Listers, “with the decree Postquam sanctissimus of 27 July 1914, Pope St. Pius X declared that 24 theses formulated by ‘teachers from various institutions … clearly contain the principles and more important thoughts’ of Thomas. Principal contributors to the Church’s official statement of the ’24 Theses’ of Thomism include include Dominican philosopher and theologian Edouard Hugon of the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum and Jesuit philosopher theologian Guido Mattiussi of the Pontifical Gregorian University.” The 24 Theses of St. Thomas Aquinas come after Pope Leo XIII’s famous encyclical Aeterni Patris – summarized by SPL’s list The Sun that Warms the World – calling for a restoration of Christian philosophy by turning the Church toward St. Thomas Aquinas. In 1914, St. Pope Pius X declared the Motu Proprio Doctoris Angelici – summarized by the SPL list The Patrimony of Wisdom – correcting misgivings among Italy and the adjacent islands about their use – or lack thereof – regarding the Angelic Doctor.
“He (Thomas Aquinas) enlightened the Church more than all the other Doctors together; a man can derive more profit from his books in one year than from a lifetime spent in pondering the philosophy of others.” – Pope John XXII (Consistorial of 1318), quoted in Doctoris Angelici.
It should be noted that since this is pre-Vatican II there are many who would claim these theses are irrelevant and compose only the larger devotion to St. Thomas Aquinas that Vatican II discarded. The errors of this view have been catalogued in SPL’s list Vatican II Did Away with Aquinas? – 4 References that Prove Otherwise. To wit, Vatican II stated Aquinas by name as a timeless resource for seminarians, universities, and the Church as a whole. Of course, there is the ubiquitous Vatican II spectre of what the Council said and what happened after the Council.
Finally, please nota bene that these theses were forged from the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas and promulgated by Holy Mother Church, but they are not written by the Angelic Doctor. Moreover, the commentary is supplemented by the Dominican P. Lumbreras, O.P., S.T.Lr., Ph.D and the citations added for reference.
Sacred Congregation of Studies
Decree of Approval of some theses contained in the Doctrine of St. Thomas Aquinas and proposed to the Teachers of Philosophy
Sacred Congregation of Studies
Datum Romae, die 27 iulii 1914.
B. Card Lorenzelli, Praefectus
Ascensus Dandini, a Secretis
L + S.
AFTER OUR MOST HOLY LORD Pope Pius X by His Motu Proprio Doctoris Angelici, of June 29, 1914, salubriously prescribed that in all schools of philosophy the principles and major pronouncements [maiora pronuntiata] of Thomas Aquinas be held in a holy manner, not a few masters from diverse Institutions proposed some theses [theses] for this Sacred Congregation to examine, which they themselves had been accustomed to hand down and defend as required according to the chief principles of the saintly teacher, especially in the subject of metaphysics.
This Sacred Congregation, having duly examined the aforementioned theses and having presented them to our most holy lord, by the mandate of the same, His Holiness, replies that they plainly contain those principles and major pronouncements of the holy Doctor.
Moreover, these are:
I. Potency and act so divide being [ens], that whatever is, either is a pure act, and/or coalesces necessarily out of potency and act, as (its) first and intrinsic principles.
Commentary: Every actual subsisting being—inanimate bodies and animals, men and angels, creatures and Creator—must be either Pure Act—a perfection which is neither the complement of Potency, nor the Potency which lacks further complement—or Potency mixed with Act—something capable of perfection and some perfection fulfilling this capacity. This statement is true both in the existential and in the essential order. In each of these orders the composition of Act and Potency is that of two real, really distinct principles, as Being itself; intrinsic to the existing being or to its essence; into which, finally, all other principles can be resolved, while they cannot be resolved into any other.
II. Act, as perfection, is not limited but by potency, which is a capacity for perfection. Hence in the order in which an act is pure, in that same (order) it exists as naught but unique and unlimited; but where it is finite and multiple, it has fallen into a true composition with potency .
Commentary: Since Act means perfection, perfection belongs to Act by reason of itself; imperfection, then, by reason of something else. Limits, therefore, belong to Act but on account of Potency. Consequently, if an Act is pure, it is perfection without limits, and gives no ground for distinction and multiplicity. On the contrary, any finite or manifold Act is mixed with Potency: for it is only as subjected in Potency that it is limited and multiplied according to the capacity of the subject.
III. On which account, the one God, One and Most Simple, subsists in the absolute reckoning of ‘being’ [esse] itself, all other things which participate in ‘being’ itself, have a nature which restricts (their) ‘to be’ [esse], and (their) essence and ‘to be’ are established by really distinct principles.
Commentary: If there is any being, the actuality of whose existence—for existent means actual—is not received into the potentiality of essence, such a being subsists of itself, because it is perfection without limits; it is unique, because it excludes composition of any kind; it is the most simple Being: God. All other things, the actuality of whose existence is received into the potentiality of the essence, participate in existence according to the capacity of the essence, which limits in this way the actuality of existence. Essence and existence hold in them the place of Potency and Act in the existential order, and are two real and really distinct principles, which intrinsically constitute the compound, the existing being, in the order of existence.
IV. Being [ens], which is denominated from “to be”, is not said of God and creatures univocally, yet neither (is it said) entirely equivocally, but analogically, by an analogy both of attribution and of proportionality.
Commentary: If the actuality of existence is in God a Pure Act and is in creatures an Act mixed with Potency, Being cannot be predicated of God and creatures in an identical way: God is self-existing, creatures have their existence from God. Still, because the effect in some manner reproduces its cause, Being does not belong to God and creatures in a totally different sense. Being, as predicated of God and creatures is an analogous term. Its analogy is first that of attribution, since Being appertains to creatures as far as they have it from God, to whom it appertains by essence; and is secondly that of proportionality, since the actuality of existence is intrinsic to God and creatures as existing beings.
V. Moreover, in every creature there is a real composition of the subsisting subject with the forms, or accidents, (which have) been added secondarily: but if there were not really received in an distinct essence a ‘to be’, this (composition) could not be understood.
Commentary: The compound of essence and existence is itself the subject or Potency of a further complement or Act: this Act or complement is but an accidental perfection. The new composition is a real one, as the addition itself is real. It can be observed in every creature. Bodies have quantity, spirits have faculties and operations upon which, furthermore, quality follows; every creature has some relation to the Creator. But this real composition of accidents and subsisting compound lacks a philosophical basis if we put aside the composition of essence and existence. The subsisting being cannot be the subject of accidental Act except in so far as it is Potency; but existence is not Potency. The actuality, then, of existence and that of accident come together in the same substantial essence only because this essence is a Potency really distinct from both Acts.
VI. Apart from absolute accidents, there is also the relative (accident),or (that which) regards something [ad aliquid]. For though “regarding something” does not signify according to its own reckoning anything inherent in anything, yet in things it often has a cause, and for that reason a real entity distinct from (its) subject.
Commentary: In addition to the absolute accidents—which modify the subject in itself—there is a relative accident—which affects the subject with respect to something else. The proper nature of predicamental relation consists in the very habitude to something else; relation, as relation, does not indicate inherence in something, but reference toward something. We may think of a merely logical relation. This is not always the case. For often we have a real subject, and a real and distinct term, and a real foundation, no one of which, however, is that very habitude which relation means.
VII. A spiritual creature is entirely simple in its essence. But there remains within it a composition of essence with a ‘to be’ and of substance with accidents.
Commentary: The essence of angels is only Act, for the actuality of the form is not received into the potentiality of matter. Angels, indeed, are but intellectual substances, since to understand is a wholly immaterial operation. The last statement of the thesis has already been justified.
VIII. On the other hand, a corporeal creature, is in regard to (its) very essence, composed of potency and act; which potency and act, in the order of essence, are designated by the names of “matter” and “form”.
