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CHAPTER XCVIThat Intelligences subsisting apart do not gather their Knowledge from Objects of Sense

A HIGHER power must have a higher object. But the intellectual power of a separately subsisting intelligence is higher than the intellectual power of the human soul, the latter being lowest in the order of intelligences (Chap. LXXVII). Now the object of the intelligence of the human soul is a phantasm (Chap. LX), which is higher in the order of objects than the sensible thing existing outside and apart from the soul.492492“Higher in the order of objects” in this, that the phantasm has a quasi-spiritual existence in the human mind: on the other hand, lower in this, that the sensible thing is a substance, the phantasm an accident. It will be remembered that the phantasm is objectum quo, not objectum quod (p. 145). The object therefore of a separately subsisting intelligence cannot be an objective reality (res) existing outside the soul, as though it could get knowledge immediately from that; nor can it be a phantasm: it must then be something higher than a phantasm. But nothing is higher than a phantasm in the order of knowable objects except that which is an actual term of intelligence. Intelligences subsisting apart therefore do not gather their intellectual knowledge from objects of sense, but understand objects which are of themselves terms of intelligence.493493A ‘term of intelligence’ (intelligibile) is what answers to a universal concept: it is the scientific aspect of a thing (ratio, p. 111), what we call the ‘principle’ of a thing, as of ‘youth,’ ‘manhood,’ ‘tree,’ ‘steam-engine,’ as distinguished from the embodiment of that principle in these and those particular materials. It is the λόγος, not the πάθη. It is what some think Plato to have meant by an ‘idea.’

3. According to the order of intelligences is the order of terms of intelligence. But objects that are of themselves terms of intelligence are higher in order than objects that are terms of intelligence only because we make them so. Of this latter sort are all terms of intelligence borrowed from sensible things: for sensible things are not of themselves intelligible: yet these sensible things are the sort of intelligible things that our intellect understands. A separately subsisting intelligence therefore, being superior to our intelligence, does not understand the intellectual aspects of things by gathering 175them from objects of sense: it seizes upon those aspects as they are in themselves.

4. The manner of activity proper to a thing corresponds to the manner and nature of its substance. But an intelligence subsisting apart is by itself, away from any body. Therefore its intellectual activity will be conversant with objects not based upon anything corporeal.

From these considerations it appears that in intelligences subsisting apart there is no such thing as active and potential intellect, except perchance by an improper use of those terms. The reason why potential and active intellect are found in our intelligent soul is because it has to gather intellectual knowledge from sensible things: for the active intellect it is that turns the impressions, gathered from sensible things, into terms of intellect: while the potential intellect is in potentiality to the knowledge of all forms of sensible things. Since then separately subsisting intellects do not gather their knowledge from sensible things, there is in them no active and potential intellect.

Nor again can distance in place hinder the knowledge of a disembodied soul (animae separatae). Distance in place ordinarily affects sense, not intellect, except incidentally, where intellect has to gather its data from sense. For while there is a definite law of distance according to which sensible objects affect sense, terms of intellect, as they impress the intellect, are not in place, but are separate from bodily matter. Since then separately subsistent intelligences do not gather their intellectual knowledge from sensible things, distance in place has no effect upon their knowledge.494494St Thomas does not deny the cognition of space to angels and disembodied spirits: but he says that distance does not limit their knowledge, as it limits our sense-perception, and our knowledge in consequence. Even the human mind, having once compassed the idea of a thing, thinks of the thing irrespective of distance, e.g., the depths of stellar space.

Plainly too neither is time mingled with the intellectual activity of such beings. Terms of intellect are as independent of time as they are of place. Time follows upon local motion, and measures such things only as are in some manner placed in space; and therefore the understanding of a separately subsisting intelligence is above time. On the other hand, time is a condition of our intellectual activity, since we receive knowledge from phantasms that regard a fixed time. Hence to its judgements affirmative and negative our intelligence always appends a fixed time, except when it understands the essence of a thing. It understands essence by abstracting terms of understanding from the conditions of sensible things: hence in that operation it understands irrespectively of time and other conditions of sensible things. But it judges affirmatively and negatively by applying forms of understanding, the results of previous abstraction, to things, and in this application time is necessarily understood as entering into the combination.495495Mathematical calculations are irrespective of time: they deal with the ‘essences of things,’ which are timeless, as Aristotle says of the relation of the diagonal to the side of the square: time makes no difference in that relation. But when an engineer comes to apply such calculations to practical work, he re-enters upon considerations of time and place. The affirmative and negative judgements spoken of in the text make accidental propositions: now accidental propositions involve time, e.g., ‘there stood a lion in the way’: essential propositions do not, e.g., ‘a lion is an animal of the cat tribe.’

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