William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Summary Against Modern Thought: God Is Truth

This may be proved in three ways. The first...

This may be proved in three ways. The first…

See the first post in this series for an explanation and guide of our tour of Summa Contra Gentiles. All posts are under the category SAMT.

Previous post.

There is more than the usual amount of material culled leading up to our ultimate goal, that God is Truth. But these are easy, relative to the normal chapters. Not many notes are needed. God is Truth itself.

Chapter 56 That God’s Knowledge Is Not A Habit (alternate translation)

[2] …For wheresoever knowledge is habitual, all things are not known simultaneously, but some actually and others habitually. Now God knows all things actually in the same instant, as we have proved. Therefore in Him knowledge is not a habit.

Notes Never forget that God is outside time; and that we’re stuck in it.

Chapter 57 That God’s Knowledge Is Not Discursive (alternate translation)

[2] …Our thoughts are argumentative when we pass from one thought to another, as when we reason from principles to conclusions. For a person does not argue or discourse from the fact that he sees how a conclusion follows from its premisses, and considers both together: since this happens not by arguing but by judging of an argument: even so neither does material knowledge consist in judging of material things. Now, it was shown that God does not consider one thing after another successively as it were, but all things simultaneously. Therefore His knowledge is not argumentative or discursive: although He is cognizant of all discourse and argument.

[3] Again. Whosoever argues views the premisses by one consideration and the conclusion by another: for there would be no need after considering the premisses to proceed to the conclusion, if by the very fact of considering the premisses one were to consider the conclusion also. Now God knows all things by one operation which is His essence, as we have proved above.[2] Therefore His knowledge is not argumentative.

[4] Further. All argumentative knowledge has something of potentiality and something of actuality: since conclusions are potentially in their premisses. But potentiality has no place in the divine intellect, as we have shown above.[3] Therefore His intellect is not discursive…

Notes Arguments imply incompleteness. If you don’t know the answer in advance, which is not at all unusual, your intellect is in potential to that answer, and therefore there is change. But God cannot change; in God there is no potentiality. God knows everything at once.

Chapter 58 That God Does Not Understand By Composition And Division (alternate translation)

[3] …Further. In God there cannot be before and after. Now composition and division come after the consideration of what a thing is, for this consideration is their foundation. Therefore composition and division are impossible in the divine intellect.

[4] Again. The proper object of the intellect is what a thing is: wherefore about this the intellect is not deceived except accidentally; whereas it is deceived about composition and division; even as the senses are always true about their proper objects, but may be deceived about others. Now, in the divine intellect there is nothing accidental, and only what is essential. Wherefore in the divine intellect there is no composition and division, but only simple apprehension of a thing.

Notes Decided accidentally by, for instance, holding a false premise. The senses will pick up wavy wiggles on the horizon and your intellect will say, “Hey! There’s an oasis.” Senses right, intellect wrong. It’s not that senses can break, but when they break, they still do what they do. Your intellect is still required to sit on top sense data and (the pun o’ the day) make sense of them. If you follow that, you have reached the sunny uplands of thought.

Chapter 59 That God Is Not Ignorant Of The Truth Of Enunciations (alternate translation) The translation switches to the alternate here because Saint Wiki is down again.

[2] …For since the truth of the intellect is the equation of thought and thing, in so far as the intellect asserts that to be which is, and that not to be which is not, truth in the intellect belongs to that which the intellect asserts, not to the operation whereby it asserts. Because the truth of the intellect does not require that the act itself of understanding be equated to the thing, since sometimes the thing is material, whereas the act of understanding is immaterial. But that which the intellect in understanding asserts and knows, needs to be equated to the thing, namely to be in reality as the intellect asserts it to be. Now God, by His simple act of intelligence wherein is neither composition nor division, knows not only the essence of things, but also that which is enunciated about them, as proved above.[4] Wherefore that which the divine intellect asserts in understanding is composition or division. Therefore truth is not excluded from the divine intellect by reason of the latter’s simplicity.