Commentary: Besides the composition in the existential and accidental order, bodies are composed also in the order of essence. Bodies, indeed, are extended and active, divisible and yet one, multiplied in individuals while keeping specific unity, subject to substantial changes, which by different and often contrary successive properties are made known. Consequently, there must be in bodies an intrinsic principle as the basis of extension, division, numerical multiplicity, the permanent subject of the substantial change; and another intrinsic principle as the foundation of the activity, unity, specific likeness, the successive phases of the change. The first principle, passive, undetermined, incomplete, potential, the root of extension, the support of the substantial change, is material and substantial. The second, active, determining, completing, term of the substantial change, is substantial and formal. Matter and form, then, constitute the essence of bodily substance: neither one is an essence, a substance, a body: each is but a part of the compound, which is a single essence, a single substance, a single body.
IX. Neither of these parts has ‘being’ through itself, nor is produced and/or corrupted through itself, nor is it posited in a predicament, except reductively as a substantial principle.
Commentary: Since existence is the Act of essence, neither matter nor form can be granted an existence of its own; the existence belongs to the compound. And because production brings things into existence, and destruction deprives them of it, the term of production or destruction is likewise the compound. Finally, since matter and form are substantial principles, they cannot be collocated among accidents. But neither can they be placed directly in the category of substance, for it is the complete substance, which is classed there. They fall, then, into the category of substance by reduction, as principles of substance, as substantial Potency and substantial Act.
X. Even though extension into integral parts is consequent to corporeal nature, yet the same (thing) for a body to be a substance and to be a quantum. Indeed a substance is indivisible according to its reckoning, not indeed after the manner of a point, but after the manner of that which is outside the order of dimension. But the quantity, which grants extension to a substance, really differs from the substance, and is an “accident” of true name.
Commentary: To have integral parts—homogeneous, distinct and outside of each other, united together at the extremities—is a proper sequence of matter, one of the essential principles of body. Still, body as a substance implies only essential parts, matter and form—heterogeneous, within each other, united together by compenetration. Substance, of itself, is indifferent to any quantity, and may even exist, miraculously, without any quantity. It is, then, of itself indivisible: not simply as a point—unextended by privation, —but as something devoid of dimension—unextended by negation. Substance is indebted to quantity for its integral parts; but as there is a real distinction between subject-of-existence and extended-into-parts, between the persevering support of successive quantities and these quantities in succession, substance is not really identical with quantity. Faith teaches us that in the Holy Eucharist the substance of bread disappears, but not its quantity. Quantity, therefore, is a genuine accident.
XI. The principle of individuation, that is, of numerical distinction — which cannot be in pure spirits — of one individual from another in the same specific nature, is matter marked by quantity.
Commentary: The principle of individuation cannot be the essence, for Peter is not humanity; nor some extrinsic mode added to the composite substance, for this mode, if accidental, cannot constitute an individual which is a substance and substantially differs from other individuals, and, if substantial, cannot be received but into some already constituted individual substance; nor the existence, for existence actualizes, does not modify reality and is received, moreover, into a substance which is an individual substance. Though that principle must be intrinsic to the substance, it is not the form, because form is a principle of specific and common unity rather than of numerical multiplicity and incommunicability. This principle is matter. Yet not matter of itself, since of itself it is undetermined and capable of being in this and that individual, while the principle of individuation is a determining principle, and renders the subject incommunicable. Matter, as subjected to quantity, is such a principle. For, as related to quantity, it is conceived as divisible into homogeneous parts, and, as related to this quantity, it is conceived as incapable of some other quantity, and, then, as incommunicable to anything else related to different quantity. It is because pure spirits are not composed of matter and form, but are simple forms, Act only which exhausts by itself all the perfection of the essential order, that they cannot be multiplied in the same species: the individuals, indeed, would differ on account of their form, and a difference on the part of the form makes a difference in the species.
XII. By the same quantity there is brought about, that the body is circumscriptively in a place, and (that) it can be, in this manner, in only one place under whatsoever potency.
