Summary Against Modern Thought: Angels Know What We Know, And All At Once

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.

Today marks the close of Book II. There are four books in the series, with Book III being a bruiser, more than 50% longer than the others. We began Book I on 25 May 2014, two-and-a-half years ago. Therefore, I estimate we have a little more than three years to go before we finish; perhaps Christmas of 2020. Then it’s on to Summa Theologica!

Chapter 99 That separate substances know material things (alternate translation) We’re still using the alternate translation.

1 Thus, through the intelligible forms in question a separate substance knows not only other separate substances, but also the species of corporeal things.

Notes Angels know us.

2 For their intellect, being wholly in act, is perfect in point of natural perfection, and, therefore, it must comprehend its object—intelligible being—in a universal manner. Now, the species of corporeal things are also included within intelligible being, and the separate substance, therefore, knows them.

3 Moreover, since the species of things are distinguished as the species of numbers are distinguished, as noted above, the higher species must contain in some way that which is in the lower, just as the greater number contains the lesser. Since, then, separate substances are above corporeal substances, it follows that whatever things exist in corporeal substances in a material way are present in separate substances in an intelligible way, for that which is in something is in it according to the mode of that in which it is.

4 Also, if the separate substances move the heavenly bodies, as the philosophers say, then whatever results from the movement of the heavenly bodies is attributed to those bodies as instruments, since they move in being moved, but is ascribed to the separate substances which move them, as principal agents.

Now, separate substances act and move by their intellect. Hence, they are actually causing whatever is effected by the movement of the heavenly bodies, even as the craftsman works through his tools. Therefore, the forms of things generated and corrupted enjoy intelligible being in the separate substances. And that is why Boethius, in his book On the Trinity [II], says that from forms that are without matter came the forms that are in matter. Separate substances, then, know not only separate substances, but also the species of material things. For, if they know the species of generable and corruptible bodies, as the species of their proper effects, much more do they know the species of the heavenly bodies, as being the species of their proper instruments.

5 Indeed, the intellect of a separate substance is in act, having all the likenesses to which it is in potentiality, as well as being endowed with the power to comprehend all the species and differences of being; so that of necessity every separate substance knows all natural things and the total order thereof.

6 But since the intellect in perfect act is the thing understood in act, someone may think that a separate substance does not understand material things; for it would seem incongruous that a material thing should be the perfection of a separate substance.

7 Rightly considered, however, it is according to its likeness present in the intellect that the thing understood is the perfection of the one who understands it; for it is not the stone existing outside the soul that is a perfection of our possible intellect. Now, the likeness of the material thing is in the intellect of a separate substance immaterially, according to the latter’s mode, not according to that of a material substance. Hence, there is no incongruity in saying that this likeness is a perfection of the separate substance’s intellect, as its proper form.

Chapter 100 That separate substances know singulars (alternate translation) We’re still using the alternate translation.

1 Now, the likenesses of things existing in the intellect of a separate substance are more universal than in our intellect, and more efficacious as means through which something is known. And that is why separate substances, through the likenesses of material things, know material things, not only in terms of the nature of the genus or the species, as our intellect does, but in their individual nature as well.

2 For, since the species of things present in the intellect must be immaterial, they could not in our intellect be the principle of knowing singulars, which are individuated by matter; the species of our intellect are, in fact, of such limited power that one leads only to the knowledge of one.

Hence, even as it is impossible for the likeness of the generic nature to lead to the knowledge of the genus and difference so that the species be known through that likeness, so the likeness of the specific nature cannot lead to the knowledge of the individuating principles, which are material principles, so that through that likeness the individual may be known in its singularity. But the likeness existing in the separate substance’s intellect as a certain single and immaterial thing is of more universal power and, consequently, is able to lead to the knowledge of both the specific and the individuating principles, so that through this likeness, residing in its intellect, the separate substance can be cognizant, not only of the generic and specific natures, but of the individual nature as well. Nor does it follow that the form through which it knows is material; nor that those forms are infinite, according to the number of individuals…

4 A further argument. The species of intelligible things come to our intellect in an order contrary to that in which they reach the intellect of a separate substance. For they reach our intellect by way of analysis, through abstraction from material and individuating conditions; that is why we cannot know singulars through them.

But it is as it were by way of synthesis that intelligible species reach the intellect of a separate substance, for the latter has intelligible species by reason of its likeness to the first intelligible species—the divine intellect—which is not abstracted from things, but productive of them. And it is productive not only of the form, but also of the matter, which is the principle of individuation. Therefore, the species of the separate substance’s intellect regard the total thing, not only the principles of the species, but even the individuating principles. The knowledge of singulars, therefore, must not be denied to separate substances, although our intellect cannot be cognizant of singulars…

Chapter 101 Whether separate substances have natural knowledge of all things at the same time (alternate translation) We’re still using the alternate translation.

1 Now, since “the intellect in act is the thing understood in act, just as the sense in act is the sensible in act,” and since the same thing cannot at the same time be many things actually, it is seemingly impossible, as we observed above, that the intellect of a separate substance should be possessed of diverse species of intelligibles.

2 But it must be known that not everything is actually understood, the intelligible species of which is actually present in the intellect. For, since an intelligent substance is also endowed with will, being, thereby, master of its own acts, it is in its power after it possesses an intelligible species to use it for understanding actually, or, if it have several intelligible species, to use one of them.

That is why we do not actually consider all the things of which we have scientific knowledge. Therefore, an intellectual substance, being cognizant of things through a plurality of species, uses the one that it chooses, and thereby actually knows at the same time through the one species all the things which it knows; for they are all as one intelligible thing so far as they are known through one, even as our intellect knows at the same time several things brought together or related to one another as one individual thing. On the other hand, the things that the intellect knows through diverse species, it does not know at the same time. And, consequently, just as there is one understanding, so is there one thing actually understood.

3 Therefore, in the intellect of a separate substance there is a certain succession of understandings, but not movement properly so called, since act does not succeed potentiality; rather, act succeeds act.

4 But the divine intellect knows all things at the same time, because it knows all things through one thing, its essence, and because its action is its essence.

5 Wherefore, in God’s understanding there is no succession, but His act of understanding, wholly and simultaneously perfect, endures through all the ages. Amen.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *