Metaphysics, part two

Continuing on with the nuggets of what we learned in metaphysics:

The act of existence is a maximum, and not a minimum; nothing can be added on to it. Anything that isn't does not exist, so existence can't be added on to. So its partner, essence, must not be something added on to existence; rather, the essence of a being limits that being's participation in the act of existence, limiting it to particular modes. For example, as a human person, my participation in the (infinite) act of existence is limited to human modes: I'm not infinite, I have a body, I can't fly, etc.

Four implications we can draw from the relationship between essence and existence are as follows:
1) Every being has a kinship with every other being, because they all share in existence, and are images of God, who is their source.
2) All beings have intrinsic value, because they exist.
3) There is both community and difference between creation and God: God isn't limited by essence, but creating things are similar to God because they participate in existence, which is from him.
4) Material beings are more restricted than spiritual beings--because they are extended in dimensions, they are never fully present to themselves at any given time (as are spiritual beings), but only across the dimensions of space and time.

Our human bond:
There has to be two distinct co-principles in the essence of every member of the human species. Why? Because if there weren't, then the essence that made Carl a human would make every human, Carl. But there are plenty of humans who aren't me, so something has to be in my essence making me both similar to other humans, and distinct from other humans (ie, myself). And the fact that all humans do have a human essence, in common, is what made possible the Incarnation. If there wasn't a common human nature, or essence, then the Second Person of the Trinity could not have assumed our nature: there would be no common human nature to assume. And what is not assumed, is not saved. (I think that's Jerome.)

So what are these two distinct co-principles in the essence of every member of a species? Form and matter. Human form (the human soul) is what makes each of us similar to all other humans: it makes us a human being, and not some other kind of being. Matter is what distinguishes each human from every other person; my body, the fact that I take up this space at this time, is what distinguishes me from all of you.

This shows us why the body is so important. To be human is to be soul and body. We're not just our souls, we are soul and body. Our bodies are important because they have a big role in our formation as person: they tie us to a particular time and place. This is why studying philosophy is so important--it keeps you from going off the deep end. I heard a whole series of sermons at a "Bible church" that were on this topic: "You are a spirit, who has a soul, and lives in a body". Based on the Bible, an elaboration on a verse (5:23) from 1 Thessalonians. But without a grounding in philosophy and the use of reason, people can come up with crazy-a ideas when they read the Bible.

An interesting objection to the form/matter composition is that if my soul is individuated only by being united to my, particular body, then after I die how can my soul be individuated from all the other souls of dead people? The author of our textbook basically said, who knows? Maybe the resurrection of the body takes place immediately after death, in some other dimension we can't correlate with. I wasn't satisfied with that. There's a resurrection of the body, and there are plenty of corpses of people whom we know to be in heaven. But St Thomas had an explanation that pleased me. He pretty much says that after a lifetime of being tied to a particular body, the soul has picked up some individuation, which it retains even after it is separated from its body. The relationship endures, and is so profound that the soul won't be totally comfortable until it is reunited with its body. This goes to show why ghosts and corpses are so weird and unnatural: they're half a person. They're meant to be united, and only united are they a human person.

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