I'll be reading, glossing, and posting Thomas Aquinas' Summa Contra Gentiles, chapter by chapter, about twice a week, until the final Amen. Your comments, questions, and constructive criticisms are welcome!

Monday, December 13, 2010

SCG, Book I, Chapter 31

[CAPUT TRIGINTA UNUM: Quod divina perfectio et pluralitas nominum divinorum divinae simplicitati non repugnant]

... [2] We have said that all the perfections found in other things are attributed to God in the same way as effects are found in their equivocal causes [sicut effectus in suis causis aequivocis inveniuntur]. These effects are in their causes virtually [in suis causis sunt virtute], as heat is in the sun. For, unless the power of the sun belonged to some extent to the genus of heat, the sun acting through this power would not generate anything like itself. …

So, too, the perfections of all things, which belong to the rest of things through diverse forms, must be attributed to God through one and the same power in Him [Deo secundum unam eius virtutem attribui]. This power is nothing other than His essence [Quae item virtus non est aliud a sua essentia], since, as we have proved [cf. SCG, I, 23], there can be no accident in God. Thus, therefore, God is called wise not only in so far as He produces wisdom, but also because, in so far as we are wise, we imitate to some extent the power by which He makes us wise [secundum quod sapientes sumus, virtutem eius, qua sapientes nos facit, aliquatenus imitamur]. On the other hand, God is not called a stone, even though He has made stones, because in the name stone there is understood a determinate mode of being according to which a stone is distinguished from God [quia in nomine lapidis intelligitur modus determinatus essendi, secundum quem lapis a Deo distinguitur]. But the stone imitates God as its cause in being and goodness, and other such characteristics, as do also the rest of creatures [Imitatur autem lapis Deum ut causam secundum esse, secundum bonitatem, et alia huiusmodi, sicut et aliae creaturae].

"…quia in nomine lapidis…" This addresses my worry in chapter 28 about how the perfection of, say, color can be in God, yet no color be in God. My response in that chapter was to say "that God possesses the excellence of color in the mode of causation and measure, rather than in any specific chromatic sense. After all, God qua ens summe perfectum infinitely transcends the finite mode of specific color. … This means whatever color can do is given to it by the power of God as first, preeminent cause…." I think that squares with Thomas' point here that "in nomine ______ intelligitur modus determinatus essendi".

[3] A similar situation obtains among the knowing and operative powers of man. For by its single power the intellect knows all the things that the sensitive part of the soul grasps through a diversity of powers [Intellectus enim unica virtute cognoscit omnia quae pars sensitiva diversis potentiis apprehendit]––and many other things as well. So, too, the higher an intellect is, the more it can know more things through one likeness [Intellectus etiam, quanto fuerit altior, tanto aliquo uno plura cognoscere potest], while a lesser intellect manages to know many things only through many likenesses [cognoscenda intellectus inferior non pertingit nisi per multa]. So, too, a ruling power extends to all those things to which diverse powers under it are ordered. In this way, therefore, through His one simple being God possesses every kind of perfection that all other things come to possess, but in a much more diminished way, through diverse principles.

"…intellectus inferior non pertingit…" The range of intellectual power can be seen in humans in the classroom. Smarter students need only one or two examples to grasp the principle, whereas those of lower intellect require numerous examples and repetitions to achieve understanding.

[4] From this we see the necessity of giving to God many names [necessitas plura nomina Deo dandi]. For, since we cannot know Him naturally except by arriving at Him from His effects [non possumus cognoscere naturaliter nisi ex effectibus deveniendo in ipsum], the names by which we signify His perfection must be diverse, just as the perfections belonging to things are found to be diverse [sicut et perfectiones in rebus inveniuntur diversae]. Were we able to understand the divine essence itself as it is and give to it the name that belongs to it, we would express it by only one name. This is promised to those who will see God through His essence: “In that day there shall be one Lord, and His name shall be one” (Zach. 14:9).

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