Today’s Aquinas: Do Humans and Animals Think in the Same Way?

ThomasAquinas

Last week’s discussion of “nobler beings” predictably started a comment thread about the nature of intelligence and the intelligence of animals, with excursions on language and tool use.  Thomas believed (as did Aristotle before him) that human intelligence is qualitatively different than animal intelligence—that human beings are defined as being the kind of animal that reasons.  I might add that reason, to Thomas, encompassed more than logical argumentation.  Human reason encompasses three thing … [Read more...]

Today’s Aquinas: Nobler Beings? Who says?

ThomasAquinas

Last week a reader took issue with Thomas’ use of the term “nobler beings” as being a subjective judgement.  Here is the passage in question: Another consideration: among the various perfections of things, the chief are intellect and will. A sign of this is that they are found in the nobler beings. (Emphasis mine.)  The word “noble” is a fraught one in American usage.  We either associate it with altruistic self-sacrifice (as in “a noble act”) or with the whole European social scheme we left be … [Read more...]

Today’s Aquinas: With God, Knowing is Doing

ThomasAquinas

We’re blogging through St. Thomas Aquinas’ Compendium Theologiae, sometimes called his Shorter Summa. Find the previous posts here.If you've been paying attention then Thomas' next move should be unsurprising.  First, Thomas showed that God is simply One.  Then he showed that God has intellect; and that His intellect is the same as Himself: we approach some small understanding of God by considering His intellect as a distinct thing, but God is without part: He is all One.  Lastly, Thomas has … [Read more...]

Today’s Aquinas: Does God Love What Is Good?

ThomasAquinas

We’re blogging through St. Thomas Aquinas’ Compendium Theologiae, sometimes called his Shorter Summa. Find the previous posts here.Given intellect, says Thomas, God must also have volition: He must be able to will, to choose:We perceive, further, that God must have volition. For He understands Himself, who is perfect good, as is clear from all that has been hitherto established. But good as apprehended is necessarily loved, and love operates through the will. Consequently God must have vo … [Read more...]

Today’s Aquinas: God Always Understands

ThomasAquinas

We’re blogging through St. Thomas Aquinas’ Compendium Theologiae, sometimes called his Shorter Summa. Find the previous posts here.Next, Thomas shows that God must be identical to His intellect.  This is a difficult point; it almost seems obviously wrong.  God also has will, and love; if He is simply His intellect, how does that leave room for the rest of Him?The problem here is that our mental model of most things is the machine.  If you think of a car, you know that it has brakes and pi … [Read more...]

Today’s Aquinas: What Does God Understand?

ThomasAquinas

We’re blogging through St. Thomas Aquinas’ Compendium Theologiae, sometimes called his Shorter Summa. Find the previous posts here.Thomas has established that God has intelligence, intellect, the ability to understand abstract concepts.  The next question is, just what is it that God understands?  What does He eternally contemplate? In Chapter 30, Thomas says,The foregoing exposition makes it clear that God understands through no other species than through His essence.A bit of review … [Read more...]

Today’s Aquinas: Can God Play Chess?

Chess Tournament

In a comment on last week's Aquinas post, a reader objected to my characterization of God as pure act, with no mixture of potentiality.  He said,As a human I live totally within the domain of potentiality. The idea that God is totally outside of potentiality is totally alien. He cannot be my God.I asked what he meant by living “totally within the domain of potentiality”, and he replied,I don't live in the past. The present becomes the past as soon as I'm aware of it. The future is u … [Read more...]

Today’s Aquinas: Does God Think The Way We Do?

ThomasAquinas

We’re blogging through St. Thomas Aquinas’ Compendium Theologiae, sometimes called his Shorter Summa. Find the previous posts here.Thomas has shown that God is intelligent, that is, He has an intellect.  Is that intellect like our own, or does it differ in particular ways?  Unsurprisingly, it differs: God understands everything perfectly, so He doesn't reason as we do:Since in God nothing is in potency but all is in act, as has been shown. God cannot be intelligent either potentially or h … [Read more...]

Today’s Aquinas: Intelligence is Immaterial

ThomasAquinas

We’re blogging through St. Thomas Aquinas’ Compendium Theologiae, sometimes called his Shorter Summa. Find the previous posts here.So far, Thomas has shown that God, the First Mover, must be One, infinite in power and goodness, and the source of all that is good in creation.  The next step is to show that God is Person (or, ultimately, Persons); and for Thomas, a person is that which possesses intellect and will: someone, you might say, with whom you could have a conversation.Thomas divid … [Read more...]


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