Friday, June 26, 2015

Local Motion in Scholastic Terminology

First of all, in Latin we deal with « motus » rather than « motio », so it is more like « move » than « motion ». Second, « motus localis » was called « local » for a very specific reason.

Local motion: from the chair to the computer away there, from this floor of the library to the next lower, from the library to the public garden – or from one end of the universe to another. Exactly, that is a « motus localis » a « local move » too.

Substantive motion: coming into being of a substance, like being created or engendered, ceasing to be, like annihiliation or death, changing nature, like wood burning to carbon dioxide and mineral ashes – or like transubstantiation, unless St Thomas specified this was no « motus ». (He did specify it was no « motus localis »).

Qualitative motion: blushing means turning red which colour is a visible quality.

Habitative motion (if such): acquiring or losing or giving away, putting on and off clothes.

Could one speak of « motus » in the other categories? Active? Passive? Situational? They are sometimes local, sometimes not. They are not as « motus » either automatically same or automatically different from local motion.

The point is, the Latin word for change is « motus ». « Cambium » first of all is not Classic, and second means trading, specifically currencies. When we say blushing is a « change » in colour, scholastics called it a « motus », more precisely a « motus qualitativus visibilis qualitatis ».

We are not dealing with « motus localis » as opposite of « motus universalis » (non extant) as precisions on how far a « motion » extends. Since « motus localis » does not mean « motus in loco » but rather « motus de loco in alium locum » and « motus qualitativus » similarily means « motus de qualitate in aliam qualitatem ».

Second, this means that when St Thomas says* the power of angels over material objects is restricted to local motion, that is to « motus localis », this says nothing about any restriction on the scale on which angels can exercise that power. It says that they cannot directly make a substantive motion or a qualitative motion (that is a substantial or qualitative change, as we would say, to distinguish it from locomotion) happen in these material objects.

Hans Georg Lundahl
Nanterre University Library
Sts John and Paul of Rome,
martyrs under Julian Apostate

*S. Th. I P, Q 110, A 3

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