Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Q54 A4: Whether there is an active and a passive intellect in an angel?

No. There cannot be an active and a passive intellect in angels except equivocally because they are neither sometimes understanding only in potentiality, with regard to such things as they naturally apprehend; nor, again, are they intelligible in potentiality, but they are actually such; for they first and principally understand immaterial things, as will appear later (Q84, A7; Q85, A1).

The distinction of active and passive intellect in us is in relation to the phantasms, which are compared to the passive intellect as colors to the sight; but to the active intellect as colors to the light, as is clear from De Anima iii, text. 18. But this is not so in the angel. Therefore there is no active and passive intellect in the angel.

The necessity for admitting a passive intellect in us is derived from the fact that we understand sometimes only in potentiality, and not actually. Hence there must exist some power, which, previous to the act of understanding, is in potentiality to intelligible things, but which becomes actuated in their regard when it apprehends them, and still more when it reflects upon them. This is the power which is denominated the passive intellect.

The necessity for admitting an active intellect is due to this--that the natures of the material things which we understand do not exist outside the soul, as immaterial and actually intelligible, but are only intelligible in potentiality so long as they are outside the soul. Consequently it is necessary that there should be some power capable of rendering such natures actually intelligible: and this power in us is called the active intellect.

But each of these necessities is absent from the angels.