The Semantic Principles Underlying Saint Thomas Aquinas's
Metaphysics of Being

by Gyula Klima

(Medieval Philosophy and Theology, (5)1996, pp. 87-141.)

Introduction: Semantics and Metaphysics

As I hope the title clearly indicates, this paper is not intended to contribute its ounces to the tons of literature on Aquinas's metaphysics of being. On the contrary, the primary motivation for this paper is the perhaps deplorable, but certainly not negligible fact that the very form of discourse within which the substantive claims of that literature as well as Aquinas's own claims are formulated is radically different from that of contemporary philosophical discussions.[1] Faced with this different form of discourse, modern readers are either willing/able to "join in", and then they may become "players" of the relevant "language game", or they are unwilling/unable to "join in", and then they will be left ultimately "intellectually intact" by these claims. In either case, without careful reflection on the general principles governing "the game", this willingness/ability on the part of the modern reader will be determined mostly by vague intuitions and more or less articulated sympathies or antipathies, rather than by serious philosophical considerations.

As we know, metaphysics studies the first principles of all knowledge.[2] But even the metaphysical investigation of first principles presupposes that we understand what is meant by these principles and their terms, that is to say, even metaphysical principles presuppose certain semantic principles. As Aristotle advises us in the fourth book of the Metaphysics concerning disputations about first principles, in all such disputations the ultimate appeal should be to what both ourselves and our opponents mean, indeed, to maintain mutual understanding in the framework of rational discourse, should mean by our phrases.[3] On the other hand, such an appeal, especially nowadays, after the "linguistic turn" in philosophy, when just everyone seems to have their own "philosophy of language" and "theory of meaning and/or reference", is far from being compelling or even unambiguous.[4] The primary aim of this paper, therefore, is to spell out with clarity and precision the underlying semantic principles of the very form of discourse presupposed by Aquinas's substantive metaphysical claims concerning being, clearly distinguishing the former from the latter, so that the contemporary reader's willingness/ability to participate in the "language game" of competently evaluating the substantive metaphysical arguments for, or against, the relevant metaphysical claims will not depend eventually on unexamined intuitions, but rather on a careful consideration of these underlying principles themselves.

To be sure, in this paper I cannot undertake a presentation of these underlying semantic principles as ones that we absolutely have to accept; I will only try to articulate as clearly as possible what it is that we have to accept for a competent evaluation of the substantive metaphysical arguments. On the other hand, of course, even within the framework of this more modest enterprise I will have to show that these semantic principles are at least acceptable, that is to say, that they are consistent in themselves and do not commit anyone willing to maintain them to some manifest falsity or even nonsense.

In the next section, therefore, I will begin the discussion with the introduction of the basic concepts we need for the clear formulation of the relevant semantic principles. I start with Aquinas's concept of meaning, or—using a transliteration of medieval terminology to distinguish it from contemporary conceptions—signification. However, as we shall see, we run into difficulties already at the very beginning, given the fact that Aquinas's Aristotelian concept of signification apparently commits him to some "mysterious", nonexistent objects of signification. So in section 3. I point out how Aquinas's distinctions between different senses[5] of 'being' might be used to eliminate our misgivings concerning such objects. However, this solution will leave us with a set of further, rather disturbing questions concerning the conceptual apparatus utilized in this discussion itself. So in section 4. I provide a systematic account of this conceptual apparatus as it functions in Aquinas's theory of signification and predication, addressing various ontological and epistemological concerns contemporary philosophers may have regarding these semantic theories. Having thus placed Aquinas's notions of signification and existence into their proper theoretical context, in section 5. I finish the introduction of the basic conceptual apparatus by a brief discussion of Aquinas's account of the relationship between the signification and reference, or—again, using the transliteration of medieval terminology—supposition of concrete as well as of abstract common terms.[6] Section 6. will present the formulation of the relevant semantic principles themselves, providing a brief comment on each. On this basis in section 7. I will show how we can interpret in this framework all predications about substance as predications of some act of being either absolutely (simpliciter) or with qualification (secundum quid). Finally, in section 8. I will argue that in this theoretical setting the metaphysical idea of an objective hierarchy of being not only makes good sense, but is even quite plausible, even if we may not be able to determine off-hand the exact place of any given entity in this overall hierarchy.

Signification and Existence

As is well-known, what set the stage for all semantic considerations in the Middle Ages was Aristotle's "semantic triangle", the conception sketched at the beginning of his On Interpretation, according to which words immediately signify the concepts of the mind and it is by the mediation of these concepts that they signify the things. Aquinas comments on the relevant passage as follows:

Therefore 'passions of the soul' must be understood here as conceptions of the intellect, and names, verbs, and speech signify these conceptions of the intellect immediately according to the teaching of Aristotle. They cannot immediately signify things, as is clear from the mode of signifying, for the name 'man' signifies human nature in abstraction from singulars; hence it is impossible that it immediately signify a singular man. The Platonists for this reason held that it signified the separated idea of man. But because in Aristotle's teaching man in the abstract does not really subsist, but is only in the mind, it was necessary for Aristotle to say that vocal sounds signify the conceptions of the intellect immediately and things by means of them.[7]

So signification is dependent on acts of human thought: by our words we signify whatever we can think of, whether it actually exists or not. For there is no doubt that we can think of something that does not exist, whence, on this conception, it follows that our words also can signify something that does not exist. Thus it is no wonder that at another place Aquinas writes as follows:

In response we have to say that there is a three-fold diversity between things signified by names. For some are in total, complete being outside the soul; and such are complete beings, as a man or a stone. Some have nothing outside the soul, as dreams or the imagination of a chimera. And some have some foundation in the reality outside the soul, but their formal account [ratio] is completed by the operation of the soul, as is clear in the case of universals. For humanity is something in reality, but there it is not universal, for there is no some humanity outside the soul common to many, but as it is conceived by the intellect, by the intellect's operation a further concept [intentio] is adjoined to it, on account of which it is called a species.[8]

However, this conception of signification immediately gives rise to a swarm of rather disturbing questions. For even granting that we can think of and thus speak about these mysterious, since non-existent, objects of signification, the first question that immediately arises is: what are, then, these objects that we are thus speaking about, if they are none of the things in the world? And, in any case, how is our ability to signify these objects by our words, as sketched by Aquinas's remarks, exactly related to our ability to speak about, that is, to refer to them? What is Aquinas's conception of the relationship between meaning, signification, and reference, supposition? Also, what can we make of Aquinas's three-fold distinction above of objects of signification? If chimeras and humanity as such are equally non-existent, whatever they are in themselves, what is that 'foundation in reality' the having or lacking of which is supposed to set them apart? And, after all, what does this whole tangled issue of nonexistent objects of signification have to do with Aquinas's metaphysics of being, the semantic principles of which we are supposed to elucidate here?

Ens Reale vs. Ens Rationis as Ens simpliciter vs. secundum quid

Given the possibility of signifying objects of thought that do not exist (on the basis of their thinkability and the relationship between thought and signification), it is natural to ask about the nature of, and the relationships between, the members of the resulting classifications. In fact, Aquinas's famous distinctions of the various senses of 'being' (based on Aristotle's), which serve as the semantic foundation of his metaphysics of being, are part of the response to such questions.

The primary distinction concerns the notions of what in the scholastic tradition came to be known as real beings (entia realia) and beings of reason (entia rationis). Besides numerous shorter characterizations scattered all over Aquinas's works,[9] the fullest account of this distinction is provided by the following passage:

By way of answer we have to say that the Philosopher shows that 'being' is predicated in many ways. For in one sense 'being' is predicated as it is divided by the ten genera. And in this sense 'being' signifies something existing in the nature of things, whether it is a substance, as a man, or an accident, as a color. In another sense 'being' signifies the truth of a proposition; as when it is said that an affirmation is true when it signifies to be what is, and a negation is true when it signifies not to be what is not; and this 'being' signifies composition produced by the judgment-forming intellect. So whatever is said to be a being in the first sense is a being also in the second sense: for whatever has natural existence in the nature of things can be signified to be by an affirmative proposition, e.g. when it is said that a color is, or a man is. But not everything which is a being in the second sense is a being also in the first sense: for of a privation, such as blindness, we can form an affirmative proposition, saying: 'Blindness is'; but blindness is not something in the nature of things, but it is rather a removal of a being: and so even privations and negations are said to be beings in the second sense, but not in the first. And 'being' is predicated in different manners according to these two senses: for taken in the first sense it is a substantial predicate, and it pertains to the question 'What is it?' [quid est?], but taken in the second sense it is an accidental predicate, ... and it pertains to the question 'Is there [such and such a thing]?' [an est?].[10]

This distinction derives primarily from Aristotle's discussion of the concept of being in the fifth book of his Metaphysics, where St. Thomas starts his comments on the relevant passages with the following remarks:

[Aristotle] first divides being that is outside the soul, which is perfect being, by the ten categories. Secondly he considers another mode of being, according to which it is only in the mind [...]. Thirdly he divides being by potentiality and actuality: and being thus divided is more common than perfect being. For a being in potentiality is only a being with qualification [secundum quid] and is imperfect.[11]

But the same distinction is considered even earlier by St. Thomas, in his comments on book 4 of the Metaphysics, where he embeds this distinction into the broader context of his famous doctrine of the analogy of being.[12] Having discussed the ways in which the various analogous senses of 'healthy', in which it can be predicated even of food and of urine, are related to each other, namely, the various ways in which its secondary senses are related to its primary sense, which signifies the health of an animal, Aquinas says that 'being' is analogous in the same way in that all of its secondary senses are related to a primary sense, the sense in which 'being' is predicated of substance. He summarizes his discussion in the following passage:

We should know that the above-mentioned modes of being can be reduced to four. For one of them, which is the weakest, is only in reason, namely, negation and privation, which we say are in reason because reason considers them as if they were some beings, when it affirms or denies of them something. [...] Another [mode of being], which is the closest to this one in weakness, is according to which generation and corruption and motions are said to be beings. For they have some privation and negation mixed with them. For motion is imperfect actuality, as is said in book 3 of the Physics. [A being] in the third sense has nothing of non-being mixed with it, but it has a weak existence [habet esse debile], for [it has existence] not by itself, but in something else, as [do] qualities, quantities and properties of substance. The fourth kind is which is the most perfect, namely, which has existence in nature without any admixture of privation, and has firm and solid existence, as it exists by itself, as do substances. And it is to this [last one], as primary and principal, that all the others are related. For qualities and quantities are said to be insofar as they are in a substance; motions and generations are said to be insofar as they tend to substance or to some other of the above-said [beings]; and privations and negations are said to be insofar as they remove some of the above-said three. [13]

Thus, as we can see, the distinction between ens reale and ens rationis is regarded by St. Thomas as forming part of the division of the common term ens, i.e., 'being', into its various, though related, analogical senses. Concerning this kind of division in general, as opposed to the division of a genus into its species, St. Thomas writes the following:

... there are two ways in which something common can be divided into what are under it, just as there are two ways in which something is common. For there is the division of a univocal [term] into its species by differences by which the nature of the genus is equally participated in the species, as animal is divided into man and horse, and the like. Another division is that of something common by analogy, which is predicated according to its perfect concept [ratio] of one of those that divide it, and of the other[s] imperfectly and with qualification [secundum quid], as being is divided into substance and accident, and into being in actuality and in potentiality ...[14]

Accordingly, however obscure the details of the divisions of the notion of being may appear at first, the first thing to realize about the distinction between real beings and beings of reason is that it does not constitute a division of a class into its subclasses, as, for example, the distinction between rational vs. non-rational animals constitutes the division of the class of animals into two kinds of animals, namely, humans and brutes. Real beings and beings of reason do not constitute in this way two subclasses, or two kinds of beings, indeed, not any more than real money and forged money would constitute two kinds of money. Just as it is only real money that is money simpliciter, that is, without qualification, so it is only a real being that is a being simpliciter, without qualification. As medieval logicians, as well as Aquinas himself, would say, the qualifications 'of reason' as added to 'being', or 'forged' as added to 'money' are examples of a "diminishing" qualification or determination, determinatio diminuens, whereas the qualification 'real' in both cases is a "non-diminishing" qualification, determinatio non diminuens. The origin of the theory of these two kinds of determination goes back to Aristotle's Sophistical Refutations¸ in particular, to his treatment of the fallacy referred to by the schoolmen as secundum quid et simpliciter.[15]

According to the medieval analysis of this fallacy, the fallacy consists in dropping a diminishing qualification in an inference from a proposition in which a predicate is applied to a subject with some qualification, secundum quid, to a proposition in which the same predicate is applied to the same subject absolutely, without qualification, i.e., simpliciter. In his De Fallaciis,[16] Aquinas characterizes this fallacy in the following manner:

Next, about the fallacy secundum quid and simpliciter. In this context that is [said to be] predicated simpliciter what is predicated without any modification [modus] added to it, as when we say: 'Socrates is white' or 'Socrates runs'; and that is [said to be] predicated secundum quid what is predicated with adding something to it, as in 'He runs well' or in 'Socrates is white with respect to his teeth'. What is added may be related in two ways to that to which it is added: for sometimes it does not diminish the concept [ratio] of that to which it is added, and then it is possible to proceed from what is secundum quid to what is simpliciter, as when we say: 'He runs fast; therefore, he runs', for speed does not take away anything from the concept [ratio] of running. [...] Sometimes, however, what is added takes away something from the concept [ratio] of that to which it is added, as when it is said: 'A black man is white with respect to his teeth'. For the qualification 'with respect to his teeth' takes something away from the concept of what is said to be white, since nobody can be said to be white, except who is totally white, or with respect to most or the principal parts. Therefore, if someone were to conclude: 'A black man is white with respect to his teeth; therefore, he is white', then this is a sophistic argument, or an instance of the fallacy secundum quid et simpliciter, and the deception derives from taking what is predicated secundum quid as if it were predicated simpliciter.[17]

Thus, when the qualification is diminishing, then its omission yields an invalid inference, however, when it is non-diminishing, i.e., when the qualification added to the predicate does not specify any conditions for the applicability of the predicate other than those included in the meaning of the predicate in itself, then its omission preserves the truth of the original proposition. As Aquinas somewhat later, in discussing the several modes in which this fallacy can occur, explains:

We should know, however, that if a whole is aptly denominated from its part, then there is no fallacy, as is clear in this case: 'He is curly with respect to his hair; therefore, he is curly'. This correctly follows, for a man is denominated curly with respect to his hair. And this mode covers also other [sorts of] parts, namely, [parts] of place, of time, or of other [sorts of] wholes. If, however, something is added to a whole in place by the mediation of a part in place, from which part it is not aptly denominated, the fallacy occurs in such inferences, as [in the following]: 'This diet is good in unhealthy places, so it is good'. This does not follow, for 'in unhealthy places' signifies a part in place. The case is similar with a whole and part in time, as here: 'Drinking wine is bad for the sick; therefore, it is bad'. And the same goes for all similar cases.[18]

Therefore, since 'real' as added to 'being' is a non-diminishing qualification, a real being is simply a being; on the other hand, since 'of reason' as added to 'being' is a diminishing qualification, a 'being of reason' is not necessarily a being, except secundum quid.[19] But then we can easily see that our first question at the end of the previous section, asking about the nature of nonexistent objects of signification was based on a category mistake. For the question about the nature of anything presupposes that it has a nature. But this, again, presupposes that it exists, that is to say, that it is a being simpliciter, a real being:

Since a non-being does not have a quiddity or essence, of that which is not, nobody can know what it is; but one can know the signification of the name, or the description composed of several names; as for example one can know what the name 'tragelaphus', or 'goatstag', signifies, which is the same, since it signifies an animal composed of a goat and a stag. But it is impossible to know what a goatstag is, for nothing is like this in the nature of things.[20]

Therefore, asking the question: 'What are nonexistent beings of reason?', understood as asking about the nature of a curious kind of beings, namely, beings that do not exist, is just as misguided as asking about the actual legal currency rate between, say, yen and forged dollars. But, again, this of course does not mean that we cannot understand what we mean by the phrase 'beings of reason', on the contrary, as we just explained, such beings of reason are what certain expressions signify in virtue of the fact that we can think of them when we understand the expressions in question, whether they actually exist in rerum natura or not.

So far, so good. But even if by this response we may have dulled somewhat the critical edge of this disturbing question, I hardly think any contemporary philosopher would be absolutely satisfied by the explanations given so far, and apparently for good reasons. For weren't these explanations just a series of obscura per obscuriora, vain attempts to elucidate some obscure distinctions by other, even more obscure ones? After all, we started out answering the disturbing questions concerning existent vs. nonexistent objects of signification at the end of the previous section by presenting St. Thomas's quite obscure distinction between the two senses of 'being'. This immediately turned out to be just a part of a more comprehensive distinction between the various analogous senses of the same. The explanation of this latter distinction in its turn led only to even further distinctions, namely those between predication simpliciter vs. secundum quid and determinatio diminuens vs. non-diminuens, just to pave the way for dismissing one of our initial questions as mistaken. But then, the dubious result of eliminating this question by this procedure was achieved at the expense of introducing distinctions that are bound to give rise to even further, and even more disturbing questions. For how are we supposed to understand St. Thomas's claims in his distinction of the two notions of being? Why would blindness be a non-being, or a being only in the second sense? But even if it is, why would this rather obscure fact be expressed by a copula of an affirmative proposition? And what should we make of the claim that the concept of being applicable to blindness is a result of somehow "diminishing" the concept of being applicable to sight, which in turn is a concept of being that results from another "diminishing" of the concept of being applicable to substances, i.e., ordinary things, such as animals that can be sighted or blind? Indeed, what does the fact that an animal is sighted, or blind, have to do with the existence (in any sense) of such spurious entities as blindness or sight?

Signification and the Inherence Theory of Predication

To provide acceptable replies to these questions as well as to the previous ones, we have to start with a systematic account of Aquinas's conception of signification. As we have already seen, for Aquinas our words have two sorts of signification, immediate and ultimate. What a word immediately signifies is a human concept, the possession and actual exercise of which makes a human being aware of something.

Note here that by this claim Aquinas is not committed to any particular "philosophy of mind and language" (although, of course, he has one), or to any particular psychological or psycholinguistic theory. For such theories would certainly have to involve answering the question of what human concepts in themselves are, i.e., characterizing the nature of these acts of human awareness, and the nature of their relationship to their subject, the human mind, which in turn would demand a characterization of the nature of the human mind itself, etc. Aquinas's claim in itself, however, determines nothing concerning such issues, instead, it merely introduces a certain terminology to speak in a fairly general fashion about things familiar just to anyone. For of course anyone who speaks any language at all is familiar with the fact that the intelligent use and understanding of a meaningful word necessarily involves the ability to think or be aware of what the word is used for by the users of the language in which the word is meaningful, that is to say, the ability to think or be aware of what other users of the same language think or are aware of when they use the word with understanding. It is only the same familiar fact that is expressed otherwise by saying that words, that is, certain meaningful utterances or inscriptions of a language, immediately signify concepts of the users of the language, that is, they are meaningful to users of the language precisely because they are conventionally attached to concepts, i.e., certain acts of human awareness or understanding of the users of the language in question. To know this much, however, we do not have to know what thinking or awareness or understanding is or what these acts of awareness or concepts are. Whatever it is that accounts for a human being's ability to think of what a word is used for in a linguistic community, i.e., whatever it is that accounts for a human being's ability to use a meaningful word with understanding, be it a brain process, a spiritual modification, or whatever else a philosopher can think up, that is what we call here a concept immediately signified by the word in question. Thus, whatever it is that makes me (or you) aware of human beings in general when I (or you) use the word 'man' in English (say, in the sentence: 'I'm looking for a good man') that is what is called here the concept of human beings signified immediately by the word 'man' in the minds of those who understand English (or at least this much of English).

