THE METHODOLOGICAL ROLE OF MATTER IN THE METAPHYSICS OF ST. THOMAS AQUINAS
Institut supérieur de philosophie, Université catholique de Louvain, Collège Désiré Mercier, Place cardinal Mercier, 14, B-1348 Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium.
According to Thomas Aquinas, the main task of Metaphysics is to study substance, or being in its full meaning. It is useless to deny in Thomas' thought an aspect we might call empiricist. Thomas is interested in the study of the individual object, a study characterized by a conversio ad phantasma which gives the necessary basis of the abstraction for the human spirit and the starting point of metaphysical knowledge.
We would like to start our presentation from an already old problem: what is the role of the concept of matter in the ontological constitution of the concrete, finite and individual substance? This question will lead us to another problem: how can we define the function of the concept of matter in a knowledge which is properly metaphysical? More precisely, we will be concerned with the methodological role of the concept of matter in a metaphysical knowledge which, starting from the finite, illuminates its essential limits, discovers the gap separating finite and infinite, and reveals the natural tendencies of the creature to overcome these limits, searching for the achievement it is destined to.
This last point of view will give us a basis for a confrontation with Blondel. The function of matter on the path which leads man to transcendence is foundational in the whole Blondelian work. The confrontation between Thomas and Blondel, already discussed in some very technical work on « the metaphysical structure of the concrete » (A. Forest) or on the link between matter and transcendence (F. Ulrich), will help us to study how a Christian philosopher can hold a rational discourse on religious facts (such as the incarnation or the resurrection of the body).