Form and act

16 Nov

Information is a strong word at this time in history, however the concept of form of in-form seems to be separate from the concept of matter, hylé for the Greeks.

Modern philosophy has separated form from content, as well as separating a label from the ingredient in a bottle, but this comes from the reduced understanding of what matter is, the hyle of the Greeks, whose thinking in Aristotelian terminology interconnects them in hylemorphism ( ὕλη, hýle = “matter”; μορφή, morphé = “form”) and in-formation is that.  

For this to have an anthropological reach, necessary for the discourse of cultural diversity, it is necessary to link act and potency, as Thomas Aquinas did, where matter is not what we call today (as substance, for example), but what it is as a possibility or in potentiality, written like this by Thomas: “matéria est id quod est in potentia” (matter is what is in potentiality) (THOMÁS, ST I q.3 a.2 c).

Thus the act is the actual existence, or the acting itself, that is, “forma est actus (form is act) (ST I q.50, a.2, obi.3).

Thus, the articulation of the binomials potency x act and matter x form in this way, “matter is nothing but potency, since form is what something is for, as it is the act” (TOMÁS, ScG II, c.43), these categories they give a distinction from fundamental metaphysics, and anthropologically they mean that one thing is the possibility of existing or acting: potency or matter, something else is actually existing or acting: act or form.

Some modern theologies want to separate body and soul, that is, without eschatological and biblical foundation, otherwise the human figure of Jesus would be divided into two: the divine and the human, which would be in opposition and fight against each other, and that is why the Christian anthropology must be strictly unitary, as it is in Thomas Aquinas.

The existence of a body in the human condition is the union between power and act, between matter and form (seen in this new aspect linked to content and essence), without its actual existence (form) the body would not even exist , but only the possibility of existing (potentially) makes it exist in act, this unity is radical, since the necessary condition for its existence is the body. this is fundamental to understand the Christian anthropology written clearly by Thomas: “The human being is not just soul, but something composed of soul and body” (THOMÁS, ST I q. 75 to 4c), if on the one hand all materialism (which is not hylemorphism) denies the existence of the soul, a lot of bad theology seeks to deny the existence of the body, it is the modern dualistic relationship, crystallized in objectivity and subjectivity, in which both are mutilated.

According to Thomas Aquinas, human living bodies and actual existence (form, also called by him the intellective soul) is immortal, unlike other non-human living bodies, whose existence has a beginning and an end, not an eschatological end, but the finalist end of an interruption, for all humans die, and for him death is explained as a temporary deficiency through which we pass into immortal existence and overcome the radical deficiency of the living body through death.

Put more clearly: “That the soul remains after the body, this happens because of a deficiency of the body [per defectum corporis] which is death.

THOMAS AQUINAS. Theological Summa São Paulo: Loyola, 2001-2006. 8 v.


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