Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard Boedder, S.J.

APPENDIX IV. St. Thomas and the Idea of Indeterminate Being.

A DISTINGUISHED student of Rosmini's philosophy called some years ago our attention to these words of St. Thomas: "Anima semper intelligit se et Deum indeterminate."{1} He found in them a support of Rosmini's hypothesis that we are born with a dim perception of God as being. (Cf. p. 14.) Assuredly an interpretation like this would upset the whole of St. Thomas's psychology as contained in his commentaries on Aristotle's De Anima, and in Sum. Theol. I. qq. 75-89.

But what does St. Thomas mean by those words? Considering the whole context in which they occur, and comparing it with the doctrine of Aquinas on the Intellectus agens, especially with the remarkable assertion, "Intellectus agens est agens tantum et nulla modo patiens,"{2} and with the more explicit teaching laid down in ii. Sent. dist. 17. q. 2. a. 1. § "Et ideo remotis omnibus praedictis erroribus," we have arrived at the following interpretation, which the reader may kindly consider and examine: In virtue of its spiritual nature and of the spontaneous activity of the intellectus agens flowing from it, the soul possesses habitually all needful capacity for being awakened to self-consciousness and for ascending by degrees to the knowledge of its Creator. So far forth we may say, then, that the soul always knows its own existence and God indeterminately; that is to say, such is the natural sympathy between the organic faculty called imagination, and the spiritual faculty called intellectus agens, that immediately upon due determination of the imaginative faculty, the soul will arrive in the first place at the intellectual perception of material things; concomitantly, in the second place, at self-consciousness, inasmuch as it knows its own knowing; and finally, in virtue of its natural tendency to investigate the causes of things perceived, by degrees it will arrive at the knowledge of the First Cause, or God.{3}

{1} In i. Sent. dist. 3. q. 4. a. 5.

{2} Sum. Theol. Ia. 2a. q. 50. a. 5. ad 2.

{3} Cf. St. Thomas, Qq. Disp. De Veritate, q. x. a. 8. et Sum. Theol. q. 88. a. 1. et a. 3.

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