Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Quaeritur: Do Angels Undergo Motion?


Quaeritur: If by motion we understand the passing from potency to act, what does the motion of the angels consist in?  It is probably not locomotion, which is circumscribed within space.  I know that in angels there is a distinction between potency and act (because otherwise they would be Pure Act, that is, God, or pure potency, prime matter, which is an ens rationis, if I’m not mistaken).  But what would the actualization of their potencies consist in?  Can an angel learn?  On the other hand, with respect to local motion, as far as I understand there seem to be testimonies in Scripture and in the writings of the saints where angels seem to be have a certain trajectory in space when they interact with corporeal beings.  How is this possible?

Respondeo: First of all, as you say, in angels there is in fact a composition of potency and act.  They are not pure act, as is God, or pure potency, as is prime matter (see St. Thomas, De ente et essentia, Ch. 4).  A separate issue is whether they can move from potency to act.

Further, motion can occur per se within three genera or categories: quality, quantity, and place.  Properly speaking, only mobile being (i.e., material being) is the subject of motion.  But motion can also be understood analogically in reference to incorporeal beings where there is a composition of potency and act.  This applies to both angels and souls. 

However, angels, being incorporeal, do not have quantiative parts, so they can only undergo motion qualitatively (as you say, if they learn), or in place, by assuming different places.  But all this is true only analogically, as compared to the way we ascribe motion to bodies.

St. Thomas, in fact, explicitly ascribes place, and hence motion, to angels, but does so ‘equivocally’:

Summa theologiae Ia, q. 56, a. 1:

Whether an angel can be moved locally?

