“Active and Passive Potency” in Thomistic Angelology by Howard P. Kainz Ph. D. (auth.)

By Howard P. Kainz Ph. D. (auth.)

A. "SEPARATE ingredients" AND lOR" ANGELS"? it truly is fascinating to notice that, in an expressly theological treatise similar to the Summa theologiae, St. Thomas quite often makes use of the time period "angel", in place of "separate substance"; whereas in works with a much less particular theological rationale - e. g. the Summa contra gentiles and the De substantiis separatis 1 - he mostly prefers the time period "separate substance". yet at any price there's little question that the 2 phrases, "separate sub­ stance" and "angel" have a definite interchangeability and equivalence within the works of St. Thomas. In different phrases, "the separate substance" is similar to "the angel, insofar as its life and attributes are knowable via human cause alone". And this has led Karl Barth 2 to cost that St. Thomas' angelology is essentially a philosophical presenta­ tion, with little relevance to theology. 1 we would say that those works are "philosophical" insofar as arguments from cause are emphasised in them, instead of arguments from revelation or religion. notwithstanding, as Lescoe issues out (in the creation to his variation of the De substantUs separatis, p. 8), the treatise on separate components leads as much as theological subject-matter in Ch. 's XVII ff- specifically, an exposition of Catholic instructing as present in Sacred Scripture, the Fathers, and particularly Dionysius. And Chenu continues that the Summa contra gentiles is essentially a theological paintings, since it not just leads as much as theological subject-matter in Bk.

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2. The variety and relative capacities of passive potency As the bed of an ocean is indisputably the sine qua non for all the fluctuations and alterations effected on its surface - so also passive potency is, in a very real way, the foundation for all the existential modifications which take place in, or through the agency of, a thing. , for each and every way in which it is capable of receiving perfection : but it is also indirectly necessary as a substratum for active potencies, and all the operations to which these active potencies give rise.

Being outside and ontologically above the sphere of time, they comprehend time per eminentiam; and there is nothing which is new in the material universe or the intellects of men, which has not already been fully worked out, perfectly comprehended, in some way, in the intellects of separate substances 3. The only progression which obtains in the passage of the active powers of a separate substance into act is a certain natural (non-temporal) progression of orientations of thoughts and the affections and movements consequent on these thoughts 4.

Cr. S. , Q. 25, Art. 1. S. C. , II, Ch. 22 : "omni potentia(e) passivae respondet potentia activa". cr. , d. 42, q. 1, a. 1. 38 THE THOMISTIC DOCTRINE ON POTENCY While the omnipotence of God is intelligible to us only through consideration of the dependent potency of the universe taken as a whole, the active potency of creatures becomes intelligible to us through the various types of operations and movements which take place in and among them. By consideration of the directly perceptible phenomenon of self-movement in living creatures, we easily arrive at the notion of the necessity for some active potential principle to supply the basis for such motions.

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