Principles of Natural Theology / by George Hayward Joyce, S.J.

Chapter XI. The Divine Intelligence.

  1. The Divine Intelligence.
  2. Its Primary and Its Secondary Objects.
  3. The Divine Foreknowledge.
  4. Physical premotion and Scientia Media.

1. The Divine intelligence. From the consideration of the attributes which relate to God's being, we now pass to those which regard His action. His intellect and will are principles of immanent action: and these will be treated in the present and following chapters respectively. Another chapter will be devoted to the Divine omnipotence -- the principle of God's external or transitive activity.

The distinction to which we have just adverted between immanent and transitive action calls for a word of explanation: it is of considerable importance in this part of our treatise. Immanent action is such as is not productive of an external effect, but takes place wholly within the agent itself. Such are, e.g., the vital activities of perception, thought and will. Transitive action is that which produces an external result, e.g., to paint, to carve, to teach, etc. In the creature immanent action is an accident; in the Creator it is identical with the Divine Essence. Transitive action, in the strict sense of the term, cannot be attributed to God. For as we shall shew later (chap. xiii., §1), it differs from immanent action in this point among others, that it is necessarily an accident. God's action in creation is said to be virtually transitive: since, though not accidental, it is like transitive action, productive of an external effect.{1}

That God possesses intelligence follows immediately from the principle already established (chap. viii., § 2) that every pure perfection found in creatures is found likewise in God, though in a higher manner of being. Such perfections, we saw, are predicated of God as belonging to Him in their true nature (formaliter), and not merely in a metaphorical sense. It is manifest that intelligence is to be reckoned in this class, since it involves no imperfection. But it may be well also to shew that the attribute of intelligence follows logically from our definition of God as Subsistent Being, Actus Purus. Knowledge, like being, is an ultimate fact not admitting of explanation. But we recognize that an essential condition of knowledge is the power on the part of the knowing subject so to transcend the limits of its own being that natures other than its own are realized within it, not indeed in the order of objective reality, but in the order of cognition. It thus receives into itself the natures or 'forms' of other things: and it becomes conscious of them in so far as it is thus 'informed.' Thus the human intellect is blank and empty till it has produced a concept. Whatever it knows, it knows through a concept: and a concept is simply the intellectual expression of some 'form.' For the mind, though of itself bare of thought -- a tabula rasa -- possesses an active spiritual power. This power operating on the data of sense thence abstracts a multitude of conceptual forms. These are the raw material of all our knowledge. The greater the range of the intellect as regards the representation of alien forms, the greater its power of knowledge. To say this, however, is to say that the power of knowing depends on immateriality. Matter is the principle of limitation. A purely material object is incapable of assimilating any form beyond its own. And just in so far as anything transcends the conditions of matter, it is receptive of other forms. A sense-faculty does this in a very limited degree. It is receptive of forms of a particular kind only: the eye, of colour: the ear, of sound: and so on. The intellect, because spiritual, has a far more perfect capacity of knowledge. It knows realities which are beyond the reach of sense, such as substance, cause, goodness. God's immateriality is of an infinitely higher order than that of the human soul: for His perfection is free from limit of any kind. The actuality of the creature is limited by its essence: and its cognitive power is of necessity proportional to its essence. But the cognitive power of the Actus Purus must be infinite, reaching to the furthest bounds of reality. There can be no conceivable object to which the Divine intelligence does not extend.

Our human intellect displays many features which involve finitude and potentiality. All these elements of imperfection must be stripped away from the notion of intelligence as it is applied to God. They do not belong to the notion as such: they are merely the mode in which intelligence is realized in man. It is not unnecessary to give this caution. For it is contended by some adherents of the prevalent idealism that it is impossible there should be any reality which is of its nature beyond the scope of human reason.{2} To those who do not adequately distinguish between God and man, and hold that the human mind is fundamentally identical with the Divine, such a conclusion is no more than natural. But when we have given a little consideration to the limitations of human knowledge, we shall be disposed to take a more sober view of what we are. The narrowness of our bounds will convince us that the Infinite Reason must bear a relation to our own not unlike that which the light of the sun bears to that of a wax-taper.

Man starts life in complete ignorance, with a mere capacity for knowledge. As he grows he learns to use his powers, and little by little he stores his mind. His whole life is a transition from potentiality to actuality in this regard. But even though he spares no efforts to acquire knowledge, and though he inherits the labours of past generations, these achievements are of small extent. He gathers his knowledge by intermittent acts, in their nature mere accidental determinations of his rational faculty. Moreover, so restricted are his powers, that he can only know the object of his consideration by means of a multitude of diverse concepts, each representing some single aspect of the reality. These he refers to the thing in question in a series of propositions of which they form the predicates: and thus he laboriously pieces together, so to speak, the concrete individual object. Again, his intellectual knowledge is by means of universal ideas: particulars he must discern by sense-perception. And he is forced to pursue his way with many a stumble along the difficult track of discursive reason, arguing from effect to cause or from cause to effect.

Not one of these limitations is compatible with the infinite perfection of the Divine mind, to which our reason bears hut an analogical resemblance. In God there can be no transition from ignorance to actual knowledge. He enjoys full omniscience. His intellect is not, like ours, a faculty distinct from the nature to which it belongs. It is identical with His substance. God's thought is His essence. Nor does the Divine mind operate by successive and accidental acts. In Him there is no change, no passage from quiescence to action, nor from one phase of activity to another. His intellect is one unchanging, all-embracing thought.

But, it will be asked, does not knowledge involve necessarily a relation between the subject and object of thought, and are we not here faced with a grave difficulty in regard to the Divine simplicity. For this relation postulates a distinction. Subject and object cannot be identified. Were they so, the relation would disappear, and with it also would disappear the act of thought. The objection is often produced as though it were a modern weapon, entirely destructive of old-fashioned theism.{3} It is, in fact, ancient and out of date. It was urged long since by the Neoplatonist Plotinus. Mansel, as he himself informs us, drew it from his works. Such apparent force as the argument possesses is derived altogether from the limitations of human knowledge, and disappears when once it is seen that these limitations do not and cannot belong to the supreme intelligence. The human mind is only in act in so far as it has formed a concept within itself. When the mind conceives, it knows the object of its thought, and simultaneously knows itself as the thinking subject actuated by the concept.{4} Until it thus passes into act by conceiving, it is not conscious of itself. It is impossible that it should be so, for the simple reason that apart from a concept it is not knowable. Until it conceives, it is a mere potentiality, not yet actuated in the order of thought at all. What has no actuality is not an object of knowledge. Only in so far as the mind is in act in the conceptual order is it actually knowable: otherwise it is only potentially so. We might as well expect matter to be knowable apart from any form, as the human intel]ect to be known apart from the presence of a concept. But it is far otherwise as regards God. The Divine mind is eternally active. It needs not the presence of a concept to bring it from a state of potentiality to act. It is itself essentially knowable. Thus it is at one and the same time the knower and the known. Indeed, so little is it true that thought essentially demands a distinction between the subject and object, that even in ourselves, given the presence of a concept, the mind is immediately conscious of itself. As regards its self-knowledge, there is no distinction between subject and object. It is because our intellect, except in so far as it is determined by some object other than itself, is a mere potentiality, that we are misled into thinking that a distinction between knower and known is essential to thought. Nor does God's knowledge of creatures involve such a distinction. For, as we shall shew in the coming section, God in knowing Himself knows all things else.{5}

2. Primary and secondary objects of the Divine intelligence. The various powers of man's complex being have each of them a primary, or as it is often called, a 'formal' object. Where his cognitive faculties are in question the term signifies some special aspect of reality which falls within the scope of the faculty in its own right; while in so far as the faculty is able to take cognizance of anything else, it does so in virtue of this primary object. This is the actuating principle of the faculty, which latter can only operate when moved to activity by its appropriate stimulus. Thus, the primary object of the sense of sight is colour. It is true that vision is not restricted to colour as such. It perceives extended surface, and estimates distance. Yet these are secondary objects: they fall under the sense simply as manifested through colour. In like manner the human intellect has its primary or formal object. This consists in the types or forms realized in the material substances around us. Senses perceive these things: and intellect expresses their nature in universal concepts derived from the data of sense. Thus, as we have already explained (chap. ii., § 3), we obtain, e.g., the notions of substance and cause, and all those universal concepts employed in the various branches of mathematics. Whatever else the mind conceives must be expressed by it in concepts formed on the lines of this sensible experience: since the primary object of a faculty determines the mode in which it shall exercise its activity. Thus, discursive reason brings us to a knowledge of God. But when we seek to express the Divine attributes, we can only do so through concepts significative of accidental forms: though we are perfectly aware that this is an altogether imperfect way of conceiving them.

What, then, is the primary object of the Divine intellect -- the reality in regard to which it exercises its connatural activity, while all else is known by reason of the knowledge of this? There can be but one answer to this question. The primary object is, as we have seen, the actuating principle of the faculty. Were, then, anything else but God Himself the formal object of the Divine intelligence, we should be driven to admit that God's knowledge -- and His knowledge is identical with Himself -- is the effect of a cause. That which stands in this relation to the Divine Mind can only be the Divine Essence Itself. We mean here, of course, the physical essence, the sum of all perfection and reality. It is, further, to be noted that in speaking of this as the actuating principle of God's intellect, and as standing in a certain relation to it, we are employing modes of speech appropriate only to created intelligences. For, since the Divine Essence is one with the Divine Mind, it cannot, strictly speaking, be said to actuate it. No exercise of causality is here involved. God's intelligence needs no actuation: it is itself pure act. In God, intellect, essence and the act of thought are one and the same. Nor, again, does the Divine reality need to be translated into the order of thought that it may be known. Just as God's nature is self-existent in the real order, so is it self-existent in the cognitive order. Or rather in God, and in Him alone, the order of thought and the order of being are not separate and parallel. They are one.

In view of this conclusion it is a mere concession to human modes of thought to declare that God's knowledge of His essence is 'comprehensive.' By comprehensive knowledge is signified knowledge which includes and exhausts the whole cognoscibility of the object known -- which leaves nothing in it unknown. Thus to possess comprehensive knowledge of a created substance, it would be necessary to know every principle of its constitution, both in regard of form and matter, every accident which qualifies it, every relation which connects it with other beings: so that it has become a commonplace to say that for the human intellect comprehensive knowledge, even of the humblest natural substance, is an impossibility. Yet the infinite mind must possess comprehensive knowledge even of an infinite object. Such, then, is God's knowledge of Himself. Or to reach the same conclusion in another manner. Knowledge is comprehensive where knowledge and being are identical. In God this is the case. Only because we are compelled to distinguish in God, those aspects which, though in Him they are one, are in the world of our experience different, do we view God's knowledge and His being as though they were distinct from one another.

God's uncreated Being is the exemplar cause of all created being. Whatever perfection there is in creatures is a far-off representation of the perfection of God. As we descend the stages in which finite things are ordered, we see how that perfection is reflected in ways ever more and more limited. Yet, however lowly the creature, within its narrow confines it possesses reality. And what is real is so simply as being the shadow in some measure of Him who is Himself Absolute Reality. God, in knowing His own essence, knows the myriad forms in which that essence may be imitated. Did He not do so, His knowledge of Himself would not be comprehensive: a cause is not fully known unless the full measure of its causality is understood. Hence we say that while the Divine Essence is the sole primary object of God's intelligence, the secondary object comprises all possible creatures. The universe of which we ourselves form a part is but one of an infinite number of the ways in which creative power might have called finite being into actuality. When we treat of God's free-will and of creation, it will appear how utterly erroneous and how inconsistent with the infinity of God is the opinion which sees in the universe as it is a necessary complement, if we may use the expression, of God: which declares that God cannot exist without the world. All possible orders of creation are objects of the Divine mind, and every least part of every such order. God contemplates them, not in successive thought, but in one single and eternal intuition in which He knows His essence and all that it contains.