Commentary: Since quantity makes a body to be extended, and, thus, to have its parts outside of each other, it makes the whole body to occupy some place so that each part of the body occupies a different portion of the place. We have, therefore, some commensuration of the dimensions of the body with the dimensions of the place; and this we call a circumspective presence. But just on account of this commensuration quantity makes a body to be incapable of circumscriptive presence in more than one place; for the dimensions of the body are equal, not greater than the dimensions of the first place, and, since those dimensions are exhausted by this place, it is not possible for the same body to occupy simultaneously a second place. This impossibility is, therefore, a metaphysical one: not even by a miracle can we conceive of any such bilocation.
XIII. Bodies are divided in a twofold manner: for certain ones are living, certain ones have no part of life. In living (things), that in the same subject there be had a moving part and a moved part, the substantial form, designated by the name of “soul”, requires an arrangement of organs, or heterogeneous parts.
Commentary: Not all bodies are endowed with life: but some are. As living bodies, they have within themselves the principle and the term of their movement. This is to be understood, not as if the whole body, or one and the same part of the body, were both the mover and the moved, but that by nature one part is ordained to give and another part to receive the motion. The different parts, then, must be arranged into some hierarchy, and must be coordinated, not only as regards the whole, but even with respect to each other: all the parts, accordingly, cannot be homogeneous. The soul, substantially informing the organism, informs all the parts, and each of them according to the function each has in the whole.
XIV. Souls of the vegetable or sensible subsist through themselves not at all, nor are they produced through themselves, but are only as the principle by which the living (thing) is and lives, and since these depend upon matter according to their whole selves, with the composite corrupted, they are, by that very (fact), corrupted per accidens.
Commentary: The substantial form does not subsist in the organic bodies of plants and irrational animals, because it has no operation independent of matter; it is but a principle of substance. A principle, however, that, in giving matter the complement wanted by matter for making up the compound—which properly exists and lives—is called the principle of existence and life. Its relation to production and destruction has been previously explained.
XV. Contrariwise, a human soul, which is created by God when it can be infused into a sufficiently disposed subject, and (which) according to its nature is incorruptible and immortal, subsists through itself.
Commentary: The human soul, independent of material conditions for some of its operations, is by itself a simple and complete substance. It is, then, produced from nothing, or created, and created by God, as we shall see. Naturally ordained to inform the human body, it is created when infused into the body. But, since the reception of any form presupposes a convenient disposition in the receiving matter, the infusion of the human soul implies a sufficient disposition of the human body. Such a disposition is not likely to be found in a body recently formed: vegetative and sensible souls would precede the human soul, as the servants precede the master for preparing a lodging worthy of him. Being simple, the human soul cannot be directly destroyed. Being subsisting, it can neither be destroyed indirectly upon the destruction of the compound.
XVI. The same rational soul is so united to (its) body, that it is the unique substantial form of the same, and through it a man has (the ability) to be man and animal and a living (creature) and a body and a substance and a being. The soul, therefore, gives man every essential grade of perfection; furthermore, it communicates to (its) body the act of being whereby it itself is.
Commentary: Every one is aware of the intrinsic and mutual influence, which exists in man between body and soul. Their union is not accidental. Body and soul come together as two constituent principles of a single nature, that of man. The human soul, the substantial form of body, gives matter, the substantial potency of soul, the first substantial act. By itself, then, it informs and determines the undetermined matter to a particular species. It gives to the compound all the perfection, which is implied in this species. And it is subsisting; it communicates its existence directly to the compound, indirectly to the body.
XVII. From the human soul there emanate by natural result the faculties of this twofold order, organic and inorganic: the prior ones, to which the senses pertain, are subjected in the composite, the posterior ones (are such) in the soul alone. Therefore, the faculty of the intellect is intrinsically independent from an organ.
Commentary: The immediate principles of operation are distinct from the soul: they are accidents, as the operations themselves. But their root is the soul, for they are vital faculties, and the soul is the principle of life. They are divided into two classes, according to the mode in which they spring from the human soul; subsisting by itself, and the form of body. In the latter case we have those faculties whose act is performed by means of bodily organs. Not only the vegetative faculties, but the sensitive likewise, are among them; for their object is extended. As organic faculties, they have for their subject the animated organism, which is neither the soul alone, nor the body alone, but the compound. There are some other faculties whose operations are far above matter, and, accordingly, cannot be subjected in the organism, even as animated: they are termed inorganic and are subjected in the soul alone. Intellect is such a faculty. Though extrinsically dependent on the imagination and indirectly on the organism, it is intrinsically independent of them.
