John F. Wippel

in The Oxford Handbook of Aquinas

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780195326093
Published online May 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks


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Aquinas mentioned that the word ‘being’ (ens) signifies ‘that which is’ or ‘that which exists’. Aquinas recognized with Parmenides that the act of being cannot be divided by something completely outside being itself in the way a genus is divided into species by differences, for outside being there is only nonbeing and, as he also held, being is not a genus. Aquinas reasons that being can be divided by certain modes that are realized within being. These may be either certain general modes that follow upon every being, or more particularized modes that correspond to diverse modes of existing. The general modes of being (often referred to as transcendentals) are found wherever being itself is realized so that every being is also ‘one’, a ‘thing’, ‘something’ ‘good’, and ‘true’. Aquinas denied that a proper definition could be given for substance or for the other predicaments because each of them is a supreme genus and again because being itself cannot be regarded as a genus. Aquinas argued for a fundamental composition and distinction within every finite substance of two distinct ontological principles of being that include an essence that accounts for the fact that it is a being of a given kind and a distinct act of existing (esse) that accounts for the fact that it actually exists.

Keywords: being; metaphysics; habitus; quando; suppositum; hoc aliquid; De Hebdomadibus

Article.  4184 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Metaphysics

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