Intellects Place in the Extensive Aspect of Universal Perfection

The crucial importance of divine intellectivity in the scheme of this natural theology is borne out by the fact that in Book I of SCG

end p.173


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Aquinas develops his presentation of the single attribute of intellect in twenty-eight chapters (44-71), more than twice as many as he used for his entire application of the eliminative method in chapters 15-28, in which many attributes were argued for. After chapter 44, where he shows that God must be characterized by something analogous to human intellect, he devotes the remaining twenty-seven of those chapters to clarifying the characterization and establishing the range of the objects of God's intellect. In this chapter I'll focus almost exclusively on the primary task of showing

that intellectivity must be a divine attribute.

7 In doing so, I will, naturally, be drawing on chs. 45-71 as well. For a critical exposition of Aquinas's account of the operations and objects of God's intellect, see Stump and Kretzmann 1995.

The answers to the questions I raised earlier will emerge in that investigation.

As we've seen in Chapter Five, when Aquinas draws out the implications of universal perfection, he observes that1every name imposed to designate a species of created thing' implies a specific perfection, and that1each species must have its own mode of perfection and of being' (30.276). This doctrine of universally distributed specific perfections looks harder to grant than it turns out to be, once we see how he's understanding it. When he refers to 'the perfection' associated with any natural kind, it really is 'its own mode of perfection and of being' that he has in mind: 'each thing is classified under a genus or a species in virtue of its form, which is the thing's perfection' (CT 1.21.43). So far, then, the specific perfections seem to be the forms that differentiate natural kinds. But it turns out that a creaturely perfection need not be even species-specific. 'Ever/form, proper as well as common, is a kind of perfection as regards its positing something (secundum id quod aliquidponit); but it includes no imperfection, except in so far as it falls short of the true being' posited by that form (54.451)—that is, in so far as the thing whose form it is may fail to actualize all that the form provides in potentiality.

The paradigms of specific perfections are the differentiae of species, but the notion clearly includes all natural forms considered just as such, apart from any individual shortcomings, even apart from any particular instantiations: 'forms occurring in particular real things are incomplete (imperfectae) because they occur in them as particularized (partialiter) and not in accordance with the generality that is a feature of their essential nature' (44.379). It's just end p.174


© Copyright Oxford University Press, 2006. All Rights Reserved because the exigencies of their occurrence in creatures are excluded from consideration that these forms can be reasonably called 'perfections', and, of course, it's only as perfections that they can be included within God's universal perfection. But, on Aquinas's Aristotelian theory of forms, 'forms that are complete (perfectis) and not particularized (particuiatis) . . . cannot occur except as intellected, since no form is found in its universality except in intellect' (ibid.). In this way, too, then, God's universal perfection entails God's intellectivity.

As they occur in creatures, however, creaturely perfections need not be even completely realized forms, though that's certainly suggested by their being

called perfections.

8 In this connection it's worth noting that in SCG 1.28, the chapter devoted to showing that God must be universally perfect, the word used most often to designate a specific perfection is not perfectio but nobiiitas. See e.g. the perfection argument in Ch. Four.

A specific perfection may well be an open-ended potentiality, a capacity that is perhaps never fully developed in the course of creaturely existence, but one such that the development of it to any degree is a natural good for any thing that has it. And again, the paradigms of such forms may be the specifying potentialities, the species-specific capacities. So the fact that human intellectivity is a capacity that is never fully developed is no obstacle to its counting as a paradigmatic specific perfection, as the perfection that specifies our species: 'The activity proper to a human being considered just as a human being is intellective activity (intelligere), for it is in this respect that a human being differs from all others' (In Met. I: LI.3).

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