Transcendental Relation

Transcendental and Predicamental Relation (and, More Generally, relatio secundum esse)

I thought it would be good to reproduce here a topic from Woodbury that is very pertinent to discussions John Deely has undertaken in recent history.  It has also come to the surface in some other topics among philosophers who are actually paying attention to some later-day scholastics.  I felt the need to include this in a note for a book that I am translating.  I thought it might be helpful to put it online as well.  I know that I long searched for this sort of thing in the midst of the deserts in which we live in this dark ecclesial era.

Austin M. Woodbury, Ostensive Metaphysics, The John N. Deely and Anthony F. Russell Collection, St. Vincent College Library, Latrobe, PA, n.1201 (p.930-932):

n. 1201 Transcendental and Predicamental Relation

But real relation itself is twofold, according as it is either a pure relation, i.e. nought except a relation, such as sonship, or is together some absolute being, [e.g.] a quality, such as sight, which besides being a relation to vision and to colour, is also a quality.  A pure real relation is called a predicamental relation, which is a pure order towards other, so that it is not together some absolute being; wherefore it is named ‘predicamental’, since it constitutes a special mode of being really distinct from every absolute mode of being.  This predicamental relation is a real purely relative accident superadded to its subject, this subject being constituted related to another: not formally through itself, but formally through this accident really distinct from itself.  Examples are fatherhood, sonship, equality, similarity.

But a real relation which is together some absolute being is called a transcendental relation: because it extends itself beyond the special predicament of relation and is found in all the predicaments or modes of being ([e.g.] in substance, quality, etc.).  A transcendental relation accordingly is the very entity of some absolute being from its very essence ordered towards another, or proportioned or adapted or adjusted to another, as matter from its very essence is ordered towards form, or essence towards be [i.e. existence], or act towards object.  Therefore, a transcendental relation is nothing else than the very essence of a being, which is not only a relation, as it is adapted or ordered towards another—as the essence of sight (which is not merely a relation, but is a quality) is adapted or ordered towards vision and color; wherefore, it is nothing else than an essential adaptation of a thing that is not a mere or pure relation.  Accordingly, that which is related through a transcendental relation is constituted related: formally through its own entity, so that it is its own relation, not formally through a relation really distinct from its entity—in this case, its order or adaptation to another would be only accidental, not essential.

It is manifest from what has just been said that: whereas, as will be explained later (cf. n.1206), in predicamental relation there is real distinction between these four: the relation itself, its subject, its foundation, and its term; when it is a question of transcendental relation, there is real identity between the relation itself and its subject, and its foundation, the only real distinction lying between tht one reality which is together these three and the term.

From what has just been said follow two further distinctions between predicamental and transcendental relation.  First indeed, whereas predicamental relation respects its term as a pure term; transcendental relation, on the contrary, respects its term, not as a pure term, but as that whereunto the subject is essentially adapted, to wit, as specificative, or perfective, or complement, or proper subject.  But secondly, whereas predicamental relation perishes if its term does not really actually exist, since its sole office is to refer the subject to that term as to a term—which it cannot do if that which is the term does not exist; transcendental relation, on the contrary, does not require that its term really exist actually, since something can be essentially adapted to another without the real actual existence of that other; thus, for example, [the] human soul is transcendentally related to the human body, but can exist after the body has ceased to exist; also, there can be science of an object which does not exist really ([e.g.] logic, whose object is mental being [entia rationis, namely relationes rationis that are second intentions].

It is to be noted that the distinction of real relation into predicamental relation and transcendental relation does not fully coincide with the distinction, commonly made by St. Thomas and the ancient scholastics, of relation into ‘relation according to [existence] (secundum esse)’ and ‘relation according to be-spoken (secundum dici).’  See ST I q.13 a.7 ad 1.  For, they called by the name of “relation according to [existence]” every pure relation or relation whose whole [existence] is [to]-[exist]-towards-other, wheter such relation be real (and then it is predicamental) or mental; for also of mental relation is it true that its whole [existence] is towards other.  See De potentia, q.7 a.10 ad 11.  While, they called by the name ‘relation according to be-spoken,’ the relation that is together some absolute being (and this is transcendental relation): inasmuch as such absolute beings are understood and are defined and therefore are-spoken through reference to another; as potency is understood and is defined and is-spoken through reference towards act, and similarly matter through reference to form, and similarly sight through reference to vision and colour, and similarly habit through reference to its operation and object.”