Volume 92, Issue 4, Fall 2018
The Principles of Distinction in Material Substances in the Philosophy of St. Thomas and St. Albert
In this paper we argue that the problem of the one and the many, as first proposed in the West by Parmenides, can be resolved without recourse to either monism or nominalism by an appeal to distinct though mutually ordered principles of distinction in the realm of material substances, namely that of material individuation, distinction according to form, and supposital distinction. This solution, rooted in St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Albert the Great, maintains that what distinguishes one material substance from any other substance absolutely is the agency of the Divine Intellect. This agency elicits in the created material substance the actuality of the relation of creation, which is the cause or principle that, in inhering in the ens creatum as a property subsisting in it, sustains the material substance in its mode of being as suppositum by formally perfecting its distinction with reference to God the Creator.