BENEDICT ASHLEY May 3rd, 1915 – February 22nd, 2013

Requiescat in Pace.

It is with great sorrow that we commend Father Benedict Ashley, O.P. unto eternity. Father Ashley was among the last of the River Forest Thomists. His scientific publications demonstrate a matchless and invaluable perspicacity which will be to us forever a paradigm.

Father Ashley served on the board of the International Society of Scholastics from 2011 until his death.

Fidelium Animae Per Misericordiam Dei Requiescant in Pace.

Who would have thought?

A letter from Charles Darwin to William Ogle, translator of Aristotle’s De Partibus Animalium.

“You must let me thank you for the pleasure which the introduction to the Aristotle book has given me. I have rarely read anything which has interested me more, though I have not read as yet more than a quarter of the book proper. From the quotations which I have seen, I had a high notion of Aristotle’s merits, but I had not the most remote notion what a wonderful man he was. Linnaeus and Cuvier have been my two gods, though in very different ways, but they were mere schoolboys to old Aristotle. How very curious, also, his ignorance on some points, as on muscles as the means of movement. I am glad that you have explained in so probable a manner some of the grossest mistakes attributed to him. I never realized, before reading your book, to what an enormous summation of labour we owe even our common knowledge.”

Some Definitions – Acquired through Act (noun)

acquired, part. as adj.

1. received in some way after birth.

2. gained by one’s own activity.

3. obtained by effort, search, or exchange. Compare CONNATURAL; INFUSED; INNATE. USES – acquired property, rights, titles, virtues.

act, n.

1. perfection or a perfection; what is fully real, finished, or fulfilling; an actuality.

2. -thought of as influencing potency in some way. a determining principle; the intrinsic principle which confers a definite perfection on a being; hence, a form.

3. the perfection resulting from an action.

4. activity, operation, action, or second act of a power. ANT.potency.

  1. act of the imperfect, a real change; the gaining of a new act and the privation of an old form.
  2. act of the perfect,
    1. an immanent activity; living action.
    2. especially, an intentional change. 
  3. complete act, an end or an operation that is an end; the ultimate act of a being. 
  4. entitative act, existence; the act of being; esse. Compare FORMAL ACT, below. 
  5. first act,
    1. the intrinsic fundamental perfection of a being in any order.
    2. the first actuality (in a series) that determines any passive potency to be or to be something specific. Hence, the same being may have several first acts, but each in different  orders; existence will be first act in the order of being, substantial form will be first in the order of essence or nature, the power will be first in the order of activity. 
    3. first proximate act, the power considered together with all the concrete factors for action. Second act follows as the activity of the prepared power. 
    4. first remote act, the power considered in itself, apart from other requirements for action. 
  6. formal act, substantial form in an essence composed of matter and form. 
  7. incomplete act, a movement or change going on; an actualizing of a potency that has not yet reached the term of its action. 
  8. mixed act, a being or perfection which is united in some way with potency or limitation. 
  9. pure act,
    1. simple perfection (of any kind) without imperfection; mere perfection free of potency.
    2. strictest sense. unqualified perfection of existence, which is neither present in nor united with nor limited by any passive potency. 
  10. received act, a perfection of any order combined with and present in a potential subject. Unreceived act is not so combined with and present in a subject. 
  11. second act, a determination or perfection added to a being which already possesses the first act, whether of existence or of form or of a particular power; e.g., intellect and will with respect to the soul itself; acts of the will with respect to the will itself; accidents of a substance. Hence, a second act presupposes and perfects another act, and is usually an accident. 
  12. ultimate act, the last in a series of acts by which a being obtains its proper fullness of being; a complete act. REF. Met., IX, CC. 6, 8; XI, c. 9. Power, q. 1, a. 1

Have Thomists become mere cataloguers of opinions?

