Thomas Aquinas


Distinction 1: Creation
Distinction 2: Duration; heavenly world
Distinction 3: Angels' nature, number, knowledge
Distinction 4: Angels and grace
Distinction 5: Angels' sin, merit
Distinction 6: Devils
Distinction 7: Angels & devils: moral acts, knowledge, power
Distinction 8: Angels & bodies
Distinction 9: Angels' hierarchy
Distinction 10: Angels' missions
Distinction 11: Guardian angels; what angels know
Distinction 12: Creation of matter (tr. R. McInerny)
Text of Peter Lombard
Division of text by Thomas Aquinas
Sole question
Article 1: Is there one matter for all corporeal things?
Article 2: Are all things created simultaneously, distinct in their species?
Article 3: Does Augustine's interpretation retain the distinction of the days?
Article 4: Was prime matter unformed?
Article 5: Are the four coevals properly assigned?
Explanation of text of Peter Lombard
Distinction 13: First day
Distinction 14: Second and third days
Distinction 15: Fourth to seventh days
Distinction 16: Creation of man
Distinction 17: The human soul, intellect; paradise
Question 1
Article 1: Is the human soul of the divine essence?
Article 2: Is the human soul constituted of some matter?
Question 2
Article 1: Is the intellective soul or intellect one in all men?
Article 2:
Question 3
Distinction 18: Creation of woman, children
Distinction 19: Mortality and immortality
Distinction 20: Generation of children before sin
Distinction 21: Temptation by devil
Distinction 22: The first sin
Distinction 23: Sin, temptation, knowledge of God
Distinction 24: Free will, reason, sensuality
Distinction 25: More on free will
Distinction 26: Grace
Distinction 27: Virtue, merit
Distinction 28: Without grace what is possible?
Distinction 29: Grace before first sin, afterwards
Distinction 30: Defects resulting from first sin
Distinction 31: Transmission of original sin
Distinction 32: Removal of original sin but not its effects
Distinction 33: Transmission of original sin and its effects
Distinction 34: What is evil?
Distinction 35: What is sin?
Distinction 36: Sin and punishment
Distinction 37: Is God responsible for sin and punishment?
Distinction 38: The will and its ultimate end
Distinction 39: Willing good and evil; conscience
Distinction 40: What makes an action good or evil
Distinction 41: Will and faith; will and sin
Distinction 42: Distinction of sins
Distinction 43: Sin against the Holy Spirit
Question 1:
Article 1: Whether there is a sin against the Holy Spirit
Article 2: Whether the sin against the Holy Spirit is a particular kind of sin
Article 3: Whether the species of the sin against the Holy Spirit are fittingly designated in (Lombard's) text
Article 4: Whether the sin against the Holy Spirit is unforgivable
Article 5: Whether someone can sin against the holy Spirit in the first act of sin
Article 6: Whether Adam sinned against the Holy Spirit
Distinction 44: Source of power to sin. Obedience & authority


Thomas’ outline of the Text of Peter Lombard

In the preceding part the master discussed purely spiritual nature; in this part he discusses corporeal nature, insofar as it pertains to the consideration of the theologian, namely insofar as it was instituted by God in the works of the six days. The discussion is divided into three parts. First, he discusses the institution of corporeal nature with respect to the work of creation; second, with respect to the work of distinction, in Distinction 13; third, with respect to the work of adorning it, in Distinction 15. The first is subdivided into two: first he discusses the work of creation in itself and then with respect to other works.

And the first is subdivided into two parts, in the first of which he sets down different opinions on the work of creation; in the second he pursues what was proposed in one of them: ‘According to this tradition, therefore, we will inquire into the order and mode of creation and the formation of things.’ The first is subdivided into two points: first, first states his intention and touches on the diversity of opinions; second, he explains them: ‘Some of the holy fathers... seem to have written as adversaries...’ We will inquire into the order and mode of the creation and formation of things according to this tradition. Here he inquires into the work of creation following one of the opinions mentioned, and does two things: first, he manifests the creation of matter first created with respect to the name it is given in Scripture; second, with respect to its condition, ‘Before we treat of that there are two things we must discuss.’

The first is subdivided into two: first he clarifies the proposal, then he excludes a doubt: ‘Attend to what Augustine says there, shadows are not something.’ Before we treat this there are two things that must be discussed. Hp shows here the condition of the first created matter, first with respect to form, second with respect to place: ‘There remains to explain what he proposed in the second place, an inquiry in an orderly fashion into the disposition whereby it is perfected.’ He treats of the work of creation here by comparing it with other works, and he does two things: first, he posits the universality of the work, second he distinguishes among the divine works: ‘in four ways... God acts.’


There are five things to be asked: (1) whether there is one matter for all corporeal things; (2) whether all bodies are created at the same time in their distinct species; (3) if they receive their specification simultaneously, how are the days mentioned at the outset of Genesis to be understood; (4) if they are not simultaneously distinct, of what kind was that unformed matter; (5) on the number of the four coevals.

Article 1

Is there one matter for all corporeal things?

It seems that there is.

1. Things whose form is of the same nature have a common matter because the proper act comes to be in the proper potency, as the Philosopher says. But the form of corporeity has one account in all bodies. It seems therefore that there is the same matter of inferior and superior bodies.

2. Moreover, in the text it is said that from the first unformed created matter all bodies are formed in their distinct species by the work of distinction and adornment. Therefore there is the same matter in all bodies.

3. Moreover, things which are resolved back into one and the same first subject, whether by intellect or actually, have the same matter. But all bodies are such; therefore etc. Proof of the middle: that in which the ultimate resolution comes to rest is simple matter without any form; but as long as there is some form in matter, it can be further resolved. But in matter which is without form, there is no diversity, because the principle of the distinction of matter is on the side of form. Therefore all bodies are resolved back into one ultimate thing.

4. Moreover, in Physics 1 the Philosopher posits only one prime matter and since in that book he is treating of the mobile generally, it seems that there is one matter of all mobile bodies.

5. Moreover, according to the Philosopher in Metaphysics 2 matter must be imagined in the moved thing. Therefore things that share in some motion seem to agree in matter. But change of place is common to higher and lower bodies. Therefore matter is as well.


Things that have the same potency have the same matter, because just as form is act, so matter is potency. But there is not the same potency in higher and lower bodies because, according to the Philosopher, in lower bodies there is a potentiality to exist whereas higher bodies are only in potency to place. It seems therefore there is not one and the same matter of them.

Moreover, that which cannot be separated from a thing will be found wherever that thing is found. But the prime matter that is in lower things is never separated from privation of form, because whenever it is under one form there is conjoined with it the privation of another form; but privation conjoined with matter brings about corporeality. It seems therefore that the prime matter of lower bodies is not found in heavenly bodies which are naturally incorruptible.


It should be said that philosophers are of two minds on this matter and each side has its following. For Avicenna seems to hold that there is one matter in all bodies, basing his argument on the notion of corporeity which since it has the same definition ought to involve the same matter. Averroes rejects this position at the beginning of his commentary on On the Heavens and in many other places because, since matter as such is in potency to all forms, it cannot be subject to many at once, and thus when it is under one it remains in potency to the others. But no passive potency is found in nature to which some active potency which can actualize it does not answer, otherwise such a potency would be frustrated. Hence there is no natural active potency which could effect another form in the substance of the heavens, since this has no contrary, as the motion natural to it indicates. There is no contrary of its circular motion, as is said in On the Heavens 1, so the prime matter of lower bodies is not found in it. Nor can it be said that the whole potency of matter as it is under the form of heavens is fulfilled and no potency to further form remains in it, for potency is fulfilled only by the acquisition of form to which it was in potency. Hence, since prime matter considered in itself is in potency to all natural forms, its potency could only be completed by the acquisition of every form. For one form received in matter, no matter how noble and perfect it be, takes away the potency to a less noble form, for matter existing under the form of fire remains in potency to the form of earth. Hence although the form of the heavens is most noble, none the less if it were received in prime matter it will not fulfil every potency of it unless at the same time all other forms were received by matter, which is impossible. Moreover, if it were proposed that the form of the heavens because of its perfection completes the whole potency of matter, it would still be necessary that matter standing under the form of an element should be in potency to the form of the heavens and would be brought to actuality by the action of the celestial power; and thus the heaven would be generable and corruptible, and that is why he wants to deny that the same matter belongs to higher and lower bodies. This position seems more probable and more consonant with what Aristotle says.

Nor do I say, as some do, that they agree in matter, if it is taken for the first fundament, which is neither white nor black, as is said in Metaphysics 1, but they differ in matter insofar as matter is determined by motion. The diversity of motion is a sign of the diversity of matter, not its cause, because motion is the act of something existing in potency. Hence wherever there is found essentially the same matter there will be found a potency with respect to the same motion, insofar as matter is in potency to many.