Notes “…truth in the intellect belongs to that which the intellect asserts, not to the operation whereby it asserts.” Truth is epistemological; it’s all in your head. I speak colloquially: the intellect is not material and therefore not really in your head, though it makes use of it. The act of understanding is immaterial.

Chapter 60 That God Is Truth (alternate translation)

[2] …For truth is a perfection of the intelligence or intellectual operation, as stated above. Now God’s act of intelligence is His substance: and since this very act of intelligence is God’s being, as we have shown, it is not made perfect by some additional perfection, but is perfect in itself, just as we have said about the divine being. It remains therefore that the divine substance is truth itself.

[3] Again. Truth is a good of the intellect, according to the Philosopher. Now God is His own goodness, as we have shown. Therefore He is also His own truth…

Notes This follows from recalling truth is the good of the intellect; it is what is reaches for—and doesn’t always grasp. God knows all, therefore God knows all truth, and since what God knows is His essence, God is Truth itself.

28 Comments

  1. If God is outside of time and the universe inside it, how can there have been a condition or state before His creation of it? IOW, from His perspective, hasn’t the universe always been here? How could he “decide” to let there be light?

    Or has the universe “always” existed (from His perspective) but without any content (formless, void) so that the creation of time and space occurred only within that domain?

    N.B. Yes, I’m using time-related wording to ask about non-time-bound conditions, but I haven’t figured out an alternative.

  2. Sander van der Wal

    May 31, 2015 at 4:33 pm

    God knows all true statements, so He’s Truth. He also knows all false statements, so He’s also Not Truth.

    Bit of a contradiction, formulating it this way.

  3. Semiotic Animal

    May 31, 2015 at 4:54 pm

    @Sander

    First, God’s knowledge is not propositional as a proposition is divided between subject and predicate, but there is no division in God. Hence, God is not truth because he knows all true statements, but that there is truth in God and being absolutely simple he is the truth he knows essentially, that is Truth Itself.
    Secondly, every false statement is the contrary of a true statement. Falsity is parasitic on the true in much the way that evil is parasitic upon goodness, that is falsity is the absence of truth.

  4. “Secondly, every false statement is the contrary of a true statement.”

    I don’t really understand this statement because if it was correct we would know what was true simply by knowing what was false, but we don’t. This only works for the A versus not-A type of logic. In other words if something is not-true it is false, but if I tell you that it is false that my car is painted red you can not give me the truth of the actual colour. You can only say it is not-red which is not particularly insightful. I really hope that there is more to the argument than this. Are we dealing with religious truth only here?

  5. Semiotic Animal

    May 31, 2015 at 9:20 pm

    @Scotian

    I’m not sure why it should be insightful, since I only necessitate that it is true. In fact we often learn the truth through negation.
    My point is merely if God knows false statements, he knows them by knowing the truth. I know that you’re car is red and consequently, I know that “Your car is yellow” is false.
    Per the car example, this concerns true propositions as such, not merely theological propositions.

  6. “Hence, God is not truth because he knows all true statements, but that there is truth in God and being absolutely simple he is the truth he knows essentially, that is Truth Itself.”

    I would appreciate a translation of the above statement into English or something comprehensible. I can’t ask Aquinas what his cryptic gibberish means because he is dead. And I can’t ask worshipers of Aquinas what Aquinas means, because they get very angry and call me names. (Translation = “We don’t know what any of it means either, but it’s extremely rude to point out we have no clothes on.”)

  7. The irony of all this God sophistry is it is far flimsier than the evidence of dangerous pollution levels.

    JMJ

  8. @Scotian:

    “I don’t really understand this statement because if it was correct we would know what was true simply by knowing what was false, but we don’t. This only works for the A versus not-A type of logic.”

    So which is it? You really do not understand it or you do understand it, but it “only works for the A versus not-A type of logic”? And what is a “A versus not-A type of logic” anyway?

    @Will Nitschke:

    “I would appreciate a translation of the above statement into English or something comprehensible. I can’t ask Aquinas what his cryptic gibberish means because he is dead.”

    If it is gibberish, then it conveys no meaning at all, and it is not possible to translate because there is nothing to translate, since only that which is meaning-full can be translated. Gibberish cannot be cryptic either. So why are you asking for a translation of that which you already know is meaningless? Quite obviously, you are an ignoramus, but something else is at work here.

  9. Semiotic Animal

    June 1, 2015 at 9:16 am

    @Will N

    We know from previous chapters that God’s absolute perfection implies that he is simple. We know from other chapters that God has intellect. If God has intellect and is absolutely simple, then there is nothing in God that is not his intellect, because that would imply division and contradict his simplicity, his perfection, his being the First Unmoved Mover. The perfection of the intellect is truth and if there is truth in God, then he is truth, because of his absolute simplicity. Moreover, since God is absolutely perfect and the truth in him is no different then his essence, then he is essentially and perfectly or completely truth.
    You would probably find better explanations (including more in depth discussion of the terms) from Edward Feser (edwardfeser.blogspot.com) and James Chastek (thomism.blogspot.com) who are Thomist philosphers, whereas I am merely a poser.

  10. JMJ,
    Opposition to God was the original pollution.

  11. @S.A.
    “I’m not sure why it should be insightful …” Because I am looking for insight.
    “I know that you’re car is red …” But it is not red, but your point is that God possesses all knowledge.

    I’ve always found Feser as difficult to understand as Aquinas. He also rambles on much too long. I may check out the second reference.

    @G.R.
    “And what is a “A versus not-A type of logic” anyway?” It is the Law of Excluded Middle. You need to know this to understand my comment. See:

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_excluded_middle

  12. @Scotian:

    “It is the Law of Excluded Middle.”

    I presume what you have in mind are constructivist critiques of LEM. Great, so from now you will only employ constructively valid principles of reasoning, e.g. you accept proofs by negation but not proofs by contradiction. And if one wants to be really pedantic, then what other principles do you wish to deny, as there is a lot of variability in constructivists? The list of “pathologies” that can happen when restricted to the very humdrum real numbers:

    – the reals are uncountable and in 1-1 correspondence with a subset of the natural numbers.
    – the reals form a proper class.
    – every real number has a Turing machine computing its digits.
    – the reals are not linearly ordered.
    – the reals are locally non-compact, in the sense that every interval contains a sequence without an accumulation point.
    – every subset of the reals is measurable.

    This list could be extended indefinitely, from such gems as the Brower topos where every real-valued function is continuous to the curiosity of there being a topos where complex numbers lack square roots. I am sure when anyone, yourself included, uses one such fact denied by each of the above you interject in objection with “Oh but that only works in such and such”.

    At any rate, this is all quite irrelevant, because the *reasons* why a constructivist finds LEM objectionable have little to no relevance to the issues Aquinas is tackling — at least you have not explained what the relevance is supposed to be. And even if they were, there is the tiny little detail that Aquinas is *not* a Fregean before Frege, and is operating under a different logical framework. Transposing a critique that only makes sense in a specific context is just silly.

  13. Semiotic Animal

    June 1, 2015 at 12:01 pm

    @Scotian

    ““I know that you’re car is red …” But it is not red, but your point is that God possesses all knowledge. ”

    Perhaps I should have put it in the form of a hypothetical, “If I know…” but I think my meaning was clear.
    My point goes back to the original assertion that if God knows false statements, then God contains falsity and is Falsity or Not-Truth Itself leading to a contradiction, or at least this is how I interpreted.
    My argument is that there need not be falsity in God. God’s knowledge of truth is sufficient to account for his knowledge of what is false, because the knowledge of true statement implies the falsity of contrary statements. God knows my car is blue and consequently he knows it is not yellow or that “My car is yellow” is false without himself containing falsity and thus being essentially falsity.

  14. @G.R.

    Never presume. Since I cannot recognize any of my views in your extended tangent I can only conclude that you do not understand what I said. I thought that I was clear but if not, you can ask simple questions and I will attempt to clarify. S.A. has a clearer view of the debate.

  15. @Scotian:

    “I thought that I was clear but if not, you can ask simple questions and I will attempt to clarify.”

