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Whether the power that is in the semen exerts any power in the production of the intellectual soul.


One inquires further whether the power that is in the semen exerts any power in the production of the intellectual soul.

1. And it seems so. For the agent is one and the same whose action bears on the disposition of the matter and on the introduction of form. For if one agent disposed the matter and another introduced form, then the one that is generated would not really be a unity. Therefore, since the sensitive soul is disposed by means of a power that is in the semen, the intellective soul will be disposed by the same power.

2. In addition, a human generates a human. Therefore, he generates one like himself in species. But the human species consists in (that is, is perfected by) the intellective soul. Therefore, a human produces the intellective soul.

3. In addition, a nobler operation is owed a nobler form. But of all the lower operations the noblest is to generate one like oneself. Therefore, this operation is suitable for the intellective soul. And if this is so, then the intellective soul can be produced by the power of the semen.

The Philosopher says the opposite. He says that the intellect only comes from outside, that is, from an extrinsic soul.

To this, one must reply that the intellective soul cannot be produced through any power that is in the semen. And the reason for this is that a material cause exerts no power on an immaterial effect. But intellect is immaterial, since it does not depend on the body or on matter either for its being or its operation. For, as the Philosopher says in the third book of On the Soul, it is separated from these just as the everlasting is from the corruptible. Therefore, it cannot be produced through a material power, and the power in the semen is of this type.

Furthermore, the power works in the semen to produce something like itself, insofar as it is a power of generation. But the power in the semen uses an organ and operates with a mediating body. Therefore, it is derived from a form which uses an organ. But the intellective soul does not use an organ. Therefore, the power of the intellective soul is not in the semen and, as a result, cannot produce the intellective soul. But since each and every thing has its coming into being in the same way as it has its being and its operation, and since the intellect can exist per se and, moreover, can operate per se, it therefore has its coming into being per se. And the intellect is itself simple since it is the form of the body. Therefore, it necessarily comes to be without the supposition of matter, and, as a result, it necessarily proceeds into being from the first cause.

1. On to the arguments. To the first, one must respond that in agents that are not properly ordered, if one agent disposes the matter and another introduces form, then the one generated is not a unity. But in properly ordered agents one can dispose the matter and the other can introduce form, just as happens in a ship, where one prepares the lumber and so prepares the material, and another joins the lumber together and thus introduces form. In the same way, all of nature is like an instrument for a superior agent, and for this reason an inferior nature can well dispose the matter and a superior agent can introduce form.

2. To the second argument one must reply that a human is not said to generate a human except to the extent that he can dispose the matter to receive form, but not because there is a power in the semen capable of introducing intellect.

3. To the third argument one must reply that the most perfect operation of these inferior [things] is to generate one like oneself. Nevertheless, this is not so for those separated from matter. Thus the one that is the most perfect in the entire genus of being cannot generate one like itself, because this would imply its imperfection. And in like manner an ability to produce something per se, from no one or nothing [ex nullo vel ex nihilo], is repugnant to the causative nature, because this belongs only to one whose power is infinite. And this is why, since the intellective power only proceeds ex nihilo, its production pertains to the first cause alone.

  • [1] "Exerts any power": In this section A. uses the phrase potest in aliquid, meaning to produce something through one's own power or ability.
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