Monday, April 11, 2016

Aquinas and the Soul (Summa Theologiae I.75.2-4)

In the Summa Theologiae or Summa Theologica, Thomas Aquinas outlines distinct senses for the noun phrase "subsistent thing" (i.e., this particular thing). I guess that ST I.75.2, Reply to Obj. 1 touches on the question I used to have when reading Aquinas. He there maintains that "this particular thing" can be understood in two senses: a) "for anything subsistent" and b)"for that which subsists, and is complete in a specific nature." The soul (according to Aquinas) is "this particular thing" in the first sense, but evidently not in the second. So he does not conceive of the soul as subsisting in a Cartesian manner. Descartes memorably refers to himself as a "thinking thing" (res cogitans) yet it doesn't seem that Aquinas would identify the person with the soul like the French Catholic Descartes does.

Kevin Corcoran parses the topic in Rethinking Human Nature: "Here is one way to mark the difference between Aquinas and Descartes. In both views, there are two 'things.' In Descartes' view, the two things are complete substances (soul and body). In Aquinas' view, there are two incomplete substances (soul and matter) that jointly compose a complete substance (a human being)." See Corcoran, page 38.

This observation is based on ST I.75.4: "Not every particular substance is a hypostasis or a person, but that which has the complete nature of its species. Hence a hand, or a foot, is not called a hypostasis, or a person; nor, likewise, is the soul alone so called, since it is a part of the human species."


yhwh777100 said...

Hey Edgar, I just purchased your book about (ps.8:5) and look forward to what you have learned and want to teach in the book. I have to ask though, how big is your library? You've quoted a lot of references. Most books do and I was just curious. How long does it take to compile a book? Stressful,rewarding? It's used turns out it has your signature, lol no desprespect, just having a good day.

Edgar Foster said...

Hey yhwh7771000,

Thanks for the purchase. I hope that work benefits you in some way. My personal library is not as big as it used to be, but I still have enough to fill 4 bookshelves. I also try to take advantage of university libraries and the ILL offered locally.

The Ps. 8:5 book took about 2 years to research and write. However, some authors complete them much faster with assistance from others or with the help of technology. No worries on the signature. :)

All the best, my friend.