From “Demonstrating in Natural Philosophy” by Melvin Glutz:

A man may have only opinion of a conclusion that is objectively a scientific and necessary proposition. One may see the proposition as impossible to be otherwise, and thus have science. Another may think it possible to be otherwise. The root of his difficulty is in the understanding of the immediate propositions. The first man sees them as immediate; the other cannot see them as such, so he is barred from scientific knowledge of the conclusion. A corollary to this possibility of a scientific demonstration being known only opinionatively is the need to understand demonstrative theory, and this especially for beginners in philosophy. If one does not understand the process of demonstration, he will indeed learn philosophy: he will know the doctrines of Thomism and perhaps even teach them. But if he does not recognize and understand the demonstrations, his knowledge will not be scientific, but opinionative and always vacillating and unstable. He will therefore be tempted to look around for novel opinions, or to confine himself to the historical approach to philosophy, or to become a mere cataloguer of opinions.

Some notes on causality by Prof. P.W. McCloskey (based on the writings of the Scholastic Manualists) – Part I

A cause, in its widest application, can be defined as a positive principle from which something really proceeds with dependence in existence. This has significantly greater application than modern conceptions of causality, as shall become evident. In order to understand a thing through its definition, we need to be familiar with each of the notes in that definition. Hence, we examine each part separately.

A principle is that from which something proceeds in any way whatsoever. According as there are two kinds of orders, scil., the order which depends upon the mind (the order of reason) and the order which doesn’t depend on the mind (the order of reality) there are two kinds of procession: 1) procession according to the intellect; 2) procession according to reality. An intellectual principle is that from which something proceeds according to the order of knowing. In this way, the premises are the principle of the conclusion, not because the truth of the conclusion in reality depends upon the premises, but because our knowledge of the truth of the conclusion depends upon our knowledge of the premises. Thus, the premises of an argument are always logical causes of the truth stated in the conclusion, though not always real causes of the truth. For example, judging that a certain chemical reaction is present in some phenomenon is a principle of our knowing that this phenomenon contains chemical X; though, in reality chemical X is the cause of the reaction and not vice versa.

A real principle is that from which something proceeds according to reality. Thus, the real principle of the chemical reaction is chemical X. It should also be noted that, psychologically speaking, premises of the conclusion are also principles according to reality in the case of demonstration: our assents to the premises are the real cause of our assenting to the conclusion. Likewise, in dialectical argument, the form of the premises may be the real psychological principle of our enunciating the conclusion, though not to our assent (assent to a dialectical conclusion involves an act of the will).

A real principle may be one of two kinds: negative or positive. A negative principle is the absence of some form or perfection which precedes the presence of that form. Thus, in vivification (if indeed there is such a thing) non-living is the principle of life, though non-life is not a positive entity—it is the lack of a positive entity which might be there.

A positive principle is of two kinds: a principle of existence and not a principle of existence. A real principle which does not influence existence is a principle of mere quantitative succession: thus one point of quantity is a principle of the rest of the continuum; the beginning place of my motion is the principle of my motion, though it does not cause my motion; one is the principle of number; even principles of time (e.g., yesterday is the principle of today) are included in this quantitative kind of principle since time is the numbering of motion. Among this kind of principle we include necessary conditions; i.e., principles which are not the cause of a thing but which are dispositions required for a thing to exercise its causality. Thus, my living room window is a principle of illumination, but it does not cause light.

A positive principle of existence can be one of two kinds: a principle or existence upon which a thing depends for its existence, and a principle of existence upon which a thing does not depend for its existence. The first kind is the most familiar to us; the latter is an analogous principle known to us only by a positivo-negative concept—a negation of the first kind—and is for the consideration of Theology: e.g., the Son proceeds from the Father.

The first kind, a principle upon which a thing depends for existence, is a cause. This dependence is founded on 1) a real distinction between the existence of that which depends and the existence of that upon which it depends; 2) an imperfection in the being of the dependent thing. Neither of these pertain to God and, therefore, cause cannot be said of God. The procession in God is properly a relation of opposition which, as Metaphysics proves, implies no imperfection nor real distinction in existence.

More to come…

Another Round of Classes

On Monday, March 28th a new class in Material Logic begins at the Sapientis Institute, to be followed soon after by Physics. 

