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Of God and His Creatures
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CHAPTER LXVIII—How a Subsistent Intelligence may be the Form of a Body

If a subsistent intelligence is not united with a body merely as its mover, as Plato thought (Chap. LVII); nor is the intellect, whereby man understands, a predisposition in human nature, as Alexander said (Chap. LXII; nor a temperament, as Galen (Chap. LXIII); nor a harmony, as Empedocles (Chap. LXIV); nor a body, nor a sense, nor a phantasy (Chapp. LXV, LXVI, LXVII); it remains that the human soul is a subsistent intelligence, united with the body as its form: which may be thus made manifest.

There are two requisites for one thing to be the substantial form of another. One requisite is that the form be the principle of substantial being to that whereof it is the form: I do not mean the effective, but the formal principle, whereby a thing is and is denominated ‘being.’366366If a man is, let us say, a Master of Arts, the formal principle, whereby he is such, is the degree itself; the efficient principle is the authority of the University which conferred the degree; while the man, on whom it is conferred, is the matter. This form is not substantial, but accidental: the man would be a man without it. But without his soul he would not be a man. The second requisite is that the form and matter should unite in one ‘being’; namely, in that being wherein the substance so composed subsists. There is no such union of the effective principle with that to which it gives being.367367Jones, M.A., does not bear about him the authority of his University. A son has not the life of his father, but a similar life. A subsistent intelligence, as shown in Chap. LVI, is not hindered by the fact that it is subsistent from communicating its being to matter, and becoming the formal principle of the said matter. There is no difficulty in the identification of the being, in virtue of which the compound subsists, with the form itself of the said compound, since the compound is only through the form, and neither subsist apart.368368Let the compound be Jones graduate. The compound subsists in the state and condition of a graduate: that state and condition is the being of the compound. But the degree itself is identical with the state and condition of the graduate. Jones graduate exists, as such, only through the degree. The degree has no subsistence away from Jones graduate, nor Jones graduate away from the degree.

It may be objected that a subsistent intelligence cannot communicate its being to a material body in such a way that there shall be one being of the subsistent intelligence and the material body: for things of different kinds have different modes of being, and nobler is the being of the nobler substance. This objection would be in point, if that being were said to belong to that material thing in the same way in which it belongs to that subsistent intelligence. But it is not so: for that being belongs to that material body as to a recipient subject raised to a higher state; while it belongs to that subsistent intelligence as to its principle and by congruence of its own nature.

In this way a wonderful chain of beings is revealed to our study. The lowest member of the higher genus is always found to border close upon the highest member of the lower genus. Thus some of the lowest members of the genus of animals attain to little beyond the life of plants, certain shellfish for instance, which are motionless, have only the sense of touch, and are attached to the ground like plants. Hence Dionysius says: “Divine wisdom has joined the ends of the higher to the beginnings of the lower.”369369This is a static view of a series of gradations, as it were, crystallised, showing no indication of that virtual progress from the highest of the lower genus to the lowest of the higher, which is the idea of evolution, true or false. This static view, which is also that of Aristotle, has been termed “evolution in co-existence,” not in succession. Thus in the genus of bodies we find the human body, composed of elements equally tempered, attaining to the lowest member of the class above it, that is, to the human soul, which holds the lowest rank in the class of subsistent intelligences. Hence the human soul is said to be on the horizon and boundry line between things corporeal and incorporeal, inasmuch as it is an incorporeal substance and at the same time the form of a body.

Above other forms there is found a form, likened to the supramundane substances in point of understanding, and competent to an activity which is accomplished without any bodily organ at all; and this is the intellectual soul: for the act of understanding is not done through any bodily organ. Hence the intellectual soul cannot be totally encompassed by matter, or immersed in it, as other material forms are: this is shown by its intellectual activity, wherein bodily matter has no share. The fact however that the very act of understanding in the human soul needs certain powers that work through bodily organs, namely, phantasy and sense, is a clear proof that the said soul is naturally united to the body to make up the human species.370370“A man’s intellectual knowledge stands to his sensory knowledge as a sculptor chiselling an image out of marble stands to the workmen who bring the marble from the quarry. As the sculptor cannot exercise his art on the marble unless the workmen bring it to the quarry, so a man’s intellect can form no ideas of sensible things unless it has presented to it through the external and internal senses sensible images of the same. But as the sculptor alone impresses in the marble brought him the idea of something conceived in his mind, so with his intellect alone does man form intellectual cognitions,” — i.e. universal concepts (Bödder, Psychologia, pp. 94, 95, translated). The intellect then (which must include the rational appetite, the will) is a free faculty, inorganic; χωριστός at least in this sense, that it does not actualise any body organ, as sight actualises the eye; which led Aristotle to say that “were the eye an animal, sight would be its soul” (De anima, II, i, 9), as being its ἐντελέχεια, or form. But, it may be objected, from this it appears that the νοῦς, or the intelligent soul, is not the form of the body. St Thomas would meet this grave objection by laying down, as he does (Sum. Theol., I, q. 77, a. 1), his distinction between the faculties and the essence (or substance) of the soul. This soul, he would say, is one substance, with faculties vegetative, sentient, and intelligent: it is the form of the body in respect of these vegetative and sentient faculties, and consequently in respect of the substance to which those faculties are attached, consequently also in respect even of the intelligent faculties, which are attached to the same substance of the soul. For this distinction of faculty and substance see Bödder, Psychologia, pp. 314, 315. The mediaeval mystics, as Thaulerus and Blosius, made much of this ‘substance of the soul’ (fundus animae, they called it), as distinct from the faculties: in this fundus animae, they declared, God dwells by grace as in His sanctuary, even when he is not actually thought of. It is the fashion now to rail at ‘faculty psychology,’ to scout the idea of ‘substance,’ to deny all ‘potential being,’ to allow of nothing but present actuality. Whoever is of that way of thinking, and takes up the Aristotelian idea of νοῦς χωριστός, need not be surprised to find himself carried further from St Thomas than Averroes and Alexander, even to the setting aside of the individual man altogether.


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