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CHAPTERS CVIII, CXArguments seeming to prove that Sin is impossible to Spirits, with Solutions of the same

ARG. 1. Every other cognitive faculty but the understanding makes use of living bodily organs. In pure spirits therefore it is impossible for there to be any cognitive faculty but the understanding; and whatever they take cognisance of, they have understanding of.727727Is not this also true of man, in so far at least as his consciousness is fully awakened, and his cognition lively? In such a case sense never acts alone. Then the objection holds good for man also, in respect of any fully deliberate sin. But in so far as one has understanding, one does not err: for all error springs from lack of understanding. Therefore there can be no error in the apprehension of these spirits. But without such error there can be no sin in the will: because the will always tends to good as apprehended: hence unless there he a mistake in the apprehension of good, there can be no sin in the will.728728See the latter half of Chap. X, where the explanation given of the spiritual (not the fleshly) sins of man applies likewise to angels.


Arg. 2. In us there occurs sin of the will in respect of matters about which we have true knowledge of their general bearings, but on a particular point our judgement is hampered by some passion fettering the reason. But these passions cannot be in spiritual beings, because such passions belong to the sensitive part, and that has no action without a bodily organ. Having therefore a right knowledge in general, the will of a pure spirit cannot tend to evil by any defed of knowledge in particular.

Arg. 3. No cognitive faculty is deceived about its own proper object, but only about some object foreign to it: thus sight is not deceived in judging of colours, but when a man undertakes by sight to judge of tastes, then deception occurs. Now the proper object of understanding is the essence of a thing.729729And yet it is commonly confessed that we do not know the essences of things. Who knows the essence even of a fly, or (till molecular mechanics go further than they have done) of a lump of sugar? We know essences, only in their highest generalities and most abstract outlines. But we do know that, or we should know nothing. We do not understand anything unless we can say roughly what it is; and that what it is is here called the quidditas or essence. Lower animals take quiddities as they find them, e.g., a dog the quiddity of its master: they may be said to know them materially, but they do not pass upon them any explicit, formal judgement. Scientists and philosophers make it their endeavour to go beyond the quiddity, which is sufficient for the plain man to know. They start from sense, but seek to transcend sense. The ‘pure quiddity’ which the angel intues is not the bare abstraction visible to the popular mind: it is an intuition highly concrete, full of ‘content,’ discerning the essential from the accidental and the appropriate from the irrelevant, yet not ignorant even of the latter: for things irrelevant from one point of view are relevant from another. Science and philosophy is an attempt to soar from a human to an angelic view of things. No deception then is incident to the apprehension of understanding, so long as it fixes upon the pure quiddities of things: but all intellectual deception, we may think, arises from the forms of things apprehended coming to be mixed up with phantasms,730730Not because the phantasm represents sensible phenomena is it therefore non-intellectual; but because in a phantasm all phenomena are clustered together without principle, without reference, without assortment; no point of view being yet arrived at from whence phenomena assume a relative importance to some other than an immediately present end. This fixing upon a distant point of view is the work of intellect. as in our experience. But such a mode of cognition does not obtain in pure spirits, since phantasms cannot be without a body. To pure spirits therefore no error in cognition can possibly be incident, and consequently no sin in the will.

Reply to Arguments 1, 2, 3. We are not obliged to say that there was any error in the understanding of a pure spirit, in the shape of a false judgement, judging that to be good which is not good: the mistake, such as it was, lay in not attending to the higher good, to which the spirit’s private good ought to have been referred: the reason of which inattention [read inconsiderationis ratio] may have been the inward turning of the will upon the spirit’s private good:731731And thy heart was lifted up with thy beauty: thou hast lost thy wisdom in thy beauty. — Ezechiel xxviii, 17. for it is open to the will to turn more or less of its affection upon this object or upon that.732732Thus though an angel do not suffer from error, he may suffer from limitation of view: his mind, to borrow Marshal Ney’s excuse at his trial, may “cease to be in full relation with facts.” Cf. B. II, Chap. CI.

Arg. 5. Since appetite or desire tends to nothing but its own proper good, it seems impossible for desire to go astray in the case when the person desiring has one only definite good to desire. The reason why sin is incident to our desire is the composition of our nature, a compound of the spiritual and the corporeal, occasioning a multiplicity of things to be good for us, one thing being good for us in mind and another in body. Of this variety of good things the less important has to be subordinated to the more important. Hence sin of the will arises in us when we neglect that order, and go after what is good for us under a certain qualification, discarding what is good for us absolutely. But in pure spirits there is no such composition, no diversity 273of things good for them; nay, all their good is intellectual. Hence it seems they are incapable of sin in the will.

Reply. The angel who sinned did not go after any other good than the one good that was proper to him: but his sin lay in this, that he dropped the higher good to which he should have subordinated himself As we sin by pursuing the lower goods of the body away from the order of reason, so the devil sinned by not referring his own excellence to the excellence of God.733733This reply virtually lays it down that even for the angel good is not single, but twofold, the good of his own nature, and the superior goodness of God.

Arg. 6. In us, sin of the will arises out of excess or defect, while virtue lies in the mean between them. But pure spirits can pursue only intellectual good things, in which things no excess is possible, for of themselves they are in the mean between excess and defect, as truth is in the mean between two errors.

Reply. The devil passed the mean of virtue inasmuch as he did not submit himself to a superior order; and thus he gave himself more than his due, and to God less than His due.

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