XVIII. Intellectuality necessarily follows immateriality, and thus, indeed, that that grades of intellectuality are also according to the grades of elongation from matter. The adequate object of intellection is commonly being itself [communiter ipsum ens]; but in the present state of union (of body/soul) the proper (object) of the human intellect is contained in the quiddities abstracted from material conditions.
Commentary: Intellectuality means ability to reproduce in oneself the forms of the objects known, without any injury to the proper form. Matter determines forms to be but in this individual: no form can be known except as abstracted from matter; no subject can be intelligent except as independent of matter. A greater intellectuality corresponds to a greater immateriality, and, since matter stands for potency, to a greater act. In the summit of intellectuality the Pure Act is fixed; next, the Act mixed with Potency in the order of existence; then, the Act mixed with Potency in the very order of essence. A form cannot be reproduced except in so far as it is. Being is knowable in itself, and everything is knowable in so far as it is being. Still, the mode of operation is according to the mode of being, and since the being of our soul, in the present condition, communicates with the body, the connatural object of our knowledge is now the forms taken from the matter.
XIX. We accept cognition from sensible things. But since a sensible (thing) is not intelligible in act, besides the intellect, formally understanding, there must be admitted an active power in the soul, which abstracts intelligible species from phantasms.
Commentary: Our knowledge proceeds, at present, from sensible things. This gives a reason for the union of soul and body. Upon the injury of some organs our mental operation becomes impossible; nor is it by chance that this is associated with sensible images. A sensible image, however, is not intelligible; for intelligible means immaterial. The intellect, which properly understands is a passive faculty: it receives the intelligible forms, and does not make the forms to be intelligible. The abstractive faculty, notwithstanding, belongs to the soul alone, for it brings its object to the realm of the immaterial. It is, moreover, an intellectual faculty, for its function is to make something intelligible. It is called the active intellect.
XX. Through these species we directly cognize universals; we attain to singulars by sense, as much as also by the intellect through a conversion towards the phantasms; but we ascend to a cognition of spiritual (things) through analogy.
Commentary: Since matter individualizes the forms, the forms become universal when abstracted from matter: it is the universal, then, we know directly. The singular implies material conditions and is known directly by the senses, dependent on matter themselves, and indirectly by the intellect, which, in taking the universal from the individuals, perceives the individuals, which offer the universal. Starting from the material abstracted essences we arrive at the nature of pure spirits. We affirm of those spirits some positive perfections noticed in the inferior beings, and these we affirm of them in a higher degree, while we deny of them some, or all, the imperfections to which those perfections were associated in the material objects.
XXI. The will follows, not precedes, the intellect, (and) itl necessarily desires that which is presented to it as a good (which) fulfils (its) appetite on every side, but it chooses freely among the many goods, which are proposed (to it) as to be desired by the mutable judgment. Hence, choice follows the last practical judgment; but the will effects which is the last.
Commentary: Will is not prior but posterior to the intellect, in dignity, in origin, in acting. The posteriority in acting is chiefly intended here. Every act of the will is preceded by an act of the intellect; for the act of the will is a rational inclination, and while inclination follows a form, rational inclination follows the intellectually apprehended form. The intellect, in presenting to the will some apprehended good, moves it as to the specification of its act. If the presented good is the absolute or universal good, the will desires it of necessity. If it is good mixed with evil, relative or particular good, it is partially attractive and partially repulsive. The will may desire it, or may not. Once the intellect has settled on the practical excellency of some particular good, the will must accept such an object. Yet, it is the will, which freely committed itself to the determination of the intellect; it is the will, which freely sustained the intellect in its unilateral consideration; and it is the will, which freely wants the process not to be submitted to a further revision.
