The Ways to Wisdom

The Ways to Wisdom

Aquinas Day By Day


Aquinas’s topic: the range of the theoretical sciences

Scripture: “How great is you name, O Lord our God, through all the earth. . . When I see the heavens, the work of your fhands, the moon and the stars which you arranged, what is man that you should keep him in mind, mortal man that you care for him? Yet you have made him little less than a god.” Psalm 8: 1, 4-6.

Aquinas’s text: In Boethium de Trinitate, 5.1.

The speculative sciences are distinguished based on their degree of separation from matter and motion. Therefore, there are some objects of the speculative sciences that depend upon matter for their existence, because only in matter can they exist. Now these are again distinguished. Some of them depend on matter for their existence and for being understood, such as those in whose definition is placed sensible matter. Consequently, they cannot be understood without sensible matter. For example, in the definition of a human one must include flesh and bones. Now physics or natural science is about things like these. By contrast, there are other things that, though they depend on matter for their existence, do not depend on matter for being understood, because in their definitions is not included sensible matter. For example, line and number. Now mathematics is about things like these. Finally, there are other objects of the speculative sciences that do not depend on matter for their existence, because they can exist without matter. Either they are never in matter, for example, such as God or an angel; or sometimes they are in matter and sometimes not, such as substance, quality, being, potency act, one, many, and things like these. Now theology, that is, divine science, is about all of these, because in it the most important thing known is God. This science is called by another name metaphysics, that is, ‘beyond physics,’ because its being learned by us comes after physics. For we have to proceed from sensible things to things that are not sensible. And it is also called first philosophy, in so far as all the other sciences, by taking their principles from it, follow it. Now it is not possible that there are things that depend upon matter for being understood but not for their existence, since understanding in itself is immaterial. Consequently, there is no fourth kind of philosophy, beyond the three mentioned.

Et ideo secundum ordinem remotionis a materia et motu scientiae speculativae distinguuntur. Quaedam ergo speculabilium sunt, quae dependent a materia secundum esse, quia non nisi in materia esse possunt. Et haec distinguuntur, quia quaedam dependent a materia secundum esse et intellectum, sicut illa, in quorum diffinitione ponitur materia sensibilis; unde sine materia sensibili intelligi non possunt, ut in diffinitione hominis oportet accipere carnem et ossa. Et de his est physica sive scientia naturalis. Quaedam vero sunt, quae quamvis dependeant a materia secundum esse, non tamen secundum intellectum, quia in eorum diffinitionibus non ponitur materia sensibilis, sicut linea et numerus. Et de his est mathematica. Quaedam vero speculabilia sunt, quae non dependent a materia secundum esse, quia sine materia esse possunt, sive numquam sint in materia, sicut Deus et Angelus, sive in quibusdam sint in materia et in quibusdam non, ut substantia, qualitas, ens, potentia, actus, unum et multa et huiusmodi. De quibus omnibus est theologia, id est scientia divina, quia praecipuum in ea cognitorum est Deus, quae alio nomine dicitur metaphysica, id est trans physicam, quia post physicam discenda occurrit nobis, quibus ex sensibilibus oportet in insensibilia devenire. Dicitur etiam philosophia prima, in quantum aliae omnes scientiae ab ea sua principia accipientes eam consequuntur. Non est autem possibile quod sint aliquae res quae secundum intellectum dependeant a materia et non secundum esse, quia intellectus, quantum est de se, immaterialis est. Et ideo non est quartum genus philosophiae praeter praedicta.

[Introductions and translations © R.E. Houser]

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The Center for Thomistic Studies at the University of St. Thomas is the only graduate philosophy program uniquely focused on the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas in the United States. The Center is founded on the Church’s insistence of the perennial value of the thought of Aquinas as the new millennium proceeds.
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