Metaphysics of the School - Book 3by Thomas Harper
Chapter I. Attributes of Being in General.
PREVIOUSLY to commencing the momentous discussions which will occupy us in the present Book, it will be necessary to offer certain Prolegomena touching the nature of the subject-matter in general and of the terms employed. More than half the difficulty in understanding a
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Book III. Attributes of Being.
Chapter I. Attributes of Being in General.
PREVIOUSLY to commencing the momentous discussions which will occupy us in the present Book, it will be necessary to offer certain Prolegomena touching the nature of the subject-matter in general and of the terms employed. More than half the difficulty in understanding a metaphysical question may be traced, in the majority of cases, either to an utter ignorance, or to a confused apprehension, of the point in dispute and, in particular, of its technological expression.
Wbat is an Attribute? The name suggests that it is something which is attributed or ascribed to another thing. Hence, in its most generic signification, it is equivalent to Predicable; and, indeed, it nominally suggests so much of a logical element, that it is not the word one would have selected, if the English language could have supplied a better. The Latin word ordinarily employed is Passio or Passion; and, though it cannot be so conveniently made use of in our own tongue in such a sense, because it already serves by general consent to express another widely different idea, it will, nevertheless, assist towards a more definite cognition of the subject in band, to analyze the meaning of Passion, when thus employed in connection with Being. Passion may be taken participially, as it were, or nominatively. In the former case it signifies the receiving of something; in the latter, the Something received. In either case it presupposes the some Thing which receives or is affected, and it also, -- particularly in its second signification, -- formally connotes something somehow received and, therefore, a sort of addition to the thing receiving. Whether it be understood participially or nominatively, it does this; but in the latter instance in recto, in the former in obliquo. For, The being affected by something, puts that Something in an oblique case; but, The something affecting something else, puts the Something in the nominative or direct case. Now, that Something should be affected by another, presupposes this Something as already constituted in its own essence; because a thing must first be, before it can be affected. Therefore the Passion which is received or added, cannot form, in any way part of the Essence of that thing; or, at least, does not enter into the notion of its Essence. Still, if it be a real Passion, it must he a real addition to the Essence; and it would seem, at first sight, as though it must be really distinct from the Essence to which it is really added. It looks, therefore, very much like what Logicians call a Property; and, indeed, that word has been often employed by the Latin Metaphysicians promiscuously with Passion. But, if the former word is to be limited to its strict meaning, as it appears in the list of Predicables; it always stands for the Attribute of a Genus or of a Species. While, then, the same objection must he made against it, only with greater reason, which has been already brought against Attribute, viz, that it is a logical term, there is the further objection that it belongs exclusively either to Genus or Species; and Being, as has been shown in the preceding Book, cannot possibly be one or the other, seeing that it is a Transcendental. Notwithstanding, if it be abstracted from such limitation, the term Property will help to give a clear idea of what is meant by the term, Attribute, as here employed; and Attribute itself under analysis offers the same elements as Passion, though under a logical form. For the preposition which enters into its composition, seems to advert to a sort of addition made to the Subject; which, accordingly, that Subject, (already constituted in its essential notes), is considered to receive.
To sum up, then: the term Attribute is intended to signify something added to an Essence, which is not either that Essence itself or any part of it, but is in some way or other received by that Essence as its Property.
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