I like to do something to honour the feast of St. Thomas every year (2012, 2011, 2010, 2009). This year the day has snuck up on me, so I’ll simply use what I have at hand. I have been reading — or trying to read, really — Etienne Gilson’s Being and Some Philosophers, in which St. Thomas’ metaphysics of being has a starring role. Here is a passage I highlighted:
This is a cardinal point in the doctrine of Thomas Aquinas. To posit substance as the proper receiver of existence (proprium susceptivum ejus quod est esse) is not to posit it as a “container” into which existence has but to flow in order to make it be. So long as there is no existence, there is no receptacle to receive it. Existence is here fulfilling an entirely different function. As we have already described it, the substance is “that which” exists, and it is quod est in virtue of its form. Form then is ultimate act in the order of substantiality. In other words, there is no form of the form. Consequently, should we have to ascribe “to be” or “is” to a form, it could not be considered as a form of that form. No point could be more clearly stated than is this one in the metaphysics of Thomas Aquinas.
My emphases. Maybe I am just not getting enough sleep these days, but I’ll give a special prize to anyone who can state this a little more clearly.
In the meantime, here is something edifying: my friend Adam Hincks, S.J. has posted a short reflection on the principal lessons he learned from a recent course he took on Thomistic metaphysics: What I Learned from St. Thomas Aquinas.