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MARITAIN AS AN INTERPRETER OF AQUINAS ON THE PROBLEM OF INDIVIDUATION }UDE P. DOUGHERTY The Catholic University ofAmerica Washington, D.C. I T HE MEDIEVAL problem of individuation is not the contemporary problem of "individuals" or "particulars" discussed by P. F. Strawson, J. W. Meiland, and others.1 In a certain sense the problem of individuation originates with Parmenides, but it is Plato's philosophy of science that bequeaths the problem to Aristotle and to his medieval commentators . Its solution in Aquinas is not that of Aristotle, nor is it that of Scotus or Suarez. Aquinas will distinguish between the problem of individuation and what we may call the problem of "individuality" or the problem of "subsistence." The solution to both will draw upon many Aristotelian distinctions but will incorporate key elements of St. Thomas's own metaphysics, including the real distinction between essence and existence and his doctrine of participation. It is Maritain's appropriation of St. Thomas's metaphysics that enables him to produce a realistic philosophy of science, one that he offers as compatible with contemporary scientific enquiry. It also enables him to develop a theory of person and personality. But the story begins with Plato. Although Plato's theory of knowledge may appear fanciful to the modern reader, his analysis of scientific knowledge contains a basic set of observations whose truth remains uncontested even 1 Cf. P.F. Strawson, Individuals: An Essay in Descriptive Metaphysics (London: Methuen and Co., 1959); J.W. Meiland, Talking About Particulars (New York: Humanities Press, 1970); P. Butchvarov, Resemblance and Identity (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1966). 19 20 JUDE P. DOUGHERTY though his explanation be faulty. Plato saw clearly that science is of the universal. Things may be particular, but when we consider them as objects of enquiry, the intellect focuses upon the form taken as an exemplar. In Plato's explanation things belong to their various kinds by participating in incorporeal, eternal, and unchangeable archetypes. From a realist's vantage point the problem may be stated simply: Since things are singular, how is it that we intellectually apprehend them as universal? Aristotle's solution is well known and it is one adopted and amplified by St. Thomas. Universals are abstracted from singular things. No one would present Maritain as a medievalist, but, as an interpreter of Aquinas, he has wielded considerable influence in the United States and in Latin America. Many have come to St. Thomas under his tutelage. His knowledge of Aquinas is extensive and is drawn upon throughout his lifelong work, but perhaps nowhere more than in his philosophy of science and in his discussions of the person. The primary text for Thomas's doctrine of individuation is his commentary on Boethius's De Trinitate, where he discusses the division and methods of the sciences . Maritain's philosophy is indebted mainly to his reading of Thomistic texts, but he draws heavily, as well, on the works of his contemporaries, Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange and Louis Geiger, and on those of the classic commentators on Thomas, Cajetan, Sylvester of Ferrara, and John of St. Thomas. Though employing St. Thomas, Maritain is always a man of the twentieth century. In books such as the Degrees of Knowledge, Science and Wisdom, Existence and the Existent, and A Preface to Metaphysics, his foe is always some contemporary exponent of a nominalist position.2 "Nominalists,'' he will say, "have a taste for the real, but no sense of being."3 Timeless 2 Degrees ofKnowledge [Les Degres du Savoir(l 932)], trans. G.B. Phelan, 4th ed. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1959); Science and Wisdom [Science et Sagesse (1935)], trans. B. Wall (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1940); Existence and the Existent [Court Traite de L:Existence et de L:Existant (1947)], trans. L. Galantiere and G.B. Phelan (New York: Pantheon Books, 1948); A Preface to Metaphysics [Sept Le~ons sur L'Etre et les Premieres Principes de la Raison Speculative (1934)], trans. B. Wall (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1939). 3 Degrees of Knowledge, 3. AN INTERPRETER OF AQUINAS 21 metaphysics, he will lament, no longer suits the modern intellect. "Three centuries of empirico-mathematics have so warped the intellect...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2473-3725
Print ISSN
0040-6325
Pages
pp. 19-32
Launched on MUSE
2017-04-05
Open Access
No
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