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THOMISTIC EXISTENTIALISM AND THE PROOFS EX MOTU AT CONTRA GENTILES I, C. 13 JOHN F. X. KNASAS Centerfor Thomistic Studies University ofSt. Thomas Houston, 'Iexas I I N HIS ARTICLE, "The Start of Metaphysics," Theodore Kondoleon gives witness that Aquinas's proofs for the existence of God from motion remain a stumbling block hindering acceptance of the "existential" interpretation of Aquinas.1 Jacques Maritain and Etienne Gilson spearheaded the existential interpretation, while Joseph Owens has provided its most explicit formulation.2 In this interpretation, the existence of the thing does not mean the fact of the thing; nor does it mean the fact of some union of matter and form or substance and predicamental accident. Rather, the existence of the thing means a central and primordial 8:Ct (esse) of the thing. An intellectual operation , traditionally called judgment, distinctly grasps the act of esse.3 And since esse plus the thing compose a being (ens), then one's judgmental appreciation of this existential act is the sine qua non for entering metaphysics whose subject is ens qua ens. 1 Theodore Kondoleon, "The Start of Metaphysics," The Thomist SS (1994): 121-30. 2 On the sources for "Thomistic existentialism," see Joseph Owens, St. Thomas and the Future ofMetaphysics (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 1973), 74 n. 24. Pages 36-SO provide a sketch of what Owens means by the "existential" interpretation of Aquinas's doctrine. See also Owens's An Elementary Christian Metaphysics (Houston: Center for Thomistic Studies, 1985). 3 On judgment and its use in Thomistic metaphysics, see my "The Fundamental Nature of Aquinas' Secunda Operatio lntellectus," Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 64 (1990): 190-202. 591 592 JOHN F. X. KNASAS Owens has gone on to argue that philosophical knowledge of God (esse subsistens) is an exclusively metaphysical affair.4 In that respect Owens has lavished copious attention on the way to God from motion.5 Yet, in Kondoleon's reading, the type of approach. found in Owens merits the labels "eccentric" and "excessive."6 Kondoleon bases these charges on what he sees as two problems for the thesis that in Aquinas philosophical knowledge of God's existence is metaphysical. Both problems stem from Aquinas's inclusion of proofs from motion in his philosophical way to God. First, a metaphysical reading of the proof from motion understands motion itself to have its own esse. But since in Aquinas what has existence is in some way something complete or actual and since motion is something incomplete, motion cannot be conceived as participating esse.1 Owens has met this criticism head-on, and no need exists for a labored reply. There are abundant Thomistic texts asserting 4 In his An Introduction to Philosophy (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1962), 190, Maritain assigns philosophical knowledge of God to natural theology, the highest branch of metaphysics. Yet Maritain's descriptions of the quinque viae in his Approaches to God (New York: Collier Books, 1962), 27-66, make little apparent use of Aquinas's metaphysics of esse. To be noted is that for Maritain natural philosophy, without proving an immaterial being, is still a "materialn presupposition for metaphysics. For an explanation , see Raymond Dennehy, "Maritain's Realistic Defense of the Importance of the Philosophy of Nature to Metaphysics,n in Thomistic Papers VI, ed. John F. X. Knasas (Houston: Center for Thomistic Studies, 1994), 107-30. On the "intuition ofbeingn as the formal condition for Maritain's metaphysics, see my The Preface to Thomistic Metaphysics (New York: Peter Lang, 1990), 9-16. Gilson appears to regard each of the viae as sufficient to reach God, but not God in the profound sense of esse subsistens. To do the latter, one must "retranslaten the viae in light of the essence/existence distinction (The Christian Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas [New York: Random House, 1956], 81). One conducts the retranslation in virtue of a metaphysics already founded on judgmentally grasped esse (see my "Does Gilson Theologize Thomistic Metaphysics?n Thomistic Papers V [Houston: Center for Thomistic Studies, 1990], 3-24). 5 See Owens's three articles on the prima via in St. Thomas Aquinas on the Existence of God: the Collected Papers of Joseph Owens...

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ISSN
2473-3725
Print ISSN
0040-6325
Pages
pp. 591-615
Launched on MUSE
2017-04-05
Open Access
No
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