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113 The Thomist 79 (2015): 113-54 THE CATEGORY OF HABITUS: ACCIDENTS, ARTIFACTS, AND HUMAN NATURE MARK K. SPENCER University of St. Thomas St. Paul, Minnesota N EXPLAINING Aristotle’s division of being into ten categories or predicaments (praedicamenta), Thomas Aquinas presents some striking claims about the category habitus:1 There is a special [predicament] in human beings. In other animals, nature sufficiently gave those things that pertain to the conservation of life, for example, horns for defense, a thick and hairy hide for covering, hooves and other things of that sort for walking without injury. And thus when such animals are called ‘armed’ or ‘clothed’ or ‘shod’, they are in a way not thus denominated from something extrinsic, but from some of their parts. Thus, these things are referred to the predicament of substance: as when one says that a human being is ‘handed’ or ‘footed’. But things of this sort cannot be given to human beings by nature, in part because they do not fit with their subtle constitution, in part because of the multiform works that fit with human beings insofar as they have reason, for which determinate instruments could not be applied to them by nature: but in place of all of these there is in the human being reason, by which he prepares externals for himself in place of those things which are intrinsic to animals. Wherefore when a human being is called ‘armed’ or ‘clothed’ or ‘shod’, he is denominated from something extrinsic, which has the notion neither of cause nor of measure; wherefore, it is a special predicament, and is called ‘habitus’. But it should be considered that this predicament is attributed even to some animals, not according to their being considered in their nature, but according to their coming to human 1 ‘Habitus’ is sometimes translated as ‘state’, ‘equipment’, ‘attire’, or ‘having’. So as not to favor one interpretation from the outset, I leave it untranslated here. ‘Habitus’ is both the nominative singular and plural form of the noun. I 114 MARK K. SPENCER use, as when we say that a horse is ‘ornamented with a phalerae’ or ‘saddled’ or ‘armed’.2 Aquinas holds that habitus belong primarily to humans, and to other beings only through human rational causal activity. But most Scholastic thinkers, including many Thomists, denied that habitus has a special connection to human persons. In this article, I inquire into why Aquinas held this thesis about habitus, and I defend the interpretation of John of St. Thomas and many Thomists after him as the view that best makes sense of this thesis in the context of all of Aquinas’s texts. This view, the realist modal view, holds that first, habitus are real modes and real beings, not mere predications, and second, habitus belong primarily to humans, through their application of artifacts to themselves such that their unlimited range of possible ways of rationally engaging with the world is actualized by the artifacts.3 The findings of this paper are important for understanding the Thomistic view of the human person. The importance of habitus and of the realist modal view can only fully be understood in the context of an inquiry into the history of Scholastic views on habitus. This inquiry will reveal the complexity of Scholastic views on categories and accidents, not only on habitus, but on the members of the other “sex principia” (actio, passio, ubi, quando, situs, and habitus). The findings of this paper are important for understanding the categories and accidents in general. I first analyze the sources for Scholastic thinking on habitus. Second, I consider seven Scholastic theories of what habitus is and argue that they are all reducible either to the view that habitus are extrinsic denominations or to the realist modal view. Finally, I defend the latter view. 2 III Phys, lect. 5, n. 15 (Opera omnia, [Rome: Leonine ed., 1884], 2:114-15). All translations in this article are mine. See Aristotle, Categories 4.2a3. All citations from Aristotle are from Jonathan Barnes, ed., Complete Works of Aristotle, 2 vols. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984). 3 John of St. Thomas, Cursus philosophicus, Logica, p. 2, q. 19, a. 1 ([Paris: Vives...


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