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CHAPTER LVII: THAT GOD'S KNOWLEDGE IS NOT DISCURSIVE

FURTHERMORE we gather from the foregoing that God’s thoughts are not argumentative or discursive.


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[1] 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.


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.


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.


Moreover. In all discursive knowledge something must needs be caused; since the premisses are, so to speak, the cause of the conclusion: wherefore a demonstration is described as a syllogism that produces knowledge.[4] But nothing can be caused in the divine knowledge, since it is God Himself, as shown above.[5] Therefore God’s knowledge cannot be discursive.


Again. Those things which we know naturally, are known to us without our discoursing about them, as in the case of first principles. Now knowledge in God cannot be otherwise than natural, nor in fact otherwise than essential; since His knowledge is His essence, as we proved above.[6] Therefore God’s knowledge is not argumentative.


Further. Whatever is moved must be reduced to a first mover that is mover only and not moved.[7] Wherefore that whence comes the first source of movement, must be absolutely a mover unmoved. Now this is the divine intellect, as we have shown above.[8] Therefore the divine intellect must be an absolutely unmoved mover. But argument is a movement of the intellect in passing from one thing to another. Therefore the divine intellect is not argumentative.


Again. That which is highest in us is inferior to that which is in God: for the inferior does not touch the superior except in its summit. Now the summit in our knowledge is not reason, but understanding, which is the source of reason. Therefore God’s knowledge is not argumentative, but purely intellectual.


Moreover. All defect is far removed from God, because He is simply perfect, as proved above.[9] But argumentative knowledge results from an imperfection of the intellectual nature: since what is known through another thing is less known than what is known in itself: nor does the nature of the knower suffice to reach what is known through something else, without this thing through which the other is made known. Now in argumentative knowledge, one thing is made known through another: whereas what is known intellectually is known in itself, and the nature of the knower suffices for the knowledge thereof without any means from without. Hence it is clear that reason is a defective intellect: and consequently the divine knowledge is not argumentative.


Again. Without any discourse of reason those things are understood whose species are in the knower: for the sight does not discourse in order to know a stone the image of which is in the sight. Now the divine essence is the likeness of all things, as we have proved above.[10] Therefore it does not proceed to know a thing by a discourse of reason.


It is also clear how to solve the arguments that would seem to prove the presence of discourse in the divine knowledge. First, because He knows other things through His essence. For it has been proved that this does not involve discoursing: since His essence is related to other things not as the premises to a conclusion, but as species to things known. Secondly, because some might think it unfitting that God should be unable to argue. For He has the knowledge of arguing as judging, and not as discoursing by arguing.


Holy Writ bears witness to this truth which we have proved by reason. For it is said (Heb. iv. 13): All things are naked and open to His eyes. Because the things that we know by reasoning are not in themselves naked and open to us, but are opened out and laid bare by reason.



  1. Ch. lv.
  2. Ch. xlvi.
  3. Ch. xvi.
  4. 1 Post. Anal. ii. 4.
  5. Ch. xlv.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ch. xiii.
  8. Ch. xliv.
  9. Ch. xxviii.
  10. Ch. liv.




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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