Material Logic is especially important in the development of scientific knowledge—it studies those relations which exist between our concepts and which must be arranged properly to reason with CERTITUDE.  We look at what common thought holds to be the most perfect kind of reasoning, then we deduce the necessary components of that reasoning; gradually we build up the requirements for the best sort of rational argument: the demonstration.  After seeing what perfect reasoning should look like, we examine the various ways it can fall short and give us probable conclusions instead of certain conclusions: dialectics.  Finally, we examine the effect of demonstration: science.  We talk about specific and accidental differences of sciences, subalternation of sciences, and general procedures common to all science.  Then, going a little beyond the domain of Logic and venturing into a metaphysical examination of how particular sciences are related, we examine the methods specific to Physics, Math, Ethics and Metaphysics.  We see, among other things, how, even though in itself giving us probability, dialectics can be combined with sense observation to give us the first principles of physical science; and we’ll see how physical science opens the door to other scientific fields. 

Head on over to the Sapientis Institute to sign up:

And remember: sapientis est ordinare!

Daily Definitions

Abstruse, adj.  difficult to understand, hidden.  It should not be misused for abstract.

Accident, n.

1)      Metaphysics.  Something whose essence requires naturally that it exist in another being; a being or a being; a mere modification or attribute of another being; being in a qualified sense; being inhering in another being as in a subject of existence; one of the nine modes in which substance is determined in its being; ens entis.  In the plural, accidents are often referred to as appearances, phenomena, or species.


  1. Absolute Accident,
    1. one that is really distinct from the subject in which is inheres, as opposed to a modal accident.
    2. one that immediately affects the substance to which is belongs as opposed to a modal accident that immediately affects another accident; thus, quantity as distinguished from shape.
  2. Intrinsic accident, one that really modifies a subject, and so is not merely an extrinsic change or name; an accidental form.
  3. Metaphysical accident, any accident in the nine categories of accidental being.
  4. Modal accident,
    1. a state affecting the substance, but which is thought of by some scholastic philosophers as not really distinct from the substance or other accidents in the being; e.g., sitting, standing. 
    2. one that immediately inheres in or affects other accidents. 
    3. a mode of being.  See MODE.
  5. Physical Accident, an absolute accident.

2)      Causal sense.  What is unforeseen or unintended; the result of chance. 

3)      Ethics.  A circumstance of a human act.  See CIRCUMSTANCE.

4)      Logic.  An attribute belonging to some nature but not constituting its essence or a part of its essence.  It is sometimes called a logical accident.

  1. Contingent (logical) accident, an attribute that is not characteristic of or essential to a nature, but may be present or absent in different members of the same species; e.g., white color in human skin.
  2. Proper accident, a characteristic or distinctive accident essentially belonging to or necessarily resulting from some essence, and so found in all members of the species; a propery or proprium.  See PREDICABLE

Ref.–Topics, I, c. 5, ST, I-II, 7, a. 1; 17, a. 9 ad 2; 53, a. 2 ad 3; 110, a. 2 ad 3; III, 77, a. 1 ad 2.

Accidental, adj.

  1. Non-Essential; not necessary; not always or usually connected with another.
  2. merely associated with or concomitant.
  3. unforeseen; unintended; beside the intention of the agent or even contrary to intention; marked by chance.
  4. per accidens, q.v.
  5. pertaining to the accidents, not to the substance.

Uses–accidental cause, change, difference, event, form, result, sensible, unit.

Daily Definitions

Abstract, adj

  1. Being apart from or considered apart from the actual subject of being.
  2. Expressing an essence, property, quality, or other attribute apart from a concrete subject or thing; e.g., sweetness, humanity, patience.

Abbreviation—abs., abstr.

Antonym—Concrete.  It is not properly contrasted with realistic.  In scholasticism it is seldom synonymous with universal.

Uses—abstract idea, noun, term, etc.  In the abstract, absolutely; in a condition of mental separation from other concrete relationships and circumstances.

Abstracted, part. As adj.  removed or separated from something, usually by some mental act.

Abstraction, n.