But of course by saying that words immediately signify concepts of the human mind Aquinas was not claiming that words are simply the signs of these concepts. Words are ultimately the signs of the objects of these concepts, that is to say, (categorematic)[21] words signify ultimately what the concepts they immediately signify make us aware of. It is such a concept that St. Thomas calls the ratio of the things it makes us aware of. But, perhaps curiously to the modern reader, according to St. Thomas this ratio is not only in the intellect, but somehow also in the thing thought of:

... the ratio of any thing is what its name signifies, as the ratio of a stone is what its name signifies. But names are the signs of intellectual conceptions, whence the ratio of any thing signified by a name is the conception of the intellect that the name signifies. And this conception of the intellect is in the intellect as in its subject, but it is in the thing thought of as in that which is represented: for the conceptions of the intellect are certain similitudes of the things thought of. But if the conception of the intellect were not assimilated to the thing, then the conception would be false of that thing; for example, if the intellect would think something that is not a stone to be a stone. So the ratio of the stone is in the intellect as in its subject, but it is in the stone as in that which causes truth in the conception of the intellect thinking the stone to be such and such.[22]

In another passage, in connection with the question of how the attributes we predicate of God may apply to Him, Aquinas explains in more detail in what sense we can say that the ratio is in the thing:

... we should know that a ratio, as taken here, is nothing else, but what the intellect apprehends from the signification of some name, and this in the case of those things that have definition is the definition of the thing itself, in accordance with what the Philosopher says: 'the ratio signified by the name is the definition'.[23] But some things, which are not defined, are [also] said to have a ratio in this way, e.g., things such as quantity or quality, which are not defined because they are most general genera. Nevertheless, the ratio of quality is what is signified by the name of quality; and it is that from which quality has it that it is quality. Thus it makes no difference whether those things that are said to have a ratio have a definition. And so it is clear that the ratio of wisdom predicated of God is what is conceived of in the signification of this name, even if divine wisdom itself cannot be defined. Nevertheless, the name 'ratio' does not signify this conception itself, because that is signified by the name of wisdom, or by some other name of the thing, but it signifies the intention of this conception, just as the name 'definition' and other names of second imposition. And thus the second point, namely, the one concerning how the ratio is said to be in the thing, is also clear. For this does not mean that the intention itself which is signified by the name 'ratio' would be in the thing, nor even that the conception to which this intention applies would be in the thing outside the soul, for it is in the soul as in its subject; but it is said to be in the thing insofar as there is something in the thing outside the soul that corresponds to the conception of the soul, as what is signified [corresponds] to the sign.[24]

There are two points in this passage that we should very clearly understand for the subsequent discussion. The first is that the name 'ratio' is a name of second imposition. The second is that to know the ratio of a thing, and hence the meaning of its name, we need not know the essential definition of whatever is conceived of in that ratio, that is to say, that we can clearly know what a name signifies without knowing what the thing signified by the name is in itself.[25]

As to the first point, we should know that St. Thomas applies a common medieval distinction here, roughly comparable to the contemporary distinction between expressions of object language vs. metalanguage. However, for the medievals this distinction did not concern two distinct, and in themselves complete languages, one of which is designed to speak about things other than its own expressions, while the other is designed to speak about the expressions of the former. On the contrary, here we have expressions of the same language distinguished with respect to their function in speaking about different types of objects, namely, either about concepts or the objects of these concepts. As we have seen, for Aquinas a word is meaningful on account of the fact that it immediately signifies some concept of the human mind. But the word is imposed to signify ultimately the object of this concept, i.e., what the actual exercise of this concept makes a human being aware of. However, some concepts make us aware not of objects of external reality, but of concepts of the mind. So just as, say, the concept that makes us aware of human beings in general is the concept of human beings, so the concept that makes us aware, say, of concepts that make us aware of things that differ only numerically but not by essential differences (as does the concept of human beings, or the concept of horses, or the concept of oak trees) is the concept of species. Concepts that have as their objects things other than concepts in this comparison are called first intentions, intentiones primae, and, correspondingly, their names are called names of first imposition, nomina primae impositionis. On the other hand, concepts that have concepts as such as their objects are called second intentions, intentiones secundae, and, correspondingly, their names are called names of second imposition, nomina secundae impositionis.

The qualification 'as such' is needed here for the reason that of course there are concepts that have both concepts and things other than concepts as their objects. For example, the concepts of 'being', 'thing' and the like are certainly such concepts. Still, these concepts are not second intentions, since, even if they do represent concepts as well as other things, they do not represent concepts qua concepts, i.e. qua acts, whatever they are in themselves, that make humans aware of something, but qua beings, or qua things in their own right, regardless of whatever their function in human cognition may be. Indeed, even if there were intentions that would have only concepts as their objects, but would not represent them qua concepts, those intentions would not be second intentions. For example, even if it turned out that what we call here concepts are brain processes, this stunning discovery would not turn the concept of a brain process into a second intention, for it does not characterize whatever makes a human aware of something in terms of the relationship of this act of awareness to the object of this act, but otherwise, as some natural phenomenon in its own right, some bioelectric changes in a particular sort of grayish stuff.[26]

On the other hand, for example, the concept of species, as interpreted by the medievals, is a concept of a concept qua a concept, because it characterizes or represents concepts as such, i.e., in their function of making humans aware of certain sorts of things in a particular manner.[27] In the same way, as Aquinas explains in the passage quoted above, the concept of ratio is a second intention, and hence its name is a name of second imposition, because it represents concepts of other things qua concepts, i.e., insofar as these concepts are related to their objects, naturally representing them in a certain manner. Hence, what the name 'ratio' immediately signifies is the intention of ratio, a second intention, which represents concepts in their function in human cognition. But then the intention of ratio applies to concepts that represent their own objects, and hence the name 'ratio' refers to these concepts.

However, as Aquinas goes on to explain, we can also say that the ratio is in the thing. But this is not intended in the sense that the concept by which the thing is conceived of would be in the thing, for the concept is in the human mind as in its subject.[28] What this means is that there is something in the thing corresponding to the ratio, on account of which the concept applies to this thing at all, called the form or nature of the thing.[29] For example, if the concept in question is a universal concept of many particulars, as the concept of man[30] is a specific concept representing humans in abstraction from their accidental, individuating features, then the ratio in the mind is this concept itself, but the ratio in the thing is what is represented by this concept in the thing, and that is what is referred to as human nature, or humanity, on account of which the thing represented is a human being. Indeed, what accounts for the intellect's being able to think of humans in this manner is its capacity to think or be aware of humans precisely qua humans, that is, to be aware of them only with respect to what makes them humans, their human nature, disregarding whatever other features they may have, such as color, gender, weight, height, virtues or vices, etc. It is precisely this capacity, the capacity to abstract the natures or forms of things from their individualizing conditions, that accounts for the very possibility for humans to have universal concepts. As St. Thomas explains:

When we speak about an abstract universal, we imply two things, namely the nature of the thing itself, and abstraction or universality. So the nature itself to which it is accidental that it is thought of, or that it is abstracted, or that the intention of universality applies to it, exists only in the singulars, but the nature’s being abstracted or its being thought of or the intention of universality is in the intellect. And we can see this by the similar situation in perception. For sight sees the color of an apple without its smell. Thus, if it is asked: Where is the color that is seen without the smell?–it is obvious that it is nowhere else, but in the apple. But that it is perceived without the smell happens to apply to it [accidit ei] on account of sight, insofar as in sight there is a similitude of color but not of smell. Similarly, humanity that is thought of exists only in this or in that man; but that humanity is apprehended without its individuating conditions, which is nothing but for it to be being abstracted, which confers on it the attribute of universality, is an accidental feature of humanity [accidit humanitati] in virtue of its being perceived by the intellect, in which there is a similitude of the nature of the species but not of the individuating principles.[31]

But then, as to the second point mentioned above, we should clearly realize that even if by having such a concept in our minds we necessarily are aware of human nature without its individuating conditions, this does not mean that we necessarily have to be able to say what this human nature is. For to have this concept means only to be able to think or to be aware of humans in this abstract and hence universal manner. But the ability to think of humans in this way is nothing but the ability to think of humans only qua humans, only in terms of what it is necessary for something to have so that it be a human (regardless of any other features it may have), and this is precisely what is called a human nature, or a humanity, namely, what makes the thing in question a human being, regardless of whether we are able to spell it out what this nature is in terms of other concepts, by providing an essential definition of human beings. Therefore, by having this concept of human beings we necessarily are aware of human nature as such, in abstraction from its individualizing conditions in particular humans, whether we are able to give any other characterization of this nature in terms of other concepts or not. Of course, if we do know the essential definition of the thing in question, then we are in a position to give an answer also in terms of other concepts to the question asking about the nature of the thing: we can tell what the thing is, what it is that it has to have so that it be the kind of thing it is. But as concerning divine wisdom St. Thomas insisted above, this is not required of us in order to have a ratio or concept of the thing, an act of simple apprehension by which we can be aware of the thing with respect to its form or nature represented by this ratio, namely, that feature of the thing which is conceived of in this concept, whatever it is, disregarding the thing's other features. Indeed, since it is this ability to think of particular things in this abstract universal manner that is for us to have the abstract concepts or rationes of particular things, and our words signify immediately our concepts, on account of which they signify ultimately what we conceive of in these concepts, it is precisely this human ability that accounts for there being universal terms in human languages at all, signifying things in the same universal manner, with respect to the natures of particular things conceived of in their concepts without their individualizing features. But since this applies to all sorts of universal terms (and in all sorts of human languages, for that matter), we can state in general that a universal term immediately signifies an abstract and hence universal concept of the human mind, on account of which it ultimately signifies whatever is conceived of by this concept in the particulars (without conceiving their individualizing features), namely, the individualized natures or forms of particulars, which render them such as to fall under this concept. For despite our ability to think of particulars in this abstract, universal manner, and hence our common terms' ability to signify them in the same way, the form or nature signified by a general term in this particular thing is of course a numerically distinct entity from the form or nature signified by the same term in that particular thing. As St. Thomas writes:

... it is not necessary that if this is a man and that is a man, then they both have numerically the same humanity, just as two white things do not have numerically the same whiteness; but [it is necessary] that the one be similar to the other in that it has humanity just as the other: whence the intellect, considering humanity not as belonging to this thing, but as humanity, forms an intention that is common to all.[32]

Thus, the abstractive consideration of the intellect is able to conceive of these particular, individualized forms in a universal manner (considering, say, this whiteness or that whiteness only as whiteness, but not considering this whiteness as belonging to this thing or that whiteness as belonging to that thing) and it is therefore able to confer universal meaning on certain sounds and inscriptions as parts of a human language. However, it is only this humanity, say the humanity of Socrates, or that humanity, say the humanity of Plato, or this whiteness of this white sheet of paper, or that whiteness of that white sheet of paper that exists in rerum natura. For even if, say, this whiteness or that whiteness can be considered without considering whether it belongs to this thing or to that thing, no whiteness can be without being the whiteness of this thing or of that thing, i.e., without belonging to this thing or to that thing. And this is necessarily so, because for this whiteness to be is nothing but for this thing to be white and vice versa, and of course it is only some particular thing that can be white. Thus, in this semantic conception, for some particular thing to be white is nothing but for its particular whiteness (the particular quality that is represented in a universal manner by the human concept that renders the term 'white' in English meaningful) to be. But then this is why, according to St. Thomas, we use the verb of existence even when we want to express only the simple fact that a thing actually is white:

Since actuality, what is principally signified by the verb 'is', is in general the actuality of all forms, whether substantial or accidental actuality, when we want to signify any form or actuality to be actually in a subject, we signify this by the verb 'is'.[33]

Of course, this is just one of several of Aquinas's formulations of the theory of predication that historians of medieval logic duly dubbed the inherence theory.[34] Stated as a general, formal semantic principle, the inherence theory claims that

(I)        the predication of a common term F of an individual u is true if and only if the form ultimately signified by F in u actually is, i.e., exists.[35]

Again, I have to stress that despite possible modern worries to the contrary, this claim, as a formal semantic claim, does not involve the introduction of any sorts of "mysterious" or spurious entities. For this apparently atavistic talk about "forms" and "natures", clearly of the same breed as Molière's mocked talk about dormative powers, in this semantic interpretation need not commit us to any curious sorts of entities other than those familiar to anyone, nor to any sort of epistemological nonsense, such as having to have some "metaphysical intuition" into the ordinarily hidden natures of things.

For by saying that a general term ultimately signifies a form in the particulars that render those particulars such that they actually fall under the concept immediately signified by the term in question we do not need to posit some new sort of "mysterious" entities in the thing, indeed, not any more than by talking about concepts in this semantic context did we have to posit any sorts of further, "mysterious" entities, other than those anyone would agree to be familiar with. (Remember, talk about concepts in itself neither implies nor excludes the possibility that the acts of awareness that, in relation to their objects, we talk about as concepts are in themselves just brain processes. On the other hand, there being such acts of awareness in the intended sense is just such a familiar fact of human existence that denying their existence would yield a self-defeating claim.)[36] Thus, just as we could start talking about concepts without having to commit ourselves to any particular theory as to what concepts in themselves are, so we can start talking about the 'forms' of things as the ultimate significata of our words, without having to take a metaphysical stance as to what these 'forms' in themselves are. Of course, talking about these ultimate significata as forms, rather than anything else, indicates the close historical relationship between this semantic conception and a hylomorphist metaphysics. This, however, does not mean that this semantic approach in itself logically implies a hylomorphist metaphysics in general, [37] or any specific version of it in particular. In fact, such an implication would leave no room for metaphysical disagreements to be disputed within the same semantic framework. But of course many of the great metaphysical disputes of high-scholasticism can be construed as revolving precisely around the distinctions vs. identities of the semantic values commonly assigned to several expressions within basically the same semantic framework.

This is the most obvious in the famous debate concerning the unicity vs. plurality of substantial forms. Recapitulated in semantic terms, the point of the debate was to decide whether the ultimate significata of the substantial predicates of the same individual are the same or distinct, a question left open by the semantic principles of signification and predication, but one that has far-reaching ramifications both in metaphysics and in theology.[38] Again, the same semantic framework leaves the question whether the significata of such substantial predicates should be regarded as identical with or distinct from the significatum of the predicate 'is' in the same individual undetermined. Hence the need for Aquinas to deploy several metaphysical arguments for his famous thesis of the real distinction between essence and existence, i.e., between the significata of substantial predicates and the significata of the verb 'is', in creatures, while, of course, the same semantic principles allow him to state the identity of these significata in the case of God.[39] But the same semantic principles do not determine even whether the significatum of a predicate in an individual is distinct from this individual itself, so again, anyone having ontological, that is, metaphysical qualms about "multiplying entities" is free to construe the significata of predicates with respect to the particulars as being the particulars themselves, at least, as far as the semantics is concerned.[40] However, of course, such a decision will again have its metaphysical consequences, so anyone wishing to do so will have to face, among others, Aquinas's metaphysical arguments to the effect that in material beings such an identification is impossible, whereas in the case of God it is more than justified.[41] Finally, not only do these formal semantic principles, namely the inherence theory of predication and the corresponding theory of signification, leave the questions of the identity vs. distinction of the ultimate significata and supposita of common predicates undetermined, but also the question whether there really is in actual being something, an actually inherent form, in the thing corresponding to a predicate, even when the predicate is true of this thing. For certain predicates, namely, negative or privative predicates, which in their very concept involve the lack of what their opposite signifies, are true of something precisely because the opposite significatum is lacking in this thing. So for the former to be is for the latter not to be. But then the being of the significatum of the negative or privative predicate is nothing but the non-being of the significatum of the opposite positive predicate. Therefore, since nothing can be both being and non-being in the same sense, the significatum of the privative or negative predicate cannot be said to be in the same sense as the significatum of the opposite positive predicate. Indeed, this is precisely what seems to be the primary motivation for the Aristotelian distinction between the two senses of 'being' with which we started our discussion. As in a different context Aquinas writes:

... as was said above, 'being' is predicated in two ways. In one way it signifies the essence of a thing existing outside of the soul; and in this way the deformity of sin cannot be said to be a being, for it is a certain privation, but privations do not have an essence in the nature of things. In the second way ['being'] signifies the truth of a proposition; and in this way a deformity is said to be, not that it has being in the thing, but because the intellect compounds a privation with its subject as if it were some form. Therefore, just as from the composition of a form with a subject or with matter there results some substantial or accidental being; so does the intellect signify the composition of a privation with a subject by some being. But this being is only being of reason, for in the thing it is rather non being ... [42]

Thus, whatever common predicate we substitute for F in (I) above, (I) will hold, only the sense of 'is' or 'exists' in it may vary, depending on the kind of significatum F has in u. In fact, on the basis of this point one may already surmise how the different senses of 'being' distinguished by Aquinas are related to the different kinds of predicates that can occur in actual predications. However, before considering this relationship we have to consider the function of common terms in the other necessary component of an actual predication in a proposition, namely, the subject term, which supplies the referent, or suppositum, for the predication.

Supposition and signification of abstract vs. concrete terms

So far I have been gathering and discussing Aquinas's semantic ideas only concerning common terms as they are predicable of individuals. As we could see, according to this conception, a common term in an actual predication, i.e., as the predicate of a categorical proposition, ultimately signifies some individualized property of the individual (or individuals) of which it is predicated, i.e., which is (or are) referred to by the subject of the proposition. But common terms can function also as subjects themselves, and then, according to medieval logicians, they also have the function to refer to, or to use the modern transliteration of medieval terminology, supposit for the individuals that fall under them. [43] In this referring function, then, despite the fact that they signify what we called the forms of the particulars (i.e., their ultimate significata in the particulars, whatever those ultimate significata are in themselves), they normally refer to, or supposit for, the particulars themselves. As St. Thomas says:

In respect of any name we have to consider two things, namely that from which the name is imposed, what is called the quality of the name, and that on which the name is imposed, what is called the substance of the name. And the name, properly speaking, is said to signify the form, or quality, from which the name is imposed, and is said to supposit for the thing on which it is imposed.[44]

So, for example, the term 'man' signifies human nature in abstraction from the singulars immediately, and signifies individual human natures ultimately, but normally, say, in the proposition 'A man is white', it supposits for the things actually bearing the nature it signifies, namely individual humans.[45] But then this proposition is true if and only if the form ultimately signified by its predicate term in at least one of the supposita of the subject term actually exists, that is, if and only if the individual whiteness of at least one of the individuals actually having humanity (i.e., the whiteness of a human being) actually exists.

But here we should note again that this semantic distinction between suppositum and significatum, as such, need not posit any real distinction between what is signified and what is supposited for by a common term in a proposition. For even if according to Aquinas's metaphysical views, to this semantic distinction, in the case of material beings there corresponds a real distinction, and thus, for example, a human being is not his or her humanity, or a wise person is not his or her wisdom, in the case of God, while the semantic distinction is still in force, that is, for example, the predicate 'wise' is still related to divine wisdom as to its significatum, and to God as to its suppositum, there is no corresponding real distinction between what is signified and what is supposited for, since, as a consequence of divine simplicity, God is identical with divine wisdom.[46] Thus, at least as far as common concrete terms are concerned, their mode of signification (modus significandi) is such that they signify their ultimate significata in the particular things (whether these significata are actual or merely potential), but as subjects of categorical propositions they supposit for those particular things in which their ultimate significata actually exist.[47] Nevertheless, what they ultimately signify and what they supposit for may or may not be identical, depending on the nature of the things signified and supposited for, whence the question of the identity or distinction of their supposita and significata is a metaphysical question, not determined by the semantic distinction. On the other hand, the abstract counterparts of these concrete terms differ from the concrete terms precisely in their mode of signification, insofar as abstract terms both signify and supposit for what their concrete counterparts signify, but they do not supposit for the supposita of their concrete counterparts, except when these supposita are identical with the significata. This is why we can refer to the significata of concrete terms by their abstract counterparts, and say, for example, that the term 'man' signifies humanity, whereas it supposits for humans, and that a man is not identical with his humanity, whereas God (the suppositum of the term 'God') is identical with deity, i.e., the significatum of the term 'God', and the suppositum (and significatum) of the term 'deity'.[48]

Note here that in the previous sentence the term 'humanity' is used to refer to what the term 'man' signifies. Indeed, in general, the function of abstract terms seems to be precisely this, namely, to afford us the linguistic means to refer in a proposition to the significata of their concrete counterparts, for the concrete terms do not refer to their significata, but to the things actually having their significata. Thus, whenever we need to refer not to the supposita but to the significata of a concrete term, we need an abstract term, corresponding to the concrete term. But then we can see how this semantic framework generated in scholastic philosophy and science the need for abstract terms even in cases where ordinary usage did not supply any. It was this systematic need of this semantic framework that yielded all the 'barbarisms' (such as 'lapideitas', 'asininitas', or even 'Sorteitas', and the Scotists' famous 'haecceitas' and their likes) that later on were to evoke the contempt of an emerging new, non-scholastic intelligentsia, which originally just refused, and a couple of centuries later simply forgot to think in terms of the semantic principles governing scholastic discussions. But, of course, this is already a different, and enormously complicated story, which we cannot go into here. Still, it is important to keep in mind that it is only as a result of this 'historical amnesia' that now we are in a situation in which it takes this meticulous gathering and arranging bits and pieces of Aquinas' thought to piece together his semantic conception, consisting of principles that constitute a certain form of discourse, which was common in his time, but which for various reasons was gradually abandoned by subsequent generations. In any case, by now we have gathered enough of these bits and pieces to state at least some of the most general semantic principles underlying Aquinas's thought.