From among the infinity of alternatives thus presented, God by a free choice has decreed that certain things should be actually realized, and should thus constitute what we term the created order. In His essence as thus determined by His free act He beholds the whole course of actual events from the first instant of creation onwards, not merely the necessary sequences of natural causes, but also the free acts of created personalities. For even those free acts which violate His law could not be, did they not receive their being in accordance with His will. Yet when we say that God's knowledge of the real order has its explanation in His essence as determined by His creative decree, a word of caution is necessary. We are compelled to speak in terms derived from our own activities, as though His free act were something additional to His essence, an internal change from the potential to the actual, a determination of the hitherto indeterminate. This, plainly enough, it is not. God's free act involves no internal change. This point will be more fully discussed later. Here we are only concerned to point out that God in one changeless act of knowledge knows, not only all possibles, but the whole course of real events -- a series which had indeed a beginning, but which will have no end.

What we have just said will have pointed to an essential difference between Divine and human knowledge of the real order. Human knowledge is related to things as an effect to its cause. Things are the measure of thought. The judgments of our intellect are true, when they are in conformity with things. Those which fail of this conformity have no title to any place in the mind, and are cast away. It is otherwise as regards Divine Knowledge. Things are not the cause of God's thought, but its effect. God is the great artificer: and as He designs, so the created order takes shape. His thought is the measure: and things are what they are, because they must be in conformity with God's design. Things stand, so to speak, midway between God's mind and ours. They are dependent on God's thought, and our thought is dependent on them.{6}

3. The Divine Foreknowledge. A problem of special difficulty is presented by the question of God's knowledge of our future free actions. Indeed, the idea of such knowledge is so perplexing to the human mind that many non-Catholic writers have declared the problem insoluble, and have maintained that we must needs either give up man's freedom or else admit that God does not possess a foreknowledge of the free choices of the human will. In previous centuries this generally led to a denial of human freedom. More recently there have been found thinkers who have adopted the other alternative, and have maintained that in this regard, at least, the Divine knowledge is limited. Scholastic philosophers are at one in asserting alike human freedom and Divine prescience. Yet, as will appear, there is a profound divergence of opinion among them, when it comes to the question how that prescience is to be explained.

The fact that God possesses such a foreknowledge can be demonstrated in various ways. Our first argument may be drawn from the Divine infinity. God, as we have shewn, is infinite alike in the real and in the cognitive order. From this alone it follows of necessity that He cannot become aware of anything not already known to Him. To admit that His mind could learn a truth of which it was previously ignorant, would be to allow that there is potentiality in the Divine intellect: that it is not infinite, not Actus purus. Hence whatever be our explanation of that foreknowledge, and even if we should be unable to provide an explanation, the reality of God's prescience must be granted.

Again: God, it will be admitted, knows these truths, when they actually come to pass. Even those who deny that a free act is knowable before the elective choice is made, do not dispute that God knows it as soon as it takes place. But God's knowledge, as we have seen, is eternal. For Him there is no flow of time. To us who belong to that flow, whose existence is realized part after part, each event which has already happened stands in a different relation according to its place in the time-series: while future happenings have, as yet, no actuality, and are only knowable in so far as they are determined in their causes. But to God, Who is outside the time-series, the relation borne by every such event is always the same. He sees the whole course of time as a present reality. Events which to us are future, He beholds now. Thus the very conditions of God's existence demand His foreknowledge of the whole future. Indeed, it is hardly accurate to speak of foreknowledge or of prescience in this connection: for these terms are not applicable from the point of view of eternity. God knows the future: He does not foreknow it. The difficulty which we experience in regard to this truth is due to our inability to imagine any other mode of being than a temporal one. But as soon as reason has convinced us that in God's existence there can be neither before nor after, we must recognize that His knowledge of the future must be as His knowledge of the present.

