Intro. MT ST TEI Ethics TPT Corr. Index PrevPg NextPg

Metaphysical Thoughts: Part 1, Chapter 2.
What should be understood by the terms [Being of] Essence, Existence, Idea and Power.

    In order that it may be known what content to give to these four terms, it is necessary that we should understand clearly what may be said of uncreated substance, or God. Namely:

All created things are eminently contained in God.
    1. That God eminently contains all that is formally contained in created things, that is, God has certain attributes in which these created things are more eminently contained than in the things themselves. (Vid. Pt. 1. Ax. 8, and Coroll. 1. Prop. 12). For example, we can clearly conceive of extension without existing objects, and thus, since it has no power of existence in itself, we have shown that it was created by God (Prop. 21, Pt. 1.). And, since there must be as much perfection in the cause as there is in the effect, it follows that God contains all the perfection of existence. But since we find later that extended matter is divisible, that is, that it contains a mark of imperfection, we cannot, therefore, attribute extension to God. We are thus compelled to admit that God has some attribute more excellent than all the perfection of matter and thus contains (Schol. Prop. 9, Pt. 1.) what the defects of matter cannot supply.

    2. God understands Himself and all other objects; that is, He holds all things objectively, in Himself (Pt. 1. Prop. 9).

    3. God is the first cause of all things, and works from an absolute freedom of will.

What should be understood by [the being of] essence, existence, idea and power.
    From these things it is evident what we must understand by these four terms. In the first place Essence in nothing else than that mode by which created objects are comprehended in the attributes of God; an idea is Idea so far as all things are objectively contained in the idea of God; Power is so called in respect to the power of God, by which, by an absolute freedom of will He was able to create everything that exists; finally, existence is the essence of things apart from God, and, considered in itself alone, is attributed to things after they have been created by God.

These four terms are not distinguished the one from the other except in created objects.
    From this it is evident that these four terms are not to be distinguished except in created objects; in God, in no way can they be differentiated. For we cannot conceive that God is in the power of another, and His existence, and His understanding are not to be separated from His essence.

A reply to certain questions concerning God's Essence.
    From what has been said we can readily reply to certain which have been asked. Such, for example, are the following: Whether essence is different from existence; and if different, is it something diverse from idea; and if different from idea, does it comprehend something extra-mental; which last follows from necessity. To the first in regard to distinction we would reply, that essence in God is not different from existence, indeed the one cannot be conceived without the other. In other things essence differs from existence, for the one may be conceived without the other. To the second point we respond, that things which can be clearly and distinctly conceived as extra-mental are something different from idea. But then it is asked, whether that which is extra-mental exists in itself alone, or whether it has been created by God. To this we reply, that formal essence does not exist by its own power, nor even when created. These two conditions presuppose that the object exists in fact; but they depend upon the divine essence alone, in which all things are contained. So far we would assent to the opinion of those who affirm that the essence of things is eternal. Again it may be asked, How can we understand the essence of things, when nature is not yet known; for all things, as we have just said, depend upon the nature of God. To this I reply that it is possible from the fact that things are now actually created. For if things were not yet created I would concede that it would be impossible until we had an adequate knowledge of God's nature. In the same way it is impossible, indeed more impossible then for us to know the orderly nature of the applications of a parabola whose nature is not yet known.

Why the author in his definition of essence refers to the attributes of God.
    Although the essence of non-existing modes is comprehended in the substance of these modes, and their real essence is these substances, nevertheless we desire to refer them to God in order to explain the essence of modes and of substances in general terms, and because the essence of modes was not in substance prior to creation and we are seeking for an eternal essence.

Why the definitions of others are not examined.
    I do not think it worth while to refute those authors who think differently from us, or even to examine their definitions or descriptions of essence and existence; this would only make what is clear more obscure. What, indeed, is better known than the meaning of essence or existence? How can we give a definition of anything which does not at the same time explain its essence?

How the distinction between essence and existence can easily be seen.
    Finally, if any philosopher is yet in doubt whether essence and existence are distinguishable in created objects, he need not take much trouble to remove that doubt. For if he will merely approach some statue or object of wood, he will see how he conceives of the object not yet existing in a certain manner, and how he knows that it is really existing.
Intro. MT ST TEI Ethics TPT Corr. Index PrevPg NextPg
Slack padding.