should prepare “professors of the elements of philosophy” and his primary concern in his courses was to insure the comprehension of the first and fundamental notions. in French. He was himself proof of their ability to influence. The esteem and authority which he had from the very first acquired resulted in his being named dean in 1939. De Koninck. then philosophic studies at the University of Louvain. of which he held the chair beginning in 1935.

consequently. He would have been next August the principal lecturer at the International Congress of Catholic Universities in Tokyo. Indiana. When the time of the Council had come. to all the members of his large family. or the critiques which he made of personalism. He applied himself to defining the just conception of the secularism of the State and of freedom of conscience. May they be assured that we share in their sorrow. the “Matchette Lectures” in 1960. at once so rich and so human. § 67 . De Koninck was always and with all his soul a Christian of profound faith and a dedicated servant of the Church. Fidelity to his masters met in him with an ardent preoccupation with the present. number 1. who led the everyday life of work with him. our colleague. The University of Notre Dame. he was always faithful to Saint Thomas. Indiana. He was of the tradition of scholastic theologians in which philosophy is so greatly taken up in the service of the faith. Greatly esteemed in the United States where he had been a sought-after lecturer for twenty-five years. Mr. Translated from Laval Théologique et Philosophique. He employed himself likewise in seeking doctrinal reasons what could be the foundation of a solution to the problem of birth control. At the thought that he will no longer be there. the American Catholic Philosophic Association awarded him the Aquinas-Spellman Medal at their 1964 meeting. the status of the experimental sciences. To Mrs.Saint Gregory the Great. The Canadian Society of The History and Philosophy of The Sciences counted him among their founding members. to his son Thomas. evolution. and of Marxism. invited him to give the “Whidden Lectures” in 1959. and Lafayette University. He considered it a great fortune to be called to carry on his work in the framework of the Council. He had that breadth of spirit that gives to the teaching of Saint Thomas the quality of living and open thought. His studies on the “person” and on the “death” of the Blessed Virgin were written about the time of the promulgation of the Dogma of the Assumption. He manifested the same qualities of mind as a theologian. we offer our liveliest condolences. 1965. and. And he maintained this tradition in the forefront of the life of the Church.” If it is true that he hardly loved being called a “Thomist”. how could one render homage to his memory without evoking the cordial intimacy which his personality. totalitarianism. received him as visiting professor from 1957 to 1964. Mr. the positions which he held on indeterminism. always welcoming and available. As a philosopher. the Canadian Association of Philosophy had elected him as their president in 1963-1964. De Koninck had acquired an international reputation. to the one whom Saint Thomas names with respect “The Philosopher. as from the most current thought. De Koninck. he knew how to draw from it. But for us his colleagues. McMaster University of Hamilton. sustained. in the secret of our hearts we mourn his death. Ontario. His intellectual activity itself receives the most vivid illumination from that virtue of piety which he celebrated with so much love. the grave problems caused by the updating of Christian thought attracted his reflection very early. volume XXI. it is because he abhorred whatever suggests the idea of the “Philosophic System” with its artificial construction and the narrowness of its perspectives. His sudden end there allows us to see the crowning of a life of study and of influence.

68 .Selections from the Writings of Charles De Koninck Compiled by Bart A. Mazzetti (c) 2013 Bart A. Mazzetti. All rights reserved.

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