The Mystery of Matter

Part IV:

Chapter 9: The Matter of Matter

Thomism as a Living Tradition
     Aristotle on Being
     St. Thomas and His Metaphysical Revolution
     William E. Carlo
     The Riddle of Prime Matter
     Matter, St. Thomas and Carlo



Parts I, II and III have yielded some interesting results. Whether we look at physics, biology or psychology, there is a movement away from a mechanistic point of view towards one of wholeness that embodies in various ways the idea of formal causality. In addition, we have seen how these wholistic perspectives have rediscovered something of the classical tradition on formal causality that stretches from Aristotle through the Middle Ages to today. And along the way we have also learned something about a Thomist philosophy of nature.

But the task we face now is particularly challenging. We need to penetrate more deeply into the notion of form, and if we succeed, we can tackle the question about the possible philosophical foundations to nonlocality, morphic resonance and synchronicity. But let it be clear from the beginning we are not trying to create a physical, biological or psychological theory, but to interrogate a Thomist philosophy of nature about them.

Hopefully in the course of the previous chapters we have cleared away some of the obstacles that could prevent us from probing the classical tradition on form. Perhaps now it is not unthinkable that there could be a Thomist philosophy of nature whose view of form is worth exploring. But the real difficulty in this exploration doesn't reside there, or even in the poor pedagogy that has succeeded in pushing the Thomist philosophy of nature into oblivion, or even in the host of misunderstandings that surround the notion of a philosophy of nature when viewed from the mentalities of modern science and philosophy. It goes deeper than that. Formal causality cannot be deeply understood unless it is seen in relationship to matter on one hand and existence on the other, and both matter and existence are extremely difficult topics.

Thomism as a Living Tradition

Before we begin, a short digression is in order. We have had some hard words to say about the Aristotelian-Thomist philosophy of nature. For long periods it gave way to unreflective repetition; it buried itself under poor pedagogy. Nonetheless, it is part of a living tradition of philosophical wisdom. This certainly doesn't mean that all Thomists are wise or, as I just mentioned, the tradition hasn't been passed down on many occasions in a dead and mechanical fashion, or even that its individual members are historical experts on Aristotle or St. Thomas.

It is a living tradition because its fundamental principles, or insights, conform well enough with reality that they can be increasingly clarified and applied to new challenges. Thomism, then, can continue to grow if it has the imagination and energy to apply itself. It is a living tradition in the sense that its history, however rich and important, does not rule it. It is a philosophy, not a history of ideas. We only need to find some point of entry, whether it be through St. Thomas, or someone like Maritain, to be in contact not just with words about it, but an intelligible universe of philosophical wisdom.

With these qualifications, it is inspiring to contemplate a philosophical tradition that stretches over 2,300 years, especially when we live in a climate of almost frantic change in which 30 years can easily cover a philosopher's popularity. It would be a mistake, then, to think that Thomism has seen its day and will slowly fade from the scene. It has immense reservoirs of vitality, and has shown itself in the past capable of prodigious displays of energy, and hopefully when it rediscovers itself, the whole question of a philosophy of nature will receive the attention it deserves.

Back to our task. We need to understand the nature of form in relationship to matter and existence, and the structure of our argument will run like this. Aristotle had a particular view of being, and this view vitally effected his idea of matter. St. Thomas transformed Aristotle's understanding of being, and in doing so, he transformed his view of matter, as well. But Thomas kept a great deal of Aristotle's language and perspective on matter and didn't focus on the implications that his new view of being would have for it, and the Thomist school, for the most part, neglected to develop a distinctively Thomist view of matter.

Aristotle on Being

For Aristotle, being first and foremost meant substance, or essence, or form, and for our purpose we can consider these terms roughly equivalent. Aristotle wrote, for example, in his Metaphysics that being means "what a thing is..." (1) And though being has many senses, its most fundamental one is as a "what, which means the substance of a thing." (2) "The thing seems really to exist because of something definite that underlies it, which is substance..." (3) Therefore, "what is being is actually the question what is substance." (4) Substance also means essence. "Your essence is what you are..." (5) Or as one modern Aristotelian scholar put it, substance "primarily means beingness, the density or fullness of being..." (6) "It primarily refers to the immanent form," (7) and "the beingness of all beings." (8)

