If Actus Purus is true, does this mean that God is his attributes (his essence is identical to his attributes) or that God has no real attributes (simply virtually predications of the one essence). If so, why?

2 Answers 2


The Latin term „actus purus“ is a term from scholastic philosophy. It means that God is a being with all his properties developed to the highest degree.

The classical reference is Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I, Questio 3, Art. 2

„Deus est purus actus“. (God is pure act.)

The passage points back to Art. 1:

Impossibile est igitur quod in Deo sit aliquid in potentia. (Hence it is impossibe that in God there is anything in the state of being possible.)

The term „actus purus“ refers to Aristotle‘s discrimination between an object in the state of being possible and an object in the state of being manifest.

If necessary I can give you also the passage from Aristotle on request.

Added illustration due to follow-up question: In general, a young child has developed a certain degree of smartness. And during the next years the child continues to develop more smartness. Hence in the beginning the child has only the potential for smartness. By learning during the course of time smartness increases and becomes more and more manifest.

Actus purus emphasizes that quite differently God has all his properties from the beginning and in the highest degree, e.g. omniscience, omnipotence, infinite goodness. There is no development and no increase possible.

  • Not trying to be rude but I wasn't asking for the definition
    – Bob
    Commented Apr 10, 2022 at 8:24
  • @Bob Myers Did I misunderstand your question? The second sentence above is the direct answer to your question. The definition shows that the term has a different meaning than your two proposals. - The whole subject is discussed in the first questions of Summa Theologiae.
    – Jo Wehler
    Commented Apr 10, 2022 at 8:33
  • You say that it means God has all his properties developed to the highest degree, but what does that mean?
    – Bob
    Commented Apr 10, 2022 at 8:53
  • @bob myers I added an illustration.
    – Jo Wehler
    Commented Apr 11, 2022 at 1:13

God has no potentiality. Only actuality is his eternal omnipresent essence and their omniscience is the science of the infinity of actualities. They need not act to realize potentiality. All potentialities are real already, i.e., actualities. They need not act to turn the potential into the actual. Hence if they act, the act is pure. Pure actuality. Purus Actus.Their actualities are their attributes. Purus Attributus.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .