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The Commentary on the Metaphysics, the Beginning of the Science and the Proof of an Immaterial Being This dissertation

will look at the way, according to Thomas, in which our minds assimilate the science of metaphysics , and, specifically, whether it is necessary to have proof of the existence of an immaterial being before beginning metaphysics. Plato atempted to explain how we enter into the highest science in the famous allegory of the cave.1 Only slowly and step by step are our minds prepared to peer into dialectic, the science of the highest and immaterial things, he says. Beginning with sensation we move to opinion, and from opinion we arrive at science of lesser things. From science of lesser things, we arrive at the science of the highest things, only after many years of study and at a mature age. Aristotle2, with the necessary adjustments, makes the same claim. All of our knowledge begins in sensation, and we guess at the truth, by means of dialectic,3 before grasping it. Children can mouthe the words of metaphysics but they do not understand what they are saying.4 Mathematics comes first, then Physics and Ethics, when a good age has been reached. Metaphysics comes last. He summarizes this process in the first pages of the Metaphysics: starting with sensation, the mind first asks about easy things and only at the end arrives at the more difficult scientific questions.5 Thomas gives the same order on numerous occasions, both in commentaries and more direct contexts, where he is clearly giving his own judgment on the matter.6 But, does the proof for the existence of immaterial being play a role in the passage from physics to metaphysics and is it necessary for that passage? The necessity of the proof of an immaterial being There are many texts7 where Thomas seems to say that the proof for the existence of an immaterial being is necessary for beginning or establishing the science of metaphysics. Many, though not all,8 of these are in the Commentary on the Metaphysics. The suggestion is that if there is no knowledge of an immaterial being, there can be no science of being which extends beyond mere material being. Physics, while remaining formally the same, becomes the ultimate science, simply because there is no higher science.9 One may realize, like the presocratics, that considering being in itself might constitute a science and know that would entail a treatment of the first principles of all being, but until something beyond matter and bodily form are known to exist, that treatment will always be a physical and not an immaterial, metaphysical one. The presocratics, believing that all there was in the universe was material, attempted to treat the first principles.10 Physics remained the science of mobile, mutable things, eventhough the treatment of first principles was given to it, both the principles of being and of science. The most universal understanding of the first principles of science, like the law of non-contradiction, were contracted to material things.11 Finally, if there were no proof for the existence of an immaterial being, there would be no science beyond that of material being.12 The proof of the existence of an immaterial being is not necessary for beginning metaphysics

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Republic VII see In VI Eth. lect. 7 3 Meta. 3.1???? 4 Ethics 6 5 Meta. 1.2???? 6 Cont. Gent. I, caput. 12, n. 6, which says that there would be no science beyond natural philosophy if there were no proof of an immaterial being: Tum ex ipso scientiarum ordine. Nam, si non sit aliqua scibilis substantia supra substantiam sensibilem, non erit aliqua scientia supra naturalem, ut dicitur in IV metaph.. In VI Eth. lect. 7; In Librum de Causis, lect. 1; In Boeth. De Trin. q. 5, a. 1, ad. 9; In I Meta. lect. 1, n. 46 7 In IV Meta. lect. 17, 13 (c. 748); In VI Meta. lect. 1, 17 (c. 1170); In XI Meta. lect. 7, 21 (c. 2267) 8 See note 4. 9 In III Meta. lect. 6, n. 398 *T+he philosophy of nature would be first philosophy if there were no other substances prior to mobile corporeal substances, as is stated below in Book VI (see n.1170). 10 In IV Meta. lect. 5, n. 593 *T+hey believed that they alone established the truth about the whole of nature and therefore about being, and thus about first principles, which must be consid ered along with being. They considered all of nature and therefore, mistakely, thought they were treating being. 11 Texts on the compressed character of the principles in the particular sciences. 12 See note 6.