But what about matter? Aristotle conceived the need for a material principle or cause because of his observation of radical change in which it appeared that one thing became another, for example, the bread we ate was transformed into flesh, or the tree, consumed by the flames, became ashes. His reasoning was quite straightforward. If one substance disappears, and another appears, how can we explain this transformation? Do we say that the change we are seeing is simply on the surface and things are fundamentally the same underneath? That would deny the reality of one thing truly becoming another thing. Or do we conceive it as the total destruction of one thing followed by the creation of another? That would deny that one thing becomes another. Neither of these alternatives pleased Aristotle. Somehow there was an underlying continuity, and yet there was radical substantial change. So Aristotle set out to try to understand what that principle of continuity could be. He reasoned that it could not be a formal principle because the old form had suffered corruption and disappeared, and the new form had been generated, and yet some kind of fundamental continuity remained. There must be a principle, then, between nothing and substance, and this is what Aristotle called matter. Since being meant form or substance, and it was clear that in this radical change the old form disappeared and a new one took its place, then the underlying principle of continuity, Aristotle concluded, could be "neither a particular thing, nor of a particular quantity, nor otherwise positively characterized." (9)

Aristotle, working within the limitations of his own view of being, has set up the parameters of the problem, and these parameters will influence the whole tradition to come. Being equals whatness equals form, and thus, substantial change points to a principle that has no what or form, is pure potency or prime matter. The notion of prime matter is let loose to bewitch and bedevil the Aristotelian-Thomist tradition that is to come. The Thomists will try to understand what prime matter is despite Aristotle having said that it really has no what. But back to our story.

St. Thomas and His Metaphysical Revolution

St. Thomas was an Aristotelian at a time when Aristotle in his full stature was just being discovered by the West, and being an Aristotelian was a rather daring thing to be. But that's not all he was. He took Aristotle's being and transformed it in a very Aristotelian way, but one in which Aristotle had never thought of. For Aristotle, as we have just seen, being was substance, or form, or the whatness of things. This is what was real in the full sense of the term. This was act in relationship to matter, which was potency. But Thomas, probably early in his career, had a revolutionary metaphysical insight in which he saw that form, itself, was not the ultimate principle of being, but stood in a relationship of potency to the ultimate principle of being, which was existence, or the very act to be. It is as if he had asked himself, "What makes a what to be a what?" - a question that could have had no meaning for Aristotle - and found the answer in existence.

This transformation of metaphysics is easy to state, but very difficult to grasp. It is as if we suddenly saw that the very what of things, the principle that makes something to be what it is, a stone, a tree, or a bird, is not the deepest manifestation of being, but a higher principle is to be found in the fact at once banal and mysterious that things are, they exist. Form, or essence, or the what of things, is then seen as a certain capacity to exist. If forms were to be compared to different colors, then existence would be the sunlight that contained them in a higher way. This is a completion of Aristotle that leaves the best of Aristotle in place, but encompasses it in a wider and deeper synthesis. With this insight St. Thomas went about remaking both philosophy and theology. But we certainly couldn't have expected him to apply it with equal rigor in every area. When it came to Aristotle's ideas on matter, it appears that he did not fully focus on this new perspective on matter that he had made possible. Sometimes he would simply stay within the parameters Aristotle had set up, while at others, he would relate matter to his ultimate principle of being, which was existence. The Thomist school had trouble enough keeping in sight the metaphysical revolution that Thomas had wrought in relationship to essence. Often it settled for a more or less Aristotelian view of being, and it could have hardly be said to have spent any energy working out a truly Thomistic view of matter.

The Thomistic renaissance that had started in the 19th century and had lasted until the beginning of the Second Vatican Council had had one of its finest moments when it rediscovered around World War 11 the central role that existence played in the metaphysics of St. Thomas. Men like Maritain and Gilson, de Finance and Fabro, uncovered what could be called Thomas' existential metaphysics. This remarkable feat is a concrete example of the ability of Thomism to recover itself that I mentioned before. But wouldn't it have been logical for this rediscovery of the primacy of the act of existence to be applied to the question of matter? This, in fact, is what happened, but it happened in such a way that it went virtually unnoticed.

