12 March 2009

Creator and Creation: Midterm Paper

How's this for an assignment? It's a full sheet of paper (single spaced) all on its own!


"God understands himself through himself. In order to understand this, it should be known that [sc. in the operation of understanding]... the intelligible in act is the intellect in act. ... Therefore, since God has nothing of potentiality, but is pure act, it is necessary that in him the intellect and the thing understood should be the same in every way" (ST I 14.2).

"God, however, is pure act both in the order of existing things and in the order of intelligible things, and therefore he understands himself through himself" (ST I 14.2 ad 3).

In these lines, Aquinas describes the phenomenon of knowing as an identity in act of the knower (intellect) and the thing known (the intelligible). Departing from this description try to unfold what Aquinas says about the Creator's knowledge of himself and his creation:

1. Explain or describe the identity in act of intellect and intelligible. How does it relate to the description of truth? (i.e. relate it to the three descriptions of truth). Relate this understanding of truth analogously to God's self-understanding and to divine truth; negate the imperfection of created truth which is not found in the divine truth!

2. Which kind of being enables the intellect to become the other, i.e. to become informed by the "form" of the thing known? How would you relate intelligible being (ens intelligibile) to that which first falls in the intellect (ens universale)? Which relation between natural and intelligible being is found (1) in God and (b) in material things? Why would Aquinas say: "the object of the intellect is the first and primary principle in the genus of formal cause, for its object is being and truth … [and] under the truth [or intelligible being] are comprehended all apprehended forms"? (On Evil, q. 6; cf. SCG II, 98, n. 9: "the proper object of the intellect is intelligible being, which includes all possible differences and species of being"). Relate this to the description of the nature of being! Try to show that it is necessary to have a confused knowledge of the whole truth in order to know the limited participation of truth which is found in this or that thing (hint: the tree of Porphyrius).

3. This understanding of being enables Aquinas to describe God’s knowledge of the world / creation: Give a general account of God's knowledge of other things, especially with respect to the proper knowledge of everything. Try to say why the distinction of natural and intelligible being enables Aquinas to say that God is able to create (hint: On the Power of God 7.1 ad 8).

4. As a conclusion, describe the phenomenon of divine presentiality, i.e. that God is the presence of all things. Your discussion should include that there is no discursive thinking and no cause of the understanding of creatures in God (cf. 14.7; 19.5). The consequent distinction of presentiality from causality does not exclude that God perceives himself as principle of this world – why? Relate this distinction to the freedom of human beings!

[UPDATE] I'm through with subsection no. 1 of the assignment!
[UPDATE #2] The final product is available via the link on the sidebar.

5 comments:

ckgaler said...

This makes my head hurt. . .

big daddy said...

Automatic transmissions are easier, aren't they?

MargoB said...

John, isn't Aquinas quite the head trip?! It was so easy for me to skip over sentences at a time b/c his words (arguments) seemed *so* irrelevant.

And yet, I've found that what he's articulating are several of those 'ideas [that] have consequences'!! All the decisions made in this world are based on the ideas people hold. Aquinas has categorised many (all? all the 'grundlich' ones, I bet) of these ideas in another way -- not in the way that we normally assemble them to arrive at our decisions, but in an academic, orderly way.

But I've gradually come to realize that he actually is articulating the big 'movers and shakers' that are behind most (all?) of what we say and do.

And *that*'s why I loved my Aquinas classes :) Yes, it was hard to slog through him. But hearing in class how the ideas we were wrestling with play out in human lives was **fascinating** . I hope you get some of that somewhere in your studies! (If not, pester appropriate profs for instruction in Thomistic psychology, or 'Thomistic applications.' !)

Hang in there! :)

W. said...

Sounds like fun. I have been reading some of Aquinas on these issues: ScG.

Do they have you look at any secondary readings? Have any been helpful? Fr. Sokolowski has something to say on points related to the Creator/Creation distinction.

The World of Our Concern said...

You'd be amazed (or maybe you wouldn't) how much issue some contemporary philosophers take with talk of the intelligibility of being. I am always on the lookout for ways in which Christianity/Christian philosophy is a scandal to non-Christians, because for some reason it is those elements of Christianity that most excite me. Now the intelligibility of being, especially the idea that all being is intelligible to God, and that it is intelligible to Him through Himself, used to strike me as a very normal thing to believe. But I have realized, since studying the Phenomenologists and the Post-Modernists (who continue to fascinate me because I suffer from the sins of curiosity and love of ambiguity), that for many people these are the most reprehensible ideas ever to arise out of oppressive Western civilization. For some of them, the idea that all being is intelligible to anyone is the greatest violence that could be committed to the individuality and "otherness" of things. So I think that the understanding of the different modes of being and the ways in which being is intelligible to us and to God, and especially how the issue of participation enters in here are key, especially for confronting many of the contemporary philosophies. The ability to give a good account of the connection/distinction between natural being and intelligible being and being in the intellect, especially in the "phenomenological"/experiential way that St. Thomas does, is key for overturning the problematic account of these things given by contemporary philosophers, who would make being a vague and unintelligible field of ambiguity.

That's what I think, anyways.