"The good of the grace of one soul is greater than the good of the nature of the whole universe"
- St Thomas Aquinas Ia IIa, q.24, a. 3, ad 2

— A Commentary on the Third Part of St Thomas' Theological Summa

by Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O. P.


Solution Of Objections Against Cajetan's Opinion

First objection. In a certain work we read: "The necessity of this substantial mode is freely affirmed, namely, that an individualized substance be immediately capable of existing separately; it is of the very notion of an individualized and complete substance that it exist in itself and of itself."[577]

Reply. Substance or individualized nature is not what exists, but whereby any subject is such as it is, constituted in a certain species with its individualizing conditions. What exists is not this humanity of Peter. Otherwise this humanity of Christ would already be what is, and thus there would be two supposita in Christ, or two persons. On the contrary, there is only one suppositum in Christ, to whom the two natures are attributed.

Such is the common teaching of theologians in discussing the theandric acts of Christ, and the infinite value of His merits and satisfaction. They say these meritorious and satisfactory acts are of infinite value not because of the principle from which they are elicited, namely, the human nature, its faculties and infused virtues, but because of the subjective principle that elicits these acts, that is, the divine suppositum or divine person.

Personality must therefore be a real, positive, and substantial thing, distinct from the individualized nature and also from existence that is a contingent predicate of the created person. This means that personality is properly that whereby any intelligent and free subject is what is. Thus the common teaching of St. Thomas is that, in any creature whatever, there is a difference between what is and being.[578]

Second objection. On the part of substance, to subsist is to exist. But the relation between subsistence and to subsist is the same as between existence and to exist, with which latter it is identified. Therefore subsistence is the same as existence.

Reply. I concede the major, inasmuch as subsistence is the fact of existence attributed to the person, but not constituting the person, for the person is the thing that de facto exists. Hence we concede the major, or let it pass without comment.

I deny the minor; for the relation is not between subsistence and to subsist, but between subsistence and the suppositum, which is the same as between existence and to be or to exist; which means that it is a relation between the abstract and the concrete, as between a race and running. This becomes clearer if we substitute "personality" for "subsistence"; for the relation is not between personality and subsistence, but between personality and person, which is a relation between the abstract and the concrete. Hence the relation is the same as that between existence and to exist, and between a race and running. And thus there is a real distinction between personality or subsistence and existence, or between to exist and to subsist, which de facto is attributed to the suppositum as a contingent predicate.

St. Thomas admits this distinction; for he writes: "The relation between life and to live is not the same as that between essence and to exist; but rather as that between a race and to run, one of which signifies the act in the abstract, and the other in the concrete."[579]

Thus there is a threefold order in the signification of both the abstract and the concrete:

[diagram page 169]:

abstract: essence: humanity personality or subsistence existence
concrete: being: man person (Peter) to exist

As St. Thomas says: "The three persons in God have only one being,"[580] and this latter is identified with the divine essence, which is not really distinct from the divine persons, although there is a real distinction between the persons.

Against Cajetan's argument other objections have been proposed in our times, such as the following.

Objection. St. Thomas says: "Being and operation belong to the person by reason of the nature, yet in a different manner. For being belongs to the very constitution of the person, and in this respect it has the nature of a term, that is, as ultimate actuality; consequently unity of person requires unity of the complete and personal being. But operation is an effect of the person by reason of the former nature. Hence plurality of operations is not incompatible with personal unity."[581]

Reply. In this text St. Thomas is not inquiring into the formal constituent of person, which has already been determined;[582] but why there are two operations just as there are two natures, whereas there is one being. He replies that "being belongs to the very constitution of the person,"[583] namely, to the person constituted as a person, as to that which has being, as St. Thomas said. For it is the person that immediately is, whereas operation, which follows personal being, belongs to the person through the intermediary of the nature and its faculties. Thus in Christ there are one being and two operations, just as there are two natures. In this text St. Thomas is not inquiring about the formal constituent of person, since this he had already done,[584] and had no need to postpone the determination of this formal constituent of person, when confronted by the doubt, which he proposed to himself, namely, whether there is only one operation in Christ;[585] for operation follows being, and what belongs to being must be considered before what concerns operation.

Father Mattiussi, S. J.,[586] presents three texts from the works of St. Thomas in proof that he taught the identity between subsistence and existence. But the true gist of these texts is: "Subsistence is said of that whose act is to subsist, as essence is said of that whose act is to exist."[587] Therefore, as existence is really distinct from essence in which it is received, so suppositum and subsistence that formally constitutes suppositum, is distinct from existence.

