Unedited Notes—Woodbury on Our Intellect in this State (cont.) and in State of Separation (brief outline only)

Ch. 63 The Proper Formal Object of the Human Intellect—State of Union with Body (Cont.)

Article 2: Possibility of Metaphysics

n.936 The Problem

If one takes St. Thomas serious on these matters (and many don’t, often reading him more like a Scotist, I think), it can seem like Metaphysics is impossible.  Indeed, Scotus saw this as a problem.  The heart of the issue is that the intellect doesn’t seem to seem to be formally tuned to being as being but, instead, only to material being.  How can it know things that do not embrace the character of material being?


n.937 Answer

The formal object of metaphysics is not excluded from the proper object; however, it transcends its ambit.

The points made here are good but should be read in conjunction with what he says in Ontology and Criticism.  The point comes down to maintaining the threefold manner of abstraction; noting that the third degree of abstraction abstracts from all matter (his words); Notes that it is not limited to predicamental being but also to transcendental being;

-       By priority (quoad nos) in abstraction from sensibles (this would be the negative / neutral immateriality of wippel)

-       By posteriority (quoad nos) immaterial by nature


The former is within the scope of our proper object of intellection; however, the latter pertains to our common object.  The point is summarized (probably in a way better than the aforementioned outline he offers) in the closing words: “The ADEQUATE OBJECT OF METAPHYSICS…is attained immediately and in itself indeed, in that part which is about being abstracted from matter and those things which are common to material beings and immaterial beings.  But it is attained analogically in that part which is about those things which are proper to beings immaterial by nature; for these things neither belong to the common object nor are contained in it.”  However, I think he means proper object in the second half (esp. as regards the schema offered).  Alas, I think he is a little loose here on the role of analogy in metaphysics; need to see his other works.  On this point, Maritain’s chapter 5 of Degrees remains the best, I think.  I think that Fr. Woodbury provides some excellent points; but this text seems to underplay the role of analogy from the beginning of metaphysics – for even to speak of being insofar as it is common to the predicaments requires an analogy of proper proportionality; I am a little surprised at this section to be honest.  An incredibly insightful author, I can’t believe he seems to have missed the mark to a degree here.  I think that the overall position does need to be defended, though—and a careful study on the relations between natural philosophy and metaphysics can help.


Article 3: How Intellect (and Human Intellect) are to be Defined


n.939The Teaching of Rousselot

The background here is Rousselot; he reads Rousselot’s texts (convincingly, mind you, given Rousselot’s overstated words) as defining the intellect as being a faculty of God before it is a faculty of being.  He even is also fair enough to note that Rousselot does not take the Beatific Vision to be the proper object of the intellect; only an obediential potency.    It is best summarized in C: “In the conception of Rousselot, this obediential capcity for seeing God does not follow from the natural potency for knowing the quiddity of bodies, but rather the natural potency for knowing the quiddity of bodies follows from this obediential potency for seeing God.”

When he provides the foundation for this position, one sees the intriguing text of Rousselot as well [my comments in brackets]: “For, in order that the specification of the intellect may remain one [a kind of crypto univocation is at work, I suspect] and because we cannot see in the power of perceiving being in general, or predicamental being, [one needs to understand analogy well to understand these matters, I assert] the reason of the capacity to see god, the contrary relation must be acknowledged.”


n.940 Cannot define an intellect from its obediential potency

Definition must be taken from proper formal object – to which it is positively and primarily –essentially ordered.  From this must the definition be taken; if the obediential potency is the foundation for the natural potency, then the obediential potency is without foundation; only if we can determine the nature of our intellect can we affirm that intuitive vision of God is not repugnant to it.