William E. Carlo

William Carlo was one of the most incisive and daring metaphysicians that American Thomism ever produced. He taught at St. John's University, Boston College, and the University of Ottawa, and he was fascinated with the relationship between essence and existence. Thomists, themselves, disagreed about how to characterize this relationship, and their disagreement hinged on whether essence, itself, should be accorded any positive reality. Carlo pursued this issue with vigor, first in 1957 in a short commentary on a presentation by Gerald Phelan on "The Being of Creatures," then in a 1964 article that appeared in the International Philosophical Quarterly called, "The Role of Essence in Existential Metaphysics: A Reappraisal," and finally in 1966 in a book titled, The Ultimate Reducibility of Essence to Existence in Existential Metaphysics. As the title suggests, Carlo's program was a radical denial of any separate or positive reality to essence, and in his mind it was the logical and ultimate conclusion to St. Thomas' insight of the primacy of the act of existence.

For Carlo, essences "are intrinsic modifications" of esse or the act of existence. "Forms are coexistents rather than beings. They are concreated rather than created. Essence is the intrinsic modification of the dynamism of actual exercise of the act of being. Why not describe essence then as the place where esse stops, bordered by nothingness?" (10) And Carlo tries to provoke our imaginations so that we can leave behind us our instinctive tendency to turn essences into separate beings. "Let us consider existence as if it were a liquid poured from this same pitcher simultaneously with a sudden drop in temperature. Under freezing conditions it becomes a solid before it strikes the ground. The liquid existence is possessed of its dimensions, its own limitations. The shape it assumes is the determination of its own substance. Essence is not something extrinsic to existence which limits and determines it in the way that a pitcher shapes its recipient liquid, but essence is rather the place where existence stops. There is nothing in water which is not water. There is nothing in an existent which is not existence. Essence is the intrinsic limitation of esse, the crystallization of existence, bordered by nothingness." (11)

When Carlo looks at the passages on essence and existence in St. Thomas, he finds some that support this radical view, and others that seem to speak of essence having some kind of positive reality of its own, and he will explain this divergence by the hypothesis that Thomas only gradually applied his revolutionary insight of the primacy of existence over essence. Carlo feels that the revolution should be brought to its final conclusion: "Let us imagine, then, existence as a stream rushing down the mountain side. Again, for our purposes it is frozen by a sudden drop in temperature. An axe at this point can help us explain what we mean by essence as the intrinsic limitation of existence. If we cut the stream into several pieces or blocks they will differ only by the pattern left by the blade of the axe. There is nothing in the blocks but frozen water or ice. But one is distinguishable from another by the place where they stop, the myriad grooves and raised surfaces left by the blade of the axe. This is what we mean when we say that essence is the intrinsic limitation of existence. It is not that which limits esse, it is the limitation of esse; it is not that which receives, determines and specifies esse, it is the specification itself of existence." (12)

Carlo's radical interpretation didn't go unchallenged. It was questioned whether his interpretation of Aquinas was correct, and more importantly, whether he had reduced essence to the vanishing point. (13) He replied, "Essence is not a positive being apart from the existence of which it is the limitation, but it is definitely a positive principle of philosophy when understood as the intrinsic limitation of esse. Its function can be designated by affirmative terms, contraction, refraction, channeling of perfection, specification, determination." (14) 1 confess that I find Carlo's fundamental insight very appealing. Ultimately everything must be seen in the light of existence, and if the reduction of essence to existence at first appears negative, it becomes eminently positive if it gives us a better sense of the richness of existence itself.

Once Carlo had completed St. Thomas' program by reducing essence to existence, he was in a position to carry out a fascinating metaphysical experiment. Why not take the Aristotelian-Thomist view of matter and see if that could be reduced to existence, as well? Before we look at Carlo's solution, it is worthwhile getting a better sense of the problem by looking at how prime matter has been presented by various notable Thomist philosophers of nature in the 20th century.

The Riddle of Prime Matter

St. Thomas and the Thomists after him have always insisted that prime matter can never be found existing on its own, but rather, in composition with form in actually existing material things. (15) But when we read various descriptions of prime matter, scattered the length of the 20th century, it has an uncanny tendency to take on a life of its own.

Henry Koren will write, for example: "Prime matter is the substratum which remains throughout all successive changes and serves as their common bond. It itself is not subject to substantial changes, i.e., generation or corruption, for it is not a substance but only a substantial principle. It is the composite of prime matter and form that can change substantially.

