A scholastic dispute: Whether I am alive

It would seem that I am alive.

Objection 1. I am writing this blog post. But activity is proper to the living. Therefore I am alive.

Objection 2. If I were dead, I would be enjoying eternal bliss. That hardly describes my current experience. Therefore I am alive.

On the contrary. The life of a rational creature is a life of reason. But I am incapable of reasoning now. Therefore it seems that I am not alive.

I answer that, “alive” is said in two ways. In one way, as regards first act, according as a thing possesses the substantial form of a self-moving thing.  In another way, as regard second act, according as a thing exercises the activities that follow on its form.

As regards first act, the very fact that my body has not decomposed into its constituent elements testifies that I continue to possess the substantial form proper to this kind of body. As regards second act, however, the facts of silence in meetings, silence in response to e-mails, and no progress on to-do lists witness to a lack of life that can be described as a “death.”

Response to objection 1. While I could not be writing this blog post if I did not exist, that is, if I had lost my substantial form, nonetheless I can write this e-mail without exercising those activities proper to life, as those who sleep-walk and are appropriately described as the “living dead.”

Response to objection 2. Entry into heaven does not follow on loss of second act, but on loss of first act. Moreover, one should not assume that loss of life will be followed by entry into heaven.

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Author: Dr. Holmes

Dr. Jeremy Holmes teaches Theology at Wyoming Catholic College. He lives in Wyoming with his wife, Jacinta, and their eight children.

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