Ad 1. It should be said that corporeity according to the logical intention is found univocally in all bodies, but considered as it exists it cannot receive the same account in the corruptible and incorruptible thing because they are not in potency to existence in the same way: one can be or not be and the other not, and this is why Aristotle says in Metaphysics 10 that there is nothing common to the corruptible and incorruptible except the name and that is how Averroes in the same place resolves the question.

Ad 2. It should be said that just as it is only after things are complete that they are called one world or one universe, so too insofar as they are unformed because of the lack of some perfection, they are called one unformed matter, although not by continuity, as if all things were numerically one matter.

Ad 3. It should be said that according to Avicenna we should seek a difference only between acts which share the same potency, for species, which share the potency of the same genus, are distinguished by specific differences, but differences which are not of the same genus, such that genus is part of their essence, are distinguished of themselves. No more are the most general genera distinguished by any differences but by themselves. So too compounds which agree in matter are distinguished by different forms, but different matters are distinguished by themselves according to an analogy to different acts, insofar as there is a different concept of possibility in them.

Ad 4. It should be said that the Philosopher in the books of the Physics has not yet proved the fifth essence that he demonstrates at the outset of On the Heavens. Therefore he determines nothing of what is proper to that essence in the books of the Physics, for which reason he repeats the treatise on the infinite, as Averroes points out in commenting on Aristotle.

Ad 5. It should be said that, as is said in On Generation and Corruption 1, matter is immediately the subject of generation and corruption, but of other motions according to prior and posterior such that the more change there is the greater perfection does the motion presuppose. Thus there is unity of matter only in things which share in the three motions, growth, decrease and alteration, insofar as growth and decrease are not without generation and corruption which are also the terms of alteration. But change of place, as is proved in Physics 8, is most perfect because nothing within the thing changes, hence the subject of this motion is a being complete in its first existence and in all its internal properties. Such a motion belongs to the celestial body, and therefore its matter is like the perfected substance in lower things, as Averroes says in On the Substance of the Orb. So there remains community only according to analogy.

Article 2

Are all things created simultaneously, distinct in their species?

It seems that they are.

1. It is said in Sirach 18:1, ‘He who lives for ever created all things together.’

2. Moreover, there is more distance between the spiritual and corporeal creature than between two corporeal creatures. But spiritual and corporeal things are held to have been made at the same time. Therefore much more so must all corporeal things.

3. Moreover, as is said in Deuteronomy 32:4, ‘The works of God are perfect,’ nor can any reason be given why their perfection should be deferred in time, something a creature cannot achieve by itself nor from any one other than God. Therefore since species are distinguished by their specific perfections, it seems that from the beginning all things are created distinct in species.

4. Moreover, the work of creation manifests the divine power. But the power of an agent shows less when its effect is completed successively than when it is produced immediately in its perfection. Therefore it seems that all things are distinct from the beginning.

5. Moreover, it is clear that God produced the whole work of one day in one moment. Therefore it seems ridiculous to say that he stopped acting for a whole day until the beginning of the next, as if he were exhausted. Therefore it seems that creatures are not distinguished by the succession of days, but from the beginning of creation.

6. Moreover, the parts of the universe are mutually dependent and the lower are especially dependent on the higher. But where things depend on one another, one is not found without the other. Therefore it seems unfitting to say that first there was water and earth and afterwards the stars were made.


Augustine says that the authority of Scripture at the beginning of Genesis is greater than the most perspicacious human genius. But there it is written that different creatures came to be over the course of six days. Therefore it seems necessary to maintain this.

Moreover, nature imitates the activity of the creator, but in natural activity there is a process from the imperfect to the perfect. Therefore it seems that this should be so also in the work of creation. Therefore it seems that all things are not distinct from the very beginning of creation.


It should be said that what pertains to faith is distinguished in two ways, for some are as such of the substance of faith, such that God is three and one, and the like, about which no one may licitly think otherwise. Hence the Apostle in Galatians 1:8, ‘But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel to you other than that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema!’ Other things are only incidental to faith insofar as they are treated in Scripture, which faith holds to be promulgated under the dictation of the Holy Spirit, but which can be ignored by those who are not held to know scripture, such as many of the historical works. On such matters even the saints disagree, explaining scripture in different ways. Thus with respect to the beginning of the world something pertains to the substance of faith, namely that the world began to be by creation, and all the saints agree in this.

But how and in what order this was done pertains to faith only incidentally insofar as it is treated in scripture, the truth of which the saints save in the different explanations they offer. For Augustine holds that at the very beginning of creation there were some things specifically distinct in their proper nature, such as the elements, celestial bodies and spiritual substances, but others existed in seminal notions alone, such as animals, plants and men, all of which were produced in their proper nature in that work that God governs after it was constituted in the work of the six days. Of this work we read in John 5:17, ‘My Father works even until now, and I work.’ With respect to the distinction of things we ought to attend to the order of nature and doctrine, not to the order of time.

As to nature, just as sound precedes song in nature, though not in time, so things which are naturally prior are mentioned first, as earth before animals, and water before fish, and so with other things. But in the order of teaching, as is evident in those teaching geometry, although the parts of the figure make up the figure without any order of time, still the geometer teaches the constitution as coming to be by the extension of line from line. And this was the example of Plato, as we are told at the beginning of On the Heavens. So too Moses, instructing an uncultivated people on the creation of the world, divides into parts what was done simultaneously.

Ambrose, however, and other saints hold the order of time is saved in the distinction of things. This is the more common opinion and superficially seems more consonant with the text, but the first is more reasonable and better protects Sacred Scripture from the derision of infidels, which Augustine teaches in his literal interpretation of Genesis is especially to be considered, and so scripture must be explained in such a way that the infidel cannot mock, and this opinion is more pleasing to me. However, the arguments sustaining both will be responded to.

Ad 1. It should be said that, according to Gregory, all things are said to be created together in the substance of matter not in specific form, or even in its likeness, such as the rational soul, which is like the angels and is not produced from matter.

Ad 2. It should be said that all corporeal things share in matter, whether it be one or several, and because matter does not precede the compound, therefore in order that the order of time might respond to the order of nature, corporeal matter is first made and then distinguished by forms. But corporeal nature is not produced from the spiritual either as from matter or as from efficient cause, and therefore the argument does not work.

Ad 3. It should be said that just as the creature does not have existence of itself neither does it have perfection, and therefore in order to show both, God wills that the creature does not exist at first and afterwards does, and similarly it was first imperfect and afterwards perfect.

Ad 4. It should be said that not only power should be shown in creation, but also the order of wisdom, such that the things which are prior in nature are first created.

Ad 5. It should be said that in order to show the diverse natures of distinct things, God willed that one day should answer to each distinction of things, not out of any necessity or weariness of the agent.

Ad 6. It should be said that a thing does not have the same nature as once perfected and in its coming to be, and thus although the nature of the completed world requires that all essential parts of the universe exist simultaneously it can be otherwise in the making of the world, just as in the perfected man the heart cannot be without the other parts, and yet in the formation of the embryo the heart is generated before all the other members.

Ad 7. It should be said that the authority of Sacred Scripture is not derogated when it is differently explained, the faith being saved, because the Holy Spirit made it fruitful with a greater truth than any man can discover.

Ad 8. It should be said that it is due to the imperfection of nature that it comes from the imperfect to perfection, since without doubt it would give the ultimate perfection of which it is capable, saving, however, the condition of the work. Therefore it is not necessary that in this the divine work be similar to the operation of the creature.

Article 3

Does Augustine’s interpretation retain the distinction of the days?

It seems that it does not.

1. Day signifies a certain time; but in the formation of things, according to Augustine, there was no succession of time. Therefore he does not retain the distinction of days.

2. Since day implies a kind of illumination, it is necessary that day be understood according to the illumination of some corporeal or intellectual light. But not corporeal light, because this would cause a day only by several revolutions which would be completed in a succession of times. Nor by intellectual light, because a created intellectual light does not flow by way of irradiation to the creation of things; but the notion of day required some irradiation; therefore it seems that these days are not properly assigned.

3. Moreover, spiritual illumination does not have different parts, but different parts are assigned to a day, namely morning and evening. Therefore it seems that those days cannot be understood according to the illumination of spiritual light.

4. If it should be said that the morning of the day is according to the knowledge of things in the Word and evening according to the knowledge of things in their proper nature, on the contrary: a thing is said to be known by that which receives its likeness. But the angels do not have knowledge through likenesses drawn from things but in species flowing into their minds from the Word. Therefore they know created things only in the Word and not in their proper nature, and thus they have only morning, not evening knowledge.

5. Moreover, wherever a thing is, there it can be known; but the created thing has a threefold existence, in the Word, in the angelic mind, and in its proper nature. Augustine indicates this in his literal exposition of Genesis by saying that the existence of things comes to be in the Word, it was made in the mind of the angel and it acts in its proper nature. Therefore three parts of the day should be recognized.