On the other hand, Thomas also says that what is first known to us are the principles of metaphysics.13 Thomas is insistent that ens or being is what first falls into the mind, our first thought.14 And, the subject of metaphysics is universal being or ens commune, so it would seem that we have a grasp of metaphysics very early on. It belongs to metaphysics to consider those principles which are the first things that we know.15 Moreover, even if the subject of the science is not the being which is first known by us, we should still be able to begin to think metaphysically simply by considering being by itself, apart from the matter in which it is first present to us. This, in fact seems to be the process in Aristotles Metaphysics. In Book 4,16 Aristotle concludes that the subject of the science of metaphysics is being because it is about the first causes, which cause all things and being is what is common to all things. All sciences attempt to demonstrate the properties of a subject genus in light of its causes.17 There is no talk yet of a proof for the existence of immaterial beings, the consideration of which, the first causes, is the goal and not the beginning or subject of the science. God and the separate substances are not the subject of the science as such. Being as being is considered before the existence of an immaterial being is established by metaphysics. In Book 6,18 Aristotle goes a step farther, however, and distinguishes the sciences by how they are related to matter. This is an essential division because things are intelligible, and therefore objects of science, precisely insofar as they are immaterial, or abstracted from matter. So, Aristotle says, if there is no immaterial being, and hence something which is abstracted from matter in a different way than natural things, there is no science beyond natural science. For a first grasp of the subject of the science, though, it is sufficient to consider things from the perspective of being. The precise determination of the subject of the science However, whether one is convinced by the texts that suggest the proof of the existence of an immaterial being is necessary for beginning metaphysics or those that point to an earlier grasp of the subject of the science, there are many points in Thomass thought with which any position must harmonize. Obviously, of tantamount importance in determining when metaphysics is learned is the nature of metaphysics itself, what its subject is.19 Thomas tells us the subject-genus20 of metaphysics is ens commune, the cause of the subject genus is God, and its properties are the first principles of science (CM proem). But, depending on how one defines ens commune, different effects result. Ens commune could be ens as first known. It could be a conception of being which includes the explicit negation of, or precision from, matter, either on the basis of a proof that such is really the case, or without a proof. Then, it could be a more sophisticated notion of being, the ratio entis, i.e. a resolution of ens into esse and its relation to essence, and thus presuppose knowledge of the real distinction between essence and esse.21 Depending on the interpretation of ens commune, the beginning of metaphysics will occur, respectively, later and later in the order of learning. How is the subject of metaphysics grasped: by simple apprehension or by a judgment? Abstraction is the process by which we grasp a subject genus or any universal nature whatever. There is, Thomas says, a mode of abstraction proper to each of the sciences. Abstraction of a whole22 is

Commentary on the Posterior Analytics, 1.5, n. 7. *Q+uarundam propositionum termini sunt tales, quod sunt in notitia omnium, sicut ens, et unum, et alia quae sunt entis, in quantum ens: nam ens est prima conceptio intellectus. Unde oportet quod tales propositiones non solum in se, sed etiam quoad omnes, quasi per se notae habeantur. Sicut quod, non contingit idem esse et non esse; et quod, totum sit maius sua parte: et similia. Unde et huiusmodi principia omnes scientiae accipiunt a metaphysica, cuius est considerare ens simpliciter et ea, quae su nt entis. Text from the CNE? 14 Text? 15 ? 16 Where exactly? 17 CM, proem. Exactly? 18 ? 19 Avicenna and Averroes both held that metaphysics had to be learned after physics, but for different reasons because of their different understanding of the subject of metaphysics. 20 Subject-genus here is taken analogically, in keeping with the analogical unity of being. 21 See Tavuzzi . . . 22 Duane letter???

proper to physics; abstraction of a form is proper to mathematics; and separation or metaphysical abstraction (ST 1.85) is proper to metaphysics. Since things in matter are not intelligible in act, they must be abstracted or taken out of matter if they are to be understood. Physics abstracts from particular sensible matter. Mathematics abstracts from particular sensible matter, universal sensible matter and particular imaginable matter. Metaphysics abstracts from particular and universal sensible matter, and particular and universal imaginable matter, i.e., all matter. These modes of abstraction make different modes of definition possible. And, these kinds of definitions are the middle terms of scientific syllogisms, which constitute the sciences themselves.23 If the subject of metaphysics is reached through metaphysical abstraction or separation, it would seem that it could not be being as it is first known to us because separation is a judgment and judgment presupposes simple apprehension. It is not the first act of the mind.24 If it is reached through separation, it will either be based on a proof or be self evident. The former will follow the method of Metaphysics 4, the latter Metaphysics 6.
There are different ways of interpreting Thomass texts on the way in which the subject of metaphysics is grasped. Some suggest that it is arrived at through separation, a negative judgment, i.e. metaphysical abstraction. 25 Thus, Thomas distinguishes between mathematical, physical, and metaphysical abstraction, which arrives at being. However, other texts suggest that the subject of metaphysics is arrived at, prior to any separation, through simple 26 apprehension. Being is what first falls into the mind. This position is opposed in Scholastic tradition by Cajetan and 27 28 John of St. Thomas, who were arguing against the Scotistic position that what we first know is immaterial being. Of those who believe that the subject of metaphysics is arrived at through separation, some (Owens, Wippel, and Maritain, for example) believe that it is a self evident judgment, without need of proof. The mind considers being in itself, apart from whehter it is material. This, they say, is sufficient to establish a separate subject genus.

How the subject is grasped by the mind: a resolution Another way in which Thomas approaches the problem of the subject of metaphysics is through the name metaphysics itself.29 Although there are different interpretations of the historical origin of the word, for Thomas it has great significance in suggesting the nature of the science and its place in the order of learning. In these explanations of the name are some of Thomass most interesting statements about how we arrive at the subject of metaphysics. In this context, it is referred to as the term of a process of
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Defintion of science? CP 1 On the priority of apprehension to judgment? 25 Quaedam vero sunt quae possunt anstrahi eitam a materia intelligibile communi, sicut ens, unum, potentia et actus . . . (ST 1.85.1ad2) 26 ? 27 the first object of its act of understanding, for this object is something extrinsic, namely, the nature of a m aterial thing. And therefore that which is first known by the human intellect is an object of this kind . . . I.87.3.c. The first object of our intellect, in this state of life, is not every being and everything true, but being and true, as considered in material things, as we have said, from which it acquires knowledge of all other things Ad.1. the proper object of the human intellect, which is united to a body, is a quiddity or nature existing in corporeal matter, and through such natures of visible things it rises even to some knowledge of things invisible I.84.7.c. 28 Cite some passages 29 CM proem.: Metaphysica, inquantum considerat ens et ea quae consequuntur ipsum. Haec enim transphysica inveniuntur in via resolutionis, sicut magis communia post minus communia. CBT 5.1.c.3: Quaedam vero speculabilia sunt, quae non dependent a materia secundum esse, quia sine materia esse possunt, sive numquam sint in materia, sicut Deus et Angelus, sive in quibusdam sint in materia et in quibusdam non, ut substantia, qualitas, ens, potentia, actus, unum et multa et huiusmodi. De quibus omnibus est theologia, id est scientia divina, quia praecipuum in ea cognitorum est Deus, quae alio nomine dicitur metaphysica, id est transphysicam, quia post physicam discenda occurrit nobis, quibus ex sensibilibus oportet in insensibilia devenire . CBT 6.1.c.22: Maxime autem universalia sunt, quae sunt communia omnibus entibus. Et ideo terminus resolutionis in hac via ultimus est consideratio entis et eorum quae sunt entis in quantum huiusmodi. Haec autem sunt, de quibus scientia divina considerat, ut supra dictum est, scilicet substantiae separatae et communia omnibus entibus. Unde patet quod sua consideratio est maxime intellectualis. Et exinde etiam est quod ipsa largitur principia omnibus aliis scientiis, in quantum intellectualis consideratio est principium rationalis, propter quod dicitur prima philosophia; et nihilominus ipsa addiscitur post physicam et ceteras scientias, in quantum consideratio intellectualis est terminus rationalis, propter quod dicitur metaphysica quasi trans physicam, quia post physicam resolvendo occurrit . The name first philosophy refers to the sciences dominion over first principles, judging them and defending them from objections. Metaphysics r efers to the order of learning, the order in which even the judgment of principles must take place.