Aquinas's semantic principles

What follows, of course, will not be an exhaustive statement of what might be dubbed "Aquinas's semantics". Here I only summarize, and briefly comment on some of the most general principles we could glean from the foregoing discussion, so that on this basis I shall be able to answer all the questions and doubts that have emerged in the course of this discussion.

1. Common terms signify human concepts immediately, and the forms of particulars represented by these concepts ultimately.

The point of this principle is that the signification of a common term is something it has on account of its being associated with some act of human understanding. An utterance or an inscription becomes a term of a language precisely on account of this association with, or subordination to such a mental act. Once by an act of imposition, or name-giving, this conventional relation of subordination or immediate signification is established, the utterance or inscription becomes a term. Such a term, then, ultimately signifies the features, or forms, of the particular things represented by the concept to which it is subordinated.[49]

Note that what we call here concepts are just certain acts of the human understanding on account of which a human being is able to use the terms of a language with understanding, whatever those acts are in themselves. Again, what we call here forms are just the features of the things represented by these acts of understanding, whatever those features are in themselves. Thus, concepts and forms, as just the immediate vs. ultimate significata of our terms, are to be understood here in such a noncommittal way that to deny their existence in the intended sense should yield self-defeating claims. In this way, to claim, for example, that "I'm sure I have no such concepts in my head" in the intended sense of 'concept' would amount to the admission that "I can't use a single word with understanding, not even the words I'm just uttering". Again, if someone were to say: "Things just don't have such forms", then, in the intended sense of 'form', his claim would imply the admission that "Nothing is characterized by anything, and so neither the proposition I just uttered was characterized by truth".

On the other hand, admitting such concepts and forms as the immediate vs. ultimate significata of our terms need not involve any knowledge of what these significata are in themselves, for, in general, we can think of, and hence signify and refer to things without knowing their nature. In fact, of most of the things we talk about we don't know what they are, whereas, of course, we know what we signify by their names; we are only unable to give an essential definition of what is thus signified. For example, we can know what we signify by the term 'diamond' in English, without knowing that for something to be a diamond is for it to be a tetrahedrally crystallized allotrope of carbon. To know the latter is to know that the form signified by the term 'diamond' is the same as the form signified by the phrase 'tetrahedrally crystallized allotrope of carbon'. (Provided this is indeed what it is for something to be a diamond, but that is a question to be answered by natural scientists.) But whether or not we are in possession of this piece of knowledge, by the term 'diamond' we signify this form, which we are certainly entitled to baptize by coining an abstract term, say, 'diamondhood', to be able to refer to it in the further discussion. Of course, later on, it just might turn out that what we referred to as 'diamondhood' is nothing, but the tetrahedral arrangement of carbon atoms held together by covalent bonds, which we may further identify as the carbon atoms themselves thus and so arranged, etc. But none of these later results should affect the validity of the original, semantic principle, which only specifies how our terms are related to what they signify, but says nothing about what these significata are in themselves, that is, to what ontological category they belong, or by what combination of other terms we would be able to pick out precisely the same significata.

2. A concrete common term P is true of a particular thing u iff the form (ultimately) signified by P is actual in u. [50]

This principle is just a reformulation of the inherence-theory: 'is actual' is meant to be taken in the same sense as 'is' or 'exists', the actual sense of which is determined by the signification of the actual substituents of P. For example, if P signifies a privation, then, of course, its significata can be actual only in the sense in which privations can be actual,[51] not positing any entity in reality, indeed, indicating the lack of some real being in actual reality. Thus, for example, if 'bald' is construed as a privative term signifying the lack of hair where there should be hair by nature, then the predication of 'bald' of a bald man is true on account of the lack of hair on the bald man's head, i.e., it is the acutality of his baldness, the actual lack of hair on his head, that verifies the predicate 'bald' of him. But of course the actuality of this lack of hair does not make his baldness a real being superadded to the other, real entities of the world. Such a superadded real being would be the hair (or a wig, for that matter). But since it is precisely the actual lack of this superadded entity that is the actuality of baldness, the latter cannot be regarded as another such being, adding to the number of entities of the same kind. Hence, even if baldness is actual, it is in a different sense than those real entities. Indeed, even among real entities, which are not privations or just other beings of reason, there are further differences in their modes of being, reflected in the analogous senses of 'being' distinguished by Aristotle and Aquinas, which will be discussed in more detail in the next section.

3. A concrete common term P supposits for (refers to) a particular thing u as the subject of a proposition iff the form signified by P in u is actual (relative to the time and modality of the copula of the proposition and to the ampliation of the predicate).[52]

The actuality of the significata of a common term is what makes it true of particular things, and so, if the term in question occurs as the predicate term of an affirmative categorical proposition, this will render the proposition true of the individuals referred to in it. But if the term in question is the subject term of a proposition, then its function is not to state something of the things referred to in the proposition, but to refer, to supply the referents, or supposita for the predicate term to be true of. However, even in this referring function, what determines whether a certain particular is actually supposited for by the common term as the subject term of a proposition is whether the form signified by the term in the particular is actual at the time consignified[53] by the copula (or the verb implying the copula) of the proposition. For example, in the sentence 'A dinosaur is running', the subject term 'dinosaur' should supposit for actual dinosaurs, i.e., things that actually have the nature of a dinosaur, for the sentence would be true only if the things actually having the significate of the subject would also actually have the significate of the predicate at the present time of the utterance of the proposition. But, since by all probability there is no such thing in actuality (nothing has a dinosaur nature in actuality, i.e., nothing is a dinosaur), no such thing has the significate of the predicate in actuality, whence the sentence is actually false. On the other hand, in the proposition 'A dinosaur was running', the time consignified by the copula is some past time relative to the present time of the utterance of the proposition. So this proposition is true if the things which have or had the significate of the subject in actuality also had the significate of the predicate in actuality at some past time relative to the utterance of the proposition. But then, since some things did have dinosaur nature in the past, i.e., there were dinosaurs, and by all probability some of them were actually running at some past time (i.e., they had the significate of the predicate, the act of running, in actuality), this proposition is probably actually true. Similar considerations would apply to other tenses, modalities, and special predicates habentes vim ampliandi, as medieval logicians would put it, i.e., predicates that have the force of extending the range of reference of their subject terms beyond the set of things that actually exist at the time of the utterance of the proposition, such as verbs and participles signifying mental acts (say, 'think', 'imagine', etc.), but we need not go into those details here.[54] All we need to note here is that while reference depends on signification, for it is its having or not having the significate of a common term that ultimately determines whether a particular thing is supposited for in a proposition or not, nevertheless, this determination takes place in a propositional context, which further determines how these significata contribute to the determination of supposition.[55]

4. The significata of the abstract counterpart [P] of a concrete common term P are the same as those of P, but as the subject of a proposition [P] supposits for the ultimate significata of P (which are also the significata of [P], of course), provided they are actual relative to the time and modality of the copula of the proposition.[56]

The ultimate significata of abstract and concrete terms (and, hence, also their significations) are the same. Both 'white' and 'whiteness' signify the same forms, the individual whitenesses of particular things,[57] whether they are actually, or merely potentially white. (There are, of course, things which cannot possibly be white, say, numbers, which are extra genus coloris, i.e., for which color predicates are simply not interpreted. In such things color predicates signify nothing.[58]) However, while concrete terms supposit for the things that have their significata in actuality, abstract terms supposit for their significata in actuality (of course, also relative to the conditions required by the propositional context). So whereas 'white' supposits for white things, 'whiteness' supposits for whitenesses, etc. But of course, this does not tell us what kind of entity a whiteness is, or indeed, whether it is something distinct from a white thing. [59]

5. An affirmative categorical proposition is true iff its predicate is true of (all, or some, depending on the quantity of the proposition, of) the supposita of its subject.

The truth of an affirmative categorical proposition, i.e., a proposition in which two common terms are joined by an affirmative copula, is ultimately determined by whether its predicate is true of the thing(s) supposited for by its subject term. Note that the terms here may be of any complexity, so the theory of categorical propositions need not be thought of as covering only simple cases like 'A man is an animal'. But here we need not deal with those complexities.[60] Also, of course, the truth of a categorical is determined by its quantity, i.e., the determiner of its subject term, which determines how many of the supposita of the subject term should be considered in determining the truth of the proposition. In fact, this analysis of the categoricals allows for a uniform treatment of all sorts of determiners in the framework of a logical theory the expressive capacity of which matches that of generalized quantification theory, but again, such technicalities need not be considered here.[61] The only really important point in the present discussion is that in accordance with this principle the truth of a categorical proposition ultimately depends on whether its predicate is true of the supposita of its subject. But whether the predicate is true of these supposita depends on the actual inherence of its significata in these supposita. And so, since the actual inherence of these significata is nothing, but their actuality, i.e., their actual being, this point directly takes us back to the starting point of our discussion: the various analogical senses of 'being' distinguished by St. Thomas in accordance with the various modes of predication.

Being simpliciter vs. secundum quid

As we could see, the theory of truth and predication outlined above in itself seems to require a systematic correspondence between the different kinds of significata of several sorts of predicates and the various analogical senses of 'being' distinguished by Aristotle and Saint Thomas. We could also see, however, that according to St. Thomas's theory of the copula, the copula of an affirmative categorical proposition invariably signifies the truth of the proposition in which it occurs.

To see in more detail the relationships between the sense of the copula and the various senses in which the significata of several predicates can be said to be, let us take a more careful look again at the various formulations of the inherence theory of predication provided above. All of these formulations are equivalences, the left-hand-side of which states the truth of a predication, while the right-hand-side states the actual existence of the significata of the predicate in the supposita of the subject of the predication. But a predication itself is performed by a categorical proposition, the formal element of which is the copula, which joins the terms to form a proposition (for without the copula, whether it is expressed in the surface structure of a language or not, a mere sequence of terms does not form a proposition).[62] This is why we can say that what is invariably signified by the copula is the truth of the proposition in which it occurs, which is precisely the reason why St. Thomas also often speaks about the mode of being signified by the copula as ens ut verum, being as truth.[63] But stating the truth of the proposition is nothing, but stating the obtaining of the state of affairs expressed by the proposition as a whole, which in English can be referred to by a that-clause, while in Latin either by a clause beginning with a corresponding 'quod' or 'quia' or by an accusative with infinitive construction.[64] Consider the following, equivalent sentences:

S is P

'S is P' is true

It is true that S is P

That S is P is true

That S is P is

That S is P is a being

Aquinas's point seems to be precisely that all occurrences of 'is' (or rather the corresponding occurrences of 'est' in Latin), as well as the occurrence of 'being' in (6), above express the same sense of 'being', which, however, is not the primary sense, but is somehow analogically related to the primary sense of 'being'. That is, all occurrences of 'is' above, both as a copula and as an absolute predicate, express the same sense in which something can be said to be, indeed, the same sense as that expressed by the predicate 'being' in (6), as well as, say, in the sentence 'A blindness is a being'.[65] In fact, any of the above formulations could stand on the left-hand-side of an equivalence stating the inherence theory of predication. However, on the right-hand-side we would have to have formulations like the following (where [P] is the abstract form of P):

A significate of P in a suppositum of S is (is actual/exists)

A [P] of an S is (is actual/exists)

A [P] of an S is a being

Note that here it is only the italicized copulae of these schemata that express the same sense as the occurrences of 'is' in (1)-(6). The other occurrences of 'is', as well as occurrences of 'actual', 'exists' and 'being', express different senses of 'being', depending on what sort of entity is signified by P in a suppositum of S. For example, taking 'blind' as the privative opposite of 'sighted', and 'blindness' and 'sight' as their respective abstract forms, consider the following instances of a scheme expressing the inherence theory of predication:

A man is sighted if and only if the sight of a man is (is a being)

A man is blind if and only if the blindness of a man is (is a being)

St. Thomas's point seems to be that here the italicized occurrences of 'is' (and 'being') signify being in the same sense:

We should know that this second mode is compared to the first as effect to cause. For it is from there being something in the nature of things that the truth or falsity of a proposition follows, which the intellect signifies by the verb 'is' as it is a verbal copula. But, since something which in itself is not a being, as a negation and the like, is considered by the intellect as some being, sometimes that it is is said of something in this second way, but not in the first. For it is said that blindness is, in the second way, because the proposition by which something is said to be blind is true; but it is not said that this is true in the first way. For blindness does not have some being in the things, but it is rather a privation of being.[66]

On the other hand, the non-italicized occurrence of 'is' (as well as that of 'being') in (10) signifies being in the sense contrasted with the ens-rationis-sense, as expressing real being, ens reale, which itself comprises both the primary sense and several other secondary senses:

We have to say that 'being' is predicated in two ways [...] In one way as it is a verbal copula signifying the composition of any proposition that the soul forms: whence this being is not something in the nature of things, but only in the act of the judgment-forming intellect. And in this way being is attributed to everything of which a proposition can be formed, whether it is a being or a privation of being: for we say that blindness is. In the other way being [esse] is said to be the act of being [ens] insofar as being, that is, that by which something is denominated as a being in the nature of things. And being in this way is attributed only to the things themselves which are contained in the ten categories, whence 'being' [ens] predicated on account of such [an act of] being [esse] is divided by the ten categories. But this [act of] being [esse] is attributed to something in two ways. In one way as to that which [quod] properly and truly has being, or is. And thus it is attributed only to a per se subsisting substance; whence that which truly is is said to be a substance in bk. 1. of the Physics. All those [things], however, which do not subsist per se, but in others and with others, whether they are accidents or substantial forms or any sorts of parts, do not have being [esse] so that they themselves would truly be, but being [esse] is attributed to them in another way, namely, as to something by which [quo] something is; as whiteness is said to be, not that it itself would subsist in itself, but because it is by it that something has it that it is white. Being, therefore, is properly and truly attributed only to a per se subsisting thing. To this, however, two kinds of being are attributed. The one is that results from those from which its unity is integrated, which is the proper substantial being of a suppositum. Another being is attributed to a suppositum besides those that integrate it, which is an additional being, namely, accidental being; as being white is attributed to Socrates when it is said: Socrates is white.[67]

So, if in

(i) An S is P

P signifies a privation (or negation or relation of reason[68]) then in the corresponding

(ii) A [P] of an S is

'is' signifies being in the secondary, ens-rationis-sense, inasmuch as the two propositions are equivalent. Of course, nothing prevents anyone from asserting, say, that [a] blindness is, or [an] evil exists, intending to signify that blindness and evil are real beings, i.e., taking 'is' or 'exists' in the sense in which they signify the actuality of real being. But if the terms 'blindness' and 'evil' are genuinely privative, in the way they were interpreted by St. Thomas, these assertions simply will not be true. On the other hand, if P signifies a real being, then, while the copula of (i) will still express being in the ens-rationis-sense, 'is' in (ii) will signify some real being. For example, if the proposition 'A man is sighted' is true, then 'A man's sight is' will also be true, so that while the occurrence of 'is' as the copula of the first proposition signifies being in the ens-rationis-sense, the occurrence of 'is', as the predicate of the second proposition, signifies being in an ens-reale-sense.[69] Again, of course, one may wish to claim that a man's sight is, or exists, or that there is such a thing as a man's sight, in the ens-rationis-sense, in which sense the claim thus made will also be true, since whatever is a real being also exists in this weaker, ens-rationis-sense according to St. Thomas. But the point is that, unlike the case of 'A man is blind' and 'A man's blindness is', if 'A man is sighted' is true, then 'A man's sight is' will also be true even taking 'is' in the latter in an ens-reale-sense. However, as we could see, given that a man's sight is not a substance, even this is not the primary sense of being, but only one of the several senses of real being analogically related to its primary sense, namely, the sense in which we can say of a substance that it is.

Perhaps, in view of what has been said so far, now it will be easy to see how Aquinas is able to base this distinction between the primary and the secondary senses in which a real being can be said to be on the distinction between that which is, quod est, and that by which something is, quo aliquid est, which, in turn, is based on a distinction between what he regards as the predication of 'being' or 'is' simpliciter and secundum quid. The clue, of course, lies in the inherence theory of predication and in the related theories of signification and supposition. In accordance with these, when a substance u is said to be, say, white, this is equivalent with saying that the whiteness of u exists. But then we can say that for u's whiteness to be is nothing, but for u to be white, which is, further, for u to be, not absolutely, simpliciter, but with respect to something, secundum quid, namely, with respect to its whiteness. As St. Thomas says:

... substance is the first being, and is being absolutely [simpliciter], and not being with respect to something, i.e., with qualification [secundum quid], as is the case with accidents. For to be white is not to be absolutely [simpliciter esse], but with qualification [secundum quid]. And this is clear from the fact that when something begins to be white, we don't say that it begins to be, absolutely, but that it begins to be white. For when Socrates begins to be a man, we say absolutely that he begins to be. Whence it is clear that to be a man signifies to be, absolutely. But to be white signifies to be with qualification.[70]

Thus we can see exactly how Aquinas can interpret all predications as predications of being, either with or without qualification. Just as in "ordinary predications" we can attach various qualifications to the predicate, so these "ordinary predications" themselves may be regarded as various qualifications of the predication of being. So according to this analysis, when we say: 'A man is blind', this is equivalent with saying: 'A man's blindness is', which, in turn, is further equivalent with saying: 'A man is with respect to his blindness'.

It is this last formulation which shows explicitly why we can say that the attribution of blindness to a man is an attribution of being to him (insofar as we say that he is with respect to something), although not simpliciter, but secundum quid (insofar as we say that he is with respect to something), and that this attribution is at the same time an attribution of being to his blindness (insofar as what is signified by the complex predicate 'is with respect to blindness' in him is identical with what is signified by 'is' in his blindness, and which, in turn, is identical with what is signified in him by 'is blind').[71] However, given the privative character of the predicate 'blind', the being thus attributed is, and can only be, being in the ens-rationis-sense, which is nothing, but the lack-of-real-being being conceived by the intellect as a form signified by the predicate 'blind'. So we can see how we should understand that the being of a privation (or of any other ens rationis, for that matter) is being in the intellect, having some foundation in reality. For being in the intellect is nothing, but being conceived by the human intellect, which we can express by predicates signifying acts of human awareness, as in saying that a chimera is thought of. In fact, even this predication can be construed as a predication of being secundum quid (which may be expressed by saying that thus a chimera is with respect to its being thought of) but the sense of being that is predicated in this case is not even the ens-rationis-sense, which Aquinas says is the sense in which we can answer a question asking whether there is such and such a thing. For of course to the question whether there are chimeras it would not be an appropriate answer to say that yes, there are insofar as they are thought of. On the other hand, to the question whether there is blindness it is an appropriate answer to say that yes, there is, insofar as some animals that should have sight by nature actually lack sight, which is precisely what is conceived of in the concept of blindness. Note here that for the being of blindness both conditions are required: both the lack of some sight and the activity of the human intellect to conceive of this lack of sight by forming the concept of blindness. Were there no humans to form the concept of blindness, there would be no blindness, even if there were animals lacking sight, for the actuality of blindness consists in the actual lack of sight conceived by humans by applying the concept of negation to the concept of sight (in forming the concept of blindness as an animal's lacking, i.e., not having sight).[72] By contrast, the actuality of sight does not involve any such activity of the human mind, for if there were sighted animals, there would be sights in actual reality, even if there were no humans to conceive of them. The difference is that what we conceive of by the concept of blindness in its very concept involves some mental act (in this case negation), whereby it can be said to be only if the relevant mental act exists. On the other hand, even if, of course, the concept of sight is a mental act in itself, it does not involve any mental act in what is conceived of by it, whence what is conceived of by it can exist whether there are any mental acts in reality or not. Thus, the difference between a real being and a (mere) being of reason is the mind-dependence of the latter. On the other hand, the difference between a being of reason and a mere object of thought (and hence an object of signification and reference) is precisely the former's having some foundation in reality, namely, the way real beings are, as conceived of in the concept of the being of reason in question. So we can say that for a mere object of thought to be is nothing but for it to be thought of, but for a being of reason to be in the sense in which, say, a privation is, is for it to be thought of and for something that is conceived of in its concept also to obtain in the realm of real beings, as in the case of a privation for it to be is for it to be thought of and for its real opposite not to be.[73]

Thus, Aquinas's "universe of discourse" consists primarily of objects of thought, that is, whatever human beings can think of and hence by external, spoken or written words signify, or refer to in the context of a proposition. Therefore, since a chimera can be thought of, [74] and hence the proposition: 'A chimera is thought of' can be true, in which reference is made to a chimera, a chimera can be said to be one of the things that can be thought of, signified or referred to. Still, of course, it is not true to say that what is thought of when a chimera is thought of, or what is referred to in the proposition: 'A chimera is thought of', is a chimera. For nothing is a chimera. Thus a chimera cannot be said to be at all, except, perhaps, in the very thin sense of possibly being thought of, in the sense of 'being' Walter Burleigh called 'ens maxime transcendens'.[75]

But this is not the sense of 'being' in which St. Thomas calls something a being of reason, the sense in which to say of something that it is answers the question whether there is such a thing. Thus the domain of beings of reason forms a subdomain of Aquinas's universe of discourse, comprising both real beings and mere beings of reason, but excluding mere objects of thought. A being of reason can properly be said to be in the sense in which a being of reason can be at all, i.e., in the sense which is signified by the copula of an affirmative proposition. But we could see that the being that is signified by a copula is not signified only by a copula, for being is signified in the same sense by 'is' as the predicate, say, in the sentence: 'A blindness is' (or by 'being' in 'A blindness is a being'), as this sentence is true.[76] This sense of 'is' or 'being' is analogically related to the sense in which really existing substances are said to be. But then, just as any analogical sense of a common term is derived from its primary sense by some determination or qualification of its primary sense, so is this, as well as any other, analogical sense of 'being' derived from its primary sense by some qualification of its primary sense. But then, in general, the predication of being (by means of predicating 'is' or 'being' or 'is P') in any of its analogical, secondary senses is the predication of being in its primary sense with some determination or qualification. And since in view of the inherence theory of predication every predication is a predication of being, either in its primary or in one of its analogical senses, just every predication is a predication of being either without or with some qualification, either simpliciter or secundum quid. [77]

To see this relationship between predication and the predication of the several analogous senses of being in general, consider the following scheme:

(EP) (i) An S is2 P iff (ii) An S's [P] isx iff (iii) An S is1 with respect to [P][78]

In this scheme the subscripts to 'is' are designed to distinguish the various senses in which being is signified in the given propositional context, insofar as the proposition is or can be true (for, of course, anyone may intend to use 'is' in a different sense in a given context, but then, in that use, his or her proposition may be necessarily false or even ill-formed). Accordingly, in (i) 'is2' signifies being in the ens-rationis-sense, the sense uniformly expressed by the copula, as well as by 'is' or 'exists' as absolute predicates, as they are true of beings of reason; in (ii) 'isx' signifies being in any of the analogical senses of being (including the ens-rationis-sense); and, finally, in (iii) 'is1' signifies being in the primary sense, the sense in which it can truly be stated of substances as an absolute predicate, to signify their actuality absolutely speaking, as well as a predicate with some qualification, to signify their actuality in some determinate respect.

