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I Sentences, Distinction 3, Question 1

Concerning Man's Knowledge of God


ARTICULUS PRIMUS
Utrum Deus possit cognosci ab
intellectu creato.

First Article
Whether God can be known by a created intellect.

Ad primum sic proceditur. 1. Videtur


quod Deus non sit cognoscibilis a
creato intellectu. Dicit enim Dionysius,
cap. I De div. nom., quod Deum nec
dicere nec intelligere possumus: quod
sic probat. Cognitio est tantum
existentium. Sed Deus est supra
omnia existentia. Ergo est supra
cognitionem.

We proceed thus to the first issue. 1. It seems that God is


not knowable by a created intellect. For Dionysius says,
in Chapter 1 of On the Divine Names, that we can
neither speak about nor understand God, which he
proves in this manner. Knowledge pertains only to
existing things. But God is above all existing things. He
is, therefore, above knowledge.

2. Item, Deus plus distat a quolibet


existentium intelligibilium notorum
nobis, quam distet intelligibile a
sensibili. Sed sensus non potest
intelligibile cognoscere. Ergo nec
Deus potest a nostro intellectu
cognosci.

2. Moreover, God is more distant from any existing


intelligible things known by us than an intelligible thing
is from a sensible thing. But the senses cannot know an
intelligible thing. Therefore, neither can God be known
by our intellect.

3. Item, omnis cognitio est per speciem


aliquam, per cujus informationem fit
assimilatio cognoscentis ad rem
cognitam. Sed a Deo non potest
abstrahi aliqua species, cum sit
simplicissimus. Ergo non est
cognoscibilis.

3. Again, all knowledge arises by means of some


species through the formation of which an assimilation
of the knower to the thing known is produced. But some
species cannot be abstracted from God, since he is most
simple. He is, therefore, not knowable.

4. Item, ut dicit Philosophus, III Physic.,


omne infinitum est ignotum; cujus ratio
est, quia de ratione infiniti est, ut sit
extra accipientem secundum aliquid
sui, et tale est ignotum. Sed Deus est
infinitus. Ergo est ignotus.

4. Besides, as the Philosopher says in Book 3 of the


Physics, every infinite thing is unknown. The reason for
this is that it belongs to the notion of an infinite thing that,
according to something of itself, it is beyond the one
receiving it, and such a thing is unknown. But God is
infinite. He is, therefore, unknown.

5. Item, Philosophus dicit, III De anima,


quod ita se habent phantasmata ad
intellectum, sicut colores ad visum.
Sed visus corporalis nihil videt sine
colore. Ergo intellectus noster nihil
intelligit sine phantasmate. Cum igitur
de Deo non possit formari aliquod
phantasma, ut dicitur Isa. XL, 18:
Quam imaginem ponetis ei? videtur
quod non sit cognoscibilis a nostro

5. Furthermore, the Philosopher says, in Book 3 of On


the Soul, that phantasms are related to an understood
thing just as colors are related to a seen thing. But
bodily vision sees nothing without color. Our intellect,
therefore, understands nothing without a phantasm.
Since, therefore, some phantasm of God cannot be
formed - and thus it is said in Isaiah 40, 18: What image
will you set up for him? - it seems that he is not
knowable by our intellect.

intellectu.
Contra, Jerem., IX, 24, dicitur: In hoc
glorietur qui gloriatur, scire et nosse
me. Sed ista non est vana gloria ad
quam Deus hortatur. Ergo videtur quod
possibile sit Deum cognoscere.

On the contrary, in Jeremiah 9, 24, it is said: Let him who


glories, glory in this, that he knows and has become
acquainted with me. But that to which God exhorts is not
vainglory. It seems, therefore, that it is possible to know
God.