    My “tangent” started with “I presume what you have in mind” and right at the end “at least you have not explained what the relevance is supposed to be”, and now you are telling me “you can ask simple questions and I will attempt to clarify”?

  16. Semiotic Animal

    June 1, 2015 at 5:31 pm

    @Scotian

    You ought not suppose my view is clearer, because I don’t know what the debate is about, at least as far as concerns some other logic than a “not-A versus A” logic. I interpreted you words to mean you denied the law of contradiction. Since I have never been able to convince someone on the internet who denied that the law of contradiction, I simply ignored the statement and moved on to the discussion about God’s essential knowledge of truth and his accidental knowledge of falsity.

  17. “We know from previous chapters that God’s absolute perfection implies that he is simple.”

    Seems to be a non sequitur to me. How did you reach that conclusion? What is your definition of perfection? What has it to do with simplicity? Why are the two connected?

    “If God has intellect and is absolutely simple, then there is nothing in God that is not his intellect, because that would imply division and contradict his simplicity, his perfection, his being the First Unmoved Mover.”

    What has simplicity got to do with intellect? What is your definition of intellect? What do you mean by division? Is not intellect divided into thoughts? What do you mean by unmoved mover and what has this to do with anything at all?

    ” The perfection of the intellect is truth…”

    Why? How did you derive that statement? What do you mean by truth?

    “since God is absolutely perfect and the truth in him is no different then his essence”

    How do you know that truth is no different from essence? Why do you think the two are connected? How did you reach that conclusion? What exactly do you mean by essence?

    “whereas I am merely a poser.”

    Clearly. All you are doing is stringing together random propositions, using carefully selected words which don’t have precise meanings. One might argue your writing is poetical in the sense that it stimulates certain feelings in the reader, but it hardly has rational content. You appear to be playing a word game, and not a very clever one. At least Rodrigues understands this perfectly, which is why he becomes furious when the nonsense game is pointed out to him.

  18. @S.A.
    “I interpreted you words to mean you denied the law of contradiction.”

    I’ve re-read my original post and it still seems clear. Please quote where I have denied the Law of the Excluded Middle or the subtly different Law of Contradiction? It is difficult to debate when people do not quote your words.

    The point that I was making is this quoted satement “Secondly, every false statement is the contrary of a true statement.” does not help us determine what is true. I’ll give you another example. Edison & co. tried a large number of filaments for his light bulb but the failures did not tell him what was true and he had to keep trying pretty much at random until one worked. Curiously the one that he found was not the tungsten filament that won out in the end. Thus the quoted statement does not work EXCEPT for the tautological case of the excluded middle (A vs not-A). I hope that this is clear now.

    Now you have said that, unlike us mere mortals, God knows everything that is true and thus when faced with a potential falsehood does a global search to see if it is contained among the true. This is what I get from this statement “My point is merely if God knows false statements, he knows them by knowing the truth.” I suspect that God not only knows which filaments work in light bulbs but also why others do not work and does not do a global search. It is worth debating in any case. I hope that you are not just going to rephrase as – God knows that it is true that a particular false statement is false.

    @G.R. Any questions?

  19. @Will Nitschke:

    “You appear to be playing a word game, and not a very clever one. At least Rodrigues understands this perfectly, which is why he becomes furious when the nonsense game is pointed out to him.”

    Now this made me smile. When a certified ignoramus on the other side of the net ends up resorting to such schoolyard taunts, not having anything else of relevance to say, it is a sure sign that I must be doing *something* right. Now what could that be…

    @Scotian:

    “Any questions?”

    Actually yes, if you will humor me. You see, in the second paragraph of your response to Semiotic Animal you say, and I quote:

    “The point that I was making is this quoted satement “Secondly, every false statement is the contrary of a true statement.” does not help us determine what is true. I’ll give you another example. Edison & co. tried a large number of filaments for his light bulb but the failures did not tell him what was true and he had to keep trying pretty much at random until one worked.”