Let us see, then, exactly how the various kinds of substitutions of P affect what sense of being is expressed by 'isx' in (ii) insofar as it is true. If we substitute for P a term that signifies an ens rationis (which is not a real being), such as the term 'blind', then the equivalences of (EP) will hold if we take 'isx' to be 'is2', i.e., if we take 'isx' in (ii) to express the ens-rationis-sense of being as it was contradistinguished by St. Thomas from the ens-reale-sense. Thus, substituting 'blind' for P and 'animal' for S, we get the following valid instance of (EP):

(E2P)    (i) An animal is2 blind iff (ii) The blindness of an animal is2 iff (iii) An animal is1 with respect to blindness

Note that in (ii) 'is2' could be analyzed further as 'is2 a being2', which in turn is equivalent with 'is2 a being1 of reason'.[79] This is how the secondary, ens-rationis-sense of being can be shown to be derivable from the primary sense by the addition of the appropriate, in this case diminishing qualification, which is why, of course, the inference from 'A blindness of an animal is2', i.e., 'A blindness of an animal is2 a being1 of reason' to 'A blindness of an animal is1', i.e. 'A blindness of an animal is2 a being1' would be invalid, whence Aquinas can justifiably claim that a (mere) being of reason is not a being, except secundum quid.

But then one might ask why the secundum quid ad simpliciter inference in the case of (iii) would be valid. For, certainly, from (iii) we can infer that an animal is, indeed, absolutely and in the primary sense of being, for according to the above equivalences (iii) is equivalent with (i), and (i) certainly implies than an animal is, for no animal can be blind unless it exists. But then, if the above equivalences also show how this secondary sense of being is derivable from the primary sense by adding the appropriate, diminishing qualification, then this means that the act of being signified by the predicate of (ii) is the same as the act of being signified by the qualified predicate of (iii), indeed, that it is precisely this qualification which so modifies the sense of the predicate that instead of what it would signify without this qualification, an act of being in the primary sense, it rather signifies an act of being in this secondary sense, namely, in this case the actuality of the blindness of an animal. However, in the case of (ii) from the actuality of the act of being signified by the predicate of (ii) we could not conclude to the actuality of the act of being signified by 'is1' absolutely. So why can we in (iii)?

Of course, the answer is simple, if we consider these inferences themselves.[80] In the case of (ii) the conclusion stated in itself would state the existence of a blindness of an animal in the primary sense of being, in which sense this claim could not be true. On the other hand, the conclusion in the case of (iii) in itself states the actual being of an animal in the primary sense, which of course is implied by the existence (in the secondary sense) of its blindness. So although it is indeed the same act of being that is signified both by the predicate of (ii) and by the qualified predicate of (iii) (a very important point to which I shall return soon), the subjects of the conclusions of these secundum quid ad simpliciter inferences are not the same, so the two inferences have nothing to do with each other.

Still, one might insist that the validity of the secundum quid ad simpliciter in the case of (iii) seems to invalidate the general rule concerning such inferences, namely, that if the qualification added to the predicate is diminishing, then the inference is invalid, whereas the equivalences above show precisely that the qualification in (iii) is diminishing.

But this objection would rest on a misunderstanding of what a formal rule of inference is. For of course, even if an inference is not valid in its form, nothing prevents it from being valid on the basis of the actual meaning of its terms. For example, even if an inference of the form: 'an S is M, and an M is P; therefore an S is P' is formally invalid, as can be shown by substituting 'man', 'animal' and 'donkey' for S, M and P, respectively; if we substitute 'man', 'animal' and 'living being' for S, M and P, respectively, the resulting inference is valid on account of the meaning of these terms. But then, in the same way, although an inference of the form 'An S is2 P with respect to [Q]; therefore an S is2 P' is formally invalid if 'with respect to [Q]' is a diminishing qualification of P, but formally valid if 'with respect to [Q]' is a non-diminishing qualification of P, nothing prevents an inference of this form from being valid on account of the meaning of its terms, even if it is formally invalid, i.e., even if the qualification of the predicate is diminishing. Indeed, the particular reason why in the case of (iii) such an inference (i.e., the one resulting from substituting 'is1' or 'is2 a being1' for 'is2 P', and, 'blindness' for [Q], namely: 'An animal is1 with respect to blindness; therefore an animal is1') would be valid, despite the fact that the qualification is diminishing, is that a privation is a lack of a property in a determinate subject, so if the privation is actual, then the subject has to be actual too.[81] But that the inference is still formally invalid if the qualification is diminishing is shown by the fact that substituting 'is1' or 'is2 a being1' for 'is2 P', and, say, 'being thought of' for [Q] in this rule of inference, the resulting inference, 'An animal is1 with respect to being thought of; therefore an animal is1', is invalid.

So, if in (EP) for P we substitute a predicate signifying a being of reason, the qualification added to 'is1' in (iii) modifies its sense in such a way that the resulting complex, qualified predicate will signify the same act of being as that signified by 'is2' as an absolute predicate in (ii), or by the equivalent phrases: 'is a being in the secondary, ens-rationis-sense', 'is a being of reason', 'is a being in thought having some foundation in reality', etc., all signifying being in the same, diminished, qualified sense. So the qualification in this case yields a sense of being in which it is predicable even of objects of thought that exist neither in the primary sense of subsisting, nor in the secondary sense of being some really inherent property of a subsistent being, but only in the sense of being conceived by the human mind and having for their actuality some foundation in reality, some particular way real beings actually are, as was explained above.

But on this basis we can perhaps have a better understanding also of what it is for a qualification to be diminishing, and how the addition of diminishing qualifications is related to analogical predication in general. The first interesting thing to note about a diminishing qualification is that, to put it in contemporary terms, while it is intensionally diminishing, it is extensionally "enlarging". The point of this is that a diminishing qualification is one that takes away some of the conditions of the strict applicability of the term to which the qualification is added, whence the term with the qualification added becomes applicable even to things to which in its strict usage, without the diminishing qualification, it could not apply. For example, if to the predicate 'white' we add the qualification 'with respect to its one half', then the qualified predicate will apply even to things which strictly speaking and without this qualification could not be called white, since without the addition, properly, and strictly speaking only that thing can be said to be white which is totally white, with respect to its whole surface. Indeed, this also shows immediately that the qualification 'with respect to its whole surface' is a non-diminishing qualification of 'white',[82] whence in a predication it can be added or dropped without affecting the truth conditions of the predication, from which it follows that a secundum quid ad simpliciter inference that drops this qualification from 'white' will be valid. (It should be noted though, that the same qualification which is non-diminishing of one predicate may be diminishing of another: for example, 'with respect to its whole surface', is a diminishing qualification of 'hot', for something can be called strictly and properly hot only if it is hot in its every part, not only on its surface.) However, in ordinary usage we do not always bother adding even diminishing qualifications, instead, we apply the same term without qualification, intending it with some qualification which should be clear from the actual context.[83] But then, if such a usage is quite clearly related to the primary usage and is generally received, we get exactly an analogical, extended usage of the same term, i.e., a usage of the term in which it applies to things to which it would not apply in this strict, primary usage, but on account of the implied qualification relating it to its primary usage it is still properly applicable in this secondary usage even without explicitly adding the relevant qualification. This is, then, the reason why St. Thomas said that a division of a common term with respect to its analogata, i.e., distinguishing a term's usage in its primary sense from its usage in its secondary, analogical senses, yields a distinction between the sense in which the term can be predicated simpliciter, and several other senses in which it can be predicated only secundum quid.[84] And this is how, according to St. Thomas, 'being' is predicated simpliciter, in its primary sense, of substance, i.e., of that which is simpliciter, a subsistent being,[85] and secundum quid, in one of its secondary senses, of substantial forms, i.e., of beings by which a substance is, and of accidents, i.e., of beings by which a substance is somehow, and of beings of reason, and of beings in potentiality, and perhaps even of mere objects of thought.[86]

Thus, then, it should also be clear why St. Thomas would claim that there is a distinction between the attribution of being to something as to that which is and the attribution of being to something as to that by which something else (namely, a substance) is, even if we are talking about real beings in both cases, and not about mere beings of reason.[87] For, as was pointed out above, the act of being signified by 'isx' in (ii) in (EP) is the very same act of being as that signified by the qualified predication of being in (iii). But then, if in (EP) for P we substitute an accidental predicate, 'isx' will be true of the supposita of [P] only in a qualified sense, namely, in the same sense which is expressed by the qualified predication of being in (iii), but not in the primary sense, signifying the subsistence of a substance, which would be expressed by an unqualified predication of being in (iii).[88]

But then, if it is only the absolute predication of 'is' of a substance that can express the primary sense of being, it might appear that 'isx' in (ii), insofar as it is true, can never be 'is1', i.e., it cannot express the primary sense of being for any substitution of P, whether P is an accidental or a substantial predicate. For the subject term of (ii) supposits for the significata of P in the supposita of S by means of the abstract counterpart of P, namely [P]. However, according to St. Thomas, those that are signified in abstracto are signified as something by which something else is, not as that which is.[89] But it is only that which is by itself, namely, what subsists, a per se existing substance, that is said to be in the primary sense. So, even if the act of being signified by 'isx' in the significatum of a substantial predicate of a substance is the same act of being that is signified by 'is1' in the same substance, 'isx' cannot be the same as 'is1'. Indeed, in the passage quoted from St. Thomas's Quodlibeta above he includes even substantial forms, i.e., the significata of substantial predicates, among the things that can be said to be only in the qualified sense, as that by which something is. But then, since every predicate that signifies some real being is either substantial or accidental, it seems that nothing that is signified in abstracto can be said to be in the primary sense, whence for no substitution of P would 'isx' in (ii) be 'is1', i.e., 'is' signifying the primary sense of being, insofar as (ii) is true.

But St. Thomas would say that this reasoning involves confusing modi significandi with modi essendi, that is, confusing semantic distinctions with ontological distinctions.[90] For although it is true that abstract terms are imposed to refer to what concrete terms signify, and in the case of material beings what are thus signified are inherent forms of material substances, for which to be is only for them to inform the matter of these substances, i.e., to render these material substances actual in some respect, this does not exclude the possibility of there being forms for which to be is not for them to make something else actual in some respect, but just to be, absolutely, in actuality. In the case of such a subsistent form, therefore, there is no real distinction between what is supposited for by the concrete and by the abstract term, whence, 'is' or 'exists' or 'being' can equally truly be predicated of both, in the same, primary sense of being, signifying the subsistence of a substance.[91] Thus, whereas the semantic distinction, as to the difference between the mode of signification of an abstract term and that of a concrete term, is in force even concerning such an immaterial form,[92] the lack of a corresponding ontological or real distinction, as to what is signified by these terms, is expressed precisely both by the fact that the abstract and concrete terms signifying and suppositing for such a subsistent form are truly predicable of each other, and by the fact that existence can be attributed to the thing thus signified and supposited for in the primary sense, whether the thing is referred to in concreto or in abstracto.[93]

Indeed, this also shows why, adapting D. P. Henry's happy phrase, the "aloofness"[94] of Aquinas's semantic theory from ontology is so important, not only from the point of view of its acceptability by others of a different metaphysical persuasion, but also from the point of view of his own metaphysics.[95] For it is precisely this "aloofness" of the semantic theory, not prescribing anything concerning the ontological categories of the semantic values of our phrases, that makes it possible for Aquinas to admit subsistent forms into his ontology, i.e., forms which exist not only as something by which something else, namely, a substance, is, but which exist also as that which is.

So if in the scheme above we substitute 'God' for P (and, for the sake of simplicity, for S too) and we take 'divinity' (or 'godhead', if you prefer a Saxon word in the abstract form too) as the abstract counterpart of 'God', then we get the following:

(E1P)    (i) God is2 God iff (ii) God's divinity is1 iff (iii) God is1 with respect to divinity

On the other hand, if we substitute, say, 'tree' for P  (and, again, for S too) and 'is[1]' for 'isx' to distinguish the sense in which 'is' can be truly predicated of non-subsistent substantial forms, and if we baptize the significata of 'tree' in individual trees 'arboreity' (or 'treeness', if you prefer), then we get:

(E[1]P) (i) A tree is2 a tree iff (ii) A tree's arboreity is[1] iff (iii) A tree is1 with respect to arboreity

The point of the comparison is that even if we suppose that 'tree' is a substantial predicate of trees as well as 'God' is of God, if the form signified by 'tree' in trees, i.e., the substantial form of trees is not a subsistent form, then (ii) can be true only in a diminished, qualified sense, even if for a tree to be, absolutely, and in the primary sense, is nothing but to have this substantial form in actuality, i.e., to be in actuality with respect to that form. Nevertheless, it is only the substance that has this actuality as that which is (quod est), while the form, if it is not a substance itself, exists only insofar as that by which the substance of which it is the form has being (quo aliquid est), even if the form's act of being, provided the form is a substantial form, is the very same act of being that the substance itself has.[96] However, should it turn out that arboreity, the substantial form of trees is not only an inherent form, but also a substance that for some reason should be regarded as having subsistent being, this would mean that, instead of (ii) in (E[1]P), 'A tree's arboreity is1' would be true. In fact, showing that the rational soul is precisely such a substantial form on account of the fact that it has an operation that is not the actuality of the body is the most crucial step in Aquinas's proof of the immortality of the human soul.[97] But again, from our present, semantic point of view, the important point is that whether this claim is true or false is not determined by the semantic theory itself, whereas of course, it is these semantic considerations that tell us what such a claim means, and so what evidence can be regarded as relevant for or against it.

Anyhow, these comparisons between the various senses of being in which it may be attributed to different kinds of things I think should also show that it is precisely these different senses of being, once carefully distinguished, that can be used to express the basic ontological differences between various kinds of beings. Accidents are the kind of beings for which to be is to make substances actual in some respect, i.e., for which to be is for their subject to be actual in some respect, that is, actual by an act of being that does not make them actually be, simpliciter. So, the act of being truly attributable to an accident is just an act of being secundum quid of the substance whose accident it is, whence the sense in which accidents can be said to be is only a sense of being secundum quid, analogically related to the primary sense, in which something is called a being simpliciter. Again, substantial forms are the kind of beings for which to be is to make a substance actual in respect of what it is, whence the act of being of a substantial form is the act of being of the substance itself, which is why the actuality of the substantial form makes the substance actual simpliciter, and not only secundum quid. Still, unless the substantial form is itself a substance, either being the whole substance itself or being a substantial part of a composite substance, this act of being cannot be attributed to it as to that which is, but only as to that by which the substance is. Finally, it is only substances that can be said to be absolutely and without qualification, in the primary sense of being.

But in these comparisons we could already see that even among substances there are important differences with respect to their being. For even if all sorts of substances can be said to be without qualification, in the primary sense of being, we could also see that the being of these various sorts of substances was at the same time the being of their substantial forms which, making them be what they are, are what distinguish these various sorts from each other, determining their specific and generic kinds. But then, their actuality simpliciter being nothing but their actuality in respect of their substantial form, also their being is determined to that form:[98] they can only be actual inasmuch as their form permits them to be, for this is precisely, namely, to be in respect of their substantial forms, what it is for them just to be, simpliciter. But then these determinations of being in the determinate kinds of substances are also limitations on the actuality in principle available to a substance of a given, determinate kind. But if this is true, then different determinations yield different limitations, which, in turn, imply different degrees.

It is in this way, then, that from the analysis of the various analogical senses of being in their relation to the primary sense, in which it is predicable of substance, we can arrive at a not only comprehensible but even plausible idea of the different degrees of being even among different kinds of substances themselves, whether we are actually able to identify (let alone measure) correctly these various degrees or not. In any case, the semantic question, again, is not whether what is said in particular in arranging different kinds of substances according to different degrees of being is true (i.e., whether, say, humans are indeed a higher form of being than e. g. worms, for that is a question of metaphysics); the semantic question is whether what is thus said makes good sense, and if so, then what sense it makes, which has to be understood well before the inquiry into its truth, under pain of ignoratio elenchi.

The Great Chain of Being

We could see how the different analogous senses of being are all related to the primary sense (signifying the subsistence of a substance), namely, how these secondary senses are interpretable in the framework of the inherence theory of predication and the corresponding theories of signification and supposition as signifying being in some qualified sense, deriving from the primary sense by the addition of some diminishing qualification. However, we could also see that even within the range of application of this primary sense of being it is possible to make sense of distinguishing different degrees of being, insofar as different kinds of substances are different precisely on account of their different substantial forms, which in turn, may be regarded as just further, not properly diminishing, but in a certain way limiting qualifications on some even more central, more absolute sense of being, yielding differences that we may characterize as constituting different degrees of being.

Let us take a closer look at this idea, and let us see how we can say that, despite the fact that the actuality of a substantial form is an act of being attributable to the substance having this form in the primary, absolute sense, the form itself imposes some limitation on this absolute being, determining it to a certain degree in comparison to others. Our starting point, again, should be a comparison of the various instances of the scheme (EP):

(EP) (i) An S is2 P iff (ii) An S's [P] isx iff (iii) An S is1 with respect to [P]

So far we have seen that the act of being signified by the qualified predicate in (iii) is the same act of being as that signified by 'isx' in (ii). We have also seen that if the subject term (i.e., the phrase S's [P]) of (ii) supposits for an inherent, as opposed to a subsistent, form, then 'isx' can be truly predicated of it only if it is not 'is1', because in this case being can be attributed to the form supposited for by this term only as to that by which something else (namely, the substance supposited for by S in (iii)) is, and not as to that which is. However, if P is a substantial predicate, then the act of being signified by 'isx' in (ii) is the very same act as that by which the substance itself is, absolutely, and in the primary sense, for this is precisely what it is for P to be a substantial predicate of the supposita of S.[99] Therefore, we can supplement (EP) as follows:

(EP*) (i) An S is2 P iff (ii) An S's [P] isx iff (iii) An S is1 with respect to [P] iff (iv) An S is1

provided P is a substantial predicate of the supposita of S.

But then, since the act of being signified by the predicate of (ii) is the same as the act of being signified by the predicate of (iii), which, in turn, is the same act of being signified by 'is1' as an absolute predicate of S in (iv), we can see that even the absolute predication of 'is1' in (iv) involves an implied determination or qualification, namely the qualification of being provided by the substantial form signified by P in the supposita of S. So, if the predication of 'is1' in (iv) is true at all, it can be true only in the sense in which the predication of 'is1 with respect to [P]' is true in (iii).[100] But this means that an S can be only in the way things having the substantial form signified by P can be, but not in any other way. So, what is, say, a diamond (provided 'diamond' is a substantial predicate of diamonds) can be only in the way a diamond can be, localized in space and time, and characterized by certain capacities and incapacities, such as being capable of scratching other solid bodies, but, say, not being capable of self-propagation, whereas what is a tree, provided 'tree' is a substantial predicate of trees, can only be in the way trees are, also localized in space and time, but characterized by different capacities and incapacities, etc. It seems, then, that whatever substantial predicate we substitute for P in the above scheme, the substantial form signified by that predicate will always impose some determination, and thereby a certain limitation on the act of being signified by 'is1' in (iv). However, what if we can find a predicate that signifies a substantial form which, not being distinct from this act of being itself, does not impose any determination or limitation on the kind of being signified by 'is1' in (iv)? Suppose we find such a predicate and we find that there is a being whose substantial form signified by this predicate is the very act of being that is signified in it by the predicate 'is1'.[101] Such an act of being then would truly be called infinite, in the sense of not being determined to the capacity of some form distinct from it. Therefore it is only an entity having such an act of being that could be said truly, and genuinely absolutely to be, without any, whether explicit or implicit, restriction or limitation imposed on what is signified in it by the verb 'is' or by the predicate 'being'. So it is only such an entity to which these terms would the most properly, absolutely and maximally apply, without any limitation of a particular kind or degree. But Aquinas's metaphysical proofs are designed to show precisely that there is such an entity, God, because God's nature, the "form" signified by the term 'God' is identical with the act of being sigified by the term 'being' in Him. But then this is why Aquinas can claim that 'He Who IS' (qui est) is the most proper name of God, expressing most clearly the unlimited character of Divine Being, and that even among substances, which all are beings in the primary sense, it is God to whom this term most properly and maximally applies.[102]

But such a being, the nature of which is nothing but its act of being, can be only one. For there could be two such beings only if the one would be different from the other. So one of them would have to have something, some form, that somehow qualifies, and thereby restricts its being. But then the nature of that being would not be the pure, unlimited, unqualified act of being. So that other being would not be the kind of being of which we assumed to have two.[103] So, different kinds of beings, which are different on account of their different forms, have their acts of being qualified and limited differently by their forms, and thus these acts of being are either more or less removed from the fullness of absolute being, thereby constituting different degrees of being.[104]

But even this overall hierarchy of being necessarily generated by the different substantial forms of different kinds of substances (which are different precisely because they are nothing, but more or less restrictive qualifications of the absolute, unqualified being[105]) allows for further, even finer degrees of being, on the level of individuals in which the same substantial nature may be more or less perfectly realized in the actualization of the individuals' accidents.

How should we understand this claim? What does the accidental being of a substance's accidents have to do with the degree of the substantial being of the substance itself? Even granting that different kinds of substances can be arranged into a hierarchy with regard to the perfection of their substantial being (even if we may not be able to determine the exact position of any given kind in this hierarchy), isn't it just so that any given individual of any given kind either simply is or simply is not, at the degree determined by its kind?

Well, the answer to this last question, as one may expect, is 'Yes', absolutely speaking, but 'No', with qualification. For, of course, absolutely speaking, any substance of any given kind either is or is not, but if it is at all, absolutely speaking, it can still be more or less, i.e., it can still be or not be with some qualification (it can still be to a certain extent or not be to that extent).

But, again, isn't this just sheer play with words? Of course, if a substance already is by its substantial being it may or may not have several sorts of accidental being, but why would the actuality or non-actuality of any such accidental being have anything to do with the degree or intensity of its substantial being?

To this we can say first of all that we must not forget that even if an accidental act of being of a substance is not identified with its substantial act of being, that accidental act is a certain act of the substance itself, an act of being secundum quid, on account of which it is the substance that is in actuality in some respect. Indeed, it is only such actualities secundum quid that manifest the degree of a given substantial being in the first place in the overall hierarchy of beings determined by the substantial form of the kind of the substance in question. For the degree of a given sort of substantial being determines, and thereby manifests itself precisely in, the range of actualities that are in principle available to or attainable by any particular substance holding that degree of substantial being by belonging to its kind, i.e., having the kind of substantial form determining that degree of substantial being. So, for example, supposing with Aquinas that living is a sort of substantial being that is of a higher degree than sheer lifeless existence,[106] we can say that this is so because the notion of the mode of being which is living imposes a lesser restriction (or maybe even no restriction at all)[107]on the notion of absolutely unqualified being than does the notion of a lifeless existence, which manifests itself precisely in the fact that the actualities in principle available to or attainable by a living being are in principle unavailable to or unattainable by a lifeless being, just because of the difference between what it is for something to live and what it is for something just to be but not to live.

But isn't there still some problem here? For even granting that a living being can do things that a lifeless being cannot, which may be regarded as the manifestation of a higher degree of substantial being, isn't the converse also possible, indeed, actually true, namely, that a lifeless being can do things that a living being cannot? And if so, isn't this latter capacity a manifestation of a higher degree of substantial being as well? But then don't we have to conclude that the same lifeless being has a higher degree of substantial being than the living being, in contradiction to what we just conceded?

Well, of course it is true that lifeless things can do several things living things cannot do; for example, a diamond can scratch glass, that a tree or a cat cannot do. (In fact, properly speaking, a diamond cannot scratch glass by its own activity either, but this is beside the point. The point is that the body of a tree or a cat lacks the capacity that a diamond has, namely to scratch glass when it is rubbed against it, even if this requires the action of an external force.) But we should realize that the mere difference in the range of available capacities does not automatically translate into differences in the degree of substantial being. For if a capacity is available precisely on account of the unavailability of some other capacity or a whole range of other capacities which, in its turn, is directly an indication of a higher degree of substantial being, then of course the availability of the former is an indication not of a higher, but of a lesser degree of substantial being. But this is the case in the example. For a diamond has the capacity to scratch glass precisely because it has such a molecular structure that prevents it from performing all sorts of activities in which the degree of being we call life manifests itself, whence this capacity is precisely an indication of a more limited form of being.[108]

But of course from our present point of view such an example, or any other, [109] perhaps less trivial, but particular case is relevant only to the extent it helps illustrate how the general semantic principles concerning the concept of being should be applied in the particular discussions of these particular cases. These principles themselves, however, being presupposed by the discussion of particular cases, should be regarded as valid regardless of the outcome of any particular discussion, provided they are consistent in themselves and with each other.[110]

[1] For pregnant expressions of the keen awareness of isolation in many contemporary Thomists see the numerous essays devoted to this problem in Hudson, D. W.-Moran, D. W. (eds.): The Future of Thomism, American Maritain Association Publications, University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame IN, 1992. On the other hand, of course, one cannot ignore the tremendous amount of good work done by philosophers, apparently also of some analytic background (e.g., Bochenski, Henry, Geach, Kenny, Kretzmann, McInerny, Stump, Veatch, Weidemann, etc., just to name a few, without aiming at completeness), to overcome this "language barrier". However, as far as I know, no comprehensive attempt has been made so far to state those formal semantic principles which, as such, regardless of the metaphysical contents of their particular instances, by reason of their formality constitute the very form of discourse presupposed in Aquinas's (and I would add, also his contemporaries') metaphysical discussions. I hope the statement and discussion of these principles below will also shed some more light on exactly how I conceive of the separation of metaphysical from formal semantic principles.

[2] For this point, which of course does not define the proper subject matter of metaphysics, but is a consequence of metaphysics' being the study of being qua being, see in Meta lb. 4, lc. 5. (References to Aristotle are given by referring to Aquinas' commentaries. For St. Thomas's works I used the supplemental volumes to Father R. Busa's Index Thomisticus, S. Thomae Aquinatis Opera Omnia, Frommann-Holzboog: Stuttgart-Bad Canstatt, 1980.)

[3] Cf. in Meta lb. 4, lc. 7. It is important to realize in this connection that the main thrust of Aristotle's arguments is that those who deny the first principle (i.e., the principle of non-contradiction) cannot possibly mean what they say. It is also important in this regard to consider what Aristotle and St. Thomas (in his commentary on the Posterior Analytics and in several other places) say about the order of questions to be answered by a demonstrative science. The question of what a thing is [quid est?] is preceded by the question of whether the thing is [an est?], but even this question presupposes that we know what is meant by the name of the thing in question [quid significatur per nomen]. Cf.: "... antequam sciatur de aliquo an sit, non potest sciri proprie de eo quid est: non entium enim non sunt definitiones. Unde quaestio, an est, praecedit quaestionem, quid est. Sed non potest ostendi de aliquo an sit, nisi prius intelligatur quid significatur per nomen. Propter quod etiam Philosophus in iv Metaphysicae, in disputatione contra negantes principia docet incipere a significatione nominum." in PA lb. 1, lc. 2, n. 5. For the significance of this order in the proofs for God's existence see: ST1, q. 2, a. 2; ScG lb. 1, c. 12.

[4] Cf. "the double indexical definition of meaning" provided by William Lycan: "meaning=df.whatever aspect of linguistic activity happens to interest me now", quoted by Devitt, M.: "The Methodology of Naturalistic Semantics", The Journal of Philosophy, 91(1994), p. 545-572,  p. 548.

[5] Fregean connotations aside, throughout this paper by a sense of an analogical term I simply mean one of its several, but related significations. The clarification of the notion of "signification", on the other hand, is going to be one of the tasks of the subsequent discussion.

[6] Thus, in this paper I am not going to deal per se with the medieval theory of supposition in general, or Aquinas's version of it particular. I am going to touch on Aquinas's (and his contemporaries') conception of the relationship between signification and supposition only to the extent we shall need an account of this relationship in understanding Aquinas's treatment of the notion of being. Cf. n. 54. below.

[7] Aristotle: On Interpretation: Commentary by St. Thomas and Cajetan, tr. J. T. Oesterle, Marquette University Press, Milwaukeee, Wisconsin, 1962, p. 25. Unless otherwise indicated, as in this case, translations in this paper will be mine.

[8] "Respondeo dicendum, quod eorum quae significantur nominibus, invenitur triplex diversitas. Quaedam enim sunt quae secundum esse totum completum sunt extra animam; et hujusmodi sunt entia completa, sicut homo et lapis. Quaedam autem sunt quae nihil habent extra animam, sicut somnia et imaginatio chimerae. Quaedam autem sunt quae habent fundamentum in re extra animam, sed complementum rationis eorum quantum ad id quod est formale, est per operationem animae, ut patet in universali. Humanitas enim est aliquid in re, non tamen ibi habet rationem universalis, cum non sit extra animam aliqua humanitas multis communis; sed secundum quod accipitur in intellectu, adjungitur ei per operationem intellectus intentio, secundum quam dicitur species." SN1 d.19,q.5,a.1.

[9] Cf. 2SN d. 34, q. 1, a. 1; 1SN d. 19, q. 5, a. 1, ad 1, d. 33, q. 1, a. 1, ad 1.; 2SN d. 37, q. 1, a. 2, ad 1 & ad 3; De Ente c. 1; QDP q. 7, 2, ad 1; QDM q. 1, a. 1, ad 19.; QDL 9, q. 2, a. 2; In Meta lb. 4, lc. 1, lb. 5, lc. 9, lb. 6, lc. 2, lb. 6, lc. 4, lb. 9, lc. 11, lb. 11, lc. 8; ST1 q. 3, a. 4, ad 2, q. 16, a. 3, ad 2,  q. 48, a. 2, ad 2; ST1-2 q. 36, a. 1; ScG lb. 1, c. 12, lb. 1, c. 58, lb. 3, c. 9, lb 3, c. 8, n. 13. Cf. also Cajetan, T. de Vio: Commentary on Being and Essence, transl. L. J. Kendzierski, F. C. Wade, Marquette Univ. Press., Milwaukee, Wis., 1964, c. 1; Alamannus, C.: Summa Philosophiae, P. Lethielleux, Paris, 1888, Tom.1. sect. II, 5, 1; Schmidt, R.W.: The Domain of Logic according to Saint Thomas Aquinas, Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, 1966, Part II, ch. 4, and Part III, ch. 8.

[10] 2SN d. 34, q. 1, a. 1.

[11] "Primo distinguit ens, quod est extra animam, per decem praedicamenta, quod est ens perfectum. secundo ponit alium modum entis, secundum quod est tantum in mente, ibi, amplius autem et esse significat. tertio dividit ens per potentiam et actum: et ens sic divisum est communius quam ens perfectum. nam ens in potentia, est ens secundum quid tantum et imperfectum, ibi, amplius esse significat et ens." in Meta lb. 5, lc. 9.

[12] Of course, Aquinas's doctrine of analogy in general is in itself a huge, and hotly debated topic. Nevertheless, the details of that doctrine, describing exactly how the various analogous senses of an analogous term are related to each other and to the things named analogously, need not be considered in the present paper. As we shall see below, all we need in the present context is to realize that a secondary sense of an analogous term may be expressed also by adding some diminishing qualification to the same term in its primary sense, i.e., that a secondary sense of an analogous term is the result of some modification of the primary sense. However, we need not consider in detail exactly how such modifications can occur, that is to say, we need not consider what are the different modes of analogy, which is in the focus of the debates. For a masterly exposition of the issues involved see McInerny, R.: The Logic of Analogy, Martinus Nijhoff: The Hague, 1961. Recently Professor McInerny has also kindly provided me with the opportunity to consult the manuscript of his new book under preparation (Aquinas and Analogy) which presents a detailed, although also debatable criticism of Cajetan's interpretation of analogy. Cf. also: Ashworth, E. J.: "Analogical Concepts: The Fourteenth-Century Background to Cajetan", Dialogue, 31(1992), p. 399.; Ashworth, E. J.: "Analogy and Equivocation in Thirteenth-Century Logic: Aquinas in Context", Mediaeval Studies, (54)1992, p. 94.

[13] "Sciendum tamen quod praedicti modi essendi ad quatuor possunt reduci. Nam unum eorum quod est debilissimum, est tantum in ratione, scilicet negatio et privatio, quam dicimus in ratione esse, quia ratio de eis negociatur quasi de quibusdam entibus, dum de eis affirmat vel negat aliquid. Secundum quid autem differant negatio et privatio, infra dicetur. Aliud autem huic proximum in debilitate est, secundum quod generatio et corruptio et motus entia dicuntur. Habent enim aliquid admixtum de privatione et negatione. Nam motus est actus imperfectus, ut dicitur tertio Physicorum. Tertium autem dicitur quod nihil habet de non ente admixtum, habet tamen esse debile, quia non per se, sed in alio, sicut sunt qualitates, quantitates et substantiae proprietates. Quartum autem genus est quod est perfectissimum, quod scilicet habet esse in natura absque admixtione privationis, et habet esse firmum et solidum, quasi per se existens, sicut sunt substantiae. Et ad hoc sicut ad primum et principale omnia alia referuntur. Nam qualitates et quantitates dicuntur esse, inquantum insunt substantiae; motus et generationes, inquantum tendunt ad substantiam vel ad aliquid praedictorum; privationes autem et negationes, inquantum removent aliquid trium praedictorum." In Meta lb. 4, lc.1, n. 15.

[14] "Respondeo dicendum, quod est duplex modus dividendi commune in ea quae sub ipso sunt, sicut est duplex communitatis modus. Est enim quaedam divisio univoci in species per differentias quibus aequaliter natura generis in speciebus participatur, sicut animal dividitur in hominem et equum, et hujusmodi; alia vero divisio est ejus quod est commune per analogiam, quod quidem secundum perfectam rationem praedicatur de uno dividentium, et de altero imperfecte et secundum quid, sicut ens dividitur in substantiam et accidens, et in ens actu et in ens potentia: et haec divisio est quasi media inter aequivocum et univocum." 2SN d. 42, q. 1, a. 3, in corp. Cf. "... non ens dicitur multipliciter sicut et ens. Uno enim modo dicitur quod est secundum compositionem et divisionem propositionis. Et hoc, cum non sit in rebus, sed in mente, non potest moveri. Alio modo dicitur ens et non ens secundum potentiam et actum. Et id quod est actu est simpliciter ens. Quod autem est secundum potentiam tantum, est non ens." (in Meta lb. 11, lc. 11, nn. 2368-9.) Cf. also: "Unum enim eodem modo dicitur aliquid sicut et ens; unde sicut ipsum non ens, non quidem simpliciter, sed secundum quid, idest secundum rationem, ut patet in 4o Metaphysicae, ita etiam negatio est unum secundum quid, scilicet secundum rationem." in Peri lb. 2, lc. 2, n. 3.

[15] For a more comprehensive discussion of, and further references to, the medieval literature of this fallacy (in connection with St. Thomas's use of the related theoretical apparatus in his theology of the Incarnation) see Klima, G.: "Libellus pro Sapiente: A Criticism of Allan Bäck's Argument against St. Thomas Aquinas' Theory of the Incarnation", The New Scholasticism, 58(1984), pp. 207-219.

[16] A minor work whose authenticity recently has been vindicated. See Father Busa's note at the end of the list of works included in the supplements (very conveniently printed at the end of each volume) of his monumental Index Thomisticus, S. Thomae Aquinatis Opera Omnia, Frommann-Holzboog: Stuttgart-Bad Canstatt, 1980.

[17] "Sequitur de fallacia secundum quid et simpliciter. Simpliciter autem hic dicitur quod nullo modo addito dicitur, ut cum dicitur: Socrates est albus, vel Socrates currit; secundum quid autem dicitur quod cum aliquo addito dicitur, ut: iste currit bene, vel Socrates est albus secundum dentem. Hoc autem quod additur, dupliciter se habet ad id cui additur: nam quandoque non diminuit de ratione eius cui additur, et tunc potest procedi ab eo quod est secundum quid ad hoc quod est simpliciter, ut cum dicitur: iste currit velociter, igitur currit: velocitas enim nihil diminuit de ratione cursus. Et est in praedicto argumento locus a parte in modo. Quandoque vero id quod additur diminuit aliquid de ratione eius cui additur; ut cum dicitur: aethiops est albus secundum dentem. Nam haec determinatio dentem diminuit aliquid de ratione eius quod dicitur albus: non enim potest dici albus, nisi qui totus est albus, vel secundum plures et principaliores partes. Et ideo si concludatur: aethiops est albus secundum dentem, ergo est albus; est locus sophisticus, vel fallacia secundum quid et simpliciter, et est deceptio proveniens ex eo quod dictum secundum quid accipitur ac si esset dictum simpliciter." De Fallaciis, c. 13.

[18] "Sciendum tamen quod si a parte sit natum denominari totum, non accidit fallacia, ut patet in hoc processu: iste est crispus secundum capillos. Ergo est crispus. Bene sequitur: quia homo denominatur crispus secundum capillos. Et hic modus se extendit ad alias partes, scilicet loci, vel temporis, vel aliorum totorum. Si vero aliquid additur toti in loco mediante parte in loco, a qua parte totum non est natum denominari, accidit fallacia in his processibus, ut: haec diaeta est bona in locis aegrotativis, ergo est bona. Non sequitur: quia hoc quod dicit in locis aegrotativis significat partem in loco. Similiter est de toto et parte in tempore, sicut hic: bibere vinum est malum aegrotanti. Ergo est malum. Et eadem ratio est in omnibus similibus." ibid.

[19] Cf.: "Unum enim eodem modo dicitur aliquid sicut et ens; unde sicut ipsum non ens, non quidem simpliciter, sed secundum quid, idest secundum rationem, ut patet in 4o Metaphysicae, ita etiam negatio est unum secundum quid, scilicet secundum rationem." in Peri lb. 2, lc. 2, n. 3.