  1. in general, a mental act apprehending some note or formal object of a thing in which the mind attends to this note and does not attend to other notes naturally present in the same concrete object of perception.  Abstraction thus has first a negative aspect of detaching or leaving out something as well as a second positive aspect of concentration on some object considered apart from other aspects actually present in the particular real thing.
  2. Abstraction by the senses in which a sense attends to one sensible property and not to others in the sensible object; as the eye attends only to the color and not to the temperature or taste of an apple.
  3. Abstraction by the imagination in which the imagination considers a material object of some features of it, but does not attend to the presence of absence of that object.
  4. Abstraction by the intellect in which the intellect considers the nature or a form apprehended in a material object or in the image (phantasm).

Compare: analysis; distinction; intention; matter; prescission; separation; universal.  This intellectual abstraction, to which reference is usually made in philosophical writing, can be of several kinds.  

  1. Abstraction of first intention, the mental act which results in a direct universal concept or which apprehends an essence which is common to many things.
  2. Abstraction of second intention, an act of judgment following the abstraction of first intention and which results in a reflex universal (or transcendental) concept wherein the mind recognizes the universal nature represented as being common to many and predicable of many
  3. Abstractive abstraction, the mental act forming an abstract concept which represents the object attended to as completely detached from its concrete object; e.g., sweetness, roundness, courage are thus abstracted. 
  4. First mode (first degree) of abstraction, the abstraction, proper to the philosophy or nature, in which the mind disregards individual (signate) matter, but retains sensible matter while attaining to the universal nature of the material reality so known.  Examples are the abstractions which form our first concepts of water as such, or color as such.
  5. Formal abstraction, an intellectual separation of a form from sensible matter, without attending to the matter or other forms present at the same time in the object; e.g., abstraction of mathematical objects from physical objects.
  6. Second mode (second degree) of abstraction, the abstraction, proper to mathematics, in which the mind disregards both signate and sensible matter, but retains intelligible matter while attaining to the concept of abstract quantity.  Examples are the abstractions which form our concepts of circle, plane, etc.
  7. Third mode (third degree) of abstraction, the abstraction, more properly called a separation or judgment, peculiar to metaphysics, in which the mind disregards all matter and grasps its object without any necessary relation to matter.  Examples are the mind’s knowledge of being, existence, substance, unity, etc.
  8. Total abstraction, the intellectual representation of the universal or absolute nature taken from the particulars in which the nature exists; the abstraction of the whole nature or essence from all accidental elements in the concrete object.

References: De Anima, I, c. 1, near end.  S.T. I, 40, a. 3; 85, a. 1 ad 1, 2.  De Veritate, q. 2, a. 6.  De Trin., q. 5, a. 3.  This last text is that principally followed in the foregoing expositions, some of which are differently explained by other scholastic writers.

Daily Definitions

A, The symbol for a universal affirmative proposition.


Absolute, adj. 

  1. Chiefly metaphysical senses.
    1. self-sufficient in being and needing no other; independent of or altogether free from all external causes and conditions and external limitations and having the reason for its being and perfection entirely within itself.
    2. perfect, whole, or complete in itself.
  2. Chiefly logical and epistemological senses.
    1. considered or conceived in itself, independently of its relations; not though or as referred to something else.
    2. unqualified; unrestricted; unconditional; simple; categorical.


Uses—absolute being, justice, nature, norm, necessity, obligation, perfection, power, supposition, supremacy, or authority.


Absolutely, adj.

  1. Without condition, limit, exception, or any other qualification, relationship, or attendant circumstance.
  2. In itself alone; in its substance or nature.
  3. Abstractly or in separation from all that is not itself.


Absolutism, n.

  1. The doctrine that civil sovereignty or the civil sovereign is unrestricted in authority.
  2. The practical application of such a theory in governing.

Daily Definitions Continue

With the Scholastic Dictionary of Bernard Wuellner.  We’ll be providing you with a few of the more important definitions from the hundreds, and hundreds in this admirable work.  Nota Bene: we will present these definitions with very little editing and we cannot endorse them without reservation—they’re good, but not perfect!  After all, Wuellner was a Jesuit! 

 After we work through Wuellner, we will present translations from Signoriello’s Lexicon Peripateticum—an excellent work of Scholastic definitions, distinctions, and maxims.    

 Oh, and we use the term ‘daily’ in a wide and, perhaps, even analogical sense.