Item, ut supra dictum est, etiam


Moreover, as was said above, the contemplation of God
secundum Philosophum, X Ethicor.,
is the ultimate end of human life, according to the
cap. X, ultimus finis humanae vitae est Philosopher in Book 10, Chapter 10 of the
contemplatio Dei. Si igitur ad hoc
Nicomachean Ethics. If, therefore, man were not able to
homo non posset pertingere, in vanum attain this, he would have been made in vain. For,
esset constitutus; quia vanum est,
according to the Philosopher in Book 2 of the Physics, a
secundum Philosophum, II Phys., quod vain thing is that which exists for the sake of some end
ad aliquem finem est, quem non
that it does not include. And this is unreasonable, as is
includit; et hoc est inconveniens, ut
said in Psalm 88, 48: Did you, in fact, make him in vain?
dicitur in psalm. LXXXVIII, 48:
Numquid enim vane constituisti eum.
Item, ut dicit Philosophus, III De anima,
in hoc differt intelligibile a sensibili,
quia sensibile excellens destruit
sensum; intelligibile autem maximum
non destruit, sed confortat intellectum.
Cum igitur Deus sit maxime
intelligibilis quantum in se est; quia est
primum intelligibile, videtur quod a
nostro intellectu possit intelligi: non
enim impediretur nisi propter suam
excellentiam.

Furthermore, as the Philosopher says in Book 3 of On


the Soul, an intelligible thing differs from a sensible
thing in that an exceedingly strong sensible thing
destroys a sense organ; the greatest intelligible thing,
however, does not destroy but strengthens the intellect.
Therefore, since God, as he is in himself, is the most
intelligible thing because he is the first intelligible, it
seems that he can be understood by our intellect; it
would be hampered, in fact, only on account of his
excellence.

SOLUTIO. Respondeo dicendum,


quod non est hic quaestio, utrum Deus
in essentia sua immediate videri
possit, hoc enim alterius intentionis
est; sed utrum quocumque modo
cognosci possit. Et ideo dicimus quod
Deus cognoscibilis est; non autem ita
est cognoscibilis, ut essentia sua
comprehendatur. Quia omne
cognoscens habet cognitionem de re
cognita, non per modum rei cognitae,
sed per modum cognoscentis. Modus
autem nullius creaturae attingit ad
altitudinem divinae majestatis. Unde
oportet quod a nullo perfecte
cognoscatur, sicut ipse seipsum
cognoscit.

Solution: I respond that it should be said that the


question here is not whether God can be seen
immediately in his essence - this is, indeed, a different
issue - but whether he can be known in any way
whatsoever. And therefore, we say that God is
knowable, however not that he is knowable so that his
essence may be comprehended. For every knower has
knowledge of the thing known, not according to the
mode of the thing known, but according to the mode of
the knower. The mode of no creature, however, reaches
the height of the divine majesty. Hence, it is necessary
that God is known perfectly, as he knows himself, by no
one.

Ad primum ergo dicendum, quod sicut To the first, therefore, it should be said that as God is not
Deus non est hoc modo existens sicut existing in the same way as existing things, but in him

ista existentia, sed in eo est natura


entitatis eminenter; unde non est
omnino expers entitatis; ita etiam non
omnino est expers cognitionis, quin
cognoscatur; sed non cognoscitur per
modum aliorum existentium, quae
intellectu creato comprehendi possunt.
Ad secundum dicendum, quod
quamvis plus distet Deus a quolibet
intelligibili, secundum naturae
proprietatem, quam intelligibile a
sensibili, tamen plus convenit in
ratione cognoscibilitatis. Omne enim
quod est separatum a materia, habet
rationem ut cognoscatur sicut
intelligibile: quod autem materiale est
cognoscitur ut sensibile.

the nature of being is present eminently, it follows that


he is not altogether devoid of the character of being. He
is thus also not altogether immune from knowledge but
may be known. But he is not known according to the
manner of other existing things, which can be
comprehended by a created intellect.

Ad tertium dicendum, quod species,


per quam fit cognitio, est in potentia
cognoscente secundum modum ipsius
cognoscentis: unde eorum quae sunt
magis materialia quam intellectus,
species est in intellectu simplicior
quam in rebus; et ideo hujusmodi
dicuntur cognosci per modum
abstractionis. Deus autem et angeli
sunt simpliciores nostro intellectu; et
ideo species quae in nostro intellectu
efficitur, per quam cognoscuntur, est
minus simplex. Unde non dicimur
cognoscere ea per abstractionem, sed
per impressionem ipsorum in
intelligentias nostras.

To the third, it should be said that a species by which


knowledge arises exists in potency in the knower
according to the mode of the knower himself. Hence, a
species of the things that are more material than the
intellect exists in the intellect in a more simple way than
in things, and for this reason, things of this sort are said
to be known by way of abstraction. God and angels,
however, are simpler than our intellect, and for this
reason, a species that is formed in our intellect by which
they are known is less simple. Hence, we are not said to
know them by abstraction but by an impression of them
in our understandings.

Ad quartum dicendum, quod infinitum


dicitur dupliciter, scilicet privative et
negative. Infinitum privative est quod
secundum suum genus est natum
habere finem, non habens; et tale, cum
sit imperfectum, ex sui imperfectione
perfecte non cognoscitur, sed
secundum quid. Infinitum negative
dicitur quod nullo modo finitum est; et
hoc est quiddam quod se ad omnia
extendit, perfectissimum, non valens
ab intellectu creato comprehendi, sed
tantum attingi.

To the fourth, it should be said that a thing is called


infinite in two ways, namely, privatively and negatively.
In the privative sense, a thing is infinite that, according to
its genus, was begotten to have a limit but does not
possess one, and such a thing, since it is imperfect, is
not known perfectly on account of its own imperfection
but is known in a certain respect. In the negative sense,
a thing is called infinite that is limited in no way, and this
is a certain thing that extends itself to all things, the most
perfect thing that cannot be comprehended, but only
touched, by a created intellect.

To the second, it should be said that, although God is


more distant from any intelligible thing, according to the
quality of nature, than an intelligible thing is from a
sensible thing, he nonetheless agrees more in the
concept of being able to be known. For every thing that
is separate from matter has a concept so that it may be
known as an intelligible thing; every thing that is
material, however, is known as a sensible thing.

Ad quintum dicendum, quod


To the fifth, it should be said that, in Book 3 of On the
Philosophus, III De anima, loquitur de Soul, the Philosopher speaks about the intellect's

cognitione intellectus connaturali nobis knowledge that is connatural to us according to the


secundum statum viae; et hoc modo
condition of this life. And in this way, God is known by
Deus non cognoscitur a nobis nisi per us only through a phantasm, not a phantasm of himself
phantasma, non sui ipsius, sed causati but of an effect of his by which we reach him. But, as a
sui per quod in ipsum devenimus. Sed result of this, the fact that there can be some knowledge
per hoc non removetur quin cognitio
of God in the intellect is not withdrawn - knowledge not
aliqua possit esse intellectus, non per by the way natural to us but by a higher way, namely, by
viam naturalem nobis, sed altiorem,
the influence of the divine light for which a phantasm is
scilicet per influentiam divini luminis
not necessary.
ad quam phantasma non est
necessarium.
Alia concedimus. Tamen ad ultimum, We concede the other arguments. Nonetheless, to the
quia concludit, quod Deus etiam nunc last one because it concludes that God may also now be
maxime cognoscatur a nobis,
known by us in the greatest way, it should be stated in
respondendum est, quod
reply that there is, in a way, a similarity and, in a way, a
quodammodo est simile in intellectu et dissimilarity between the intellect and the senses. For
sensu, et quodammodo dissimile. In
there is a similarity in the fact that, just as the senses
hoc enim simile est quod sicut sensus cannot attain knowledge in relation to that which is not
non potest in id quod non est
proportionate to them, neither can the intellect, since all
proportionatum sibi, ita nec intellectus, knowledge exists through the mode of the knower,
cum omnis cognitio sit per modum
according to Boethius in The Consolation of Philosophy,
cognoscentis, secundum Boetium, De Book 5, Prose 6. There is a dissimilarity, however, in the
cons., lib. V, prosa VI, in hoc autem
fact that an exceedingly strong intelligible thing does not
dissimile est quod intelligibile
corrupt the intellect, as an exceedingly strong sensible
excellens non corrumpit, sicut
thing corrupts the senses. Hence, the intellect does not
excellens sensibile; unde intellectus
fail to attain knowledge of an exceedingly strong
non deficit a cognitione excellentis
intelligible thing because it is corrupted, but because it
intelligibilis, quia corrumpatur, sed
does not reach it. And for this reason, a created intellect
quia non attingit. Et ideo non perfecte cannot see God perfectly.
Deum videre potest intellectus creatus.

John Laumakis
(jlamakis@hilltop.ic.edu)

The Aquinas Translation Project


(http://www4.desales.edu/~philtheo/loughlin/ATP/index.html)