Led by R. J. Snell
Reading: De Ente et Essentia, by Thomas Aquinas.
Aquinas’s text De Ente et Essentia is no easy read, and in fact much of it can seem slightly arcane—debates about the language of genus and species don’t make everyone’s pulse quicken with excitement. I’ll admit, the text is technical and difficult, but it also contains and explains the fundamental nature of reality and how and why reality is fecund and overflows with meaning, purpose, goodness, and beauty.
Metaphysics is often presented as dusty debates about being, substance, and free will. That’s not how I interpret metaphysics, which I take to be a story about reality and how reality hangs together and unfolds towards the emergence of the human person, human agency, dignity, and the purpose of all things.
Many in our own time don’t see the world as being good and purposive. I’m reading a Hungarian philosopher right now who argues, rightly to my mind, that you can’t actually rebel against cosmic order because it’s cosmic order, but you can refuse to accept it, and you can live in revolt against reality. He continues that if you revolt, you find yourself claiming to be the arbiter of universal meaning, but you know you do so out of step with reality itself, and thus that others can also claim to be arbiters, with the result that such revolt means that power and only power is the story of reality. So many of our contemporary disputes and spasms assume that power is the underlying story of the world and the human things.
The underlying story of reality, and a story that gives reasons to hope, is that the good seeks to communicate itself as broadly as possible. And cosmic order is good and self-diffusive.
A hard read, but one drenched in beauty.
I tend to be pessimistic about the state of the political world, but I’m never pessimistic about the state of reality; in part, because I read De ente.
Don’t worry if you don’t know philosophy or metaphysics or Aquinas. Join us anyway. Invite a friend, especially one who doesn’t see reality as good and hopeful.