[20] "Quia enim non entis non est aliqua quidditas vel essentia, de eo quod non est nullus potest scire quod quid est; sed potest scire significationem nominis, vel rationem ex pluribus nominibus compositam: sicut potest aliquis scire quid significat hoc nomen tragelaphus vel hircocervus, quod idem est, quia significat quoddam animal compositum ex hirco et cervo; sed impossibile est scire quod quid est hircocervi, quia nihil est tale in rerum natura." in PA lb. 2, lc. 6, n. 2. Cf. in PA lb. 1, lc. 2, n. 5.: " ... antequam sciatur de aliquo an sit, non potest sciri proprie de eo quid est: non entium enim non sunt definitiones. Unde quaestio, an est, praecedit quaestionem, quid est. Sed non potest ostendi de aliquo an sit, nisi prius intelligatur quid significatur per nomen. Propter quod etiam Philosophus in iv Metaphysicae, in disputatione contra negantes principia docet incipere a significatione nominum."

[21] Of course, syncategorematic terms do not have such ultimate significata in themselves, as their function is not to signify but only to co-signify (consignificare). See n. 68. of Ashworth, E. J.: "Signification and Modes of Signifying in Thirteenth-Century Logic: A Preface to Aquinas on Analogy", Medieval Philosophy and Theology 1(1991), pp. 39-67. For a formal treatment of syncategorematic terms along these lines see Essay V. of Klima, G.: Ars Artium: Essays in Philosophical Semantics, Medieval and Modern, Budapest: Institute of Philosophy of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, 1988. But we are not concerned here with syncategorematic terms.

[22] "Primo considerandum est, quod ratio cuiuslibet est quam significat nomen eius, sicut ratio lapidis est quam significat nomen eius. Nomina autem sunt signa intellectualium conceptionum: unde ratio uniuscuiusque rei significata per nomen, est conceptio intellectus, quam significat nomen. Haec autem conceptio intellectus est quidem in intellectu sicut in subiecto, in re autem intellecta sicut in repraesentato: nam conceptiones intellectuum sunt similitudines quaedam rerum intellectarum. Si autem conceptio intellectus non assimilaretur rei, falsa esset conceptio de re illa, sicut si intelligeret esse lapidem quod non est lapis. Ratio igitur lapidis est quidem in intellectu sicut in subiecto, in lapide autem sicut in eo quod causat veritatem in conceptione intellectus intelligentis lapidem talem esse." Resp. ad lect. Vercell. de art. 108 q. 1. Cf.: "Ratio enim quam significat nomen, est conceptio intellectus de re significata per nomen." ST1 q. 13, a. 4.

[23] in Meta lb. 4, lc. 16, n. 733.

[24] "... sciendum est, quod ratio, prout hic sumitur, nihil aliud est quam id quod apprehendit intellectus de significatione alicujus nominis: et hoc in his quae habent definitionem, est ipsa rei definitio, secundum quod philosophus dicit: ratio quam significat nomen est definitio. Sed quaedam dicuntur habere rationem sic dictam, quae non definiuntur, sicut quantitas et qualitas et hujusmodi, quae non definiuntur, quia sunt genera generalissima. Et tamen ratio qualitatis est id quod significatur nomine qualitatis; et hoc est illud ex quo qualitas habet quod sit qualitas. Unde non refert, utrum illa quae dicuntur habere rationem, habeant vel non habeant definitionem. Et sic patet quod ratio sapientiae quae de deo dicitur, est id quod concipitur de significatione hujus nominis, quamvis ipsa sapientia divina definiri non possit. Nec tamen hoc nomen ratio significat ipsam conceptionem, quia hoc significatur per nomen sapientiae vel per aliud nomen rei; sed significat intentionem hujus conceptionis, sicut et hoc nomen definitio, et alia nomina secundae impositionis. Et ex hoc patet secundum, scilicet qualiter ratio dicatur esse in re. Non enim hoc dicitur, quasi ipsa intentio quam significat nomen rationis, sit in re; aut etiam ipsa conceptio, cui convenit talis intentio, sit in re extra animam, cum sit in anima sicut in subjecto: sed dicitur esse in re, inquantum in re extra animam est aliquid quod respondet conceptioni animae, sicut significatum signo. Unde sciendum, quod ipsa conceptio intellectus tripliciter se habet ad rem quae est extra animam. Aliquando enim hoc quod intellectus concipit, est similitudo rei existentis extra animam, sicut hoc quod concipitur de hoc nomine homo; et talis conceptio intellectus habet fundamentum in re immediate, inquantum res ipsa, ex sua conformitate ad intellectum, facit quod intellectus sit verus, et quod nomen significans illum intellectum, proprie de re dicatur. Aliquando autem hoc quod significat nomen non est similitudo rei existentis extra animam, sed est aliquid quod consequitur ex modo intelligendi rem quae est extra animam: et hujusmodi sunt intentiones quas intellectus noster adinvenit; sicut significatum hujus nominis genus non est similitudo alicujus rei extra animam existentis; sed ex hoc quod intellectus intelligit animal ut in pluribus speciebus, attribuit ei intentionem generis; et hujusmodi intentionis licet proximum fundamentum non sit in re sed in intellectu, tamen remotum fundamentum est res ipsa. Unde intellectus non est falsus, qui has intentiones adinvenit. Et simile est de omnibus aliis qui consequuntur ex modo intelligendi, sicut est abstractio mathematicorum et hujusmodi. Aliquando vero id quod significatur per nomen, non habet fundamentum in re, neque proximum neque remotum, sicut conceptio chimerae: quia neque est similitudo alicujus rei extra animam, neque consequitur ex modo intelligendi rem aliquam naturae: et ideo ista conceptio est falsa. Unde patet secundum, scilicet quod ratio dicitur esse in re, inquantum significatum nominis, cui accidit esse rationem, est in re: et hoc contingit proprie, quando conceptio intellectus est similitudo rei." 1SN ds. 2, q. 1, a. 3. in corpore

[25] Or, using medieval terminology, we can know the quid nominis without knowing the quid rei. The distinction itself is most aptly characterized by Aquinas's famous commentator, Cajetan, in the following way: "Just as the quid rei is the thing's quiddity, so the quid nominis is the quiddity of the name: but a name, as it is the sign of the passions that are objectively in the soul (from bk. 1. of Aristotle's Perihermeneias), does not have any other quiddity but this, namely, that it is a sign of a thing understood or thought of. But a sign, as such, is relative to what is signified: so to know the quid nominis is nothing, but to know what the name, as a sign, is related to, as what is signified. Such a knowledge, however, can be acquired by the accidental properties of what is signified, as well as by its common, or by its essential properties, or simply by a gesture, or whatever else you like. For example, if we ask a Greek about the meaning of anthropos, if he points to a man, at once we know the quid nominis, and similarly in other cases. But to those asking about the quid rei, it is necessary to give what belongs to the thing adequately, in the first mode of perseity [i.e., in virtue of its essence–for the four modes of "perseity", i.e., of predication per se, see in PA lb. 1, lc. 10.–G.K.]. This is the essential difference between the quid nominis and the quid rei: namely, that the quid nominis is the relation of the name to what it signifies; but the quid rei is the essence of the thing related or signified. And from this difference follow all the rest that are usually enumerated: namely, that the quid nominis is of nonentities, complexes, by accidental, common, and external properties; while the quid rei is of incomplex entities [grasped] by their proper, essential properties. For a word's relation can be terminated to non-existents, and complexes, and it can be clarified by accidental and similar properties, but the thing's essence can be known only by proper, essential properties of incomplex things."–"Sicut quid rei est quidditas rei, ita quid nominis est quidditas nominis: nomen autem, cum sit nota earum quae sunt obiective in anima passionum (ex primo Perihermeneias), non habet aliam quidditatem nisi hanc, quod est signum alicuius rei intellectae seu cogitatae. Signum autem ut sic, relativum est ad signatum: unde cognoscere quid nominis nihil est aliud, quam cognoscere ad quid tale nomen habet relationem ut signum ad signatum. Talis autem cognitio potest acquiri per accidentalia illius signati, per communia, per essentialia, per nutus, et quibusvis aliis modis. Sicut a Graeco quaerentibus nobis quid nominis anthropos, si digito ostendatur homo iam percipimus quid nominis, et similiter de aliis. Interrogantibus vero quid rei oportet assignare id quod convenit rei significatae in primo modo perseitatis adaequate. Et haec est essentialis differentia inter quid nominis et quid rei, scilicet quod quid nominis est relatio nominis ad signatum; quid rei vero est rei relatae seu significatae essentia. Et ex hac differentia sequuntur omnes aliae quae dici solent: puta quod quid nominis sit non entium, complexorum, per accidentalia, per communia, per extranea; quid rei vero est entium incomplexorum per propria et essentialia. Relatio enim vocis potest terminari ad non entia in rerum natura, et complexa, et declarari per accidentalia et huiusmodi, essentia autem rei non nisi per propria essentialia habetur de entibus incomplexis." Cajetanus, T. de Vio: "Super Librum De Ente et Essentia Sancti Thomae", in: Opuscula Omnia, Bergomi, Typis Comini Venturae, 1590, p. 299.

[26] Which is basically what accounts for the futility of all reductionist attempts to explain away talk about mental acts in terms of a purely physicalisitc language, regardless of whether what we speak about as mental acts are in fact only brain processes, i.e., modifications of matter, or something else, distinct from such material modifications.

[27] In any case, this is how Aquinas, among many other medieval authors, would interpret the standard Porphyrean definition: species est praedicabile in quid de pluribus solo numero differentibus, insofar as the relation of predicability of many things is what definitively characterizes a universal as such, whereas a universal as such is nothing, but an abstract, universal concept, which, again, as such, is an act of human awareness that makes humans aware of the nature of particulars in abstraction from the individuating conditions with which it only can exist in the particulars. Cf. De Ente c. 4.

[28] For a discussion and formal semantic reconstruction of the details of Aquinas's rather intricate doctrine of concepts (which, again, we need not consider here), especially with respect to their relationships to their subjects, their objects, and to what St. Thomas calls natura absolute considerata, see: Klima, G.: "'Socrates est species': Logic, Metaphysics and Psychology in St. Thomas Aquinas's Treatment of a Paralogism", in: K. Jacobi (ed.): Argumentationstheorie: Scholastische Forschungen zu den logischen und semantischen Regeln korrekten Folgerns, Brill: Leiden, the Netherlands, 1993, pp. 489-504.

[29] This is why the form of the thing corresponding to the concept or ratio of the mind is also called a ratio: "Forma vero quae et ratio nominatur, quia ex ipsa sumitur ratio speciei, dicitur substantia quasi ens aliquid actu, et quasi ens separabile secundum rationem a materia." in Meta lb. 8, lc. 1, n. 1678.

[30] In the sense of human being—in general, the medieval concept of homo, as signifying the species of humans, was not regarded as gender-specific.

[31] "Cum dicitur universale abstractum, duo intelliguntur, scilicet ipsa natura rei et abstractio seu universalitas. Ipsa igitur natura cui accidit vel intelligi vel abstrahi vel intentio universalitatis non est nisi in singularibus; sed hoc ipsum quod est intelligi vel abstrahi vel intentio universalitatis est in intellectu Et hoc possumus videre per simile in sensu. Visus enim videt colorem pomi sine eius odore. Si ergo quaeratur ubi sit color qui videtur sine odore, manifestum est quod color qui videtur non est nisi in pomo; sed quod sit sine odore perceptus, hoc accidit ei ex parte visus, inquantum in visu est similitudo coloris et non odoris. Similiter, humanitas quae intelligitur non est nisi in hoc vel in illo homine; sed quod humanitas apprehendatur sine individualibus conditionibus, quod est ipsam abstrahi, ad quod sequitur intentio universalitatis, accidit humanitati secundum quod percipitur ab intellectu, in quo est similitudo naturae speciei et non individualium principiorum." ST1 q. 85, a. 2, ad 2.

[32] "Non enim oportet si hoc est homo, et illud homo, quod eadem sit numero humanitas utriusque, sicut in duobus albis non est eadem albedo numero; sed quod hoc similetur illi in hoc quod habet humanitatem sicut illud: unde intellectus, accipiens humanitatem non secundum quod est huius, sed ut est humanitas, format intentionem communem omnibus." 2SN d. 17, q. 1, a. 1.

[33] "... nam est, simpliciter dictum, significat in actu esse; et ideo significat per modum verbi. Quia vero actualitas, quam principaliter significat hoc verbum 'est', est communiter actualitas omnis formae, vel actus substantialis vel accidentalis, inde est quod cum volumus significare quamcumque formam vel actum actualiter inesse subiecto, significamus illud per hoc verbum 'est', vel simpliciter vel secundum quid: simpliciter quidem secundum praesens tempus, secundum quid autem secundum alia tempora." in Peri lb. 1, lc. 5, n. 22.

[34] Cf. e.g. L. M. de Rijk's Introduction to his edition of Abaelard, P.: Dialectica, Assen, 1956, pp. 37-38; Henry, D. P.: Medieval Logic and Metaphysics, London, 1972, pp.55-56, Geach, P.T.: "Nominalism", in Geach, P. T.: God and the Soul, London, 1969.

[35] Cf., e.g.: "Oportet enim veritatem et falsitatem, quae est in oratione vel opinione, reduci ad dispositionem rei sicut ad causam. Cum autem intellectus compositionem format, accipit duo, quorum unum se habet ut formale respectu alterius: unde accipit id ut in alio existens, propter quod praedicata tenentur formaliter. Et ideo, si talis operatio intellectus ad rem debeat reduci sicut ad causam, oportet quod in compositis substantiis ipsa compositio formae ad materiam, aut eius quod se habet per modum formae et materiae, vel etiam compositio accidentis ad subiectum, respondeat quasi fundamentum et causa veritatis, compositioni, quam intellectus interius format et exprimit voce. Sicut cum dico, Socrates est homo, veritas huius enuntiationis causatur ex compositione formae humanae ad materiam individualem, per quam Socrates est hic homo: et cum dico, homo est albus, causa veritatis est compositio albedinis ad subiectum: et similiter est in aliis." in Meta lb. 9, lc. 11, n. 1898.

[36] For more on this see the comments on rule 1. in section 6.

[37] In fact, that the ultimate significata of common terms need not necessarily be regarded metaphysically as forms in all cases was a commonplace also for thinkers who otherwise were committed to a hylomorphist metaphysics. As St. Thomas wrote: "...dicendum est quod illud a quo aliquid denominatur non oportet quod sit semper forma secundum rei naturam, sed sufficit quod significetur per modum formae, grammatice loquendo. Denominatur enim homo ab actione et ab indumento, et ab aliis huiusmodi, quae realiter non sunt formae." QDP, q. 7, a. 10, ad 8. Cf. also e.g. Cajetan: "Verum ne fallaris cum audis denominativum a forma denominante oriri, et credas propter formae vocabulum quod res denominans debet esse forma eius quod denominatur, scito quod formae nomine in hac materia intelligimus omne illud a quo aliquid dicitur tale, sive illud sit secundum rem accidens, sive substantia, sive materia, sive forma." Cajetan, Thomas de Vio: Scripta Philosophica: Commentaria in Praedicamenta Aristotelis, ed. M. H. Laurent, Angelicum: Romae, 1939, p. 18. In general, it is precisely this point that lies at the bottom of the distinction between extrinsic vs. intrinsic denomination. Cf. also: "Nam, sicut dicit Commentator, duodecimo Metaphysicae, grammaticus videt in multis differre dispositionem et dispositum, et sic movetur ad imponendum eis nomina diversa, ut 'albedo' et 'album'; et quia non est ejus inquirere an in omnibus vel in quibus sic differant dispositio et dispositum, ipse secundum similitudinem ad illa in quibus manifeste differunt imponit etiam aliis nomina per modum dispositionis et dispositi, seu determinationis et determinabilis, vel etiam determinati, derivando ab abstracto concretum vel e converso, relinquens metaphysico considerationem an illa nomina supponant pro eodem vel pro diversis, propter quem diversum modum significandi grammaticalem illa nomina habent diversos modos praedicandi." Jean Buridan: Lectura de Summa Logicae: De Praedicabilibus, c. 7, n. 4, H. Hubien's unpublished edition.

[38] An excellent historical summary of the debate with ample further references is provided by Callus, D. A.: "Forms, Unicity and Plurality of ", in: New Catholic Encyclopedia, Prepared by an editorial staff at the Catholic University of America, McGraw-Hill: New York, 1967-79.

[39] See, e.g., De Ente c. 5.

[40] Without intending to go too much into technicalities, let me just give here a brief indication of how this claim can be made exact in a formal semantic system. If P is a common predicate, then the ultimate significate of P in respect of an individual u at a time t may be assigned by the semantic function SGT in a model in the following way: SGT(P)(u)(t)ÎWÈ{0}, where W is the domain of the model, t is some time, and 0 is a zero-entity (0ÏW). The case SGT(P)(u)(t)=0 represents the situation that P signifies nothing in u, as for example the predicate 'red' signifies nothing in respect of the number 2. It is also reasonable to stipulate that SGT(P)(0)(t)=0. Then, if the set of things that are actual at a certain time t, A(t), is a subset of W, in accordance with the inherence theory of predication we can say that the predication of P of an individual u at a certain time t in a present tense sentence (i.e., the copula of which consignifies the time t of the utterance) is true if and only if SGT(P)(u)(t)ÎA(t). Now this much of semantics can certainly stay in place whether in a particular model SGT(P)(u)(t)=u or SGT(P)(u)(t)¹u. But the former case represents precisely the simple ontology in which the significate of P in u at t is not an entity distinct from u, but is u itself. In such an ontology, for example, the predicate 'round' in respect of a round thing, say, a billiard ball, would signify the ball itself, but in respect of, say, a cube, it would signify nothing. (SGT('round')(ball)(t)=ball, SGT('round')(cube)(t)=0) Nevertheless, in general, in this paper I do not intend to go into technicalities. I will only indicate in the notes how the semantic principles discussed here could be given exact formulations in a model-theoretical framework. For a complete semantic system constructed along these lines to represent St. Thomas's ontology see Klima, G.: "On Being and Essence in St. Thomas Aquinas’s Metaphysics and Philosophy of Science", S. Knuuttila-R.Työrinoja-S. Ebbesen (eds.): Knowledge And The Sciences In Medieval Philosophy: Proceedings of the Eighth International Congress of Medieval Philosophy (S.I.E.P.M.), Helsinki 24-29 August 1987, Vol. II, Publications of Luther-Agricola Society Series B 19, Helsinki, 1990, pp. 210-221. For the issue of the independence of this semantic construction from that particular ontology see Essay V. of my Ars Artium.

[41] See, e.g., ST1 q. 3, a. 3; Quodl. 2, q. 2, a. 2[4]. However, I think it is also interesting to note here that the possibility of identifying everything with substance even in the case of material substances was considered already even by a medieval philosopher, John of Mirecourt, who denied all sorts of metaphysical distinctions corresponding to semantic distinctions in rebus, even the distinction between substance and accident. In fact, it is somewhat ironical that it took an "arch-nominalist" like Jean Buridan, someone who himself reduced the number of distinct ontological categories to two (namely, to substance and quality), to deploy several metaphysical arguments against this "obscure and dangerous" doctrine. Cf. Adams, M. M.: "Things versus 'Hows'", in: Bogen, J. and McGuire, J. E. (eds.): How Things Are, D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht-Boston-Lancaster, 1985, pp. 175-188, esp. pp. 179-180. Of course, there are substantial differences between Aquinas' and Buridan's (and probably also Mirecourt's) approach to semantics. The point, however, is that for both of them, semantics does not dictate to ontology: however differently we may pick out things for our consideration, whether we do pick out distinct things or just the same thing differently is not determined by semantics, and so this has to be determined by careful metaphysical considerations. For more on this issue and the particular differences between Aquinas's and Buridan's approach to semantics, see: Klima, G.: “Ontological Alternatives vs. Alternative Semantics in Medieval Philosophy”, in: J. Bernard: Logical Semiotics, S - European Journal for Semiotic Studies, 3(1991), No. 4, Vienna, pp. 587-618.

[42] "Ad tertium dicendum, quod, ut supra dictum est, ens dicitur dupliciter. Uno modo quod significat essentiam rei extra animam existentis; et hoc modo non potest dici ens deformitas peccati, quae privatio quaedam est: privationes enim essentiam non habent in rerum natura. Alio modo secundum quod significat veritatem propositionis; et sic deformitas dicitur esse, non propter hoc quod in re esse habeat, sed quia intellectus componit privationem cum subjecto, sicut formam quamdam. Unde sicut ex compositione formae ad subjectum vel ad materiam, relinquitur quoddam esse substantiale vel accidentale; ita etiam intellectus compositionem privationis cum subjecto per quoddam esse significat. Sed hoc esse non est nisi esse rationis, cum in re potius sit non esse; et secundum hoc quod in ratione esse habet, constat quod a Deo est." 2SN d. 37, q. 1, a. 2.

