Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association

Volume 94, 2020

The Good, the True, the Beautiful: Through and of the Ages

Gaston G. LeNotre
Pages 243-258

Why Is It That “Goodness is Good” but “Whiteness is Not White”?
Thomas Aquinas, Philip the Chancellor, and their Neoplatonic Sources on Reflex Predication

Neoplatonic commentators found in Aristotle’s Categories a basis for participation and self-predication (or reflex predication). Although Simplicius seems to accept a certain type of self-predication (e.g., “quality is qualified”), Pseudo-Dionysius gives arguments against self-predication among caused things, making exception only for the divine nature insofar as the predicates preexist in their Cause (e.g., “God’s Beauty is beautiful”). Theologians such as Philip the Chancellor (1165/85–1236) and Thomas Aquinas adapt the Neoplatonic view of divine transcendence while also elaborating a transcendental conception of metaphysics. These theologians in effect make ontological space for created substantial goodness. One sign of this second beginning in metaphysics is the ability to make reflex predications about creatures (e.g., “goodness is good”). Philip the Chancellor argues for this reflex predication in Summa de Bono (q. 9), and Thomas defends it at length in De veritate (q. 21, a. 4 ad 4).