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CHAPTER XCVIIIHow one separately subsisting Intelligence knows another

AS separately subsisting intelligences understand proper terms of intellect; and the said intelligences are themselves such terms, — for it is independence of matter that makes a thing be a proper term of intellect; it follows that separately subsisting intelligences understand other such intelligences, finding in them their proper objects. Every such intelligence therefore will know both itself and its fellows.496496A ‘proper term of intellect’ is a form apart from matter, as ‘brightness,’ ‘clearness,’ ‘lucidity,’ apart from ‘this bright button,’ ‘this clear sky.’ The separation of the form apart from matter is either physical or logical. Where the separation is logical only, the form cannot really exist except in matter; and from matter the human intellect gathers it by abstraction and generalisation. The angel somehow gathers the same form without having to study the matter in which it resides. But when the form is physically distinct from matter, - when it subsists by itself, — such an immaterial, subsisting form lives and understands: it is an angel. An angel, according to St Thomas, is a personified form, quality, or attribute: what attribute exactly, it is not for us to say. We men cannot “count the host of heaven, and call them by their names.” It will know itself, but in a different way from that in which the human potential intellect knows itself. For the potential intellect is only potentially intelligible, and becomes actually such by being impressed with an intellectual impression. Only by such an impression does it become cognisant of itself. But separately subsisting intelligences by their nature are actually intelligible497497A separately subsisting intelligence, or angel, is an ἔμψυχον εἶδος, or living idea, more or less in the Platonic sense. Now an idea is nothing, if it be not a term of intellect. The human mind then comes to know itself by getting an idea of something else: the angel knows himself always and essentially, because he is an idea.: hence every one of them knows himself by his own essence, not by any impression representative of another thing.

A difficulty: Since all knowledge, as it is the knowing mind, is a likeness of the thing known, and one separately subsistent intelligence is like another generically, but differs from it in species (Chap. XCIII), it appears that one does not know another in species, but only so far as the two meet in one common ratio, that of the genus.

Reply. With subsistent beings of a higher order than we are, the knowledge contained in higher generalities is not incomplete, as it is with us. The likeness in the mind of ‘animal,’ whereby we know a thing generically only, yields us a less complete knowledge than the likeness of ‘man,’ whereby we know an entire species. To know a thing by its genus is to know it imperfectly and, as it were, potentially; to know it by its species is to know it perfectly and actually. Holding as it does the lowest rank among subsistent intelligences, our intellect stands in such pressing need of particular detailed 177likenesses, that for every distinct object of its knowledge it requires a distinct likeness in itself: hence the likeness of ‘animal’ does not enable it to know ‘rational,’ consequently not ‘man’ either, except imperfectly. But the intellectual presentation in an intelligence subsisting apart is of a higher power, apt to represent more, and leads to a knowledge, not less perfect, but more perfect. By one presentation such an intelligence knows both ‘animal’ and the several specific differentias which make the several species of animals: this knowledge is more or less comprehensive according to the hierarchical rank of the intelligence.498498According as the angel belongs to a higher or lower ‘choir’. We may illustrate this truth by contrasting the two extremes, the divine and human intellect. God knows all things by the one medium of His essence; man requires so many several likenesses, images or presentations in the mind, to know so many several things. Yet even in man the higher understanding gathers more from fewer presentations: slow minds on the other hand need many particular examples to lead them to knowledge. Since a separately subsistent intelligence, considered in its nature, is potentially open to the presentations whereby ‘being’ in its entirety (totum ens) is known, we cannot suppose that such an intelligence is denuded of all such presentations, as is the case with the potential intellect in use ere it comes to understand.499499“We cannot suppose that such an intelligence is denuded of such presentations,” because such supposition would involve that intelligence in total darkness as to the facts of its environment, which darkness would be a stultifying of the whole nature of intelligence. The only question can be, how the angelic intelligence becomes possessed of these presentations. As we shall see in Chap. C, St Thomas takes them to be innate ideas. Nor again can we suppose that this separately subsistent intelligence has some of these presentations actually, and others, potentially only. For separate intelligences do not change (Chap. XCVII); but every potentiality in them must be actualised. Thus then the intellect of the separately subsistent intelligence is perfected to the full extent of its capacity by intelligible forms, so far as natural knowledge goes.500500Man is what he becomes by development (φύσις): angelic being, as such, is a perfect consummation (τέλος) from the first


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