6. Moreover, a day in the usual sense has morning and evening and midday as well. Therefore, just as we talk of morning and evening knowledge, we should speak of noontime knowledge.

7. Moreover, all days should be uniform. But the first days had no morning, because the morning of the first day did not follow on night, but ended in it, whereas the seventh day is held to have a morning in which the sixth day ends, but not an evening. Therefore morning and evening ought not both to be assigned to the other days.

8. Moreover, one comes from evening to morning only by way of night. But no mention is made of night. Therefore the order of the days is insufficiently treated.

RESPONSE: it should be said that, according to Augustine, those six days are one day, six by the distinctions of things, according to which they are numbered, presented at the same time; just as there is one Word whereby all things are made, namely the Son of God, although we frequently read, ‘God said.’ And just as those works are saved in all things subsequently propagated by the activity of nature, so those six days remain in the whole subsequent time. We must see how this can be. The angelic intellectual nature is light, and if it is properly light, its illumination must be called a day. The angelic nature at the beginning of the establishment of things receives knowledge of them and thus in a certain way the light of its intellect is presented to created things insofar as they are known; hence the knowledge of things themselves is called a day, and according to the different kinds of things known and their order the days are distinguished and ordered; as in the first day is understood the formation of the spiritual creature by conversion to the Word; in the second day the formation of the bodily creature with respect to the higher part, which is called the firmament; in the third with respect to the lower part, namely earth, water and things in the vicinity of air; in the fourth, the higher part, the furnished firmament; in the fifth, the lower with respect to the earth. But since God is the fullness of light and the darkness is not in him (1 John 1:5) the knowledge of God himself in himself is the fullness of light, but because the creature is from nothing, has the darkness of possibility and imperfection, therefore the knowledge by which the creature is known, is mixed with darkness.

But they can be known in two ways: either in the Word, as they issue forth from the divine art, and their knowledge is called morning, because just as morning is the end of darkness and the beginning of light, so the creation also takes the beginning of light from the Word after first not having been. It is also known as existing in its proper nature, and such knowledge is called evening because evening is the end of light and tends towards night, so also the creature subsisting in itself is the termination of the operation of the Word, as made by the Word, and of itself defective and tending towards darkness unless it is sustained in the Word.

Nevertheless this knowledge is called day because just as in comparison to the knowledge of the Word it is shadowy, so it is light in comparison with ignorance, which is wholly darkness, just as the present life of the just is said to be misty with respect to future glory, which, however, is light in comparison to the life of sin, and thus there is a certain circulation between morning and evening, according to which the angel knowing himself in his own nature, takes this knowledge back to the Word as to its end, in which he takes knowledge of subsequent work in its beginning, and thus this sort of morning is the end of the preceding day and the beginning of the following.

This exposition is subtle and congruous so long as light and day are said properly and not metaphorically in spiritual things, as Augustine says in the literal commentary on Genesis; otherwise it would be a mystical and not a literal interpretation. But because it is denied by many, we, sustaining with Augustine that all things are created immediately distinct in species, can say that days are taken according to the illustration of bodily light. Such that the order of the days is taken according to the order and distinction of things in which bodily light shines forth, for just as the angels receive knowledge of all natural creatures, so too the light flows into all bodily things, as Dionysius says, but differently received in different things, according to the diversity of the recipients.

Therefore just as Augustine distinguishes six days according to the presentation of spiritual light, which is said to be made on the first day, by the six kinds of things, so according to the presentation of bodily light the six kinds of things can in a certain way be distinguished into six days without the distinction of time. And because the period of each bodily thing is prefigured according to the influence of light between two terms, since each bodily power is finite, therefore those terms beyond which the power of the thing does not extend are called morning and evening.

Ad 1. It should be said that day is also a part of time and the effect of light. Therefore the distinction of the first days is not drawn from the side of time, but from the side of light, insofar as different things are declared by light either with respect to angelic knowledge, or with respect to the influence of bodily light on different things.

Ad 2. It should be said that light can be understood both as bodily and as spiritual. if it is understood as bodily, the day will be distinguished according to the different things illuminated, and not according to the time of illumination; however if it is understood as spiritual, it is not by the influence of light on things to be created, but by the brightness of the light for knowing things.

Ad 3. It should be said that the parts of the day according to spiritual light are not according to the different things known, but according to the different modes of knowledge of the same things, and just as the days are not successive, because the angel intuits the different kinds of thing simultaneously in the Word, so the parts of the day are not one because he sees creatures all together in the Word and in their proper nature.

Ad 4. It should be said that the evening knowledge of things in their proper nature is not so called because they take the species through which they know from the things themselves, but because they receive certain species from creation, they know the things as they subsist in their proper nature.

Ad 5. It should be said that the species of things first exist in the divine art which is the Word, which existence is signified when we read, ‘God spoke, and it comes to be.’ That is, he generates the Word in which it was that they come to be. They have a second existence in the angelic intelligence which is signified by when it is said, ‘It was done,’ through the influence of the Word. They have a third existence in things, which is meant when it is said, ‘He makes.’ Therefore this threefold distinction is not posited in the production of spiritual light nor in the formation of man which is also intellectual. Thus the angel has a threefold knowledge of things, namely, insofar as they are in the Word, insofar as they are in his mind, and insofar as they are in their proper nature. Although he never knows things in their proper nature except by the species he has in himself; but the knowledge whereby he knows them in himself differs from the knowledge whereby he knows them in their own nature; for the intellect can be turned back to the species it has in itself in two ways: either by considering it as it is a thing in the intellect, and thus it knows of it that it is intelligible or universal or something of the sort, or as it is a likeness of a thing and then the consideration of the intellect does not come to rest in the species but through the species passes to the thing whose likeness it is, just as the eye sees the stone through the species that is in the pupil, and the stony image which can be considered insofar as it is some thing or as a likeness of the thing. Thus it is evident that the two knowledges differ, but both are evening knowledge, because the intellect of the angel is itself a creature, and a defect tending towards darkness insofar as it exists in itself.

Ad 6. It should be said that noonday knowledge cannot be knowledge of the creature in which the darkness of defectibility is mixed, but knowledge of God himself, which is complete light, and therefore noonday is not mentioned among the works of creation.

Ad 7. It should be said that in the first day, according to Augustine, the formation of intellectual nature itself is narrated, knowledge of which naturally follows on its existence in its proper nature. Therefore it does not have morning knowledge of itself, but only evening knowledge. Similarly the seventh day pertains to the rest of God in himself from all the works which he did for his own sake, and this rest involves no defect, and because of this evening is not mentioned in that day.

Ad 8. It should be said that if the angel, by knowledge taken from creatures, did not refer it to the praise of the creator but dwelled in the creature itself, night would come to be in him, for this would be to enjoy the creature perversely and this is not fitting to the blessed angels, who are signified by light, and therefore in the sixth of those days night is not mentioned. Or it can be said according to another path that morning and evening are mentioned because they are the beginnings of day and night. But there the institution of the principles of nature is shown, from which all things are propagated, and therefore the extremes are given and the intermediates set aside.

Article 4

Was prime matter unformed?

It seems that it was.

1. For matter was common to all the elements, because from it all were made. But the elements agree only in unformed matter. Therefore prime matter was wholly unformed.

2. Moreover, Augustine says in the Confessions, speaking to God, ‘Lord you have taught your servant that before you did these things it was not anything, neither form, nor colour, etc.’ But it was not wholly nothing, because it was something unformed. Therefore prime matter wholly lacked form.

3. Moreover, if that matter had some form, it would be either the form of a mixed body or of a simple body; but not of a mixed body, because then the mixed would be prior to simple bodies, which would be consonant with tht- position of Anaxagoras. Therefore it would have had the form of a simple body and then we would return to the position of the ancient naturalists who posited one element of everything, whether fire, or water, or air.

4. If it be said that it had none of these forms but another, on the contrary: everything that is generated is generated out of its contrary. But the elements were made from prime matter existing under a bodily form. Therefore it is necessary that it have contrariety with the elements which are made from it. But the contrariety of the first bodies cannot extend beyond the number of four, as is proved in On Generation and Corruption z. Therefore, matter had to be under the form of one of the four elements, if it was under some bodily form; and thus it would be only one of the first elements. But the Philosopher disproves this. Therefore it must be that that matter was in every way unformed.


1. All existence is from form. Therefore if prime matter existed before the distinction of things, it is necessary that it had some form.

2. Moreover, as natural body is to the different shapes, so prime matter is to substantial forms. But it is impossible for there to be a body without any shape. Therefore it is impossible for matter to be without any form.


It should be said that prime matter is said in two ways: either such that indicates the first order of nature, or such that it implies the order of time. Insofar as it indicates the order of nature, prime matter is that into which all natural bodies are ultimately reduced and must be without any form. Every subject that has a form is analysable into form and the subject of form. Therefore, because all knowledge is through form, prime matter is knowable, as the Philosopher says in Physics 1, according to analogy alone, insofar as we say that prime matter is that which is to all bodies as wood is to bed. And although prime matter so taken does not have any form as part of its essence, it is never separated from all form, as Avicenna proves in his Metaphysics. Indeed when it loses one form, it acquires another, insofar as the corruption of one is the generation of the other. Therefore prime matter so taken cannot be for any duration prior to the bodies formed from it. In another way of understanding prime implies the order of time, namely that which in duration preceded the ordered disposition of the parts of the world as we now see it, according to those who hold that the world did not always exist and that all things were not distinct from the beginning of creation. Understanding prime matter in this way, it has to have some form. On this point the ancient philosophers were divided, for some held that the whole of it was under form, saying that there is one prime matter of all the elements, or something between them and from this all are generated by density and rareness.

Others held that it was under many forms, not ordered among themselves but mixed in a kind of confusion which was reduced to order and distinction by the act of creation which they explained differently, as the Philosopher tells us. But this is not relevant here. All these positions are sufficiently refuted by Aristotle. Moderns too are divided according to these two paths. For some hold the whole of prime matter is created under one form, but lest they seem to fall into the error of the ancients they say that the one form is not one of the four elements, but something which is in process towards them, as imperfect to perfect, just as the form of the embryo is related to the complete animal.

But this cannot be said of the elements because, according to the Commentator, the first thing had by matter is the form of the element. Hence there is no form intermediate between prime matter and the form of the element although there are many intermediates between prime,matter and the form of animal, one succeeding the other by intermediate generations and corruptions until it comes to ultimate perfection, as Avicenna says. Moreover, once natural principles are instituted, it would be necessary then to recognize another form before the form of the element in the natural generation of elements, which is nonsense. Unless perhaps it were said according to the sense of The Fountain of Life that there is one first form, and that first a common bodily form would be produced in prime matter and afterwards the special distinct forms. But Avicenna disproves this position because every substantial form gives an existence complete in the genus of substance. But whatever comes after things had been actually constituted is an accident, for it is in a subject which is called a being complete in itself. Hence it would be necessary that all natural forms are accidents and thus would be revived the ancient error that generation is the same as alteration. That is why he holds that it is by essentially one form that fire is fire and a body and a substance. Therefore, taking the path of the other saints who held there to be a succession in the works of the six days, it seems to me that we must say that prime matter was created under several substantial forms and that all the substantial forms of the essential parts of the world were produced at the beginning of creation. And Sacred Scripture shows this by mentioning the heaven and earth and water in the beginning. The Master says the same, holding that in unformed matter this earthly element consists in a mean, and that rarer waters were in the form of clouds over the deep. But I say that the active and passive powers were not yet in the beginning conferred on the parts of the world, thanks to which they are said afterwards to be distinguished and ordered. That this is possible is clear, if we wish to hold the position of Avicenna who taught that the elements remained in the mixed body according to their substantial forms with respect to their primary existence, but transmuted with respect to their secondary, namely with respect to active and passive qualities: for there a mixture is the union of mixable alternates. Hence it is possible that matter be under one substantial form without having active and passive qualities in its perfection, and thus since first existence naturally preceded second, the order of nature was expressed as an order of time, since things first came to be in first existence before they were perfected in second.

Ad 1. It should be said that the prime matter which is numerically one in all elements as a part of their essences is in every way unformed as considered in its essence, but cannot precede the elements in duration. Hence the matter which precedes in duration was bodily, not one with the unity of essence, but by the likeness of formlessness with respect to secondary forms.

Ad 2. It should be said that since Augustine is not giving the order of duration but of nature alone, it must be said according to him that prime matter is wholly unformed; which cannot be according to the position of the other saints.

Ad 3. It should be said that it did not have one form but several, not indeed the forms of mixed bodies, because these follow on the active and passive powers of the principles of the world, of which they are essentially composed.

Ad 4. The reply is evident from the foregoing.

Article 5

Are the four coevals properly assigned?

It seems that they are not.

1. it seems that the four coevals, namely, the empyreal heavens, the angelic nature, the matter of the four elements, and time, are improperly enumerated. For place follows the generation of things, just like time. But there is no mention of place among the first created things. Therefore time should not be mentioned.

2. Moreover, time is an accident. But no mention is made of the other accidents, which are understood as created with their subjects. Therefore it seems that time ought not to be mentioned.

3. Moreover, time is the measure of the motion of the first movable. But the first movable, namely the firmament, was made on the second day. Therefore time did not exist at the beginning of creation.

4. Moreover, there is not the same matter of the higher and lower bodies. Therefore it seems that there should be six, namely, the celestial empyrium, the matter of the firmament, the matter of the four elements, etc.

5. Moreover, in each of the six days it is said, ‘God said and it came to be,’ in order that it be shown that the work of that day was made through the Word. Since therefore the unformed matter was made by the Word, it seems that it ought not to be said of its creation, ‘God said and heaven and earth came to be.’


This should be dealt with last. The whole creation with respect to its unformed existence was first instituted by the work of creation, hence it is the things that cannot be led to one unformed principle, which is matter, that are enumerated in the work of creation. For substance and accident are not reduced to the same matter because matter is not a part of the accident; therefore they do not agree in any matter-from-which. But the accident can in a way be said to agree with substance in the matter-in-which, insofar as the accident is in substance; therefore that accident which is denominating as measuring from outside is numbered with substance, namely time. Similarly spiritual and bodily substance are not reduced to one matter, since the spiritual lacks matter; and thus they are numbered with the angels. Similarly there is not the same matter of celestial and lower bodies, and therefore the heaven and the matter of the four elements are enumerated. That is why the four are mentioned in the work of creation.

Ad 1. It should be said that place is the surface of the locating body, and therefore the creation of place is understood with the creation of bodily nature.

Ad 2. It should be said that some accidents denominate that in which they are, like whiteness; and these are understood to be created in the creation of their subjects, if they are things which follow on the first existence, like figure and quantity and the like. However they also denominate that in which they do not inhere as in a subject, like place. For place is not of the containing body in which it is as in a subject, but of the contained body, and time is the measure of all motions, although first of that in which it is as in a subject, namely the motion of the first mobile, by which all others are measured, as is said in Metaphysics 10. But there is not the same reason with respect to time and place, because place is not essentially the same as the surface of the locating body, and time is not numerically the same as any accident founded in substance. Moreover place has its whole perfection in the thing; but the notion of time is in some way completed by the action of the soul of the one numbering; hence it has more the note of the extrinsic than place does; therefore it rather than place or any other accident is enumerated among the first created things. I think this is chiefly done to remove the ancient error of the philosophers, who held time to be eternal, except for Plato, as is said in Physics 8.

Ad 3. It should be said that the motion of the heavens begins the second day, but not all things are simultaneously created, hence it cannot be understood of time which is the number of the motion of the prime mobile; but it is necessary that either aevum is signified by time, as some say, or time is taken broadly for the number of some succession, such that time is said to be first created and measures the creation of things whereby after not being, they issue forth in being.

Ad 4. It should be said that the firmament according to some is of the nature of lower bodies, and thus its matter is understood in the matter of four elements; and thus only the empyrean heaven will be of another nature, and the fifth essence. But if we call the firmament the fifth essence then by heaven is understood the empyreal heaven, and the crystalline and sidereal heavens; but with respect to the unformed nature of these two, for the empyreal heaven immediately has its ultimate perfection in its creation.

Ad 5. It should be said that word, properly speaking, implies the notion of the exemplar form of creatures, because the word is art, as Augustine says; and therefore in the sixth of the days, where the formation of the creature is narrated, the word is properly mentioned; but where the formation of matter is narrated, the Son is shown to be a cause as principle and not as Word. Hence diversely the causality of the whole Trinity is shown differently by each. In the creation of unformed matter the Father is designated by the name of God who created, the Son by the name of principle, the Holy Spirit by his proper name, when he is called the spirit of the Lord. But in the formation of things the Father is signified as speaking, the Son as Word, the Holy Spirit as benignity, whereby what has been made is approved. By the same love whereby God willed that the creature should come to be, it pleases him that it should remain.

Thomas’ Explanation of the Text of Peter Lombard

‘As Augustine says in Against the Manicheans, “What Moses calls by the name of earth, because earth among all the elements of the world is the least beautiful.”’ It should be known that according to Augustine, who does not introduce the order of time into the distinction of things, prime matter must be understood as wholly unformed, as was said, and thus it will be called by the name of water or earth by reason of similitude, as it is called earth on account of the lack of form. For earth has the least form of all the elements since it is the grossest element, but water, because of its receptibility to forms, because the wet is receptive and terminable. But it is called the abyss because it is incidentally evil, as is said in Physics 1, for abyss is formed from a, ‘without’, and byssus, which is the genus of the brightest line, that is, without light, and this is incidental to matter because of privation.

Or it is called abyss, as without basis, of some great depth and of the deepest waters, according to Augustine. So too prime matter is called abyss insofar as it is deprived of form through which it receives substantive existence. But according to other saints we can say that according to the text it was under the substantial form of earth or water.

‘But earth was inane and vacuous.’ If by unformed matter earth is understood then the receptibility of matter must be explained in some way similar to the receptibility of place, insofar as different forms succeed one another in the same matter, as different bodies succeed one another in one place. For which reason Plato says that place and matter are the same, as is said in Physics 4. Therefore what is said of place is said by way of similarity of matter; matter is said to be inane and vacuous, according to its lack of form: empty insofar as form fulfils the capacity of matter; inane, insofar as form is the end towards which the appetite of matter tends. But if earth is taken for the still unformed element, it is called vacuous and inane in the text because of its lack of mixed bodies of which it is the place and to which as to an end they are ordered.

‘Or of air obscured by quality.’ It should be known that every privation, with respect to that which is signified by the word, is non-being; but something must be presupposed, because privation is a negation in a subject apt to have it, as is said in Metaphysics 4—hence the subject is presupposed and its potentiality to the reception of the form of which it is deprived—therefore since darkness is opposed to light by way of privation, it can be understood in three ways. It can be understood as the very deprived subject, which is obscure air, and thus it is clear that darkness is something and a creature. Second, it can be taken for the very power of air by which it is receptive of light, which is diaphaneity, insofar as it is not perfected by light, and thus darkness can be called an obscure quality of air, which is something created. In a third way, it is taken properly for that which is signified by the word, and thus privation is non-being, and in this way, speaking per se, it cannot be said to be created by God, but only incidentally, insofar as he makes the opaque nature, darkness arising from its blocking the luminous body. So one who closes the window is said to cause darkness in the house.

‘First in the Word, disposing all things.’ This seems to be false, because nothing that comes to be in the Word is made, and thus God does nothing in the Word. To which it should be said that according to some Alcuin spoke improperly and should be understood thus: that is done in the Word, that is, generates the Word, which is the art of all the things done by him. They say this because they do not distinguish between acting and making, which differ a lot, because to make is properly an act passing to the external matter; hence the Philosopher in Ethics 6 says artificial things are makable; and thus God does not make anything from eternity. But activity is called an act of the thing, even if it does not pass into the external, as understanding is an activity of intellect and can be without motion; hence the Philosopher says in Ethics 7 that God takes enjoyment from one simple operation, but in this way God acts eternally in the Word, as the artisan fashions the forms of artificial things.



Here two things are asked: first of his creation with respect to soul, second of his formation with respect to body.

Three things are asked under the first heading: whether the human soul is of the divine essence; if not, whether it is created from some matter; whether the soul is created outside the body.

Article 1

Is the human soul of the divine essence?

The first question is taken up thus:

1. It seems that the soul is of the divine essence, from what is said in Genesis 1:7: ‘He breathed the breath of life into his face.’ But what someone breathes, he sends forth from himself as a breath. Therefore the soul is of the essence of God.

2. Moreover, it is said in Acts 17:8, ‘For we are of the race of God.’ But this does not belong to man except with respect to his soul which distinguishes him from other sensible things. Therefore it seems that the soul belongs to the same genus as the divine nature.

3. Moreover, since a natural operation follows on nature, things that agree in operation must also agree in nature or essence. But the rational soul agrees with God in the operation of intellect, as the Philosopher says in Ethics 15.8. Therefore he shares a nature with him.

4. Moreover, whatever is understood is understood through a likeness or identity, since the intellect in act must be what is actually understood, and that can only happen if they are either the same in essence, as God understands himself, or because the similitude of the thing understood is received in the one understanding as its perfection. But our intellect understands both God and prime matter, and either through similitude or through identity. But it cannot be through a similitude abstracted from them, because nothing can be abstracted from what is most simple. Therefore it is necessary that our mind understands them by way of identity; and thus God, prime matter and the intellectual soul are the same in essence.

5. Moreover, things which in no wise differ are completely the same. But the intellect, prime matter and God in no way differ. Therefore, they are completely the same. Proof of the middle with respect to its second part: the first part being obvious. Things that differ, differ in something; but whatever differs from another in some way is composed of the difference and something else. Therefore since the three foregoing are completely simple, it seems that they in no way differ.

6. Moreover, whatever is participated in by a thing’s existence is of the essence of that thing. But as Dionysius says in On the Divine Names 4, it is by participation in the divine goodness that the soul and all other things are and are good. It seems therefore that the divine goodness is of the essence of soul and of everything else. But the divine goodness is his essence. Therefore the divine essence is itself either the essence of the soul or something of its essence.


That which in itself is act alone cannot be of another species or kind of being. But the divine essence is pure act in which no potency is found. Therefore it is not possible for it to be transformed into the nature of the soul or of anything else, or to receive any addition.

Moreover, no privation is found in that which is pure act, because privation is of something a thing is meant to have but does not yet have or no longer has. But many defects and privations are found in the soul, such as ignorance, malice and the like. Therefore, the soul is not of the divine essence.


I answer that it should be said that it was the error of some of the ancient philosophers to hold that God was of the essence of all things, for they held that all things are simply one being and differ only perhaps for sensation or thought, as Parmenides taught; and a modern like David of Dinant agrees with these ancient philosophers, for he divided things into three sorts, bodies, souls and eternal separate substances. And the first indivisible from which bodies are constituted he called hyle; the first indivisible from which souls are constituted he called nous or mind; the first indivisible in eternal substances he called God; and these three are one and the same, from which it also follows that all things are one in essence—which both conflicts with sensation and has been sufficiently disproved by philosophers.

Others less confused said that God is not indeed the essence of all things, but only of intellectual substances, taking into account the similarity of operation and dignity of intellect and its immateriality. This could have its origin in the opinion of Anaxagoras, who held that intellect moves all things and has some basis in the authority of Genesis 1, which has been badly understood. This opinion contradicts both the faith and the teaching of philosophers who recognized intellectual substances of diverse orders and placed the human intellect last among intellectual substances, the first being the divine intellect, and that the divine intellect is in every way changeless faith holds and reason demonstrates. The human soul is some way variable, as with respect to virtue or vice and knowledge or ignorance.

Of all these errors and others like them one seems to be the first and basic: when it is disproved no probability remains in any of them. For many of the ancients wanted to draw their judgements about natural things from the intentions of intellect, such that whatever is found to share in some concept they thought to share in one thing. Thus arose the error of Parmenides and Melissus who, seeing that being is predicated of all things, spoke of being as of some one thing, arguing that being is one and not many, as their arguments as related in Physics i show. From this ‘also followed the opinion of Pythagoras and Plato, who maintained that mathematicals and intelligibles are the principles of sensible things, since number is found in the former and latter and what share a number are one in essence. Similarly because Plato and Socrates are man, there is one man as an essence predicated of all. Many of the arguments of Avicebron in the book the Fountain of Life follow from this; he always seeks a unity of matter from an equal community of predication. From this too arises the opinion that there is one essence of genus which exists in all species—really and not just in understanding. But this is a very shaky foundation, for it does not follow, just because this one is a man and that one a man, that there must be numerically one humanity of both, any more than there is numerically the same whiteness in two white things. But this one is like that in that it has humanity, as the other does, and the intellect grasping humanity, not as belonging to this individual, but just as humanity, forms an intention common to all. No more is it necessary that, because there is an intellectual nature in the soul and in God, that there is essentially the same intellectuality of both or that it be thanks to some one essence that both are called being.

Ad 1. It should be said that just as Augustine remarks in the Literal Commentary on Genesis 7, authority does not force us to say that the soul is of the substance of God. First, because that which a man by breathing emits, is of the exterior air, which by breathing he disturbs and is not of his substance. Second, because even if it were of the substance of the breather, it would in no way be of the substance of the soul, even if it were held to be of the substance of the body. God relates to the whole universe as its governor, as soul relates to body; from which it does not follow that the soul of man is of the substance of God. Third, because the soul is above the body in such a way that breath comes only from body; but God is above the whole of nature and was not constrained to make the soul of bodily elements; rather he creates it from nothing thanks to the immensity of his power. Hence he is said to be breath figuratively, as if he made a breath. Isaiah 57:16: ‘And breathings I have made.’

Ad 2. It should be replied that we are said to be of the race of God with respect to the soul, not because the soul is of the divine essence but because it shares in the intellectual nature which is also in God; according to which it is also said to be in the image of God.

Ad 3. It should be said that since soul does not have numerically the same operation God has, but something similar to it, it does not follow that it has the same nature, but only a similar one: nor can a unity of essence be concluded from such a similitude, as has been said.

Ad 4. It should be said that the created intellect understands God not through an identity of nature, but through union with it, which is either through some similitude not indeed abstracted from him but infused by God in the intellect—Avicenna in On Intelligence 4.2 calls this kind of understanding ‘through impression’, saying that understanding comes about in us by the impressions things make on us; or by union with the essence itself of uncreated light, as it will be in heaven. Prime matter is knowable not by some species received from it but by analogy with form, as is said in Physics 1; and thus it is one of those things which because of their defect cannot be perfectly understood, as Boethius says in On the Two Natures.

Ad 5. It should be said that, according to the Philosopher in Metaphysics 10, to be diverse and to be different are not the same, because what differs refers to something else, such that each different thing, properly speaking, differs from another; but the diverse are so called absolutely, and it is not necessary that they be diverse in something, but in themselves, for if it were necessary that all diverse things differed in something, there would be an infinite regress. To avoid that we must come to some first simple things which are diverse in themselves, as is evident in differing things which are distinguished by certain species. If the different is taken strictly, according to the foregoing account, then the first proposition would be false, because some diverse things would not differ. The same is opposed, not to the different, but to the diverse. if, however, the different is taken broadly to include the diverse and the different, then the proposition is true, but the middle is false, as is clear from the foregoing.

Ad 6. It should be replied that creatures are not said to participate in the divine goodness as a part of their essence, but because they are constituted in being by a similitude of the divine goodness, according to which they do not imitate the divine goodness perfectly, but partially.

Article 2

Is the human soul constituted of some matter?

We proceed to the second question thus:

1. It seems that the soul is constituted of some matter, for every definite thing in nature is composed of matter, as is clear from On the Soul 2. But the rational soul is such a thing, because it is capable of existing in itself without the body, numerically distinct from another soul of the same species. Therefore...

2. Moreover, wherever the properties of matter are found, there matter is found, since the properties of a thing cannot be separated from that thing. But certain properties of matter are found in the soul, such as to be a subject, to receive, to suffer, and the like. Therefore it seems that it is composed of matter.

3. Moreover, according to the Philosopher in Metaphysics 2, matter must be imagined in the thing moved. The mutability of the soul is shown from this that it is deformed by vices and fallacies, but is formed by virtues and by the doctrine of truth, according to Augustine in the Literal Commentary on Genesis 7.6. Therefore, there is matter in the soul.

4. Moreover, according to the Philosopher in Metaphysics 8, the action of any agent terminates in a composite. But the action of God creating terminates in the soul which it brings into existence. Therefore it is composed of form and matter.

5. Moreover, nothing lives of itself except God. But the soul not only vivifies body but itself lives. Therefore it does not live of itself, but by something of itself. But everything in which there is the principle of life receives life, and is composed of matter and form. Therefore...

6. Moreover, in every created thing there is a difference between what is done and that whereby it is done, because only the first agent acts through his essence, but other things by partaking of something added to their essence. But the soul has its proper operations and thus it is something operating through those operations. Therefore it is not that by which it operates and thus does not seem to be a simple form, but rather something having matter, because form is the principle whereby the operation is produced.


To the degree that something is near to the first and simple one, it is more one and simple, as is said in the Book of Causes, Propositions 17 and 31 But among natural forms the soul is nearer to God. Therefore, since othe forms are simple, the soul must be even more so.

Moreover, there is not a substantial form of the substantial form, just as there is no quality of quality. But each thing that has matter also has a substantial form which gives being to the matter. Since the soul is substantial form, it seems that it is not composed of matter.

Moreover, Augustine in the Literal Commentary on Genesis 7.61 arguing by an enumeration of its kinds, shows that the soul is not made from matter. For it cannot be that it was made of rational spiritual matter. Because if the spiritual nature from which it came to be was happy it could not be changed into something worse, because matter, since it is formed by God, is formed for the better. if on the other hand it were miserable, some fault would have to be at the root of this, which is against what the Apostle says in Romans 9:12—‘in order that the selective purpose of God might stand, depending not on deeds, but on him who calls...’ If it were neither happy nor miserable, then it would not yet have the use of reason, as happens in childhood, and thus it would be idle. Similarly, not from irrational spiritual matter, for this would be close to the opinion of those who hold that souls pass from body to body and, worse yet, since that position does not hold that the soul of a beast passes into a man, but only the reverse. Similarly it cannot be of corporeal matter, since soul and flesh do not come to be from the same. Moreover, when the soul understands something, it removes itself from all corporeal things, which could not come about if it were of the nature of body. From all of which one can fashion this argument: according to Augustine everything which has matter has come to be from matter, even though matter did not precede it in time. If then the soul cannot be said to come from matter, as has been proved, the soul has no matter.


I answer that it should be said that, though some say otherwise, it seems to me that neither in the soul nor in any spiritual substances can there be matter in any way, but they are simple forms and natures. Apart from other reasons showing that this is impossible for angels, as was argued above (Distinction 4), there is a special reason why matter is absent from the notion of soul. For since soul is the form of body, it is necessary that it be the form of body according to its whole essence or according to part of its essence. If according to its whole essence, it is impossible that a part of its essence be matter, because that which in itself is pure potency cannot be the form or act of anything; but every potency in the genus of substance is pure potency, because it is the unmediated subject of substantial form and of generation, as is said in On Generation and Corruption 1. If however it is the form of body according to a part of its substance, through which it is in act, and not according to the other part which is its matter, two absurdities follow. The one is that numerically one act is the form of diverse matters, namely of corporeal and of spiritual matter of which the essence of the soul is constituted. The other is that there is one perfective act of potencies in different genera; for the same account cannot be given of corporeal and spiritual matter. Moreover, it is only that which is the act of a living body that we call soul. For a similar reason Avicenna shows, in his Metaphysics 9-4, intelligences are simple. We do not deny that in some sense the rational soul has some composition, namely of what it is and for it to be, as was shown above of angels (Distinction 3) and in Book One of the soul itself. This mode of composition is not found in other forms because they cannot subsist in their own existence, but are always components; in this the soul falls short of the divine simplicity. But all this was more fully explained in Book One, Distinction 8.

Ad 1. It should be replied that something can be said to be a definite thing in nature [ hoc aliquid ] for two reasons. Either because it exists as subsisting in a nature, and in this way the rational soul is a definite something. But from this it does not follow that it is composed of matter: for this is accidental to a subsistent thing, namely that it be composed of matter. In another way it can be called a definite something because some part of its essence is individuated, and thus the soul is not a definite something, for the principle of individuation of souls is taken from body and yet even after separation from body they remain individuated and distinct. (Book 1, Distinction 8) This is how the Philosopher understands ‘a definite something’ in On the Soul 2, when he expressly denies that the soul is a definite something.

Ad 2. It should be said that to suffer and receive and the like are said of the soul and of material things equivocally, as is evident from the Philosopher in On the Soul 3 and the Commentator on that text. Hence it is not necessary that matter be found in the soul, but it suffices that there be some potentiality in it and what that might be has already been discussed in Distinction 3.

Ad 3. It should be said that matter of the same kind is not required in all motion. Matter in potency to existence is not required for local motion but only a thing that is potential with respect to place. So too in the variation from vice to virtue or the reverse there is not required matter in potency to existence as part of the essence of the thing changed, but only matter in potency to virtue, and this is the very substance of the soul.

Ad 4. It should be said that the Philosopher is speaking of the natural agent which works from matter, as his arguments make clear, and he goes on to show that in every becoming there must be three things, namely that from which something comes to be, and that in which it terminates, and the agent, and from this he concludes that there is no coming into being of forms save incidentally. But we do not concede these principles in the case of the divine action through which he creates the soul; therefore it is not necessary that the soul or any other spiritual substance created by God be composed of matter. Even according to Avicenna, in Metaphysics 9.1, the divine agent does not act by way of motion and thus require matter. The Commentator even says that action is said equivocally of the action whereby God acts and of natural action.

Ad 5. It should be said that, according to the Philosopher in On the Soul 2, to live is nothing other than for the living thing to be; hence just as the rational soul is but is not that whereby it is, so too it lives but is not that whereby it lives. But just as that by which it formally exists is not some form which is part of its essence, but its very existence, so that whereby it formally lives, is not some form which is part of its essence, but its very living. But that where it is and lives is effectively God who infuses existence and life into all things - in composite things by the mediation of the form which is a part of their essence; in simple substances through their whole essence. God neither is nor lives from some efficient principle, but he is identical with his existence and his living, and the human soul falls short of the perfection of divine life in both ways.

Ad 6. It should be said that there are two ways in which that whereby the soul operates differs from it. For the soul acts by means of the one who infuses into it existence, living, and acting, namely God, who works all in all, and he clearly differs from the soul. It also operates by its natural power, which is the principle of its operation, namely by sense or intellect, which are not its essence, but powers flowing from the essence. In neither way does God act in virtue of something other than himself, because acting is something he has of himself and he is one with his power. But the soul is not said to operate through something which is not itself but a part of its essence, as natural bodies operate through the form which is part of their essence, but rather through the mediation of some power as an instrument, as fire by means of heat.


Third, it is asked whether the soul is created outside the body, and two questions arise here: whether there is one soul or intellect for all men, as it were a separated substance influencing all bodies; and if there are several, whether they are created in the body or outside it.

