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!

Friday, May 6, 2011

SCG, Book I, Chapter 51–53


[Too much Latin here of prime value not to inscribe.]

[1] [Although God knows other things beside Himself [
quod Deus cognoscit alia a se, cf. I, 49–50],] the multitude of intellectual objects [multitudo intellectorum in intellectum divinum], however, [do not] introduce a composition into the divine intellect…. [2] Now, this multitude cannot be taken to mean that many intellectual objects have a distinct being in God. For either these objects would be the same as the divine essence, and thus a certain multitude would be posited in the essence of God…; or they would be added to the divine essence, and thus there would be some accident in God….

[3] Nor, again, can such intelligible forms be posited as existing in themselves. This is what Plato, avoiding the above difficulties, seems to have posited by introducing the Ideas.
For the forms of natural things cannot exist without matter, since neither are they understood without matter.

[Roughly, tell me everything you can about a "horse" without adverting to its material nature. An eternal, hoofless, headless, organless, spatially undispersed thing is still somehow a "horse"? Right….]

[4] And, even if this position were held, it would not enable us to posit that God has understanding of a multitude. For, since the aforementioned forms are outside God’s essence, if God could not understand the multitude of things without them, … it would follow that His perfection in understanding depended on something else, and consequently so would His perfection in being, since His being is His understanding. …

[A thing is perfect––a thing perfectly "be's"––only insofar as it attains the end to which it tends. But since non-intellectual entities cannot tend to their ends without the guidance of a (superior) intellect (cf. I, 49–50 and the glosses and links therein), and since finite intellects can only attain their ends by a discursive ascent through diverse beings and syllogisms, only a perfect Being perfectly knows and, crucially, only a perfect Knower perfectly exists.]

[5] Furthermore, since whatever is outside His essence must be caused by Him, … if the aforementioned forms are to be found outside God, they must be caused by Him. … Therefore, so that these intelligibles may have existence,
it is required according to the order of nature that God first understand them. Hence, God does not have knowledge of multitude by the fact that many intelligibles are found outside Him.

[6] Furthermore,
the intelligible in act is the intellect in act [The demolition of critical idealism.], just as the sensible in act is the sense in act. According as the intelligible is distinguished from the intellect, both are in potency, as likewise appears in the case of the sense. … If, then, the intelligible objects of God are outside His intellect, it will follow that His intellect is in potency, as are also its intelligible objects. Thus, some cause reducing them to act would be needed, which is impossible, since there is nothing prior to God.

[7] Then, too,
the understood must be in him who understands. Therefore, to posit the forms of things as existing in themselves … must be in the divine intellect itself. [8] [Chapter 52] …the multitude of the aforementioned intelligibles cannot reside in any intellect other than the divine intellect—for example, that of a soul or an angel or intelligence. If this were true, the divine intellect would depend on a lower intellect for some operation. …

[9] Then, too, …
the divine understanding, by which God is a cause, is a prerequisite for the being of the aforementioned intelligibles in some lower intellect. … [11] Furthermore, just as each thing has its own being, so it has its own operation.each thing is through its own essence, not through the essence of another. Therefore, by the fact that there are many intelligible objects in some secondary intellect it could not come about that the first intellect knows a multitude.



We can solve the above difficulty with ease [Praemissa autem dubitatio faciliter solvi potest] if we examine diligently [si diligenter inspiciatur] how the things that are understood by the intellect exist within the intellect [qualiter res intellectae in intellectu existant].

So far as it is possible, let us proceed from our intellect to the knowledge that the divine intellect has [Et ut ab intellectu nostro ad divini intellectus cognitionem, prout est possibile, procedamus]. Let us consider the fact that an external thing understood by us does not exist in our intellect according to its own nature; rather, it is necessary that its species be in our intellect, and through this species the intellect comes to be in act [oportet quod species eius sit in intellectu nostro, per quam fit intellectus in actu]. Once in act through this species [in actu per huiusmodi speciem] as through its own form, the intellect knows the thing itself. … Understanding remains in the one understanding, but it is related to the thing understood because the abovementioned species, which is a principle of intellectual operation as a form [quae est principium intellectualis operationis ut forma], is the likeness of the thing understood.

[As if Kant were the first to wed first primary metaphysics to the order of knowledge! His mistake was to leave the marriage for a masturbatory celebration of the latter per se.]

[3] …the intellect,
having been informed by the species of the thing […intellectus, per speciem rei formatus], by an act of understanding [intelligendo] forms within itself a certain intention of the thing understood [quandam intentionem rei intellectae], that is to say, its notion [quae est ratio ipsius], which the definition signifies [quam significat definitio]. This is a necessary point [Et hoc quidem necessarium est], because the intellect understands a present and an absent thing indifferently [intellectus intelligit indifferenter rem absentem et praesentem; cue the ontology of fiction and a chaste Meinongism!]. In this the imagination agrees with the intellect [in quo cum intellectu imaginatio convenit]. But the intellect … understands a thing as separated from material conditions [sed intellectus … intelligit rem ut separatam a conditionibus materialibus], without which a thing does not exist in reality. But this could not take place unless the intellect formed the abovementioned intention for itself.


[4] Now, since
this understood intention is, as it were, a terminus of intelligible operation [Haec autem intentio intellecta, cum sit quasi terminus intelligibilis operationis], it is distinct from the intelligible species that actualizes the intellect [est aliud a specie intelligibili quae facit intellectum in actu]…. For, by the fact that the intelligible species … is the form of the intellect and the principle of understanding, [it] is the likeness of the external thing…, since such as a thing is, such are its works [Per hoc enim quod species intelligibilis quae est forma intellectus et intelligendi principium…: quia quale est unumquodque, talia operatur]. And because the understood intention is like some thing, it follows that the intellect, by forming such an intention) knows that thing.

[As the intellect partakes of the intelligible by a likeness of being, so the existent takes part of He Who Is by a related, analogous likeness likeness of being.]

[5] Now,
the divine intellect understands by no species other than the divine essence…. Nevertheless, the divine essence is the likeness of all things. … [T]he conception of the divine intellect as understanding itself, which is its Word, is the likeness not only of God Himself understood, but also of all those things of which the divine essence is the likeness [Intellectus autem divinus nulla alia specie intelligit quam essentia sua…. Sed tamen essentia sua est similitudo omnium rerum. … conceptio intellectus divini, prout seipsum intelligit, quae est verbum ipsius, non solum sit similitudo ipsius Dei intellecti, sed etiam omnium quorum est divina essentia similitudo] [NB: A strong suggestion of the eternal decree of the Incarnation!]. In this way, therefore, through one intelligible species, which is the divine essence, and through one understood intention, which is the divine Word, God can understand many things.

[So much for Islam. A theology which posits a pure monad as the epitome of being, has no way to account for the diversity of being as we ourselves diversely manifest it, much less the love of Allah for things outside himself.]

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