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CHAPTER I: IN WHAT CONSISTS THE OFFICE OF A WISE MAN

My mouth shall meditate truth, and my lips shall hate wickedness.--PROV. viii. 7.


THE general use which, in the Philosopher’s[1] opinion, should be followed in naming things, has resulted in those men being called wise who direct things themselves and govern them well. Wherefore among other things which men conceive of the wise man, the Philosopher reckons that it belongs to the wise man to direct things.[2] Now the rule of all things directed to the end of government and order must needs be taken from their end: for then is a thing best disposed when it is fittingly directed to its end, since the end of everything is its good. Wherefore in the arts we observe that the art which governs and rules another is the one to which the latter’s end belongs: thus the medical art rules and directs the art of the druggist, because health which is the object of medicine is the end of all drugs which are made up by the druggist’s art. The same may be observed in the art of sailing in relation to the art of ship-building, and in the military art in relation to the equestrian art and all warlike appliances. These arts which govern others are called master-arts (architectonicæ), that is principal arts, for which reason their craftsmen, who are called master-craftsmen (architectores), are awarded the name of wise men. Since, however, these same craftsmen, through being occupied with the ends of certain singular things, do not attain to the universal end of all things, they are called wise about this or that, in which sense it is said (1 Cor. iii. 10): As a wise architect, I have laid the foundation; whereas the name of being wise simply is reserved to him alone whose consideration is about the end of the universe, which end is also the beginning of the universe: wherefore, according to the Philosopher,[3] it belongs to the wise man to consider the highest causes.


Now the last end of each thing is that which is intended by the first author or mover of that thing: and the first author and mover of the universe is an intellect, as we shall prove further on.[4] Consequently the last end of the universe must be the good of the intellect: and this is truth. Therefore truth must be the last end of the whole universe; and the consideration thereof must be the chief occupation of wisdom. And for this reason divine Wisdom, clothed in flesh, declares that He came into the world to make known the truth, saying (Jo. xviii. 37): For this was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should give testimony to the truth. Moreover the Philosopher defines the First Philosophy as being the knowledge of truth,[5] not of any truth, but of that truth which is the source of all truth, of that, namely, which relates to the first principle of being of all things; wherefore its truth is the principle of all truth, since the disposition of things is the same in truth as in being.


Now it belongs to the same thing to pursue one contrary and to remove the other: thus medicine which effects health, removes sickness. Hence, just as it belongs to a wise man to meditate and disseminate truth, especially about the first principle, so does it belong to him to refute contrary falsehood.


Wherefore the twofold office of the wise man is fittingly declared from the mouth of Wisdom, in the words above quoted; namely, to meditate and publish the divine truth, which antonomastically is the truth, as signified by the words, My mouth shall meditate truth; and to refute the error contrary to truth, as signified by the words, and my lips shall hate wickedness, by which is denoted falsehood opposed to divine truth, which falsehood is contrary to religion that is also called godliness, wherefore the falsehood that is contrary thereto receives the name of ungodliness.



  1. 2 Top. 1. 5.
  2. 1 Metaph. ii. 3.
  3. 1 Metaph. i. 12; ii. 7.
  4. Ch. xliv.; Bk. II., ch. xxiv.
  5. Ia Metaph. i. 4, 5.




Source: St. Thomas Aquinas, The Summa Contra Gentiles, trans. by The English Dominican Fathers from the latest Leonine Edition, Benzinger Brothers: New York, 1924.

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