Another argument may be derived from God's government of the world. Although this proof may not possess the apodictic certainty of the two which we have just given, yet its grounds are so weighty that it can hardly fail to recommend itself to the rational judgment. God, as we have seen, is the Author of nature. All the beings which constitute the great whole, and all the events which take place within it, are due to Him as their First Cause. But His government of the universe is directed to a definite end. Apart from an end to be obtained an efficient cause does not operate. To suppose that it could be so -- that an efficient cause would act without an end in view -- would be to suppose that an event could happen without a sufficient reason. This conclusion, based on a priori grounds, is borne out by experience. Finality is the law of the universe. The divine order, doubtless, is of an intricacy which is ever eluding us. Yet new marvels of harmonious correspondence are ever revealing themselves. All conspires to bring home to us that each smallest detail in God's disposition of things is directed by a purpose. Moreover, within the sphere of the divine government there appears a twofold order -- a physical order and a moral order. And none who accepts the theistic standpoint can doubt that of these the less important is subordinated to the more important: that the two do not, as a first appearance might suggest, form two independent systems, each pursuing its course in independence of, and often in antagonism to, the other; but that the physical order is relative to the moral order: and that the end, in view of which the whole vast process is carried on, is the discipline, and through discipline, the perfecting of human souls.

But if this be so -- if the world is a place where God realizes in all its details an immense scheme of providential wisdom, in which the principal part is the training of free agents, He must know how such an agent will act when called on to choose between two courses. Were it otherwise -- were He ignorant what the issue will be, His providence would not be, as reason and experience seem to assure us, a process of supreme wisdom, carried on in view of a definite end. He who does not know how subordinate agencies will act, cannot shape his means, save in a halting and imperfect way, to the attainment of his purpose. We must either admit that God knows the future free acts of his creatures, or admit that His providence is marred by frequent failure and often at fault: that He who is infinite alike in wisdom and power, often adopts the wrong means for the achievement of His purposes: and that in the attainment of His ends He is at the mercy of His creatures. Such a conclusion the intellect instinctively rejects.

Martineau has employed this argument in his Study of Religion. His words may well find place here. "It can hardly be denied," he writes, "that the idea of Divine foreknowledge is involved in both the sources to which we have referred our apprehension of God. If we know Him as intending Cause, if we see in the universe an organized system of ends beyond ends, He comes before our thought as a prospective Mind, whose agency at every present moment has regard to an anticipated future; and to suppose that future invisible is to suppose the present impossible. And if, again, we know Him as Supreme authority of Right, if we see in our own conscience the reflection of his Will, we thereby place ourselves under a discipline of progressive character, and the human race under a moral education, by which all life and history are turned into a probationary scheme of government. Such a scene ceases, by the very light that shews it, to he a blind jumble of accidents, and becomes a Drama, in which the end is preconceived from the beginning, and each act, as it passes, brings up the conditions and the persons needful to lead on to the consummation. He without whom there would be no future but His own, cannot create a future of which He has not first the idea. It is not without reason, therefore, that prescience has been assumed by theologians as part of the conception of a perfect Being."{7}

Is then Divine foreknowledge compatible with real freedom in human action? Some authors deny that the two are capable of reconciliation. Martineau, in the passage from which we have quoted, thinks it needful to distinguish. If the foreknowledge extends to individual acts of the will, there is, he holds, no possible escape from determinism. Hence the prescience which he demands has regard, not to individual volitions, but to the full number of possible choices which may be made, so that whichever course the will may take, God is able without fail to work out His ultimate purpose. "An infinite Mind, with prevision thus extended beyond all that is to all that can be, is lifted above surprise and disappointment, and able to provide for all events and combinations. . . . Is this a limitation of God's foresight, that He cannot read all volitions that are to be? Yes: but it is a self-limitation, just like His abstinence from causing them."{8} Another recent writer, Prof. J. Ward, goes so far as to say that from the standpoint of theism "the necessitarian position appears to he axiomatic. . . . The absolute omniscience and omnipotence of God are regarded as beyond question: and from these follow as a corollary the absolute and eternal decrees."{9} Bishop Gore, in a work designed to reconcile the claims of reason with a belief in revelation, refuses to meet the challenge. "To me," he writes, "it seems that belief in divine foreknowledge is incompatible, according to any standard of thinking possible to us in our present state with belief in human freedom": and he resigns the belief in God's foreknowledge of our future free acts.{10} We have seen that there is no such contradiction as is imagined, that the idea that God's prescience is incompatible with freedom on man's part is due to the failure to understand the difference between eternity and time: and that when this is once understood the alleged incompatibility disappears.