Article 1

Is the intellective soul or intellect one in all men?

We proceed to the first question thus:

1. It seems that the rational soul or intellect is numerically one in all. For no form is multiplied in existence according to the division of matter, unless it be a material form. But the intellect, as is proved in On the Soul 3, is not a material form, since it is not the act of some body, which is proved from the very activity whereby it knows all material forms, which could not be if it had one of them in its nature or were determined to it by the body whose act it would be, just as the seeing power would not know all colours if the pupil which is its organ had a determinate colour. Therefore the intellect does not become many because of the division of matter, and thus it remains one in all individuals of the human species, which are distinguished only by matter.

2. Moreover, it is impossible that a principle be more material than what issues from it, because the principle should be simpler. But, as all concede, there are some powers of the rational soul which are not acts of the body, nor attached to organs, and have as their root the very essence of the soul. Therefore it seems that the rational soul is not united in its very essence to body as its act, from which it seems to follow that the rational soul is not distinguished according to the division of matter.

3. Moreover, whatever is received in something is received according to the mode of the receiver and not its own mode, as is said by Dionysius in On the Divine Names 4 and the Book of Causes Proposition 20. Therefore if the intellect were individuated according to the division of body, such that it be different in different bodies, it would be necessary that the intellectual forms received in it be also individuated, from which two absurdities seem to follow. One, since no particular is understood in act, but in potency, the species of such things will not be intelligible in act, but will need to be understood through other species, and so on to infinity. Two, forms will be received in the same way by prime matter and the possible intellect, because in both cases they are received as these, and not as forms simply speaking, and so, just as prime matter does not know the forms it receives, neither it seems would the possible intellect.

4. Moreover, when things are distinct from one another there must be something diverse in the nature of both. But since the intellect is none of the things that are before understanding them, it seems that nothing differentiating can be found in it apart from the diversity of the species of things understood. Therefore the intellect of this man does not differ from another’s in essence, but through concepts alone.

5. Moreover, in all immaterial substances existing in themselves, numerical diversity amounts to diversity of species, because if they enjoy their absolute subsistent existence, they cannot be distinguished essentially by something which is outside their essence, to which they relate as bodily forms relate to matter. In the essence of the latter there is no diversity of form which brings about a diversity of species. But this is not to say that the intellects of different men are specifically different because of the diversity of their forms. Therefore since the rational soul is a substance subsisting in itself—otherwise it would not remain after the body—and is immaterial, it seems that it does not differ numerically in diverse men.


It is impossible that there be numerically one form of many individuals. But the rational soul is the form of a man; for if a man exists thanks to the substance of the sensitive or nutritive soul, there could not be found in him that whereby he is greater than the animals, which is absurd. Therefore it is impossible that there be one rational soul of all.

Moreover, it is impossible to find a difference in second existence in things which do not differ in primary existence, because the diversity and contrariety of secondary perfection is incompatible with a unity of first perfection, since then contraries would be in the same Subject. But we find ultimate perfection following on second existence to be diverse and contrary in diverse men, some of whom are stupid and others wise, some vicious and others virtuous. Therefore it is necessary that first perfection, namely soul, with respect to primary existence, varies in diverse individuals.

Moreover, the soul is the form and mover of body. But ip the heavenly bodies, so philosophers say, different movers are assigned to different bodies. Therefore it seems far more to be the case that in diverse men there should be diverse souls.


I answer that it should be said that there are several opinions of the philosophers concerning the unity and diversity of the rational soul, even setting aside those who hold that the intellect is one in the whole of intellectual nature, or who say that intellect is identical with the divine essence. In order to understand the diversity, we must note that three kinds of intellect are distinguished by the philosophers, namely, possible intellect, agent intellect and habitual intellect. The possible intellect is said to be that which is in potency to receive all understood forms, as the eye is in potency to receive all colours; the agent intellect is that which makes what is intelligible in potency to be actually understood, much as light makes colours which are potentially visible to be visible in act; they speak of habitual or formal intellect when the possible intellect is already perfected by an intelligible species such that it can operate: for no passive power has operation unless it is perfected by the species of its object, just as sight does not see before it receives the species of colour.

That being said, it should be known that in this practically all philosophers agree with Aristotle in On the Soul 3 that the agent and possible intellect differ in substance, and that the agent intellect is a kind of separate substance and the last among separate intelligences, and is related to the possible intellect with which we understand much as the higher intelligences are to the souls of the spheres. But this cannot be sustained according to the faith. For if, as Anselm proves in Why God Became Man 1.5, God did not choose to effect the reparation of man through an angel, lest the equality of man and angel in glory be taken away by the fact that the angel was the cause of man’s salvation; similarly, if our soul were held to depend in its natural operation on some intelligence or angel, it could not reasonably be maintained that the soul is equal to the angel in future glory, because the ultimate perfection of any substance lies in the completion of its operation, and thus the foregoing philosophers held that man’s happiness consisted of being united with an agent intelligence. Some Catholic teachers, correcting this view but partly accepting it, held that it is sufficiently probable that God himself is the agent intellect, since by union with him our soul is made happy, and this is confirmed by John 1:9: ‘He was the true light which illumined every man coming into this world.’

There was also great diversity among the philosophers who followed Aristotle on the nature of possible intellect. For some said that the possible intellect is different in different men; others said it was one and the same in all. Among those who held the former, however, there are three opinions. For some held that the possible intellect is nothing other than the preparation in human nature to receive the impression of the agent intellect, and this is a bodily power following on the complexion of human nature, and this was the opinion of Alexander. But this cannot be maintained even according to the intention of Aristotle in On the Soul 3 who says that the possible intellect is receptive of intelligible species. A preparation is not receptive but preparative, and what is prepared by this preparation is the body or a power in the body, so that which receives intelligible forms would have to be a body or a power of body, which the Philosopher rejects. Moreover, it would follow that the possible intellect is not a knowing power. For no power caused by the commingling of elements is cognitive, since then the quality of the elements would produce an effect beyond their kind, which is impossible.

So others said that the possible intellect is nothing other than the imaginative power, whose nature is such that in it are the forms which were actually understood: this is the opinion of Avempace. But this too is impossible, because according to the Philosopher in On the Soul 3, the phantasms which are in the imaginative power are to the human intellect as colours are to sight, so the phantasms must move the possible intellect as colour moves sight; hence the aptitude to understand which is in the possible intellect is similar to the aptitude that is in the potential receiver to be actually receiving. But the aptitude which is in the imaginative power is like the aptitude of the potential agent to be an actual agent, and it is impossible for the same thing to move and be moved or to be both agent and patient. Therefore, it is impossible that the imaginative power be the possible intellect. Moreover, it would also follow that the power receiving intelligibles in act would be using a bodily organ, since the imaginative power has a determinate organ.

Notice that according to these opinions, the possible intellect is generated when the body is and corrupts when the body corrupts: and since the only intellect which would be different in different men would be the possible intellect, if the agent intellect is one, it would follow that what remains of intellect after the death of men would be numerically one, namely, the agent intellect. This is completely heretical, because the reward for merits after death would be taken away.

The third opinion is that of Avicenna in On the Soul 7, who holds that the possible intellect is numerically different in different men, rooted in the essence of the rational Soul, and is not a bodily power that would begin and end with the body. Hence, with respect to possible intellect, his opinion is in accord with the Catholic faith, although he errs along with the others on agent intellect, as has been said.

There are two views held by those who maintain that the possible intellect is one for all. One is that of Themistius and Theophrastus, as the Commentator relates in commenting on On the Soul 3. For they say that the habitual intellect—the third sense—is one in all and eternal and is composed as it were of the agent and possible intellects, in such a way that the agent intellect is as its form, and through the connection of the possible intellect the agent intellect too connects with us, such that the agent intellect is the substance of speculative intellect, which is also called habitual intellect, through which we understand. As a sign of this, they mention that the action of the intellect which is in our power pertains to habitual intellect. Since then it lies within our power to abstract species from phantasms, it is necessary that the agent intellect be the habitual intellect as its form. And on behalf of this position they take what they wish to understand as Aristotle’s demonstration, namely that the possible intellect is one in all: because it is not a this something [ hoc aliquid ] nor a power of body, and consequently is eternal. And they also say that the agent intellect is similarly eternal, and that it is impossible for the effect to be generable and corruptible if the agent and recipient are eternal. Hence they maintained that the species understood are eternal, and therefore it is not the case that the intellect sometimes understands and sometimes does not. Through this they concluded that new intelligible species that previously were not come to be, but by the conjunction of the agent intellect with the possible, they are continued in us through its agency.

But this is disproved by the Commentator, because it would follow that the forms of natural things which are understood exist eternally without matter outside the soul, with the result that such species would not be in the possible intellect as its form, because they give the agent intellect as the form of the possible intellect. It would also follow, since man’s ultimate perfection lies in knowledge had habitually, and primarily in possible intellect, that a man would not differ from another man either according to ultimate perfection or according to first, and thus there would be one existence and one operation of all men, which is impossible.

