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CHAPTER LXIThat God is pure Truth

THE understanding is not liable to error in its knowledge of abstract being, as neither is sense in dealing with the proper object of each sense.121121If an ear mistakes a sound or the eye a colour, the aurist, or the oculist, at once infers that the organ is unhealthy; as sound is the “proper object” of hearing, and colour of sight. But a mistake about the direction of a sound, or the distance of a hill, shows, not an unhealthy, but an untrained ear or eye; as direction and distance are “accidental objects” of hearing and sight. In like manner the understanding in health, or the normal understanding, never errs when it says, ‘Here’s something’: this is the cognition of “abstract being,” the “proper object “ of the understanding. But all the knowledge of the divine mind is after the manner of a mind knowing abstract being (Chap. LVIII): it is impossible therefore for error or deception or falsehood to creep into the cognitive act of God.

3. The intellect does not err over first principles, but over reasoned conclusions from first principles. But the divine intellect is not reasoning or argumentative (Chap. LVII), and is therefore not liable to deception.122122Man is never out in his intuitions, only in his reasonings: but the divine mind is one all-comprehensive intuition. Such is the argument. But man is out in his intuitions often, when he ventures on intuition of complex matter, taking for self-evident what is not even true. Next door to the intuitions of a genius are the blunders of a fool. An ‘error of judgement,’ as it is called, is not usually a wrong piece of reasoning, but a bad attempt at intuition. St Thomas might reply that this comes of man attempting intuitions beyond his sphere of vision. But the sphere of divine vision embraces all things.

4. The higher any cognitive faculty is, the more universal and far-reaching is its proper object: hence what sight is cognisant of accidentally,123123‘Accidentally,’ i.e., not merely by sight, but by association with some other faculty, as when we see that a dog looks fierce. general sensibility or imagination seizes upon as a content of its proper object. But the power of the divine mind is the acme of cognitive power: therefore all things knowable stand to it as proper and ordinary objects of knowledge, not as accidental objects. But over proper and ordinary objects of knowledge a cognitive faculty never makes a mistake.


5. An intellectual virtue is a perfection of the understanding in knowing. It never happens that the understanding utters anything false, but its utterance is always true, when prompted by any intellectual virtue; for it is the part of virtue to render an act good, and to utter truth is the good act of the understanding. But the divine mind, being the acme of perfection, is more perfect by its nature than the human mind by any habit of virtue.

6. The knowledge of the human mind is in a manner caused by things: hence it comes to be that things knowable are the measure of human knowledge: for the judgement of the mind is true, because the thing is so. But the divine mind by its knowledge is the cause of things.124124Understand, in the ideal order of possibility and conceptual truth, a necessary order, — but for contingent actual things there must be some reference to the divine will. Of actual things, the divine mind by its knowledge is the exemplar, but not the efficient cause. Hence God’s knowledge must be the measure of things, as art is the measure of products of art, whereof the perfection of each varies according to its agreement with art. Thus the divine mind stands to things as things stand to the human mind. But any error that arises out of any inequality between the human mind and the thing is not in things, but in the mind. If therefore there were not an absolutely perfect correspondence of the divine mind with things, the error would be in the things, not in the divine mind. There is however no error in the things that be: because each has so much of truth as it has of being. There is then no failure of correspondence between the divine mind and the things that be.

Hence it is said: God is truthful (Rom. iii, 4): God is not like man, that he should lie (Num. xxiii, 19): God is light, and there is no darkness in him (1 John i, 5).

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