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What does Aquinas mean by divine essence's being of a group?

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  • What does Aquinas mean by divine essence's being of a group?

    It is a firm principle for Aquinas that God is not in any genus, since God's essence is identical with God's existence, but nothing else's essence is so. Since a genus is prior to that which is in the genus, God cannot be in a genus. I'm puzzling, then, over what the saint meant when he wrote this:
    "Now the divine essence, whereby the angel’s intellect sees things in the Word is uncreated and self-subsistent: the essence of an angel whereby he sees always himself and things as having being in himself is created and self-subsistent by reason of the being he had received and by which his intellect subsists; and the infused or concreated intelligible species, whereby he sees things in their own nature is non-subsistent: wherefore these three are different in order and genus, and disparate, so that the first is as it were the reason of the others, and the second the reason of the third..." De Potentia 4.2 ad 10.
    The Latin of the italicized English words above is "dicuntur esse diversorum ordinum et generum, et diversarum rationum" lit: "are said to be of/belong to different orders and genera, and of different explanatory principles." The subjects are the divine essence, the angel's essence, and the species of the thing infused in or created with the angel's intellect. I think the last of these can be cashed out as the thing's essence.

    It would seem perverse to say the above if the divine essence were said to be in NO ordo or genus or to have no ratio. It would seem to make sense if the genus in which the divine essence is a species has no other species in it. But still, it violates other Thomistic principles for God, who is His essence, to be even the sole member of a genus. Isn't a necessary condition of something's being in a genus the fact that its essence is not identical with its existence? That's said explicitly, e.g. ST 1a 3.5 co, where one of the arguments is that, if God were in a genus, the genus would be "being" (ens), but ens is not a genus. ad 1 adds that God's essence just is his existence so he is not in the genus of substance.

    I can't see how it will help to translate "genus" at this place in the De Pot as something weaker than "genus," i.e. as "kind" or the like. Such a move would not get around the impossibility of including God in a grouping or class.

    Is the answer hinted at by Aquinas' use of the genitive, "diversorum ordinum et generum," rather than "in" + ablative, i.e. God is of a higher order than an angel, but God is not in an order or genus? Maybe this is just a way of saying that God is ontologically above angels? still, it bothers me to find talk of God's being "of a genus" or "of a kind," as though there is some distinction between God and a kind in which we group God.
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