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American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 89, Issue 2, Spring 2015

Matthew Schaeffer
Pages 223-251

The Thick-Esse /Thin-Essence View in Thomistic Personalism

The thick-esse /thin-essence view asserts that esse—the act of existing—constitutes all of the ontological positivity, perfection, and intelligibility of a being, while essence is simply an internal limitation or mode of the esse of a being. In this paper I (i) explain why Fr. W. Norris Clarke’s Thomistic personalism relies on the thick-esse /thin-essence view; (ii) acknowledge three objections to the thick-esse /thin-essence view; (iii) reply to these objections; and (iv) provide a positive argument (or case) for the thick-esse /thin-essence view. I conclude that Clarke’s reliance on a thick-esse /thin-essence view does not militate against his Thomistic personalism; on the contrary, it militates in its favor. In order to reach this conclusion, though, I make it clear that the details of Clarke’s thick-esse /thin-essence view must be modified to fall in line with the details of William E. Carlo’s thick-esse /thin-essence view.