Intellectivity Reason and Wisdom

But can intellectivity legitimately be counted as the perfection that specifies our species? What about rationality, the differentia of the species? After all, in Aquinas's view human beings are defined not as intellective but as rational animals, and we've seen (sect. 1 above) that 'rational' and 'intellective' are not synonymous in his usage. So might we just as well, or even better, be asking how to construe the specific perfection rationality as a divine attribute?

In introducing and using the relational method, Aquinas indicates more than once that applying a creaturely predicate to God in end p.175

Kretzmann, Norman , (deceased) formerly Susan Linn Sage Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, Cornell University, New York

The Metaphysics of Theism

Print ISBN 9780199246533, 2001 pp. [176]-[180]

the way prescribed by the method is rarely, if ever, a matter of simply extending the use of a familiar term. The method requires two kinds of adjustment to the meaning of ordinary predicates when applied to God. First, one's understanding of the familiar term must be stripped of any ordinary implications that cannot be associated with God, in view of the results of the eliminative method. The outcome of this first adjustment alone may well be the exclusion of the term from any further consideration for use in predicating an attribute. Second, one's understanding of the extended application of any term that survives the first adjustment must be subjected to an incompletely specified extension beyond experience, since it has been shown that no term in its application to God can be univocal with its primary, creaturely application: 'whatever is actual in any other thing must be found in God much more outstandingly' (28.265). Both these adjustments are designed to filter out imperfections associated with creaturely predicates, either essentially or at least in our experience of them. As Aquinas puts it, in deriving divine attributes from creaturely predicates, 'things said of God must always be understood superlatively (per eminentiam), after everything that can be associated with imperfection has been eliminated'from them (In Sent., ad 5).

Now, what happens when rationality is subjected to the first sort of adjustment? Rationality implies knowing, which implies being right, which implies no obvious imperfection. So far, so good. But rationality also implies acquiring knowledge by means of discursive reasoning, which does imply imperfections that have already been eliminated—ignorance, temporality, and dependence, for example. 'That's why', Aquinas says, 'in so far as knowledge (scientia) is in God, one must remove from knowledge the discursive process of inquiring reason and retain being right (rectitudinem)

about the known thing' (ibid.).

9 See also e.g. QDV 2.1, ad 4: 'Because that which is in God without any imperfection is found in creatures together with some defect, if anything found in creatures is attributed to God, we have to separate [from it] all that pertains to the imperfection so that what remains is only what belongs to the perfection; for it is only in that respect that a creature imitates God. I maintain, then, that the knowledge that is found in us has something associated with perfection and something associated with imperfection. What pertains to its perfection is its certainty; for what is known (scitur) is cognized (cognoscitur) with certainty. What pertains to its imperfection, on the other hand, is intellect's discursive process from principles to the conclusions organized knowledge (scientia) is concerned with. For that discursive process occurs only in so far as an intellect that has cognition of the principles cognizes the conclusions in potentiality only, since if it cognized [them] in actuality, no discursive process would take place. (There is no movement except a going from potentiality to actuality.) Therefore, knowledge is said to be in God because of certainty regarding things cognized, but not because of the discursive process just described.'

end p.176


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Intellective cognition is Aquinas's paradigm of knowing, and so of course involves being right. In our experience of it, intellective cognition is often also a result arrived at through reasoning; but, unlike reasoning itself, intellective cognition has no essential connection with a learning process. The fact that we do learn everything we know is a consequence of our nature, not of the nature of knowledge. What's more, 'intellective cognizing (intelligere) is, strictly speaking, the cognizing of the quiddity [or essence] of a thing'—which again entails no obvious imperfection—and since the primary object of God's cognition is his own essence, 'he is called intellective (intelligens) in so far as he cognizes his own nature' (ibid.), which, of course, he cognizes perfectly.

So, even though rationality is the differentia of the species from which this application of the relational method gets the material for its extended predication, uncovering essential imperfections built into the meaning of 'rational' leads one to look for other terminology in which to ascribe this specific perfection to God. A consideration of human intellect—which is also implied by rationality—leads to saying of God not that he is rational, but that he is intellective, perfectly. This extended predication of intellectivity is all the more appropriate because, although rationality is the differentia of our species, 'what is supreme as regards our cognition is not reason, but

intellect, which is the source of reason' (57.480).