In the light thus thrown on the Divine foreknowledge it is of interest to consider the familiar objection that what God foresees must necessarily take place: and that, this being so, it is impossible that man's actions should he free, necessity and freedom being mutually exclusive. St. Thomas, dealing with this difficulty, points out that a free action, so soon as it is actually realized, becomes, in virtue of the principle of contradiction, necessary. It cannot both be and not be. Since, then, it has actually occurred, it cannot be otherwise. Thus it is open to a man to walk or sit still. But granted that he has chosen to walk, it is impossible that he should be sitting still. Now the Divine knowledge, as we have seen, regards things in their actual occurrence as present happenings, since there is for God no such thing as future time. But when we say that if God foresees a thing it must necessarily take place, we are considering the thing, not in relation to its physical causes, but as an object of the Divine knowledge. The necessity, then, which we affirm of it, belongs to it under that aspect -- not in virtue of the manner of its causation, but in so far as it is viewed as an actual occurrence. This, as is manifest, is in no way incompatible with contingency in regard of its immediate physical cause. The objection as stated is fallacious because it fails to distinguish two totally different aspects: and thus confuses the necessity which belongs to an event considered as an actual occurrence, with the very different necessity proper to the effects of causes which are deterinined to a single mode of action.

4. Physical premotion and 'scientia media.' Yet in affirming that a Divine knowledge of the future in its utmost detail is compatible with full elective freedom, we have not solved, nor even touched, the question how God knows what choice will be made. It is impossible that He should be dependent for His knowledge upon His creatures. Yet if it were granted that He knows the free choice because the creature makes it, we should be affirming such dependence. We should be allowing that the Divine mind acquires from the creature a knowledge which it does not otherwise possess. God's knowledge must be due to His own infinite perfection alone. The creature's choice may be a condition; but the source of the knowledge must be sought in God Himself. On this point all Scholastic thinkers are at one. But as regards the manner in which the knowledge is to be explained they are sharply divided. The question is hotly debated between the advocates of two rival theories -- the theory of physical premotion and the theory of scientia media.

The theory of physical premotion teaches that the source of God's foreknowledge is to be sought in the decree by which He has determined what the future choice of the will shall be, and in accordance with which He premoves the will to its act.

God's premotion, we are told by the defenders of this view, is always such as corresponds with the nature which receives it: and He premoves rational agents in such a way that they choose freely and not by constraint. In this manner, it is contended, the divine decree accounts for God's foreknowledge of the future volition without destroying the freedom of the act.

Those thinkers, on the other hand, who find themselves unable to reconcile the notion of predetermination with that of freedom, hold that God, in virtue of His essential perfection, knows what choice each human will would make in any given circumstances in which it might be placed. Knowing thus what the agent would do in a particular set of conditions, He knows what it actually will do in virtue of His decision to bring about those conditions and not others. This Divine decree is the medium in which God knows our future free actions only because He possesses antecedently a knowledge of the conditional future. However we are to explain this latter knowledge, we are compelled, they consider, to admit its existence. Apart from this the foreknowledge of free actions is a sheer impossibility.

This Divine knowledge of the conditionally future action is termed scientia media or 'mediate knowledge,' an expression employed by way of contrast with two other Scholastic terms. If we consider God's knowledge in regard of its different objects, we may usefully distinguish His knowledge of mere 'possibles' from His knowledge of those things which at some time or other have been, or will be, realized. The former is called scientia simplicis intelligentiae: the latter scienfia visionis. An event, however, which would take place in certain given circumstances is something more than a mere possible, but is less than an event actually to be realized. Hence God's knowledge of free actions, viewed as conditionally future, is conveniently designated by the term 'mediate knowledge.'

The respective merits of these two theories were earnestly contested at the beginning of the seventeenth century between the theologians of the Dominican and Jesuit Orders, the former contending for physical premotion, the latter for scientia media. The debate was theological rather than philosophical, the actual point at issue being the mode in which Divine grace influences the will in the performance of the good act. Yet the Dominican teaching on efficacious grace necessarily involved the theory of physical premotion, as did the Jesuit teaching that of scientia media. The theological aspect of the question lies, of course, altogether outside our scope in the present work. Our defence of scientia media must be based on grounds of reason alone. It is summed up in the contention that unless this knowledge be admitted, we are forced to deny either the divine foreknowledge or human freedom. Only on this supposition can both be true.

