Volume 56, Issue 2, June 2016
On Method in Reading the De ente et essentia
In this paper I explore methodological approaches to Aquinas’s argument for a real distinction between essence and existence in creatures in De ente et essentia. Joseph Owens and John Wippel examine the text through three stages that, they conclude, result in a demonstration for the real distinction. I contrast this approach with R. E. Houser, who argues that Aquinas’s text, which proceeds dialectically, must be understood within the context of its sources, namely, Avicenna’s Metaphysics of the Healing and The Intentions of the Philosophers by al-Ghazali. First, I will offer an evaluative judgment on the disagreement between Owens and Wippel on which stage Aquinas demonstrates a real distinction. Second, I will offer an evaluative judgment on the nature of the treatise as a whole by suggesting that the methodology of source-based contextualism offers another way to read the De ente.