[43] For formal reconstructions of the relevant medieval ideas, and ample references to and discussion of the enormous amount of contemporary literature they generated see Essays II-IV. of my Ars Artium.

[44] "... in quolibet nomine duo est considerare: scilicet id a quo imponitur nomen, quod dicitur qualitas nominis; et id cui imponitur nomen, quod dicitur substantia nominis: et nomen, proprie loquendo, dicitur significare formam sive qualitatem a qua imponitur nomen; dicitur vero supponere pro eo cui imponitur." 3SN d. 6, q. 1, a. 3. It is important to note here that although St. Thomas sometimes also contrasts id a quo with id ad quod nomen imponitur to distinguish the etymology of a name from its proper signification (the stock-example being "lapis", cf., e.g., ST1. q. 13, a. 2, ad 2. ), we must not confuse the two distinctions. As St. Thomas himself pointed out: "...nomen dicitur ab aliquo imponi dupliciter: aut ex parte imponentis nomen, aut ex parte rei cui imponitur. Ex parte autem rei nomen dicitur ab illo imponi per quod completur ratio rei quam nomen significat; et haec est differentia specifica illius rei. Et hoc est quod principaliter significatur per nomen. Sed quia differentiae essentiales sunt nobis ignotae, quandoque utimur accidentibus vel effectibus loco earum, ut VII Metaphys. dicitur; et secundum hoc nominamus rem; et sic illud quod loco differentiae essentialis sumitur, est a quo imponitur nomen ex parte imponentis, sicut lapis imponitur ab effectu, qui est laedere pedem. Et hoc non oportet esse principaliter significatum per nomen, sed illud loco cuius hoc ponitur." QDV. q. 4, a. 1, ad 8. Thus, id a quo nomen lapidis imponitur, ex parte rei, is the ratio seu natura lapidis, i.e., the nature of stones, sometimes also referred to as lapideitas, namely, what is signified by the term lapis, whatever it is, and whether we know it in terms of an essential definition or not; whereas id a quo nomen lapidis imponitur, ex parte imponentis, is the accidental property of stones that they tend to hurt the foot (laedere pedem), which may have provided the motivation for so naming them. (Whether Isidore of Seville's etymology is actually correct or not is irrelevant here.) For a more detailed discussion of the two distinctions and references to their earlier history see Ashworth, E. J.: "Signification and Modes of Signifying in Thirteenth-Century Logic: A Preface to Aquinas on Analogy", Medieval Philosophy and Theology 1(1991), pp. 39-67, esp. pp. 47-50.

[45] I say, "normally", because it is only in some special context that a term is made to refer to what it normally signifies. As Aquinas says: "Quia enim forma significata per hoc nomen 'homo', idest humanitas, realiter dividitur in diversis suppositis, per se supponit pro persona; etiamsi nihil addatur quod determinet ipsum ad personam, quae est suppositum distinctum. Unitas autem sive communitas humanae naturae non est secundum rem, sed solum secundum considerationem, unde iste terminus 'homo' non supponit pro natura communi, nisi propter exigentiam alicuius additi, ut cum dicitur, 'Homo est secies'." ST I. q. 39, a. 4, cf. ST III. q. 16, a. 7. Of course, those familiar with medieval logic will immediately recognize here a case of simple supposition, as opposed to personal supposition. However, as I said before, in this paper I do not intend to go into the technicalities of supposition theory. Following Aquinas's practice, when I will speak about a term's supposita without any qualification, I will intend the term's personal supposita.

[46] Cf.: "Respondeo dicendum, quod natura et suppositum naturae in quibusdam differunt re et ratione, sicut in compositis; in quibusdam autem ratione et non re, sicut in divinis." 3SN d. 11, q. 1, a. 4, in corp. Cf.also: "... propter divinam simplicitatem, consideratur duplex realis identitas in divinis eorum quae differunt in rebus creatis. Quia enim divina simplicitas excludit compositionem formae et materiae, sequitur quod in divinis idem est abstractum et concretum, ut deitas et deus. Quia vero divina simplicitas excludit compositionem subiecti et accidentis, sequitur quod quidquid attribuitur deo, est eius essentia, et propter hoc sapientia et virtus idem sunt in deo, quia ambo sunt in divina essentia." ST1 q. 40, a. 1, ad 1.

[47] We should also add: "relative to the time and modality of the copula". But we need not consider these complications here. Cf., however, the text referred to in n. 53. below, and the related discussion in the body of the paper. In any case, using the notation introduced in n. 40. we could state this rule concerning assertoric (i.e., non-modal, non-ampliative) propositions in a formal system as follows: SUP(P)(t)Î{u: SGT(P)(u)(t)ÎA(t)}, provided {u: SGT(P)(u)(t)ÎA(t)}¹Æ, otherwise SUP(P)(t)=0, where t is the time connoted by the copula of the proposition. From this, and from the rules of n. 40, it can be seen that an affirmative proposition whose subject supposits for nothing will have to be false.

[48] Accordingly, if [P] is the abstract counterpart of P, then we can say that SGT([P])(u)(t)=SGT(P)(u)(t), and SUP([P])(t)=SGT(P)(SUP(P)(t))(t), if SGT(P)(SUP(P)(t))(t)ÎA(t), otherwise SUP([P])(t)=0. But then, in a model representing Aquinas's metaphysics the following will hold: SGT('God')(SUP('God')(t))(t)=SUP('deity')(t)=SUP('God')(t); whereas SGT('man')(SUP('man')(t))(t)=SUP('humanity')(t)¹SUP('man')(t). But of course other models may represent different metaphysics. In particular, the same semantic system permits even the case when SGT('man')(SUP('man')(t))(t)=SUP('humanity')(t)=SUP('man')(t).

[49] Formally, if CON(m,t)(P) is the concept to which P is subordinated in a mind m at a certain time t, i.e. the immediate significate of P in m at t, and CON(m,t)(P)(u)(t) is what is represented by this concept in respect of the particular u at time t, then the ultimate significate of P in u at t can be defined as follows: SGT(P)(u)(t)=CON(m,t)(P)(u)(t). Notice how this formulation allows for conceptual change and hence for change of meaning of P. For details in this regard see Essay V. of my Ars Artium.

[50] Cf. n. 40. above.

[51] Cf.: "et sicut in rebus, quae extra animam sunt, dicitur aliquid in actu et aliquid in potentia, ita in actibus animae et privationibus, quae sunt res rationis tantum." in Meta lb. 5, lc. 9, n. 13.

[52] Cf. n. 47. above.

[53] Cf. e.g., in Peri lb. 1. lc. 5.

[54] Especially, since St. Thomas never addressed the issue of suppositio, the medieval theory of reference, ex professo. However, that he knew well and applied consciously the theoretical apparatus of the sophistae, the teachers of logic of the Faculty of Arts, is obvious from his references to their doctrine in the following places: 1SN d. 21, q. 1, a. 1a, ad 2-um; ST1 q. 31, a. 3, ad 3-um; ST1 q. 39, a. 4, obj. 1; ST1 q. 39, a. 5, ad 5-um. For a discussion of Aquinas's doctrine in relation to the logical theory of his contemporaries, see: Ashworth, E. J.: "Signification and Modes of Signifying in Thirteenth-Century Logic: A Preface to Aquinas on Analogy", Medieval Philosophy and Theology 1(1991), pp. 39-67. Also, for a discussion of ampliatio in particular see Klima, G.: "Old Directions in Free Logic: Existence and Reference in Medieval Logic", in: K. Lambert: New Directions in Free Logic, Akademia Verlag, Sankt Augustin bei Bonn, (forthcoming).

[55] Although Peter of Spain, e.g., regards natural supposition as the kind of supposition a term has absolutely [per se], apparently even outside of the context of a proposition. But even according to him, within a propositional context the actual (what he calls accidental) supposition of a term is determined by the context. See: Peter of Spain: Tractatus, ed. L. M. de Rijk, Van Gorcum, Assen, 1972, p. 81. For some discussion and further references see again my paper referred to in the previous note.

[56] Cf. n. 48.

[57] Cf., e.g., the detailed discussion of denomination by Cajetan: "... non debet denominativum differre a nomine formae denominantis in significatione. Hoc enim esset differre non solo casu sed significatione. [interpunction mine–G.K.] Et consequenter diffinitione et essentia idem significat album et albedo, quum (ut infra docet Aristoteles) album puram qualitatem significat. [cf. with this in Meta lb. 5, lc. 9, n. 894.] Differentia autem in modo significandi inventa inter denominativum et denominans non excluditur per ly solo casu, quoniam talis differentia comes est differentiae secundum casum." Cajetan, Thomas de Vio: Scripta Philosophica: Commentaria in Praedicamenta Aristotelis, ed. M. H. Laurent, Angelicum: Romae, 1939, pp. 16-17.

[58] For this point see again n. 40.

[59]See again nn. 47, 48.

[60] For a detailed discussion of these complexities see Klima, G.: "Latin as a Formal Language: Outlines of a Buridanian Semantics", Cahiers de l’Institut du Moyen-Âge Grec et Latin, Copenhagen, 61(1991), pp. 78-106.

[61] Nevertheless, see Essay IV. of my Ars Artium; or Klima, G. and Sandu, G.: "Numerical Quantifiers in Game-Theoretical Semantics", Theoria, 56(1990), pp. 173-192.

[62] Of course, verbs in this theory are to be analyzed into a copula and a participle. In fact, even in languages like Russian or Hungarian, in which no copula is needed for the formation of present tense categoricals (although the two languages belong to different families of languages), the well-formedness of sentences in the past and future tenses requires the addition of the appropriate forms of the verb corresponding to the verb 'be', which indicates that on the conceptual level a copula is present even in the present tense sentences, even if it is unmarked in their surface syntax.

[63] Cf.: "Deinde cum dicit amplius autem ponit alium modum entis, secundum quod esse et est, significant compositionem propositionis, quam facit intellectus componens et dividens. Unde dicit, quod esse significat veritatem rei. Vel sicut alia translatio melius habet quod esse significat quia aliquod dictum est verum. Unde veritas propositionis potest dici veritas rei per causam. Nam ex eo quod res est vel non est, oratio vera vel falsa est. Cum enim dicimus aliquid esse, significamus propositionem esse veram. Et cum dicimus non esse, significamus non esse veram; et hoc sive in affirmando, sive in negando. In affirmando quidem, sicut dicimus quod Socrates est albus, quia hoc verum est. In negando vero, ut Socrates non est albus, quia hoc est verum, scilicet ipsum esse non album. Et similiter dicimus, quod non est diameter incommensurabilis lateri quadrati, quia hoc est falsum, scilicet non esse ipsum non commensurabilem." in Meta lb. 5, lc. 9, n. 895.

[64] For the early medieval theory of such sentential nominalizations, called appellatio dicti, see: Rijk, L. M. de (ed.): Logica Modernorum, II-1-2, Van Gorcum, Assen, 1967.

[65]But how is it possible, one might ask, for both the copula and the predicate of 'A blindness is a being' to express the same sense? How could any absolute predicate have the same sense as the copula? Well, using 'is2' to distinguish the usage of 'is' when it is used in the ens-rationis-sense, and using 'being2' to distinguish the usage of 'being' when it is used in the ens-rationis-sense, we can say first, in general, that 'is2' signifies the same whether it is used as a copula of a proposition or as the absolute predicate of a significate of the predicate of the same proposition: SGT('is2')(SGT(P))(SUP(S)(t))(t)=SGT('is2')(SGT(P)(SUP(S)(t))(t))(t), that is, given that, in accordance with rule 4,  SGT(P)(SUP(S)(t))(t)=SUP([P])(t), SGT('is2')(SGT(P))(SUP(S)(t))(t)=SGT('is2')(SUP([P])(t))(t), which is precisely to say that 'is2' both in 'An S is2 P' and in 'A [P] is2' signifies the same, or has the same sense. But then, further, we can say that SGT('is2')(SUP([P])(t))(t)=SGT('being2')(SUP([P])(t))(t), which is nothing, but to claim that 'is2' and 'being2' as absolute predicates of the supposita of [P] signify the same. But then, in general, SGT('is2')(SGT(P))(SUP(S)(t))(t)=SGT('being2')(SUP(S)(t))(t). Whence, in particular, SGT('is2')(SUP('blindness')(t))(t)=SGT('is2')(SGT('being2'))(SUP('blindness')(t))(t)= =SGT('being2')(SUP('blindness')(t))(t). So, since 'blindness' supposits for a privation, we say that blindness is and it is a being, but it is and it is a being precisely and only in this sense, namely in the sense which is also expressed by the copula of an affirmative proposition. For the different case of 'sight' see n. 69. Indeed, even further, SGT('is2')(SUP('blindness')(t))(t)=SGT('is2')(SGT('blind'))(SUP(S)(t))(t), that is, when we say that a blindness is, the predicate of this sentence signifies the same as what is signified by the copula of the sentence by which we assert that an S is blind, precisely as Aquinas says (see quote in next note).

[66] "Sciendum est autem quod iste secundus modus comparatur ad primum, sicut effectus ad causam. Ex hoc enim quod aliquid in rerum natura est, sequitur veritas et falsitas in propositione, quam intellectus significat per hoc verbum est prout est verbalis copula. Sed, quia aliquid, quod est in se non ens, intellectus considerat ut quoddam ens, sicut negationem et huiusmodi, ideo quandoque dicitur esse de aliquo hoc secundo modo, et non primo. Dicitur enim, quod caecitas est secundo modo, ex eo quod vera est propositio, qua dicitur aliquid esse caecum; non tamen dicitur quod sit primo modo vera. Nam caecitas non habet aliquod esse in rebus, sed magis est privatio alicuius esse." Meta lb. 5. lc. 9. n. 896.

[67] "Respondeo. Dicendum, quod esse dupliciter dicitur, ut patet per Philosophum in v Metaph., Et in quadam glossa Origenis super Principium Ioan.Uno modo, secundum quod est copula verbalis significans compositionem cuiuslibet enuntiationis quam anima facit: unde hoc esse non est aliquid in rerum natura, sed tantum in actu animae componentis et dividentis. Et sic esse attribuitur omni ei de quo potest propositio formari, sive sit ens, sive privatio entis; dicimus enim caecitatem esse. Alio modo esse dicitur actus entis in quantum est ens, idest quo denominatur aliquid ens actu in rerum natura. Et sic esse non attribuitur nisi rebus ipsis quae in decem generibus continentur; unde ens a tali esse dictum per decem genera dividitur. Sed hoc esse attribuitur alicui dupliciter. Uno modo ut sicut ei quod proprie et vere habet esse vel est. Et sic attribuitur soli substantiae per se subsistenti: unde quod vere est, dicitur substantia in i Physic.. Omnia vero quae non per se subsistunt, sed in alio et cum alio, sive sint accidentia sive formae substantiales aut quaelibet partes, non habent esse ita ut ipsa vere sint, sed attribuitur eis esse alio modo, idest ut quo aliquid est; sicut albedo dicitur esse, non quia ipsa in se subsistat, sed quia ea aliquid habet esse album. Esse ergo proprie et vere non attribuitur nisi rei per se subsistenti. Huic autem attribuitur esse duplex. Unum scilicet esse resultans ex his ex quibus eius unitas integratur, quod proprium est esse suppositi substantiale. Aliud esse est supposito attributum praeter ea quae integrant ipsum, quod est esse superadditum, scilicet accidentale; ut esse album attribuitur Socrati cum dicitur: Socrates est albus." QDL 9. q. 2, a. 2, in corp.

[68] Although here I take only privations as my examples of beings of reason, it is not only privations that were regarded as such by St. Thomas. Indeed, according to him, the proper subject matter of logic consisted of beings of reason of a different sort: relations of reason. For a thoroughgoing discussion of St. Thomas's conceptions of the subject of logic, see Schmidt, R.W.: The Domain of Logic according to Saint Thomas Aquinas, Martinus Nijhoff: The Hague, 1966. For a discussion of various sorts of entia rationis and their systematic role in medieval semantics see: Klima, G.: "The Changing Role of Entia Rationis in Medieval Philosophy: A Comparative Study with a Reconstruction", Synthese 96(1993), No. 1, pp. 25-59.

[69] Of course, the absolute predicate 'is', expressing an ens-reale-sense could be analyzed further into 'is a being'. In this case 'is' would express the ens-rationis-sense whereas 'being' an ens-reale-sense. Using 'is1/2' and 'being1/2' to distinguish the usage of 'is' and 'being' respectively, in which they express the sense in which they are truly predicated of really inherent accidental forms, but not of mere beings of reason, we can say that SGT('is1/2')(SUP('sight')(t))(t)=SGT('being1/2')(SUP('sight')(t))(t), but SGT('being1/2')(SUP('sight')(t))(t)¹SGT('is2')(SGT('being1/2'))(SUP('sight')(t))(t), whereas, of course, SGT('is2')(SGT('being1/2'))(SUP('sight')(t))(t)=SGT('is2')(SUP('sight')(t))(t). So, what 'is' signifies in a secondary ens-reale-sense in a suppositum of 'sight' at the time of uttering 'A sight is' is the same as what 'being' signifies in the same sense in respect of the same at the same time in the utterance 'A sight is a being', but this is not identical with what the copula of this latter utterance signifies at the same time in respect of the signification of the predicate ('being') and the suppositum of 'sight' at the same time, which is nevertheless nothing, but what would be signified by 'is2' in the sentence 'A sight is2', claiming the existence of sight in the ens-rationis-sense. Cf. with this the analysis of 'A blindness is a being' above, in n. 65.

[70] "... substantia est primum ens, et ens simpliciter, et non ens secundum aliquid, idest secundum quid, sicut est in accidentibus. Esse enim album non est simpliciter esse, sed secundum quid. Quod ex hoc patet, quia cum incipit esse albus, non dicimus quod incipiat esse simpliciter, sed quia incipiat esse albus. Cum enim Socrates incipit esse homo, dicitur simpliciter quod incipit esse. Unde patet quod esse hominem significat esse simpliciter. Esse autem album significat esse secundum quid." in Meta lb. 7, lc. 1, n. 1256. Cf.: "Nota quod qoddam potest esse licet non sit, quoddam vero est. Illud quod potest esse dicitur esse potentia; quod iam est dicitur esse actu. Sed duplex est esse: scilicet esse essentiale rei, sive substantiale, ut hominem esse, et hoc est esse simpliciter. Est autem aliud esse accidentale, ut hominem esse album, et hoc est esse aliquid. Ad utrumque esse est aliquid in potentia. Aliquid enim est in potentia ut sit homo, ut sperma et sanguis menstruus; aliquid est in potentia ut sit album, ut homo. Tam illud quod est in potentia ad esse substantiale, quam illud quod est in potentia ad esse accidentale, potest dici materia, sicut sperma hominis et homo albedinis. Sed in hoc differt: quia materia quae est in potentia ad esse substantiale, dicitur materia ex qua; quae autem est in potentia ad esse accidentale dicitur materia in qua. Item, proprie loquendo, quod est in potentia ad esse accidentale dicitur subiectum, quod vero est in potentia ad esse substantiale dicitur proprie materia. Quod autem illud quod est in potentia ad esse accidentale dicatur subiectum, signum est, quia dicuntur esse accidentia in subiecto, non autem <dicitur> quod forma substantialis est in subiecto. Et secundum hoc differt materia a subiecto: quia subiectum est quod non habet esse ex eo quod advenit, sed per se habet esse completum, sicut homo non habet esse ab albedine, sed materia habet esse ex eo quod ei advenit, qui de se habet esse incompletum. Unde simpliciter loquendo, forma dat esse materiae, sed subiectum accidenti, licet aliquando unum sumatur pro altero scilicet materia pro subiecto et econverso. Sicut autem omne quod est in potentia potest dici materia, ita omne a quo aliquid habet esse, quodcumque esse, sive accidentale sive substantiale, potest dici forma; sicut homo, cum sit potentia albus, fit actu albus per albedinem, et sperma, cum sit potentia homo, fit actu homo per animam. Et quia forma facit esse in actu, ideo forma dicitur esse actus. Quod autem facit esse actu esse substantiale, est forma substantialis, et quod facit esse actu esse accidentale, dicitur forma accidentalis. Et quia generatio est motus ad formam, duplici formae respondet duplex generatio: formae substantiali respondet generatio simpliciter, formae vero accidentali generatio secundum quid. Quando enim introducitur forma substantialis, dicitur aliquid fieri simpliciter. Quando autem introducitur forma accidentalis , non dicitur aliquid fieri simpliciter, sed fieri hoc; sicut quando homo fit albus, non dicimus simpliciter hominem fieri vel generari, sed fieri vel generari album. Et huic duplici generationi respondet duplex corruptio, scilicet simpliciter et secundum quid. Generatio vero et corruptio simpliciter non sunt nisi in genere substantiae; sed generatio et corruptio secundum quid sunt in aliis generibus." De Principiis Naturae c. 1.