Yet when such knowledge is attributed to God, care must be taken to avoid anthropomorphism. We are not to be understood as signifying that the Divine knowledge passed through successive stages corresponding to the terms scientia media and scientia visionis: that God first saw which alternative a man would in fact adopt in each several situation in which he might be placed, and that subsequently, having decreed to place him in such and such circumstances rather than in others, He beheld in virtue of this knowledge the actual course of future events. This would be to suppose that God's knowledge can pass from indefiniteness to definiteness, that it can be first incomplete and then complete. His knowledge of the future has been from all eternity the absolutely complete knowledge of the scientia visionis. The triple distinction which we have drawn expresses, not three stages in God's knowledge, but three modes in which by reason of our creaturely limitations, we are compelled to think of His knowledge. They are based upon the stages of knowledge in which man envisages the objects he himself calls into being. We attribute them to God because His infinite knowledge must in some manner equivalently contain them. When, e.g., an artist paints a picture, it comes before his mind (1) as a mere possible which he might produce, if he so desired. This is followed by an act of will in virtue of which his idea passes to the stage of practical knowledge (scientia practica), and he contemplates the object (2) as about to exist in the future. Finally, after execution, he sees it (3) as a real thing. Here are three stages really distinct from each other. There is nothing like this in God's knowledge. From all eternity He contemplated by the scientia visionis the actual free choice which will in fact be made. Yet our supposition of a Divine knowledge antecedent to the decree to realize a particular course of events, though an unreal supposition, is representative of a veritable reality in the only way in which it lies in our power to represent it. The course of events proceeds precisely as if God at a given moment foresaw what decision my free-will would adopt, were He to abstain from any act of free-will on His own part. Divine knowledge, while eternally contemplating the future as actualized, nevertheless contains within itself all that could he found in the successive stages which analogy with human knowledge leads us to distinguish.

It may be frankly admitted that it is beyond our power to give any explanation how God can know the choice which a free agent would make, were he placed in given circumstances. Yet this inability on our part constitutes no objection to the theory: for it arises from the very nature of the case. Our knowledge of God, as we have frequently had occasion to urge, is restricted within narrow limits. We know Him as the first principle of created being, and can affirm of Him the perfections which this involves: beyond this our knowledge is negative. The Divine attributes, which do not belong to this class, merely deny in His regard the imperfections which attach to finite things. But no analysis of what is involved in God's relation to the world as its efficient, exemplar and final cause, will shew us the manner in which He knows the truths with which we are here concerned. We can deny of His knowledge all dependence on the creature: and we can reject any explanation which is inconsistent with the freedom of the secondary agent. But we can go no further. It is idle for us to seek to know the how of the Divine knowledge. The data for such an enquiry are absolutely lacking to us.

There is, however, one point which we must make good. We must shew that the conditionally future choice of a free agent has sufficient objective reality to be an object of knowledge. The problem here presented to us will be appreciated if it be remembered that knowledge is relative to being. Where there is no determinate being there can be no knowledge: for in this case there is no thing to be known. That which has no determinate being in itself nor yet in its cause is a non ens -- a nonentity. Now a future free volition, viewed as future, is as yet wholly indeterminate. The agent is at liberty to choose one course or the other: and not until he has done so will there be anything to be known -- a possible object of knowledge. It is, of course, otherwise where necessary agents are in question. Here the event, though not determined in itself, is determined in its causes. Hence within the sphere of physical science we possess valid knowledge regarding the future: since there we are dealing with agents which operate necessarily. Where free agents, however, are concerned, an intellect which is conditioned by the time-sequence can have no knowledge regarding their free choices till the choice is actually made. But, as we have shewn, God's mind is not fettered by the restrictions which the time-sequence imposes. His is the knowledge of eternity, not of time. The events which stand in such diverse relations to a knower, who is himself a member of the same series, have one and all the same relation to the Eternal. Each such choice lies before Him as fully determinate, as possessed of the reality which renders it an object of knowledge.