"Despite its own incorruptibility, prime matter is the principle of corruption in material beings. The reason ties in the potential character of prime matter. Being in potency to any substantial form that can come to actuate it, matter is never actuated to the fullness of its capacity." (16)

Leo Elders will put it this way: "Matter is an entirely indeterminate substrate. Under the influence of the required efficient causality it can become the various material substances. Hence St. Thomas describes matter as that which, considered for what it is, can take on a form. However, the form is not added to it from the outside. If it were, there would be no real becoming nor would the new being be a strict unity. For this reason the form can only come from matter. Apparently it is present in it; all forms which matter can take on must be present in matter, but this is not a presence as the effect is present in its active principle. The form is only present as a possibility, which coincides confusedly with all other possibilities which lie in matter." (17)

D. Nys states: "We can define prime matter as "the permanent substratum of substantial forms," only if we mentally strip the notion not only of all the essential forms which actually determine it in the world of existences, but also of the special aptitudes or exigencies which it holds from the body in which it is realized. Thus, the prime matter of hydrogen and oxygen exhibits a special kind of receptivity in regard to the specific form of water, because these two simple bodies possess a mutual affinity and a common inclination to be changed into water. Such an aptitude is not essential to prime matter conceived as the universal substratum of substantial forms. Subjected to these adventitious and passing relations, prime matter is usually termed materia prima transiens, to distinguish it from matter totally indetermined or materia permanens, whose intimate being passes from one body into another without undergoing the slightest transformation or change." (18)

Finally, Peter Hoenen asserts: "Prime matter is potential being without qualification, and it must be further determined to unqualified or substantial or first existence. Therefore, prime matter is not something possessing potency, but it is the very potency itself for unqualified existence... This seems to be the best interpretation of Aristotle's famous negative description of it: N call matter that which in itself is not a quiddity, nor a quantified thing, nor any of those things by which being is determined"... Prime Matter Is Ingenerate and Incorruptible. Because matter, in contrast to privation and to form, remains in all changes, therefore, it is ingenerate and incorruptible although it is the cause of the generation and corruption of bodies which are composed of it. In addition, therefore, the number of possible generations and corruptions is indefinite, with new matter never being supplied and old matter never disappearing." (19)

It is enough to read these passages to see why Thomists, while accepting the notion of prime matter, have always been bemused by it. Prime matter is somehow incorruptible, yet the principle of corruption; forms are somehow present in matter, but only as possibilities; the intimate being of prime matter passes from one thing to another without undergoing any change; prime matter is the very potency itself for unqualified existence, and so forth. We begin to see what Carlo was up against. On the one hand, prime matter had a venerable history, and seemed to be rooted in a careful rational analysis of substantial change. Yet, on the other hand, it just doesn't come into focus. But if we dare to change the notion of prime matter, aren't we altering one of the foundations of a Thomist philosophy of nature, and sending out a shock wave that will dislocate other parts of the edifice?

Let's try to focus more clearly on the traditional position by looking at an article by Norbert Luyten called, "Matter As Potency." Luyten was a Dominican philosopher of nature, and one of its more enlightened defenders, and his article appeared as part of a conference on matter held at the University of Notre Dame published in 1963. (20)

Luyten first sums up two basic trends in Greek natural philosophy before the time of Aristotle. In one, matter takes on the meaning of potency. The word matter originally meant wood found in the forest, and then became wood in the sense of the material out of which things were made, and finally, by a further permutation, it took on the meaning of that out of which something is made, and thus, matter as potency. But the early Greeks also questioned themselves about the nature of the things they observed around them, and about change, itself. Was there some primordial stuff or matter out of which everything was made, whether it be water, or fire, or whatever? In this way matter became connected with the idea of nature, or form.

Aristotle combined these ideas. His analysis of substantial change led him to conclude that material things were made up of both form, and matter in the sense of pure potency, and it is this latter idea that Luyten is going to defend.

Matter is "potentiality in the line of substance"; it is "pure potency," "mere determinability" and even "pure indetermination." (21) But can there be any sense to pure indetermination? Isn't determinability always intimately connected with determination?

Luyten will insist, like all Thomists, that pure indetermination cannot exist on its own, but must always be seen in connection with determination. It is the "constitutive or fundamental inadequacy of substantial determination. Expressed in a more concrete way: a material reality is what it is in such a way that it bears in itself the possibility of simply not being what it is." (22) Determination itself implies inadequacy, and while this inadequacy is intrinsically linked to it, it is still real, and Luyten concludes: "There is no absurdity in admitting a real pure indetermination, provided one does not posit it as a reality existing in itself, but rather as a constitutive deficiency of the given material thing." This fundamental kind of deficiency is "a sort of hallmark of the thing's former - and future - non-being." (23)