    The intended meaning of the sentence you quote is, I think, quite simple: (A) if p is false not-p is true and vice-versa. In this narrow sense, yes “we [would] know what was true simply by knowing what was false”. Why do you find this objectionable is baffling and your purported example clears nothing, because it is not an instance of the schema in any way, sort or fashion. God knows that filament A1 … An do not make for good lightbulbs — and Edison discovered these truths — and God knows that filament B makes for a good lightbulb — and Edison discovered this truth. But these two truths are not contraries, so what is supposed to be the problem? That it is not “insightful”? If I recall correctly, what Semiotic Animal was trying to do was to show that falsehood is parasitic on truth, fairly standard Thomistic fare, not trying to provide insights on how we arrive at true knowledge.

    To further compound my confusion, when explaining it originally you inserted “This only works for the A versus not-A type of logic” and then explained your non-standard terminology by pointing to the LEM. It is true that to make (A) work one needs the LEM, so presumably, and that is how I read it originally and what I responded to, you had objections to the LEM. But you disabused me; I misunderstood you. Ok, but then what do you mean by “This only works for the A versus not-A type of logic”?

  20. Semiotic Animal

    June 1, 2015 at 9:26 pm

    @Will N

    This is an argument that presupposes conclusions that have been reached prior. If you are interested I’d suggest you start at chapter one and follow the argument. If you have difficulty with terms consult a dictionary on classical philosophy.

    @Scotian

    “I’ve re-read my original post…”
    My interpretation was hasty and incorrect. I cast it behind me.

    “does not help us determine what is true….”
    I’m not sure what you think the point I was trying to make. You seem to be making an epistemological issue of how we come to know or reach the truth while I’m making the point that knowing truth consequently leads to knowledge of what is false. If Edison knew the tungsten was the best, he would have known the others were not.

    “Thus the quoted statement does not work EXCEPT for the tautological case of the excluded middle (A vs not-A)”
    My statement being: “Secondly, every false statement is the contrary of a true statement.”
    Let me make a clarification. I agree that knowing that something is false does not give us perfect knowledge of what is true, though we approach the truth this way. Knowing that carbon is not the best filament does not tell us that tungsten is the best, though we know carbon and anything worse than carbon is not. However, it is true that the false statement “Carbon is the best filament” is contrary to the true statement “Tungsten is the best filament” since carbon is not tungsten. Again I think you are making an epistemological point about how we come to know, while I am making a logic point and a metaphysical point about the relation of truth and falsity.

    “…a global search…”

    I don’t know what this means for God except as a metaphor or how you got it from what I said. Moreover, it does not even make sense for us. When I know tungsten is the best filament, I don’t further go through a discursive process of thinking “Is carbon best? Nope not included in the true.” Knowing that tungsten is the best immediately gives me knowledge that what is not tungsten is not the best, whether carbon, water, or plastic.

    “I hope that you are not just going to rephrase as – God knows that it is true that a particular false statement is false.”

    I’m not sure what you are looking for since I don’t understand your objection. God knows primarily and essentially what is true and consequently, secondarily and accidentally knows what is false. I’m not sure what you disagree about this.

  21. @G.R.
    Unless I have missed something important you seem to have done what I feared would happen in discussing my light bulb filament example: “I hope that you are not just going to rephrase as – God knows that it is true that a particular false statement is false.” This is a problem.

    “The intended meaning of the sentence you quote is, I think, quite simple: (A) if p is false not-p is true and vice-versa”. This is just the Law of the Excluded Middle except that I used A rather than p. I was hoping for more than a tautology.

    “Semiotic Animal was trying to do was to show that falsehood is parasitic on truth”. I don’t see that this is true or maybe I should say that I do not know what it means. It is clearly an analogy but of what? The claim that evil is the absence of the good is a similar statement although one that is easier to understand, but is it true? I’m not sure.

    “Ok, but then what do you mean by “This only works for the A versus not-A type of logic”?” The same thing that you meant when you made the same statement above using p and not-p.

  22. @S.A.
    I think that we mostly agree.

  23. Semiotic Animal

    June 1, 2015 at 9:59 pm

    @GR

    If you find Thomas or Thomism interesting and correct, please spend time reading his sections on the virtues, particularly humility and charity and especially ST II.II.Q33 on Fraternal Correction.

