Volume 54, Issue 3, September 2014
Stephen L. Brock
How Many Acts of Being Can a Substance Have?
An Aristotelian Approach to Aquinas’s Real Distinction
Focusing mainly on two passages from the Summa theologiae, the article first argues that, on Aquinas’s view, an individual substance, which is the proper subject of being, can and normally does have a certain multiplicity of acts of being (actus essendi). It is only “a certain” multiplicity because the substance has only one unqualified act of being, its substantial being, which belongs to it through its substantial form. The others are qualified acts of being, added on to the substantial being through accidental forms. Having established this thesis, the rest of the article uses it as a basis for an approach to the so-called real distinction between act of being and essence or (more precisely) between act of being and substantial form. This approach is meant to be effective even in an Aristotelian setting where there may seem to be no place for a substantial act distinct from substantial form.