10 On the inappropriateness of attributing rationality to God, see ch. 57, 'God's cognition is not discursive', generally.

And, of course, in saying of God that he is intellective, one does make at least a tacit extension of the term, recognizing that in 'Human beings are intellective' and 'God is intellective', 'intellective' is not univocal because, for one thing, as applied to God it designates an eternal aspect of absolute perfection rather than a capacity that develops and gets exercised over time.

But, even so, is intellectivity really the best choice in these circumstances? If what's wanted is a plausible candidate for a divine attribute stemming from a mode of perfection specific to the human creature, what about wisdom (in the sense in which Aristotle and Aquinas recognize it as a virtue of intellect)? The trouble with end p.177


© Copyright Oxford University Press, 2006. All Rights Reserved

'wisdom' is the contrary of the trouble with 'reason' in this connection. Unlike 'reason', 'wisdom' implies no essential shortcomings of any kind, which is why its paradigmatic application is not to anything creaturely but to God directly. 'The only knowledge that is wisdom is the sort that considers the supreme causes, those on the basis of which all consequent things are ordered, and [thus] cognized. That's why God is properly called wise in so far as he cognizes himself, and properly called intellective and knowing in so far as he cognizes himself and other things' (In Sent., ad 5). Human beings can't help being intellective, but they can only aspire to be wise: 'a human being ... is said to have . . . wisdom to the extent to which it has cognition of the supreme cause' (ST la.14.1, ad 2). And no human being

aspiring to wisdom, as Aquinas is expressly doing in SCG,

can fail to recognize the glaring deficiencies in his or her cognition of the deepest explanations. 'Wisdom', like 'goodness' or'being', is one of a few terms that 'designate a perfection absolutely, without any [implied essential] deficiency' or mode of being proper to creatures (30.276). So, for the purposes of the relational method, intellectivity is the best choice of a perfection specific to humans (although knowledge, too, has something to be

said for it in this connection

12 Knowledge (scientia), a species of cognition (cognitio) accessible only to intellective beings, is apparently used by Aquinas in this connection more often than intellectivity, perhaps because Aristotle often speaks of knowledge when he might just as well or even more naturally have referred to intellect (see e.g. De anima III 8, discussed below), and probably because Scripture speaks of God's knowledge more often than of God's mind. See e.g. In Sent. ('Is Knowledge Suitably Attributed to God?'), QDV 2.1 ('Is There Knowledge in God?'), and ST la.14.1 ('Is There Knowledge in God?'). CT 1.28 ('God Must Be Intellective') is like SCG 1.44 ('God is intellective').

). But because Aquinas describes the cognitive aspect of wisdom as having ultimate explanatory principles as its objects, it has a role of its own in his account of God's intellective causation.

The idea behind using the relational method to attribute intellect to God is sketched by Aquinas in this way: 'the perfections of all things, which fit things other than God in keeping with various forms, must be attributed to God in keeping with his one power. And, again, that power is not other than his essence, since nothing can be his accidentally (as has been proved [1.23]). In this way, then, "intellective" is said of God not only in that he effects end p.178


© Copyright Oxford University Press, 2006. All Rights Reserved intellectivity [in us] but also because in our being intellective we are to some

extent imitating his power, by which he makes us intellective' (31.280).

13 I'm rewording this passage, which actually discusses being wise rather than being intellective. As I read it, the passage involves no considerations that distinguish wisdom from intellectivity. In fact, what's said in the passage strikes me as better suited to intellectivity than to wisdom.

'God is intellective', the proposition that results from an observation of that sort, is an instance of non-univocal, non-equivocal, analogical predication. As we've seen (Ch. Five, sect. 7), the connection between the subject and the predicate in an affirmative predication about God can't be any stronger than that, though it can be weaker. 'God is intellective' is meant as one characterization of God's infinite power, which is God's essence: 'God's being intellective is the divine essence, the divine being, and God himself' (45.383). 'God is intellective' isn't a characterization of God relative to human needs and feelings, as is 'The Lord is my shepherd' or'The Lord is my light'. And, unlike such propositions, 'God is intellective' is intended literally, as it can be, since intellectivity is not associated essentially with corporeality, temporality, or any other creaturely mode of being.