Also, definition must be taken from something necessary; if taken from possibility of Beatific Vision, this necessarily connects it with the intellect’s nature; thus the gratuity of elevation seems difficult to save; and it’s not enough to admit that this possibility can only be fulfilled supernaturally; for then the Beatific Vision would be naturally possible; this can’t be held, as to be discussed in Ch.65


Must concede

-       Specification of intellect must be one

-       Natural capacity for apprehending predicamental being is not foundation of obediential potency to see God

Must Deny

-       That holding that the intellect is specified by quiddity of bodies involves that our intellect is not specified ad unum; (Instead, given that being as being can fall under our proper object, no being is excluded[—Though one must understand this matter carefully])

-       The power to perceive being in common does not extend itself beyond predicamental being; (in fact, it extends right to transcendental being; in this lies the foundation of the obediential potency in virtue of the actuation of which the intellect can know God intuitively) [Again, See Maritain, Degrees, c.5]

Thus, intellect can be defined as “Cognoscitive power whereof the formal object is being” = “The faculty of being”

The Human intellect is to be defined as “Cognoscitive power whereof the proper formal or specificative object is the quiddity or nature of material thing[s] as it is universal” = “The faculty of corporeal being”


Ch. 64 The Proper Formal Object of the Human Intellect—State of Separation

These matters are very important; however, I do not now have the time to outline them in detail (as also for ch.65, which has already received masterly treatment by Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange through many important battles.) 

I also have reservations about the method employed, as it is primarily that of authority; this is partially necessitated by the fact that these matters are (as Fr. Woodbury notes) primarily metaphysics’s domain—and there, quite lofty.  However, I also think that these matters are haven’t been adequately treated in a philosophical manner in detail by the tradition (though one finds Thomists treating it here or there—Or, like several Thomists in a long discussion of texts).  Really, this alone should be a significant treatise in metaphysics—lofty and difficult like knowledge of God’s existence and attributes.  Even in outline, Fr. Woodbury has a lot of content (for a matter that is really not in the province of natural philosophy[!]).  It requires a careful understanding of the kind of knowledge that the angels have, of spiritual communication, etc.    Indeed, this treatise should be closely allied to a discussion of angels and their knowledge (again, something that one understands rightly as being often discussed theologically even though it is naturally knowable).


I will, however, present a summary of the schematic summary at the end of the chapter:

The intellect of the separated soul…

-       Has for its Proper formal object—The substance of the soul; but this is the secundum quid object of the soul (thus, not specificative); [here one must understand the preternatural state that is separation]

-       It has its manner of understanding

o   Without conversion to phantasms: Because it does not have sense powers, formally speaking; this is detrimental to the soul’s understanding

o   It has understanding through the very substance of its soul – knows in itself; knows other things after the manner of this substance; (also, see his discussion of how it knows the proper accidents)

o   And has understanding through intelligible species – acquired in this life and infused at separation

o   Knows purely intellectually – no composing / dividing; also not discursively

-       Has diverse knowledges….

o   Through substance of soul it knows

§  In recto the very substance of the soul and its proper accidents; which it knows

·      Through essence

·      Immediately (not through something else)

·      Directly(not by reflection)

·      Quidditatively (Not analogicaly; in itself)

·      Comprehensively (Not merely apprehensively; through its essence united to the intellect without exceeding the intellect as regards immaterially; substance of the separated soul is self-knowledge, though radically only—[The issue of expressing knowledge terminally needs more discussion here, for the substance is not the expressed species, nor is it the power, except radically; one should see here parallel issues in angelology in John of St. Thomas’s Cursus Theologicus; the comprehensivity of the knowledge is thus different from Divine comprehensivity, but it is real comprehensivity because the substance is radically the source of the self-knowledge])

·      Intuitively (As existing; again, here the issue of expressed species makes it a bit different from the case of intuitive knowledge without termination in an expressed species, [as in the case of our external sense knowledge] and Divine Self-Knowledge but this beyond our immediate concerns)

§  Connotatively

·      God – mediately, analogically, but more perfectly than our specular knowledge

·      The soul’s own body

·      Other separated souls – but according to their specific quiddity

o   Through acquired species

§  Universal quiddities – that it knew in this life; and whatever can be syllogized from them

§  Not singulars save by application of such universals to singulars known by another knowledge

o   Through infused species

§  All natural things – but in a certain commonness and confusion [See discussion regarding this in Garrigou’s treatment of De Deo Creatore]

§  And singulars to which the soul has some special relation or inclination (see text for details on this; it is very simple here; I suspect that it gets some detailed discussion somewhere among the commentators)

o   Through intellectual speech by some angel, demon, or other separated soul  [On this, one has only a bit from discussions near the end of ST I]