Ad primum sic proceditur. Videtur quod Angelus non possit moveri localiter. Ut enim probat philosophus in VI Physic., nullum impartibile movetur, quia dum aliquid est in termino a quo, non movetur; nec etiam dum est in termino ad quem, sed tunc mutatum est, unde relinquitur quod omne quod movetur, dum movetur, partim est in termino a quo, et partim in termino ad quem. Sed Angelus est impartibilis. Ergo Angelus non potest moveri localiter.  Objection 1: It seems that an angel cannot be moved locally. For, as the Philosopher proves (Phys. vi, text 32,86) "nothing which is devoid of parts is moved"; because, while it is in the term "wherefrom," it is not moved; nor while it is in the term "whereto," for it is then already moved; consequently it remains that everything which is moved, while it is being moved, is partly in the term "wherefrom" and partly in the term "whereto." But an angel is without parts. Therefore an angel cannot be moved locally.
Praeterea, motus est actus imperfecti, ut dicitur in III Physic. Sed Angelus beatus non est imperfectus. Ergo Angelus beatus non movetur localiter.  Objection 2: Further, movement is "the act of an imperfect being," as the Philosopher says (Phys. iii, text 14). But a beatified angel is not imperfect. Consequently a beatified angel is not moved locally.
Praeterea, motus non est nisi propter indigentiam. Sed sanctorum Angelorum nulla est indigentia. Ergo sancti Angeli localiter non moventur.  Objection 3: Further, movement is simply because of want. But the holy angels have no want. Therefore the holy angels are not moved locally.
Sed contra, eiusdem rationis est Angelum beatum moveri, et animam beatam moveri. Sed necesse est dicere animam beatam localiter moveri, cum sit articulus fidei quod Christus secundum animam, descendit ad Inferos. Ergo Angelus beatus movetur localiter.  On the contrary, It is the same thing for a beatified angel to be moved as for a beatified soul to be moved. But it must necessarily be said that a blessed soul is moved locally, because it is an article of faith that Christ's soul descended into Hell. Therefore a beatified angel is moved locally.
Respondeo dicendum quod Angelus beatus potest moveri localiter. Sed sicut esse in loco aequivoce convenit corpori et Angelo, ita etiam et moveri secundum locum. Corpus enim est in loco, inquantum continetur sub loco, et commensuratur loco. Unde oportet quod etiam motus corporis secundum locum, commensuretur loco, et sit secundum exigentiam eius. Et inde est quod secundum continuitatem magnitudinis est continuitas motus; et secundum prius et posterius in magnitudine, est prius et posterius in motu locali corporis, ut dicitur in IV Physic. Sed Angelus non est in loco ut commensuratus et contentus, sed magis ut continens. Unde motus Angeli in loco, non oportet quod commensuretur loco, nec quod sit secundum exigentiam eius, ut habeat continuitatem ex loco; sed est motus non continuus. Quia enim Angelus non est in loco nisi secundum contactum virtutis, ut dictum est, necesse est quod motus Angeli in loco nihil aliud sit quam diversi contactus diversorum locorum successive et non simul, quia Angelus non potest simul esse in pluribus locis, ut supra dictum est. Huiusmodi autem contactus non est necessarium esse continuos. Potest tamen in huiusmodi contactibus continuitas quaedam inveniri. Quia, ut dictum est, nihil prohibet Angelo assignare locum divisibilem, per contactum suae virtutis; sicut corpori assignatur locus divisibilis, per contactum suae magnitudinis. Unde sicut corpus successive, et non simul, dimittit locum in quo prius erat, et ex hoc causatur continuitas in motu locali eius; ita etiam Angelus potest dimittere successive locum divisibilem in quo prius erat, et sic motus eius erit continuus. Et potest etiam totum locum simul dimittere, et toti alteri loco simul se applicare, et sic motus eius non erit continuus.  I answer that, A beatified angel can be moved locally. As, however, to be in a place belongs equivocally to a body and to an angel, so likewise does local movement. For a body is in a place in so far as it is contained under the place, and is commensurate with the place. Hence it is necessary for local movement of a body to be commensurate with the place, and according to its exigency. Hence it is that the continuity of movement is according to the continuity of magnitude; and according to priority and posteriority of local movement, as the Philosopher says (Phys. iv, text 99). But an angel is not in a place as commensurate and contained, but rather as containing it. Hence it is not necessary for the local movement of an angel to be commensurate with the place, nor for it to be according to the exigency of the place, so as to have continuity therefrom; but it is a non-continuous movement. For since the angel is in a place only by virtual contact, as was said above (Question [52]Article [1]), it follows necessarily that the movement of an angel in a place is nothing else than the various contacts of various places successively, and not at once; because an angel cannot be in several places at one time, as was said above (Question [52]Article [2]). Nor is it necessary for these contacts to be continuous. Nevertheless a certain kind of continuity can be found in such contacts. Because, as was said above (Question [52]Article [1]), there is nothing to hinder us from assigning a divisible place to an angel according to virtual contact; just as a divisible place is assigned to a body by contact of magnitude. Hence as a body successively, and not all at once, quits the place in which it was before, and thence arises continuity in its local movement; so likewise an angel can successively quit the divisible place in which he was before, and so his movement will be continuous. And he can all at once quit the whole place, and in the same instant apply himself to the whole of another place, and thus his movement will not be continuous.
Ad primum ergo dicendum quod illa ratio dupliciter deficit in proposito. Primo quidem, quia demonstratio Aristotelis procedit de indivisibili secundum quantitatem, cui respondet locus de necessitate indivisibilis. Quod non potest dici de Angelo.  Reply to Objection 1: This argument fails of its purpose for a twofold reason. First of all, because Aristotle's demonstration deals with what is indivisible according to quantity, to which responds a place necessarily indivisible. And this cannot be said of an angel.
Secundo, quia demonstratio Aristotelis procedit de motu continuo. Si enim motus non esset continuus, posset dici quod aliquid movetur dum est in termino a quo, et dum est in termino ad quem, quia ipsa successio diversorum ubi circa eandem rem, motus diceretur; unde in quolibet illorum ubi res esset, illa posset dici moveri. Sed continuitas motus hoc impedit, quia nullum continuum est in termino suo, ut patet, quia linea non est in puncto. Et ideo oportet quod illud quod movetur, non sit totaliter in altero terminorum, dum movetur; sed partim in uno, et partim in altero. Secundum ergo quod motus Angeli non est continuus, demonstratio Aristotelis non procedit in proposito. Sed secundum quod motus Angeli ponitur continuus, sic concedi potest quod Angelus, dum movetur, partim est in termino a quo, et partim in termino ad quem (ut tamen partialitas non referatur ad substantiam Angeli, sed ad locum), quia in principio sui motus continui, Angelus est in toto loco divisibili a quo incipit moveri; sed dum est in ipso moveri, est in parte primi loci quem deserit, et in parte secundi loci quem occupat. Et hoc quidem quod possit occupare partes duorum locorum, competit Angelo ex hoc quod potest occupare locum divisibilem per applicationem suae virtutis sicut corpus per applicationem magnitudinis. Unde sequitur de corpore mobili secundum locum, quod sit divisibile secundum magnitudinem de Angelo autem, quod virtus eius possit applicari alicui divisibili.Secondly, because Aristotle's demonstration deals with movement which is continuous. For if the movement were not continuous, it might be said that a thing is moved where it is in the term "wherefrom," and while it is in the term "whereto": because the very succession of "wheres," regarding the same thing, would be called movement: hence, in whichever of those "wheres" the thing might be, it could be said to be moved. But the continuity of movement prevents this; because nothing which is continuous is in its term, as is clear, because the line is not in the point. Therefore it is necessary for the thing moved to be not totally in either of the terms while it is being moved; but partly in the one, and partly in the other. Therefore, according as the angel's movement is not continuous, Aristotle's demonstration does not hold good. But according as the angel's movement is held to be continuous, it can be so granted, that, while an angel is in movement, he is partly in the term "wherefrom," and partly in the term "whereto" (yet so that such partiality be not referred to the angel's substance, but to the place); because at the outset of his continuous movement the angel is in the whole divisible place from which he begins to be moved; but while he is actually in movement, he is in part of the first place which he quits, and in part of the second place which he occupies. This very fact that he can occupy the parts of two places appertains to the angel from this, that he can occupy a divisible place by applying his power; as a body does by application of magnitude. Hence it follows regarding a body which is movable according to place, that it is divisible according to magnitude; but regarding an angel, that his power can be applied to something which is divisible.
Ad secundum dicendum quod motus existentis in potentia, est actus imperfecti. Sed motus qui est secundum applicationem virtutis, est existentis in actu, quia virtus rei est secundum quod actu est.  Reply to Objection 2: The movement of that which is in potentiality is the act of an imperfect agent. But the movement which is by application of energy is the act of one in act: because energy implies actuality.
Ad tertium dicendum quod motus existentis in potentia, est propter indigentiam suam, sed motus existentis in actu, non est propter indigentiam suam, sed propter indigentiam alterius. Et hoc modo Angelus, propter indigentiam nostram, localiter movetur, secundum illud Heb. I, omnes sunt administratorii spiritus, in ministerium missi propter eos qui haereditatem capiunt salutis.  Reply to Objection 3: The movement of that which is in potentiality is the act of an imperfect but the movement of what is in act is not for any need of its own, but for another's need. In this way, because of our need, the angel is moved locally, according to Heb. 1:14: "They are all [*Vulg.: 'Are they not all . . . ?'] ministering spirits, sent to minister for them who receive the inheritance of salvation."

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