Reconnoitering the role of essence in light of esse: The existential thesis of Phelan, Clarke, and Carlo

Chris Earl Curry, Marquette University

Abstract

In this dissertation, I examine a recent discussion within the Thomist tradition concerning the ontological status of essence. The two theories involved in this discussion are what I call the older Thomistic existential ontology (abbreviated as 'OTEO') and the newer Thomistic existential ontology (abbreviated as 'NTEO' and also referred to as 'esseism'). In the Introduction, I summarize the respective positions of the OTEO and NTEO on essence, including its relationship to esse. It is generally accepted in the tradition that 'essence' refers to the "whatness" of being (ens), whereas 'esse' refers to the "thatness" of being. There is a disagreement, however, on the sort of ontological status that is required of an essence in order for it to account for the "whatness" of being. The OTEO position claims that essence is a positive ontological principle. The NTEO position claims that essence is a negative ontological principle. I then elaborate on the meanings of positive and negative principles, I point out the different sorts of relationships which could obtain between essence and esse, and I identify which of the relationships are held to by the OTEO and the NTEO, respectively. In Chapter I, I show how the OTEO's and NTEO's respective doctrines of God are based on their respective descriptions of essence and esse. In Chapter II, I show how created essences can be interpreted in light of the OTEO's and NTEO's respective doctrines of God. Chapter III includes a critical discussion of the characteristics of created esse according to the OTEO and the NTEO, respectively. Chapters IV and V consist of a critical discussion of the respective positions of the OTEO and the NTEO concerning (a) the characteristics that can be predicated of created essences, and (b) the essence-esse relationship. Then I set forth a detailed evaluation of each position. Finally, I present my conclusion, in which I argue that the NTEO position on essence and esse is a viable option to the OTEO position. In an appendix, I present what I consider to be some of the linguistic implications of the NTEO position.

Recommended Citation

Chris Earl Curry, "Reconnoitering the role of essence in light of esse: The existential thesis of Phelan, Clarke, and Carlo" (January 1, 1992). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. Paper AAI9305994.
http://epublications.marquette.edu/dissertations/AAI9305994

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