April 22, 2010 2 Comments
Being a big fan of Eco, I like Eco’s critique of being. Not generic being, but the convertibility of being in Aquinas. I like being, too. In his The Aesthetics of Thomas Aquinas, Eco proposes that beauty cannot be convertible with being and that this is a defunct concept that fell the way of archaic ideas once Ockham’s nominalism showed up; this led to the idea that there is no magic chain binding the transcendentals in an object. And thus philosophy went introspective. And so Eco is an agnostic gnostic now. I’ve always wondered why it didn’t occur to Eco that maybe Thomism isn’t the end all, be all of Christian theo-philosophy.
But Eco is right that strange problems arise when we say beauty is convertible with being and the good. For Thomas, beauty adds nothing substantial to the notion of being, but only conceptually, and is coextensive with it. And they are only conceptually distinct. This article traverses land, sea and air analyzing the current scene as regards theology-as-aesthetic and it’s neat-o in that regard, but what no one really seems to mention is that it appears this whole idea is connected to Thomas’ idea that God’s essence is “beauty,” “true” and “good,” and that these predicates are also one in God, and only conceptually distinct. Thomas says:
“Hence it is manifest that God alone has every kind of perfection by His own essence; therefore He Himself alone is good essentially.” -S.T. Ia Q. 6, Art. 3
“I answer that, As good has the nature of what is desirable, so truth is related to knowledge. Now everything, in as far as it has being, so far is it knowable. Wherefore it is said in De Anima iii that “the soul is in some manner all things,” through the senses and the intellect. And therefore, as good is convertible with being, so is the true. But as good adds to being the notion of desirable, so the true adds relation to the intellect.” -S.T. Ia Q. 16. Art 3 Read more of this post