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The Thomist 63 (1999): 403-24 THE INDIVIDUAL AS A MODE OF BEING ACCORDING TO THOMAS AQUINAS LAWRENCE DEWAN, 0.P. Dominican College ofPhilosophy and Theology Ottawa, Ontario, Canada ruCENTLY Timothy Noone1 and Kevin White2 have pubished papers touching in different ways on individuation n Thomas Aquinas. Both express a degree of approval of the position ofJoseph Owens,3 who holds that for St. Thomas the "global"4 explanation of individuation is to be found in the doctrine of esse, the act of being. In the present paper I wish to challenge that Owensian view. To do so, I will first criticize the textual claims of Fr. Owens. Second, I will propose a different approach to the issue, less focused on individuation as something 1 Timothy B. Noone, "Individuation in Scotus," American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 69 (1995): 527-42. 2 Kevin White, "Individuation in Aquinas's SuperBoethium De Trinitate, Q. 4,"American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 69 (1995): 543-56. White sees himself as expanding on Owens's line of thinking (545). 3 J. Owens, "Thomas Aquinas (b. ca. 1225; d. 1274)," in Individuation in Scholasticism: The Later Middle Ages and the Counter-Reformation, 1150-1650, ed. Jorge J.E. Gracia (Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1994), 173-94. Parenthetical page numbers in the text refer to this essay. 4 This word is from Noone. He tells us: "According to Fr. Owens .•. Aquinas is really a global theorist on the issue of individuation. What he actually holds, in Owens' opinion, is that esse is the ultimate ontological principle of individuation, just as it is the ultimate source of actuality in all created things. If this is so, Thomas escapes immediately from the charge of failing to develop a general account of individuals as such, whether physical or non-physical, which is one ofthe methodic objectionsScotus marshals against [William Peter] Godinus in their debate" (Noone, "Individuation in Scotus," 540). In a review of the Gracia book containing the Owens essay, Noone says: "Owens' interpretation ofThomas' many seemingly disparate descriptions of the principle of individuation is unparalleled in its ability to render Aquinas' account of individuation self-consistent without appealing to awkward genetic hypotheses." He obviously approves of this account. 403 404 LAWRENCE DEWAN, O.P. requiring a cause or principle, and more focused on the individual as a mode of being. I Father Owens presents us with the role of the act of being, and it is one that seems to make things individual: "[Being] is forging all the various elements of the thing into a unit. It is thereby making them what we understand to be an individual" (174). He is basing himself here on a text from Thomas's youthful Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard. We read: "the being of the thing composed out of matter and form, from which [the human mind] obtains knowledge, consists in some composing of form with matter, or of an accident with a subject [consistit in quadam compositione formae ad materiam vel accidentis ad subjectum]."5 Is Thomas saying that the esse itself is a composite? That is what the reply to the second objection, referred to by Owens, does indeed say: "But our intellect, whose knowledge arises from things, which have composite being [esse compositum], does not apprehend that esse save by composing and dividing."6 Owens provides his own reflection on and interpretation of what is being said. Taking first the case of a multiplicity of per accidens accidents (tallness and musical accomplishment) and the person in whom they inhere (certainly a rather per accidens unity), he stresses the "existential" character of the bond uniting them: "they are brought together by real existence in the one person" (174). And he goes on to make the same point as regards the substantial components of the concrete substance. There is no reason in the essence of a person why his or her form (the soul) should be actuating the particular matter of which the body is constituted at the moment. Different matter keeps coming and going with the anabolism and 5 I Sent., d. 38, q. 1, a. 3 (ed. P. Mandonnet [Paris: Letheilleux, 1929], 903), and ad...


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