resolution.30 There is much debate about the nature of the metaphysical resolution through which the subject of metaphysics is grasped. But, is the subject of metaphysics grasped for the first time through resolution or is it only that other things are reduced to it by resolution? If one answers in the affirmative, however, since Thomas holds that the order in resolution explains why metaphysics is learned after the other sciences, they have to explain how it is, if we attain metaphysics before this, how we attain metaphysics before we learn it. A Resolution A possible resolution of the differing intpretations of Thomas seems to lie in the distinction between strictly scientific knowledge and the more vague knowlede with which we begin. Thomas says in the commentary on Physics 1.1 that the sciences are distinguished by their modes of defining. The proper instrument of science is a scientific syllogism with a defintion as its middle term, and metaphysics is distinguished from mathematics and physics because it defines without matter what exists without matter. Since our first notion of being comes before our notion of matter and our notion of matter comes before our notion of the immaterial, the grasp of being which we first have, and which is presupposed to every other concept, is not metaphysical in the same sense in which the final speculative science grasps being metaphysically. Moreover, a first vague, or potential, grasp of being as immaterial must be distinguished from the dialectical consideration of being as immaterial which comes before scientific proofs and the explicit denomination of being as immaterial which takes places after the existence of actually immaterial beings has been proven. These latter two have more of the character of the abstraction which Thomas calls separation and which he says distinguishes metaphysics from the other speculative sciences, which have their own proper abstractions. A Research Objective This dissertation will attempt to clarify how Thomas viewed the relation of the proof of the existence of an immaterial being to the beginning of metaphysics. It will consider the beginning of the science of metaphysics in relation to the precise determination of its subject-genus, the proper modes of abtraction in the sciences, and scientific resolution, suggesting a way of reconciling the divergent opinions of scholars. Moreover, it will reconstruct the thought, nearly lost, of an important figure in the current debate. The late, influential Thomist, Charles Dekoninck, attempted to explain abstraction from matter in a series of articles in the Laval Theologique et Philosophique. The second article31 ends with the statement: Evidence to show that we might at least consider such a[n immaterial] quality would depend upon a demonstration that there is a third mode of defining, which means proving such a quality is in reality in the way that man is in reality. It would be evidence leading not merely to what might be considered in separation, but to to what is separate in reality (63). We hope in this disseration both to explain why he said this and what ramifications this statement would have had if he had been able to finish the articles. The answers to these questions are of no small import, as the current debate among American Thomists attests.32 Ralph McInerney and Fr. Benedict Ashley, O.P., have recently published books on the question. Monsignor Wippel's and Dr. Knassas' books defend opposing positions. But it goes beyond any in-house debates of provincial Thomism, it is a universal concern to learn about the world, and knowing the order in which to do that is necessary for doing it well. A small error in the beginning is enormous in the end. An understanding of the order of learning is a key to wisdom itself. It also opens the door to a dialogue with modern and postmodern philosophers as they attempt to understand the world we live in. It goes beyond the terminology of any one school and is of concern to philosophy itself. This thesis intends to shed light on how it is, according to Thomas, that philosophy itself must be learned.


It is learned after physics and the other sciences, because intellectual thinking is the terminus of rational thinking. For this reason it is called metaphysics, as if to say beyond physics, for in the process of analysis (resolvendo) it comes after physics. CBT 6.1.c.22 31 He died before writing the third article, which seems likely to have treated metaphysical abstraction and the grasping of the subject of metaphysics. 32 The main question in the debate is whether it is necessary to study natural philosophy before one is able to do metaphysics.