Habits, Potencies, and Obedience

Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 88:165-180 (2014)
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Abstract

Thomistic hylomorphism holds that human persons are composed of matter and a form that is also a subsistent entity. Some object that nothing can be both a form and a subsistent entity, and some proponents of Thomistic hylomorphism respond that our experience, as described by phenomenology, provides us with evidence that this theory is true. Some might object that that would be more easily seen to be a good way to defend Thomistic hylomorphism if the scholastics themselves had provided such evidence. I show how some scholastics do give evidence for Thomistic hylomorphism from their descriptions of our experience of forming and using habits. I consider their account of experiences of different acts of habit formation and exercise, and of experiences founded upon different kinds of potencies and obedience to reason that underlie their habits. Then I show that these experiences, when reasoned about in an effect to cause manner, provide evidence for Thomistic hylomorphism, and that the objection fails.

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Mark K. Spencer
University of St. Thomas, Minnesota

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