Obviously, almost all forms of creatures do entail corporeality, temporality, dependence, finiteness, or other modes of being that preclude one's predicating them of God's essence, extending them into divine attributes. Except for terms such as 'being', 'goodness', and 'wisdom', which designate perfections 'absolutely' (30.276), 'intellectivity' and 'knowledge' are the only terms we've considered so far that designate a form that is not disqualified

on such grounds from achieving the status of a divine attribute.

14 Even in this case, of course, extending the meaning of a term applied primarily to created things must be carefully circumscribed. 'Intellectivity' is one of a handful of terms that 'convey a perfection without any [implied essential] deficiency' or mode of being proper to created things, but only 'as regards that which the name was imposed to signify. For as regards the mode of signifying, every name is associated with [such a] deficiency. . . . [I]n connection with every name said by us we find an imperfection that is not suited to God as regards its mode of signifying, even though the thing signified applies to God in a superlative mode (aiiquo eminenti modo)' (30.277). On this distinction in Aquinas's usage, see Alston 1993: esp. 161ff.

And yet, God's universal perfection is presented as involving God's possession of all specific perfections, which turn out to be all creaturely forms, considered just as such. Moreover, Aquinas's account of God's universal causation depends on that utterly complete possession of creaturely forms, of which very, very few—so far, only two—can be end p.179


© Copyright Oxford University Press, 2006. All Rights Reserved literally (albeit analogically) predicated of God. Since God's universal causation is to be explained in terms of his antecedently possessing all specific perfections, he must of course somehow possess, perfectly, the form of stone. Still, except metaphorically, God 'is not called stone, even though he made stones, [just] because in the name "stone" we understand a determinate mode of being [e.g. corporeality] in accordance with which

stone is [essentially] distinguished from God' (31.280);

15 The passage concludes with this sentence, which immediately follows the part I'm quoting: 'All the same, a stone does imitate God as its cause—in being, in goodness, and in other such respects—as do other creatures.'

and 'any name that expresses perfections of that sort together with a mode [of being] that is proper to creatures can be said of God only on the basis of simile and metaphor' (30.276). In the names 'intellective' or 'knowing' we understand no such essentially creaturely mode of being. And so God's possession of intellectivity or knowledge as a specific perfection supports literal predications regarding his essence, such as 'God is intellective' or'God knows'. Predications of this sort couldn't be supported on the basis of his possessing, perfectly, such specific perfections as the diamond's hardness, the rose's perfume, the eagle's vision, the nettle's sting, or the skunk's stink. And yet, of course, the developing theory of God's nature maintains that he must possess all those forms, too: 'a// perfections found in other things are attributed to God in the way effects are found in their equivocal causes, and, of course, those effects are in their causes in respect of a power1, a power that is 'something in conformity with' the effects (31.280). Judging on the basis of all that's been seen so far, the nature of that divine power must be intellective: 'in our being intellective we are to some extent imitating his power, by which he makes us intellective' (31.280).

16 In my modified version; see n. 13 above.

So if, as seems obvious, universal perfection does supply the basis for an argument showing that God must perfectly possess the specific perfection intellectivity in a way that supports the affirmative proposition 'God is intellective', it might thereby also supply the basis for an explanation of his perfectly possessing such other, non-predicable specific perfections intellectively, as ideas comprehended perfectly, in the way ideas are

comprehended by the perfect mind that conceives them.

17 See e.g. QDV 3.1: '[T]he definitive nature (ratio) of an idea is that an idea is a form that something imitates in virtue of the intention of an agent who determines an end for the thing.' See also Wippel 1993b.

And perfect intellective possession end p.180

Kretzmann, Norman , (deceased) formerly Susan Linn Sage Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, Cornell University, New York

The Metaphysics of Theism

Print ISBN 9780199246533, 2001 pp. [ 181]-[ 185]

by itself of course does not support literally predicating the possession of the possessor. Except figuratively, it's just not true that Mozart is music.

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