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CHAPTER LIIThat in Created Subsistent Intelligences there is a Difference between Existence and Essence

THOUGH subsistent intelligences are not corporeal, nor compounded of matter and form, nor existent as material292292Read materiales from Chap. LI. forms in matter, still it must not be thought that they come up to the simplicity of the being of God: for there is found in them a certain composition, inasmuch as existence (esse) and essence (quod est) is not in them the same.293293In whatever reality essence and existence are identical, that reality is its own existence: in other words, it exists of itself, which self-existence is proper to God alone. That is the whole argument of this chapter. All scholastic writers agree in admitting some sort of distinction between essence and existence in creatures: but as to the nature of that distinction as it obtains in existing creatures, and the name by which the distinction should he expressed, there has been fierce contention between the later Thomists and other schools. Non nostrum inter vos tantas componere lites.

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4. Whatsoever reality subsists of and by itself, nothing attaches to that reality except what is proper to being as being. For what is said of any reality not as such, does not belong to that reality otherwise than accidentally by reason of the subject:294294A barber may be black, but not as a barber. His blackness has nothing to do with his trade. ‘Black barber’ is an accidental predication, inasmuch as blackness and hair-cutting happen in this case both to be attributes of the same subject. hence, considered apart from the subject in a particular case, the attribute does not belong to that reality at all. Now to be ‘caused by another’ does not belong to being, as being: otherwise every being would be caused by another, which is impossible (B. I, Chap. XIII) Therefore that existence which is being of itself and by itself, must be uncaused. No caused being therefore is its own existence.

5. The substance of every reality is a being of itself and not through another. Hence actual illumination is not of the substance of air, because it accrues to it through another. But to every created reality existence accrues through another, otherwise it would not be a creature. Therefore of no created substance is it true to say that its existence is its substance.295295The conclusion might be expressed thus: In every created reality, or actuality, the actualisation, or realisation, is something distinct and separable from the thing actualised, or realised. This is not saying that the actualisation might be taken away, and the thing still remain. The distinction between essence and existence is not physical. But created essence has not such a hold on existence as to be incapable of losing it. This loose hold upon existence is taken by the Thomist school to involve a real distinction between essence and existence in creatures.

Hence in Exodus iii, 14, existence is assigned as the proper name of God, He who is: because it is proper to God alone that His substance is none other than His existence.


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