Another objection. From two acts there does not result per se unity; wherefore prime matter must be pure potency. But essence, subsistence, and existence are three acts.[588] Therefore these three acts cannot result in per se unity.

Reply. I distinguish the major. That there cannot result from two acts a nature one per se, this I concede; that there cannot result a suppositum one per se, this I deny. I concede the minor. Essence, subsistence, and existence are three acts, yet so ordered that one is the terminus of the other. I distinguish the conclusion. Therefore from these three acts there does not result a third per se nature, this I concede; that there does not result a one per se suppositum, this I deny. For when the rational nature is completed by personality, it is constituted a person, to whom existence applies accidentally or contingently. Aristotle distinguished between four modes of per se predication:[589] (1) definition which shows that the nature is one per se; (2) per se predicate that denotes a necessary property; (3) per se predication that declares something is of itself subsisting or a suppositum, which means that it is one per se as a subject, although it may be an essential part and have accidental parts; (4) predication that denotes a cause that is per se, and not per accidens. It must be noted that in a certain article of a Carmelite periodical, personality is something relative and is only reduced to the category of substance.[590] In reply to this, we say that the divine personalities are indeed relative entities, that is, they are subsisting relations, paternity, filiation, passive spiration, whose esse in (or inexistence) is substantial. But either human personality or angelic personality is not a relative entity, but an absolute entity; for it does not imply reference to another person, as paternity does. It is predicated as belonging indirectly to the category of substance, as a substantial mode, whereby an individual nature becomes immediately capable of existence.

Conclusion. Thus in the opinion held by Cajetan there is a legitimate transition from the commonly accepted definition of person, namely, that person is the first subject of attribution in a rational nature, to the philosophical notion of personality. Cajetan so very well says: "If all acknowledge this, then why in scrutinizing the quiddity of the thing signified, do we turn away from the common admission?"[591]

According to this common admission, person is that which exists separately of itself in a rational nature, and personality is that whereby person is formally constituted as a what of itself separately existing, to whom existence is attributed contingently.

Hence the entire opinion of Cajetan reduces itself to what is required on the part of the object, which is the verification of these two judgments admitted by all theologians, namely, the person of Peter exists, but he is not his existence. And just as no created essence is its existence, so no created person, formally constituted as such, by its own personality, is his own existence. Only God is His existence.

Doubt. Does Cajetan consider subsistence or personality to be the intrinsic terminus of substance?

Reply. He certainly does, inasmuch as subsistence is the formal constituent of first substance, or the suppositum, although it does not belong to the notion of nature. Thus subsistence pertains to the substantial order. Father Hugon correctly says: "The metaphysical foundation for this opinion is the radical difference prevailing between what belongs to the existential order and what belongs to the substantial order. This means that no created person is his existence. Likewise the end of motion is what properly terminates it, but it is no longer motion, which has ceased; so also it is subsistence that terminates the nature, but is not the nature; however, it constitutes the first substance, or suppositum. No created person, whether understood denominatively as a singular nature, or formally, that is, with personality, is its existence. The second article of St. Thomas may now be read again, so that this doctrine may be more clearly understood."[592]

Recapitulation. The principal argument in this opinion that is held by very many Thomists is reduced to the following conclusion, as stated above. Something real and positive is required whereby a created and existing subject is what is, which is against Scotus. But this something cannot be either the singular nature, which is related to the subject as constituting it in its species, or existence, which is a contingent predicate of the created subject, which is against other opinions. Therefore some other positive entity is required, namely, personality, which is the ultimate disposition of a singular nature for existence. A substantial mode that would accrue to substance already existing would, indeed, be a contradiction in terms, for it would thus be an accident, which is against Suarez; but there would be no contradiction if it came to substance before it existed.

Index Top




"A tree that is cultivated and guarded through the care of its owner produces its fruit at the expected time. "

St John of the Cross, OCD - Doctor of the Church

* * *

"If, devout soul, it is your will to please God and live a life of serenity in this world, unite yourself always and in all things to the divine will. Reflect that all the sins of your past wicked life happened because you wandered from the path of God's will. For the future, embrace God's good pleasure and say to him in every happening: "Yea, Father, for so it hath seemed good in thy sight." "

St Alphonsus de Liguori

* * *

"When the devil has failed in making a man fall, he puts forward all his energies to create distrust between the penitent and the confessor, and so by little and little he gains his end at last."

St Philip Neri

* * *