But he realizes that for many people this kind of deficiency or view of prime matter appears much more as an abstract logical concept than a real principle. Luyten denies that this is so. "The ontological reason why a thing is what it is, cannot be really identical with the reason why it is not what it is. It does not make sense to derive the "being determined" of a thing, as well as its "being undetermined" (and thus determinable) from the same ontological source." (24)

But Luyten carries his imaginary argument further. Can't it be objected that this reasoning would only hold if we looked at determination and indetermination under the same aspect? Can't a thing determined in one way be able to be determined in another? Luyten counters, "it would be absurd to say that its own determination, that which makes the thing what it is, is at the same time the reason why it ceases to be what it is. So we see that the possibility of becoming something else (i.e., determinability or potency) implies an indetermination with regard to a thing's own "suchness" or determination. It implies, indeed, the possibility of its own non-existence; thus the thing bears within itself an indetermination relative to its own existence and relative, therefore, to its own "being determined." What is more, this indetermination is so radical that it contradicts the very fundamental, constitutive (substantial) determination of the thing." (25)

It is important to note here that Luyten is staying within the parameters of the question as Aristotle established them. What makes the thing to be what it is cannot be the reason why it ceases to be what it is. This is the very kind of reasoning that led Aristotle to posit a material principle that had no what connected with it, or was pure potency. In short, a what is a what and can't be its own reason for ceasing to be what it is. And in Aristotle' framework, if you are not a what, you are somehow non-being, or pure potency.

Ernan McMullin, a noted philosopher of nature from the University of Notre Dame, responded to Luyten's paper. He asked whether a principle could be an act in one regard, and in potency in another, and in a second question, whether Luyten was implying that any given object can in principle become any other object? To the first question Luyten responded that it is of the very nature of being a substantial form "to be substantial, i.e., fundamental, i.e., first constitutive determination." (26) The substantial form makes the thing to be what it is in the most fundamental and primary sense. Something can't have two substantial forms; "It is contradictory to say that a substantial form is a further determination of an already determined substance." (27)

But what of the second objection? Does everything have the possibility of becoming everything else? Luyten denies it. The oneness of the substantial form does not exclude the contribution of other forms. Prime matter becomes available for a new form through a previous form so the new material being is conditioned by the particular availability established by the previous form. But isn't this what the first objection was driving at? Luyten insists that the oneness of form is maintained because it "absorbs within itself everything contributed by the preceding form... The doctrine of the oneness of the form is the technical expression of this ontological severing of beings which follow each other." (28) But at the same time, "a material being is not only a thing which could be something else, it is also something which was something else... This is to say that the pure potentiality of primary matter enters the constitution of a material being only as conditioned by the previous form. This conditioning does not cease purely and simply by the advent of the new form. Of course, formally speaking, every determination within the new being is ontologically reassumed under the new form." (29)

Luyten concludes: "What we maintain is, that in every concrete material reality there is, besides its substantial determination, a real intrinsic reason opposing this very same substantial determination, so that this opposition may result - and actually results - in a simpliciter non-being of the given substance. And it is this absolutely fundamental possibility of non-being that we call the absolute, radical, fundamental, pure potency in every concrete material reality." (30)

We are not going to get a clearer presentation of the classical position than this, but as long as we remain within the Aristotelian framework, we are at a dead-end. We are not going to gain a better understanding of what prime matter is because it has no what, and so can't be placed on Aristotle's map of being.

When Carlo read Luyten's article, his reflections on the reduction of essence to existence and the primary role that existence played in the metaphysics of St. Thomas, allowed him to see how to escape from this dilemma. "Fr. Luyten, by suggesting a deficiency of substantial determination locates matter in form, but St. Thomas says precisely and specifically that matter is not form nor is it the lack of form, that is to say, privation. It is only if we locate the inadequacy within being, and more accurately esse that we can have an explanation of matter on the correct metaphysical level." (31) The key, of course, is to relate the notion of matter to existence, but this is easier said than done because it means seeing St. Thomas' doctrine on matter with a new clarity, a clarity that Thomas, himself, had not insisted upon.