XXII. We neither perceive God’s ‘Being’ by an immediate intuition, nor do demonstrate it a priori, but (we do) a posteriori, that is, through those (things) which have been made, with an argument drawn from effects to (their) Cause; namely, from things which are moved to the principle of their movement and the First Immovable Mover; from the progression of mundane things from causes that are subordinate to one another [inter se], to the First Uncaused Cause; from the corruptibles which hold themselves equally to ‘being’ and ‘not being’, to the absolutely necessary Being; from those which are, live, (and) understand more and less according to the lesser perfections of being, living, (and) understanding, to Him who is most of all Intelligent, most of all Living, most of all a Being; finally, from the order of the universe to the separated Intellect which has ordered and arranged things and directs (them) to an end.
Commentary: Since the proper object of our intellect is the essences of material things, it is clear we have no immediate intuition of God’s spiritual essence, and, consequently, neither of His existence. Since the notion we have of His essence is an abstract notion, the existence implied in that notion belongs to the essential order and in no way to the actual. Still, we can demonstrate His existence with a rigorous demonstration, which goes from the effects to their ultimate cause. St. Thomas furnishes five proofs, already classical. Things are in movement; whatsoever is moved is moved by something else; above the moved-movers is some immovable-mover. Things are efficient causes of others; they are not the efficient cause of themselves; outside the caused-causes is some uncaused-cause. Some beings did not always exist, some will not always exist: their existence is not essential to them; above beings, which do not exist of necessity, is a necessary being. Things are more or less perfect than others; the less perfect has not in itself the reason of that perfection; above things, which are limited in their perfection is some being supremely perfect. Things which lack intelligence act for some end; an intelligent being only could adapt and direct them to this end; there is an universal governing intelligence.
XXIII. The Divine Essence, through this that it is identified with the exercised actuality of its own ‘To Be’, or through this that It Itself is subsistent ‘Being’, is rightly proposed to us in Its own, as if metaphysical, reckoning, and through this It exhibits to us the same reckoning of Its own Infinity in perfection.
Commentary: Nothing in the Divine Essence itself can have the character of a constituent, for the Divine Essence is most simple. It is only according to our mode of understanding that we may ask which among the different perfections attributed to God is conceived as first, so as to distinguish God from creatures and to give ground to all the other divine perfections. That first perfection is the real identity of essence and existence: the subsisting being. By that God is distinct from creatures. In that is based any other perfection belonging to Him; for existence means act, and existence which is not received into essence means act without potency, perfection without limits.
XXIV. God is distinguished from all finite things, by the very purity of His ‘Being’. From this there is first inferred, that the world could not have proceeded from God but through (an act of) creation; next (there is likewise inferred), that the creative virtue, by which a per se being, inasmuch as (it is) a being, is first attained, is also not miraculously communicable to any finite nature; finally, that no created agent influences the ‘to be’ of any effect whatsoever, except by a motion accepted from the First Cause.
Commentary: God’s essence is God’s existence; God is distinct from creatures whose essence is potency for existence. The world proceeds from God as the contingent from the necessary being. It proceeds by means of creation, for no emanation is possible in the pure act. Since creation implies the production of being from non-being, it is contradictory to suppose a creature exercising any causality in creation; it could not exercise that causality which belongs to the principal cause, for being is an universal effect, above the proportion consequently of any particular cause; not that causality which belongs to the instrumental cause, for there is nothing presupposed to creation upon which the instrument could exercise its efficiency. Finally, since every agent, by its act, moves toward the effect, this movement cannot be conceived independently of the first mover. The agent depends on God for its existence, for its powers, for the conservation of that existence and of these powers. It depends also on God for the very exercise of these powers. Because in exercising these powers the agent passes from Potency to Act, its faculties do not move except in so far as they are moved; there must be a motion coming from the immovable mover. This motion is received into the agent previously to the agent’s motion; it is properly called pre-motion. And since it moves the agent to the exercise of its powers, it is properly called physical pre-motion.
Given at Rome, July 27, 1914.
B. Cardinal Lorenzilli, Prefect
Ascensus Dandini, a Secretis