Friday, August 14, 2009
On the Intelligibility of Matter
Back to our regular programming. Here is a passage from the Parisian Reportatio on the intelligibility of matter. The context (since I care about such matters) is a series of arguments against Aquinas' position in the Summa that higher degrees of immateriality include higher degrees of intellectuality. Perhaps one could also put it by saying that intellectuality is rooted in immateriality. Scotus makes some interesting arguments against the Thomistic view that the human soul is the lowest type of knower, that it stands midway on the continuum from material things to God in its intellective capabilities. And finally the passage about matter:
Reportatio IA d.35 q.1 a.1 n. 22 (ed. Wolter-Bychkov 356-7):
Contra hoc quod dicitur quod ratio intelligibilis in actu est immaterialitas, arguo sic: si ens in quantum ens et secundum se acceptum sit per se intelligibile et primum obiectum intellectus, impossibile est quod sit aliqua condicio entis per se, quin habens illam sit secundum illam per se intelligibile quantum est ex se. Materialitas autem est una per se condicio ipsius entis, aliter ens materiale non esset per se ens. Ergo ens materiale in quantum materiale est ens per se intelligibile quantum est ex se et per se cognoscibile. Unde materialia et singularia sensibilia ab intellectu omnia intelligente secundum gradum suae entitatis ita perfecte cognoscuntur sicut immaterialia quantum est de perfectione actus, sed non ab intellectu nostro nisi per abstractionem a phantamatibus et singularibus. Sed hoc non est ex incognoscibilitate eorum, sed ex imperfectione intellectus nostri qui nec suprema nec infima cognoscit secundum modum cognosiciblitatis eorum.
Translation by the same:
Against the statement that the nature of the intelligible in its actualized state is immateriality I argue as follows: if one accepts that being qua being is of itself intelligible and the first object of the intellect, it is impossible that there be some condition of being qua being, which, if it were present, would prevent it from being intelligible of itself. Now materiality is one of such very own conditions of being itself: otherwise material being would not of itself be being. Therefore, material being, [even] insofar as it is material, is being that is of itself intelligible and knowable, [precisely] by its own very nature. Whence material things and singular sensibles are as perfectly known by an intellect that understands all things according to the degree of their entity as are immaterial things, if one speaks of a perfect act [of understanding]. However, [they are] not [understood] by the human intellect except by abstraction from the images in the imagination and from singular things. This is however, not because they cannot be known, but bccause of the imperfection of our intellect, which is able to cognize neither highest nor lowest realities according to their mode of intelligibility.