Matter, St. Thomas and Carlo

Sometimes for St. Thomas matter is described as non-being. It has neither existence, nor is it knowable. At other times, however, he describes matter as having a kind of weak existence, an incomplete existence, indeed, the most incomplete being of all. (32)

He will say, "matter... is not created without form." (33) "Prime matter does not exist by itself in nature, since it is not being in act, but in potency only; hence it is something concreated rather than created..." (34) And so prime matter was created "under distinct form." (35) But other times Thomas will say, "matter, indeed, is made finite by form, because matter before it receives its form, is in potency to many forms, but on receiving a form, it is terminated by that one." (36) And "form is not made perfect by matter, but rather its fullness is contracted by matter." (37) "...insofar as it (matter) is a certain being in potency, it is ungenerated and incorruptible." (38) Thomas describes prime matter as indifferent to all forms and thus, in a certain way, infinite and made finite through form. It is not generated but created. It is entirely unformed and is therefore a kind of abyss, and it is at a maximum distance from the creative power of God, and can in no way act, itself, and these kinds of statements give the impression that matter has some kind of life of its own outside of form.

The solution to these apparent contradictions can be found in St. Thomas relating matter to existence. "Matter is essentially being in potency." (39) It is "that which is in potency to substantial existence." (40) "...potency to substantial existence is not something outside the genus of substance. Therefore the potency of matter is not some property added to its essence, rather matter is substantially a potency to substantial existence." (41) "Matter is nearly a thing, and is in some way because it is in potency to be a thing and is in a way the substance of a thing because it enters into the constitution of the substance." (42)

Carlo wants to reduce all these different points of view to a single-pointed vision of matter:

"In a metaphysics of essence such as that of Aristotle, a subject which is neither a substance nor a form cannot be located within being. It has no ontological status. This is why some look on Aristotle's argument as a vicious circle. In an essentialistic metaphysics in which to be is to be an essence, matter without qualification or character is precisely a monster. But in a metaphysics of esse there is a reality below and beneath essence which is not of itself determined or limited but is still the very foundation of the real and the source of essence and all that lies within it. Within esse precisely we find a reality which is both transcendent and inclusive because it embraces all the determinants of the categories since it is perfection as unlimited. Esse thus provides an ontological status for matter outside of form but still within being as the phenomenon of the "elasticity of esse"." (43)

"To explain matter and to locate it ontologically is to see it metaphysically as a "deficient esse," a debile esse, a weakness at the heart of being but one for which there is a remedy just as there is for the limited nature of the human intellect. Motion and change are the attainment of perfection of further esse, and thus represent the achievement of higher or lower, superior or inferior essences. Essence is determined by "existential quanta," not higher as best absolutely, for even the lower may articulate more perfectly in the return of the total universe of being to Ipsum Esse Subsistens." (44)

"...just as essence and existence are not reciprocal causes but essence is reducible to existence, so matter is the limitation of form, the place where form stops, in what is basically an immaterial universe." (45)

"Matter in its ultimate signification revolves around a "lack of being." Since the material being is not being itself but only by participation, it lacks some being and so has matter.

"If matter is neither form, nor privation, nor evil, but is still in some basic way reducible to esse then perhaps it is esse as limited, as, to put it crudely, existential quanta approaching but not completely, one of the Primal Modes or Stages of esse as unfolding, i.e. essence." (46)

"It (matter) is in a way rooted in something positive. Because the being lacks esse, it can gain esse. This is what is meant by matter, ens in potentia, a deficient esse, a debile esse but one which has a remedy for its imperfection. Essence is the primary limitation, a mode of esse, essence as imperfect esse. Matter signifies a secondary limitation, this imperfect being as deficient when a point is reached in the descent of creatures from God at which the esse does not correspond to, is more or less than, one of the Primal Stages of being expressed by the doctrine of the Divine Ideas." (47)

"Essences are the primal stages of esse, and make things to be the kind of things they are. But within this primal stage there is a secondary stage which enables a thing to be more or less what it is, to increase in being without becoming other than what it is." (48)

Admittedly, none of this is easy to follow. It is strange even to Thomist ears, and we will have to decipher what Carlo is saying. But I believe that we are in the presence of a breakthrough in Thomist thought that can lead us to a deeper metaphysical knowledge of matter which, in turn, could revitalize a Thomist philosophy of nature and its dialogue with modern science.

Unfortunately, following this path that Carlo opened up is not going to be easy. Carlo, himself, is not there to help us. He died prematurely around the age of 50 not long after his book on essence and existence appeared. Ironically, just as Thomism was finally in a position to apply its renewed appreciation of a central role of existence in a metaphysics of St. Thomas to the question of matter, it went into eclipse, and Carlo's work went virtually unnoticed. But luckily there was one person who saw what Carlo was driving at. This was one of America's keenest metaphysicians, W. Norris Clarke, S.J.




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