[71] Using 'is2' again in the same way as above, and using 'is1' to distinguish the usage of 'is' in which it is truly predicable in its primary sense of substances, we can state this formally as follows:
SGT('is2 blind')(SUP('man')(t))=SGT('is2')(SGT('blind'))(SUP('man')(t))=
=SGT('is1 with-respect-to blindness')(SUP('man')(t))(t)=SGT('is2')(SUP('blindness'))(t))(t).
Here, of course, the signification of the complex, qualified predicate can (and, to comply with the requirement of compositionality, should) be analyzed further as follows:
SGT('is1 with-respect-to blindness')=SGT('with-respect-to')(SGT('is1'))(SUP('blindness')(t)). (The phrase 'with-respect-to' need not be analyzed, as it functions as a single modifier. Indeed, in Latin the one-word-phrase respectu, as in homo est respectu caecitatis, or secundum, as in homo est secundum caecitatem, would do the same job.)

[72] But at this point one might object that if there are animals lacking sight, then there must be blindnesses also, even if there are no minds to conceive of them, given that for a blindness to be is nothing but for a sight not to be. (In fact, I received this objection from Scott MacDonald.) Well, it is true that for a blindness to be is for a sight not to be, in the sense privations and negations can be, that is, SGT('is2')(SUP('blindness')(t))(t)=SGT('not')(SGT('is2'))(SUP('sight')(t))(t). Here, of course, SGT('not')(SGT(P))(SUP(S)(t))(t)ÎA(t), if SGT(P)(SUP(S)(t))(t)ÎW-A(t), SGT('not')(SGT(P))(SUP(S)(t))(t)ÎW-A(t), if SGT(P)(SUP(S)(t))(t)ÎA(t), and SGT('not')(SGT(P))(SUP(S)(t))(t)=0 if SGT(P)(SUP(S)(t))(t)=0
(Note how these rules provide the conditions for an internal negation, the truth of which presupposes that the negated predicate is interpreted for the subject of which it is denied. This is how we can do justice to the intuition that, say, the number 2 is neither sighted nor blind.) Still, even if there are no blindnesses, that is, SGT('is2')(SUP('blindness')(t))(t)ÏA(t), it is quite possible that there are no sights either: SGT('is1/2')(SUP('sight')(t))(t)ÏA(t). So even if there are no sights in the sense sights could be, because, say, all animals lack sight, still, it is quite possible that there are no blindnesses either, in the sense blindnesses could be (that is, in the sense that they are conceived and have the foundation in reality required by their concept), because there are no minds to form the concept of negation and hence to be able to conceive of them. In fact, we can say that in the case when there are no minds to form the concept of negation SGT('is2')(SUP('blindness')(t))(t)=SGT('not')(SGT('is2'))(SUP('sight')(t))(t)=0. But of course with this it is compatible that SGT('is1/2')(SUP('sight')(t))(t)ÏA(t), and even that SGT('is2')(SUP('sight')(t))(t)ÏA(t). In brief, whenever there is no sight, there is no being of a sight either, but this does not mean that then there also has to be the being of the non-being of sight conceived by an intellect.

[73] Thus, the actuality of a being of reason is conditioned both on the side of reality and on the side of the activity of the intellect. So if either of these two fails to obtain, a being of reason will not be in actuality, just as it was technically detailed in the previous note.

[74] Of course, insofar as we construe ‘chimera’ as referring to a possible imaginary animal, and not an implicitly contradictory term, in the way 14th century logicians used this term. For more on this issue see Ashworth, E. J.: “Existential Assumptions in Late Medieval Logic”, American Philosophical Quarterly, 10(1973), pp.141-147. Cf. Klima, G.: "Old Directions in Free Logic: Existence and Reference in Medieval Logic", in: K. Lambert: New Directions in Free Logic, Akademia Verlag, Sankt Augustin bei Bonn, (forthcoming).

[75] "... ens potest accipi tripliciter. Uno modo ut est maxime transcendens et commune omni intelligibili. Et sic est adaequatum obiectum intellectus. Et sic non sequitur: Hoc est ens, ergo hoc est. Secundo modo accipitur pro ente, cui non est esse prohibitum, et sic omne possibile est ens. Et sic etiam non sequitur: Hoc est ens, ergo hoc est. Tertio modo accipitur pro ente actualiter existente, et sic est participium descendens ab hoc verbo 'est'. Ens primo modo dictum dicitur ens in intellectu, quia est obiectum intellectus; et ita est in intellectu obiective. Ens secundo modo dictum dicitur ens in suis causis vel ens quod est in sua causa. Sed ens tertio modo dictum dicitur esse ens in se." Burleigh, W.: De Puritate Artis Logicae Tractatus Longior, (ed. P. Boehner), The Franciscan Institute, St. Bonaventure, N.Y, 1955, pp. 58-59.

[76] See nn. 65, 69. above.

[77] Cf. n. 71. Note that when I am talking about 'the predication of being' in a certain 'sense of being', I mean the act of predicating either the absolute predicate 'is' or the predicate 'being' or 'is a being' or the complex 'is P' or 'is with respect to P' in the sense of 'is' or 'being' required by the context for the truth of the predication.

[78] In such a "chain" of equivalences, the logically squeamish would certainly look for parentheses (as in 'p iff (q iff p)'), but in vain. Such "chains" of equivalences are only intended to abbreviate a series of proper equivalences. Thus, '(i) iff (ii) iff (iii)' abbreviates '(i) iff (ii) and (ii) iff (iii)', i.e., this is just a brief expression of the idea that each member of the chain is equivalent with any other member. Of course, the same applies to such "chains" of any number of members.

[79] In fact, SGT('being1 of reason')=SGT('is2)=SGT('being2'). Cf. n. 65. and n. 69.

[80] Namely, 'The blindness of an animal is2; therefore, a blindness is1', and 'An animal is1 with respect to blindness; therefore an animal is1'. The question is why the first inference is invalid while the second is valid, given that
SGT('is2')(SGT('blind')(SUP('animal')(t))(t))(t)=SGT('is1 with-respect-to blindness')(SUP('animal')(t))(t),
where, of course,
SGT('is1 with-respect-to blindness')=
=SGT('with-respect-to')(SGT('is1'))(SGT('blind'))=SGT('is2')(SGT('blind')). Cf. n. 71.

[81] Cf. n. 72.

[82] That is to say, SGT('white1 with-respect-to a-part-of-surface)=SGT('white2')¹
¹SGT('white1')=SGT('white1 with-respect-to whole-surface'). Here 'white1' indicates the strict usage of 'white', in which it is true only of those things which are totally white, whereas 'white2' indicates a broader, less stringent usage of 'white', say, in which the white pages of the phone book can be called 'white' (as opposed to the yellow pages), despite the black letters covering  a part of their surface. Of course, in a complete semantics the hyphenated qualifications could (and should) be analyzed further, but that is irrelevant here.

[83] Indeed, most things we normally call white, even if they are white all over their whole surface, could not be called absolutely and totally white in the strictest sense; namely, in the sense in which the definition of whiteness would absolutely and a hundred percent be satisfied by the property of the thing called white. For, on the basis of contemporary physical optics we could reasonably define that property, whiteness, as the reflective capacity of a surface measurable by what is called albedo (Latin for whiteness) in modern science, i.e., the percentage of the reflected light relative to the incident light (which is, by the way, just one of the nicest illustrations, pace Molière, of modern science's unabashed usage of "scholastic barbarisms", when they come in handy). But then we can also quite reasonably say that only that thing can be called absolutely white that has a hundred percent albedo. So any object with a lesser albedo is only white to a certain degree, but not strictly and absolutely white, without any qualification, even if we normally would not add any qualification in ordinary usage. But then this example also shows very nicely that it is precisely this phenomenon, namely, the omission of several sorts of implied qualifications, that accounts for much of the vagueness or "fuzziness" of everyday usage, represented in contemporary "fuzzy logics" by assigning "fuzzy" or "diminished" truth values to predications, i.e., truth values between (and including) 0 and 1, instead of the classical 0 and 1. However, in treating this "fuzziness", instead of assigning "fuzzy", qualified truth, to unqualified, absolute predicates, medieval Aristotelian logicians assigned absolute, unqualified truth to either explicitly or implicitly qualified, "fuzzy" predicates. But vagueness is an issue beyond the scope of this paper.

[84] See n. 14.

[85] "Non enim ens dicitur proprie et per se, nisi de substantia, cuius est subsistere. Accidentia enim non dicuntur entia quasi ipsa sint, sed inquantum eis subest aliquid, ut postea dicetur." in De Hebd. lc. 2.

[86]Cf. text quoted in n. 13.

[87] See n. 67.

[88] Cf. n. 70.

[89] "... quod significatur concretive, significatur ut per se existens, ut homo vel album. Similiter de ratione abstracti duo sunt, scilicet simplicitas, et imperfectio; quia quod significatur in abstracto, significatur per modum formae, cujus non est operari vel subsistere in se, sed in alio." 1SN d. 33, q. 1, a. 2. in corp. Cf. in Meta. lb.7, lc. 1, nn. 1252-1256.

[90] For St. Thomas's principled insistence on keeping the two apart, see both his numerous discussions of what he took to be Plato's fundamental error concerning universals and of how the modi significandi of the names we attribute to God do not correspond to some matching modi essendi in Him.

[91] "Respondeo dicendum, quod natura et suppositum naturae in quibusdam differunt re et ratione, sicut in compositis; in quibusdam autem ratione et non re, sicut in divinis." 3SN ds. 11, q. 1, a. 4. "Et quia in huiusmodi creaturis, ea quae sunt perfecta et subsistentia sunt composita; forma autem in eis non est aliquid completum subsistens, sed magis quo aliquid est, inde est quod omnia nomina a nobis imposita ad significandum aliquid completum subsistens, significant in concretione, prout competit compositis; quae autem imponuntur ad significandas formas simplices, significant aliquid non ut subsistens, sed ut quo aliquid est, sicut albedo significat ut quo aliquid est album. Quia igitur et deus simplex est, et subsistens est, attribuimus ei et nomina abstracta, ad significandam simplicitatem eius; et nomina concreta, ad significandum subsistentiam et perfectionem ipsius, quamvis utraque nomina deficiant a modo ipsius, sicut intellectus noster non cognoscit eum ut est, secundum hanc vitam." ST1 q. 13, a. 1, ad 2-um. Cf. ST1 q. 32, a. 2.

[92] "Ad decimum dicendum, quod abstractum et concretum in divinis non differunt secundum rem, cum in deo non sit accidens neque materia, sed solum secundum modum significandi; ex quo modo procedit quod intelligimus divinitatem ut constituentem deum, et deum ut habentem deitatem; et similiter est de paternitate et patre: nam licet sint idem secundum rem, differunt tamen secundum modum significandi." QDP q. 8, a. 3. Cf. SN1 d. 22, q. 1, a. 2.

[93] Cf. ScG lb. 1, c. 30; 1SN d. 22, q. 1, a. 2; De Ente c. 5. See also n. 41.

[94] For D. P. Henry's own Principle of Logical Aloofness see: Henry, D. P.: That Most Subtle Question - (Quaestio Subtilissima): The Metaphysical Bearing of Medieval and Contemporary Linguistic Disciplines, Manchester University Press: Manchester, 1984. (See entry "aloofness" in the index.)

[95] Again, we should note here that the question whether there are such subsistent forms or not is a metaphysical question, not determined by these semantic considerations. All these semantic considerations determine is what it means to claim that there are such subsistent forms. But, of course, it is only on the basis of the proper understanding of this claim that one can set about determining its truth.

[96] Formally, the point is that if P is a substantial predicate of a substance u, then SGT('is1')(u)(t)=SGT('is[1]')(SGT(P)(u)(t))(t); still, of course SGT('is1')¹SGT('is[1]'), for if P signifies a non-subsistent substantial form, then, if u is actually P (i.e., SGT(P)(u)(t)ÎA(t)), then SGT('is[1]')(SGT(P)(u)(t))(t)ÎA(t), nevertheless, SGT('is1')(SGT(P)(u)(t))(t)=0, and also SGT('is[1]')(u)(t)=0. For the general definition of what it is for a predicate P to be substantial to an individual substance u see n. 99. below.

[97] Cf. QDA q. 14. Indeed, this is precisely the point that Siger of Brabant, unable to separate modi essendi from modi significandi in the way Thomas did, found unacceptable from Thomas's conception of the intellective soul: "Praeterea, alia est ratio essendi formae materialis et compositi seu formae per se subsistentis. Ratio enim essendi formae materialis est secundum quam est aliquid aliud, ut ratio compositionis est secundum quam habet esse compositum, et ratio figurae secundum quam habet esse figu­ratum unde ratio essendi formae materialis est quod sit unita alii. Ratio autem essendi compositi vel formae liberatae a materia est quod sit ens per se et separate, non unum ens cum alio. ... Et sunt istae rationes essendi, qua aliquid habet esse unite ad materiam et qua aliquid habet rationem subsistentis per se et separate, oppositae adeo ut eidem inesse non possunt. Unde anima intellectiva non potest habere rationem per se subsistentis et, cum hoc, unum facere cum materia et corpore in essendo." Siger of Brabant: De Anima Intellectiva, in: Bazán, B.: Siger de Brabant, Louvain-Paris, 1972, pp. 79-80. Cf. also St. Thomas's De Unitate Intellectus nn. 37-38.

[98] "quaelibet forma est determinativa ipsius esse" in De Hebd. lc. 2, n. 34.

[99] For, in general, a predicate P is substantial to a substance u iff SGT('isx')(SGT(P)(u)(t))(t)=SGT('is1')(u)(t); otherwise P is accidental to u. Cf. n. 96.

[100] That is, if P is a substantial predicate of u, then SGT('is1')(u)(t)=SGT('is1 with-respect-to [P]')(u)(t).

[101] That is, suppose we find a P such that for a substance u, SGT(P)(u)(t)=SGT('is1')(u)(t).

[102] "Respondeo dicendum quod hoc nomen qui est triplici ratione est maxime proprium nomen Dei. Primo quidem, propter sui significationem. Non enim significat formam aliquam, sed ipsum esse. Unde, cum esse dei sit ipsa eius essentia, et hoc nulli alii conveniat, ut supra ostensum est, manifestum est quod inter alia nomina hoc maxime proprie nominat deum, unumquodque enim denominatur a sua forma. Secundo, propter eius universalitatem. Omnia enim alia nomina vel sunt minus communia; vel, si convertantur cum ipso, tamen addunt aliqua supra ipsum secundum rationem; unde quodammodo informant et determinant ipsum. Intellectus autem noster non potest ipsam dei essentiam cognoscere in statu viae, secundum quod in se est, sed quemcumque modum determinet circa id quod de deo intelligit, deficit a modo quo deus in se est. Et ideo, quanto aliqua nomina sunt minus determinata, et magis communia et absoluta, tanto magis proprie dicuntur de deo a nobis. Unde et Damascenus dicit quod principalius omnibus quae de deo dicuntur nominibus, est qui est, totum enim in seipso comprehendens, habet ipsum esse velut quoddam pelagus substantiae infinitum et indeterminatum." ST1 q. 13, a. 11.

[103] "Id autem erit solum vere simplex, quod non participat esse, non quidem inhaerens, sed subsistens. Hoc autem non potest esse nisi unum; quia si ipsum esse nihil aliud habet admixtum praeter id quod est esse, ut dictum est impossibile est id quod est ipsum esse, multiplicari per aliquid diversificans: et quia nihil aliud praeter se habet admixtum, consequens est quod nullius accidentis sit susceptivum. Hoc autem simplex unum et sublime est ipse Deus." in De Hebd. lc. 2, n. 33. ScG lb. 1, c. 42, n. 10.

[104] "Ex diversitate autem formarum sumitur ratio ordinis rerum. Cum enim forma sit secundum quam res habet esse; res autem quaelibet secundum quod habet esse, accedat ad similitudinem Dei, qui est ipsum suum esse simplex: necesse est quod forma nihil sit aliud quam divina similitudo participata in rebus; unde convenienter Aristoteles, in i Physic., de forma loquens, dicit quod est divinum quoddam et appetibile. Similitudo autem ad unum simplex considerata diversificari non potest nisi secundum quod magis vel minus similitudo est propinqua vel remota. Quanto autem aliquid propinquius ad divinam similitudinem accedit, perfectius est. Unde in formis differentia esse non potest nisi secundum quod una perfectior existit quam alia: propter quod Aristoteles, in viii Metaphys., definitiones, per quas naturae rerum et formae significantur, assimilat numeris, in quibus species variantur per additionem vel subtractionem unitatis, ut ex hoc detur intelligi quod formarum diversitas diversum gradum perfectionis requirit. Et hoc evidenter apparet naturas rerum speculanti. Inveniet enim, si quis diligenter consideret, gradatim rerum diversitatem compleri: nam supra inanimata corpora inveniet plantas; et super has irrationalia animalia; et super has intellectuales substantias; et in singulis horum inveniet diversitatem secundum quod quaedam sunt aliis perfectiora, in tantum quod ea quae sunt suprema inferioris generis, videntur propinqua superiori generi, et e converso, sicut animalia immobilia sunt similia plantis; unde et Dionysius dicit, vii cap. De Div. Nom., quod divina sapientia coniungit fines primorum principiis secundorum. Unde patet quod rerum diversitas exigit quod non sint omnia aequalia, sed sit ordo in rebus et gradus." ScG lb. 3, c. 97, n. 3.

[105] For this point see Wippel, J. F.: "Thomas Aquinas and Participation", in: Wippel, J. F. (ed.): Studies in Medieval Philosophy, The Catholic University of America Press: Washington D.C., 1987.

[106] Whether this is indeed so is a metaphysical question, again, left undetermined by our formal, semantic considerations, but for the sake of the example it is a quite plausible assumption in any case.

[107] Cf. e.g. ST1 q. 18, a. 3; ScG lb. 1, cc. 97-98.

[108] Note that in this argument we already assumed with Aquinas that life is a kind of being of a higher degree than lifeless existence. This argument only shows that the fact that lifeless entities can have certain capacities that living beings do not have does not contradict this assumption. Of course, it is a further issue whether and why we are justified in this assumption. For this see Aquinas's texts referred to in n. 107.

[109] Consider the following, more drastic example. God cannot scratch His nose. This is not an incapacity, absolutely speaking, for this is an incapacity only insofar as a higher capacity excludes the presence of the limiting opposite capacity. My capacity to scratch my nose is a capacity that directly involves the limitation on the form of being I have, namely, the limitation that it is a sort of bodily existence, restricted to a portion (a rather small portion at that!) of space and time. So I can have this particular, limited capacity only and precisely on account of the obviously restricted mode of being I have. So despite possible appearances to the contrary, this capacity is obviously an indication of a lower degree of being, whence the lack of this capacity in, or rather its sheer inapplicability to, Divine Being is just a further indication of the absolute perfection of that Being. See Thomas on why we cannot truly and properly predicate of God terms that signify perfections, but also necessarily involve limitations of being. Cf. ST1 q. 13, a. 3; 1SN d. 22, q. 1, a. 2.

[110] Research for this paper was completed during my Morse Fellowship exempting me from teaching duties at the Philosophy Department of Yale University in the academic year 1994/95. I owe thanks to Desmond Paul Henry, John Jenkins, Heikki Kirjavainen, Eleonore Stump and Jack Zupko, who read and commented on earlier drafts of this paper. I would also like to thank my new colleagues at the University of Notre Dame for a very lively and thorough discussion of the same material during my first visit here. But my special thanks go to Scott MacDonald for his detailed and perceptive comments as well as for his general suggestions to improve the presentation of the material. My original plan was to provide a non-technical exposition of the semantic principles underlying Aquinas's metaphysics of being and goodness. I had to realize, however, both that if I do not want to compromise precision I cannot completely abandon technicalities (though I tried to relegate them mostly to the footnotes), and that the further considerations linking the notion of being to the notion of goodness would already exceed the limits of a single research paper. A full account of these further considerations, as well as the technicalities only outlined here will be provided in my book under preparation: Meaning, Nature, Concept. Nevertheless, I do hope that the foregoing considerations will already prove useful in interpreting the passage most clearly relating the notion of being to the notion of goodness, while also explaining the difference of their predication simpliciter vs. secundum quid: ST1 q. 5, a. 1.