Aquinas Day By Day


Aquinas’s topic: Logic of concepts: universals

Scripture: “The Lord’s are the earth and its fullness; the world and those who dwell in it. For he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.” Psalm 24

Aquinas’s text: Summa theologiae I.85.2 ad 2m

When one says “understood in act” two things are implied, namely, the thing that is understood and understanding itself. Likewise, when one says “abstracted universal,” two things are understood, namely, the very nature of the thing, and abstraction or universality. Therefore, the very nature to which accrues being understood or being abstracted or the notion of universality exists only in singulars; but being understood or being abstracted or the notion of universality exists in the intellect.

Now we can see this through something similar in sense. For vision sees the color of an apple without its odor. Consequently, if one asks where is the color seen without the odor, it is clear that the color that is seen exists only in the apple, but that it is perceived without odor accrues to it on the side of vision, in so far as in vision there is a likeness of the color but not of the odor.

In a similar way, the humanity that is understood exists only in this or that human. But that humanity is apprehended without individuating conditions, which is being abstracted and upon which there follows the notion of universality, accrues to humanity in so far as it is perceived by the intellect, in which there is a likeness of the nature of the species but not of individuating principles.

Ad secundum dicendum quod, cum dicitur intellectum in actu, duo importantur, scilicet res quae intelligitur, et hoc quod est ipsum intelligi. Et similiter cum dicitur universale abstractum, duo intelliguntur, scilicet ipsa natura rei, et abstractio seu universalitas. Ipsa igitur natura cui accidit vel intelligi vel abstrahi, vel intentio universalitatis, non est nisi in singularibus; sed hoc ipsum quod est intelligi vel abstrahi, vel intentio universalitatis, est in intellectu. Et hoc possumus videre per simile in sensu. Visus enim videt colorem pomi sine eius odore. Si ergo quaeratur ubi sit color qui videtur sine odore manifestum est quod color qui videtur, non est nisi in pomo; sed quod sit sine odore perceptus, hoc accidit ei ex parte visus, inquantum in visu est similitudo coloris et non odoris. Similiter humanitas quae intelligitur, non est nisi in hoc vel in illo homine, sed quod humanitas apprehendatur sine individualibus conditionibus, quod est ipsam abstrahi, ad quod sequitur intentio universalitatis, accidit humanitatis secundum quod percipitur ab intellectu, in quo est similitudo naturae speciei, et non individualium principiorum.

[Introductions and translations © R.E. Houser]