Therefore the Commentator took another path, holding that both possible and agent intellect are eternal and numerically one in all men, but intelligible species are not eternal; and he held that the agent intellect does not relate to the possible intellect as its form, but as the artisan to matter, and that the species abstracted from phantasms are the forms of the possible intellect, from both of which the intellect comes into possession of knowledge [ in habitu ].

This position was devised to avoid all the impossibilities which befell Themistius. For first he shows that if the agent intellect is eternal, and the receiver, namely the possible intellect, is eternal, it is not necessary that the forms, that is, the intelligible species, be eternal. For just as the visible species has a dual subject, one in which it has a spiritual existence, namely sight, and another in which it has a material existence, namely the coloured body, so too the intelligible species has a dual subject: one in which it enjoys a material existence, namely those phantasms which are in the imagination, and in this regard the species are not eternal; another in which it enjoys an immaterial existence, namely the possible intellect, and with respect to this subject they are not generable and corruptible.

But this response seems to come to nothing. For just as it is not numerically the same colour that is in thi wall and in the eye, so it is not numerically the same species which is in the imagination and in the possible intellect. So it still remains that the species which is in the possible intellect has only one subject and that which is in the imagination and is generable and corruptible is numerically different. Unless perhaps it be said that they are simply eternal, but not with respect to him in whom there are no eternal phantasms, but their similitudes are in the possible intellect. But since no phantasms are eternal, it would still follow that the species which are eternally in the possible intellect were not abstracted from any phantasms: and this is contrary to the words and the intention of the Philosopher.

Secondly he strove to show that it does not follow from this position that there is one operation of all men according to which all are equally acting. For he says that the species understood relate to the possible intellect as form does to matter, in such a way that from them there is brought about one complete thing, whose connection with us is through that which is formal in the said connection, namely the understood species, one of whose subjects is said to be the phantasm which is in us and related to possible intellect. Hence since there are diverse phantasms in diverse men, the possible intellect is connected with diverse men by diverse connections, and thus men are diverse in existence, for one knows what another ignores, because there is an understood species according to which it is linked with the one and not with the other, although there are some understood intentions, such as the first conceptions of intellect of which the possible intellect is never denuded and according to which it is linked with all men, existing from eternity, as he says. Hence he concludes that as for intellect in us, in a way it is corruptible, and in a way it is not, since corruption occurs on the side of that whence phantasms are multiplied, but on the side of the possible intellect there is incorruptibility. Hence it also follows that after the corruption of the body no diversity of souls remains.

That this argument is frivolous can be shown in many ways. First, because, as has been said, the species which is the form of the possible intellect is not numerically the same in the phantasm and in the subject but is its similitude; whence it follows that intellect is in no way conjoined to us, and thus we do not understand thanks to it. Second, because the conjunction of intellect with the understood species comes about through the operation of intellect pertaining to its second perfection, it is impossible that by means of such a conjunction a man receive his first perfection and substantial existence. And thus, since from such a conjunction is one having intellect, as they say, man would not be located in a determinate species through this that he has intellect. The means, namely the understood species, is conjoined with both of the extremes, namely the imaginative power and possible intellect, as an accident to a subject, which is contrary to the Philosopher in Metaphysics 8, where he says that the soul is not united with the body by any mediator, not even the mediation of knowledge, as Licophron had suggested and into whose position this position seems to reduce.

Third, because operation does not arise from the object but from the power: it is not the visible that sees but sight. If therefore the intellect is not conjoined with us except insofar as the understood species in some way has a subject in us, it would follow that this man, namely Socrates, does not understand, but that the separated intellect understands what he imagines—and many other absurdities not difficult to come up with.

Therefore, setting aside the foregoing errors, I say with Avicenna, On the Suul 5.7, that the possible intellect indeed begins to exist with the body, but it does not cease with the body, and it is diverse in diverse men, and is multiplied according to the division of matter in diverse individuals, just like other substantial forms; I further add that the agent intellect is diverse in diverse men, for it does not seem probable that the rational soul lacks the principle whereby it can bring about its natural operation, but that is what would follow if one agent intellect is posited, whether it is called God or an intelligence. Nor do I say that these two, namely the agent intellect and possible intellect, are one power diversely named according to diverse operations, because whenever operations are reduced to contrary principles, it is impossible to reduce them to the same power, which is why memory is distinguished from the sense, because the receiving of the species of sensible things, which pertains to sense, and the retention which pertains to memory, are reduced to contrary principles even in bodies, namely the wet and the dry. Since then to receive the understood species, which is the task of possible intellect, and to make them actually intelligible, which is the task of agent intellect, cannot agree in the same respect, but to receive belongs to something insofar as it is in potency, and to make belongs to something insofar as it is in act—thus it is impossible for the agent and possible intellects not to be diverse powers. How they can be rooted in one substance is difficult to see, however, since it does not seem that one substance can be in potency with respect to all intelligible forms, as possible intellect is, and to be in act with respect to them all, as agent intellect is, since otherwise it could not make all forms intelligible, for nothing acts save insofar as it is in act.

However, it should be understood that it is not absurd that there be two things such that each is in potency with respect to the other though not in the same sense; as fire is potentially cold, which water actually is, and water is potentially warm which fire actually is. So it is that they act and are acted upon by one another. I say that sensible things relate similarly to the intellective soul: for the sensible thing is potentially intelligible and actually has a distinct nature; in the soul there is the actual intellectual light; but the determinant of knowledge with respect to this or that nature is in potency; just as the pupil is in potency with respect to this or that colour. The soul has a power, namely agent intellect, through which it makes sensible species to be actually intelligible, and it has a power through which it is in potency such that it can be brought into the act of determinate knowledge by the species of the intelligible thing made intelligible in act; and this power is called the possible intellect. All our understanding follows from the operation of these two powers, both of principles and of conclusions. Thus what some say seems false, namely, that the agent intellect is the habit of principles.

Ad 1. It should be said that it is not denied that intellect is a material form, since it gives existence to matter as a substantial form, with respect to its first being. Therefore on the division of matter, which causes diverse individuals, the multiplication of intellects also follows, that is of intellective souls. But it is called immaterial with respect to its second act, which is operation; because understanding is not brought about by the mediation of any bodily organ, and, this happens because no operation proceeds from the essence of the soul except by way of some power or potency. Since it has some powers which are not the acts of any organs of the body, it is necessary that some operations of the soul do not take place by means of the body.

Ad 2. It should be said that whenever one of two joined things is more powerful than the other and draws the other to itself, it has some power other than that of subjecting the other to itself, as is clear in the flame; because fire, mastering the vapour with which it is brought in contact, has the power of illumining, over and beyond the action of igniting the vapour by warming. Since then in the conjunction of form and matter the form is found to be dominant, insofar as the form is more noble and dominates matter the more, to that degree it can have a power beyond the condition of the matter. Hence some mixed bodies, over and above the powers of their active and passive qualities, which derive from their matter, have other powers which follow on their species, as the magnet which attracts iron. This is found even more in plants, as is evident in the growth which is terminated through the power of the soul, which cannot be by the power of fire, as is said in On the Soul 2; and this is found even more so in animals, because to sense is entirely beyond the power of the qualities of the elements but most perfectly in the rational soul, which is the most noble of forms, which is why it has some powers in which the body in no way shares, and some in which it does share.

Ad 3. It should be said that according to Avicenna in that place the understood species can be considered in two ways: either according to the existence it has in intellect, and thus it enjoys a singular existence, or as the similitude of an understood thing, by which it leads us to knowledge of it. In the latter way, it has universality, because it is not the likeness of this thing as this, but according to the nature in which it is specifically like other things. It is not necessary that every singular be only potentially intelligible, as is clear from the separated substances, but those which are individuated by matter, as bodily forms are. But these species or concepts are individuated by the individuation of intellects, hence they do not lose their being intelligible in act. just as I understand myself to understand, although my understanding is a singular operation. It is also self-evident that the second absurdity does not follow, because the mode of individuation through intellect is different from that through prime matter.

Ad 4. It should be said that the Commentator also says in commenting on On the Soul 3 that what is receptive of these things need not be deprived of any determinate nature, but that it is denuded of the nature of the things received, as the pupil is of the nature of colours; therefore the possible intellect must have a determinate nature. But before understanding, which is through the reception of species, it does not have in its nature anything of what it receives from sensible things; and that is what is meant by saying that it is none of those things which are... etc.

Ad 5. It should be said that although the soul does not have matter as a part of itself as something from which it is, it has matter insofar as it is its perfection, and by the division of which it too is numerically though not specifically multiplied. It is otherwise in those immaterial substances Which do not have any matter of which they are the form, because in them there can be no material multiplication, but only formal, which brings about diversity of species.