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being (Aquinas)

Subject Philosophy

People Aquinas, Saint Thomas

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405106795.2004.x


M etaphysics, medieval philosophy [Latin esse or ens ] Following Aristotle , Aquinas believed that the word “being” is used in many ways and distinguished the actually existent in its own right ( ens per se ), the actually existent coincidentally ( ens per accidens ), potential and actual existents, and existence in the sense of the true ( esse ut verum ). In addition to restating Aristotle's doctrines of being, Aquinas distinctively held that the existent in its own right is the predicate that is genuinely predicated of an individual, and is therefore a first-order predicate. In contrast, existence in the sense of true is ascribed to the predicate that indicates the nature of a kind and can therefore be applied to any subject of that kind, but does not belong to an individual. Thus existence in the sense of true is a second-order predicate that does not carry existential import. This idea was taken by Frege for his diagnosis of existence according to which existence is not a predicate. Aquinas clearly stated the distinction between existence (the fact that it is) and essence (what a being is), a contrast that originated in Avicenna 's distinction between necessary and possible being. All finite things owe their existence to the creation of God and do not exist necessarily in virtue of their essence. Only in God is there a unity of existence and essence. “We use the verb ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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