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  • Is Truth a Form Inherent in Things?Lawrence Dewan and De veritate, Question 1, Article 4
  • Nelson Ramirez

The purpose of this essay is to look at whether Aquinas teaches in De veritate [DV], q. 1, a. 4, that truth is a form inherent in things. I take up this investigation because I am examining Lawrence Dewan's account of Aquinas's teaching on truth.1 On Dewan's account, a significant development occurs in Aquinas's teaching as regards truth as it is found in things. Before the Summa theologiae [ST], Aquinas thought that in addition to truth being in the intellect, it was also in things. In ST, most explicitly in I, q. 16, a. 6, Aquinas no longer thinks that it is in things, but only in the mind. When Dewan says that before the ST truth is "in things" and in the ST it is not "in things," in both cases, by "in things," Dewan means "as a form inherent in things." What exactly this means for Dewan will be gradually brought out as I examine the text Dewan thinks most clearly teaches that truth is a form inherent in things: DV, q. 1, a. 4.

The essay will be divided into two parts. In the first part, I will lay out Dewan's reading of DV, q. 1, a. 4, and why he thinks it definitely teaches that truth is a form inherent in things. In the second part, I suggest an [End Page 161] alternative reading of the text, first based just on the article 4 text itself and then based on other texts throughout Aquinas's works.

Dewan's Reading of De veritate, Q. 1, A. 4

This article in DV is not the only text where, according to Dewan, Aquinas is thinking of truth, as found in things, as an inherent form in things. Dewan cites other texts from Aquinas's Commentary on the Sentences and other places in DV. I focus on this text because Dewan himself singles it out as "definitely teach[ing] that truth is a form inherent in things, even if one identical with the entity of things."2 Regarding the other texts, Dewan does not seem to be as sure as he is with this one. Why Dewan seems surer on this DV text will be brought out.

First, the Latin in article 4 in which Dewan sees Aquinas teaching that truth is a form inherent in things is:

Denominantur autem res verae a veritate quae est in intellectu divino vel in intellectu humano sicut denominatur cibus sanus a sanitate quae est in animali et non sicut a forma inhaerente; sed a veritate quae est in ipsa re, quae nihil aliud est quam entitas intellectui adaequata vel intellectum sibi adaequans, denominatur sicut a forma inhaerente, sicut cibus denominatur sanus a qualitate sua, a qua sanus dicitur.3

The text, in Dewan's translation, is as follows:

For THINGS are called "true" from the truth which is in the divine intellect or in the human intellect [!] as food is called "healthy" from the health which is in the animal and NOT AS FROM AN INHERENT FORM; but from the TRUTH which is in the thing itself [a veritate quae est in ipsa re], which is nothing else but the entity [entitas] conformed with the intellect OR CONFORMING THE INTELLECT TO ITSELF, it is denominated AS FROM INHERENT FORM [sicut a forma inhaerente], just as food is called "healthy" from its own quality, from which it is called "healthy."4 [End Page 162]

Dewan goes on to say regarding this text:

It is not the first part of this that surprises, for it is the usual doctrine of how things are called "healthy" (though I once again salute the relation to both intellects). It is the startling assertion that food can be called "healthy," not merely relative to the health of the animal, as causing it, but also in itself, based on its own quality. Why would one call something not taken in relation to the animal "food," let alone "healthy"? We do not find this doctrine elsewhere in Thomas, as far as I know. It seems designed...


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