Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association

Volume 93, 2019

Jameson Cockerell
Pages 293-309

Divine Esse Without Ontological Significance
Jean-Luc Marion’s Challenge to Aquinas

In God Without Being, Jean-Luc Marion infamously argues that Thomas Aquinas is the progenitor of modern onto-theology and thus conceptual idolatry. Yet in 1995, Marion published an intensive study of Aquinas arguing he cannot be called an onto-theologian. Nevertheless, he reiterates a suspicion about the identification of God and Esse—in particular, how it has been understood by those following Aquinas. He ends with a challenge for Thomism as a living tradition: Divine Esse will not be onto-theological to the extent that it avoids ontological significance. We will argue that Aquinas would reject the exigency of speaking Divine Esse without ontological significance precisely because it is through it that he articulates God’s transcendence and incomprehensibility. Despite this opposition, there is a surprising and deeper complementarity to be seen: ontological significance for Aquinas carries its own veil of darkness which makes it more amenable to Marion’s demand than might be suspected.