  24. @Semiotic Animal

    “This is an argument that presupposes conclusions that have been reached prior. If you are interested I’d suggest you start at chapter one and follow the argument. If you have difficulty with terms consult a dictionary on classical philosophy.”

    I asked you to explain what you were talking about in plain English. Not pretend the explanation can be found somewhere else. Are you able to do this? I suspect anyone who cannot explain what they said actually does not understand what they said.

    FYI, I am a trained philosopher (not many jobs for that in the real world, I run a software engineering business these days) so I have lots of dictionaries of philosophy, etc. I assure you, there are NO answers to any of these claims you are making, to be found there. Also, I’m not interested in what, say, Frederick Copleston thinks of this type of scholastic writing. I’m interested in knowing what you think it means or if you can explain anything you’ve written. This shouldn’t be hard. If you use the word ‘essence’ you should be able to explain what ‘essence’ is, in the context in which you are using that word. For example, how do you draw the connection between ‘truth’ and perfection with ‘essence’. Presumably you must also clearly define what you mean by those words as well.

  25. Semiotic Animal

    June 1, 2015 at 10:09 pm

    @Scotian
    ” I don’t see that this is true or maybe I should say that I do not know what it means. It is clearly an analogy but of what? The claim that evil is the absence of the good is a similar statement although one that is easier to understand, but is it true?”

    Classically, truth is the adequation of the mind to reality, that is my thought corresponds to what is real. I think the proposition “Tungsten is the best filament” and this corresponds to the way the world is. In falsehood, there is no such relation between my mind and reality and this is what we mean by falsity. This absence of relation between mind and reality is the manner in which falsity is the absence of truth.

  26. “This absence of relation between mind and reality is the manner in which falsity is the absence of truth.”

    Do you understand what that means? If so what, does it mean? Or do you want me to go off and find the meaning somewhere in an imaginary dictionary? Or is the game to simply string together high sounding words in order to pretend to be profound?

    Of course my questions are rhetorical. But I’m curious to know if you think you know what you are talking about? Is this a wink wink type game where the meaningless ramblings are all in jest, or do you actually think what you write means something although you don’t know what that is? That is to say, someone smarter than you will understand these types of sentences even if you don’t?

  27. @Scotian:

    “This is just the Law of the Excluded Middle except that I used A rather than p. I was hoping for more than a tautology.”

    Well, here, if I am understanding you correctly, I have to agree. As an explanation of why falsity is parasitic on truth it is not the best explanation, or an explanation at all. But then I do not think Semiotic Animals’s explanation is merely the invocation of a tautology — but here I will defer to him, as my confusion on this point is cleared.

    I am also presuming that this point here is the same “problem” you allude to, so I am letting that rest as well.

    “I don’t see that this is true or maybe I should say that I do not know what it means. It is clearly an analogy but of what? The claim that evil is the absence of the good is a similar statement although one that is easier to understand, but is it true? I’m not sure.”

    Actually there is more than an analogy going on, due to the convertibility of transcendentals.

    “The same thing that you meant when you made the same statement above using p and not-p.”

    But the way you phrased it suggests that it was somehow illegitimate to assume the LEM. But maybe I am just reading too much into your words, and the “This only works” part was nothing but an innocent turn of phrase.

  28. @Semiotic Animal:

    “If you find Thomas or Thomism interesting and correct, please spend time reading his sections on the virtues, particularly humility and charity and especially ST II.II.Q33 on Fraternal Correction.”

    If that is a gentle and brotherly rebuke on my abrasive tone, I confess myself guilty and gladly accept it (well, maybe not per se gladly, more like grudgingly, but accept it nonetheless).

    To point out that Will Nitschke is a “certified ignoramus” that resorts to “schoolyard taunts” (I guess that this is the example you have in mind) is to add a smidge of rhetorical flare to an evident truth. There is more to it, as is also plainly evident, and the unedited original was far more violent. But my point here is that if by your rebuke you mean that personal polemics are absolutely beyond the pale, then I will have to disagree, for the reasons expounded say, in here (chapters 19 to 21 specifically).

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