Our argument, it will be observed, has hitherto been restricted to the actual future. And in this reference the cognoscibility of the future choice has been fully vindicated. But we contend that the solution offered is valid not merely of the actual order of providence, but of all possible orders. God, in contemplating His Essence, beholds not merely the order of things which He has in fact established, but all those myriad orders to which He might have given actuality had He so desired. Each of these lies before Him in its entirety: and by a single act of intuition He knows every event which would take place in each, seeing them in the light of His eternity. In this manner, because the successive acts of every time-series are to the Divine Mind present occurrences, the conditionally future acts of every free agent -- the course which such an agent would adopt in any given circumstances -- are objects of knowledge for God.

We pointed out in chap. x. that some Scholastic writers find difficulty in accepting the notion of eternity which we have defended, and which we believe to be the only defensible one. They regard it as a veritable duration, holding that it has past, present and future, differing from time only in being a state without change. It is perfectly evident that those who take this view cannot appeal to God's eternity as the ground which renders future free actions possible objects of knowledge. They adopt another expedient, but one which in our judgment is philosophically unsound. They urge that it is possible to form two contradictory propositions regarding any possible alternative which we may conceive as presented to the choice of a secondary agent. If we suppose the agent placed in such and such circumstances, either he would adopt a given course or he would not. Both of these propositions cannot be true. One of them, the law of excluded middle assures us, must be so. To God alone is it known on which side of the alternative the truth lies. For His knowledge is infinite: and to infinite knowledge all truth is open, even though we are unable to fathom in the case of certain truths how this can be. Yet the argument here employed is fallacious. It is not the case that of two contradictory propositions relating to a free act considered as future, the one must be true and the other false. For the reasons which we have given, neither is true. Aristotle most rightly teaches that the only true proposition which can be framed regarding these acts is the disjunctive: the agent will either adopt this course or he will not.{11} Only, we hold, on the basis of the true doctrine of eternity can the possibility of God's knowledge of futuribles be defended.

We have declared our conviction that it is, in the nature of things, impossible that the human mind can throw any light on the manner in which God knows these truths. Yet it should be remarked that some of the defenders of scientia media have propounded theories on this point. The view of P. Luis Molina (1535-1600) on the subject claims a mention, even though we cannot admit its validity. For Molina was the first to treat at length of this aspect of the Divine knowledge, and to point out the necessity of holding that God knows, not only the free actions which will actually be realized, but those also which would take place, were the free agent placed in other circumstances: the very term scientia media was introduced by him. He held that God, in knowing His own essence, possesses so adequate and comprehensive a knowledge of the finite natures which He could create, and penetrates so completely their characters and dispositions, that He can see what course any one of them would adopt under any given set of conditions.{12} Were this the true account of the matter, it is difficult to see how the immediate agent could be really free. If a knowledge of the agent's nature, combined with that of the circumstances in which he is placed, granted only that it be sufficiently comprehensive, reveals to its possessor what course that agent will adopt, this can only be because the action is determined -- because given these conditions it must of necessity follow. But if this be so, the agent is not free in the sense that, after weighing the motives on either side, it is open to him to choose whether he will act or not, and, if he elect to act, to determine what his action shall be. It is only because of the incompleteness of our data, that we regard the action as contingent. Were all the facts of the case known to us, we should be able to foretell the future actions of a man in the same way as we foretell those of an inanimate agent.

Descartes, it may be noted, gives a similar explanation of the Divine prescience to that which we have just considered. "Before sending us into the world," he writes, "[God] has known exactly what would be the inclinations of our will. He Himself has planted them in us: He has also disposed all things externally to us that such and such objects should present themselves to our senses at such and such times, on occasion of which He has known that our free-will would determine us to this or that: and He has willed it thus; but for all that, His will has put no constraint upon us to act thus."{13} In one point, it will be observed, the account of Descartes differs from that of the Spanish theologian. The latter is careful to exclude all dependence from God: he points out that the Divine essence, and that alone, is the source of the Divine knowledge. Descartes would seem to imply that God gains His knowledge of future free actions from the contemplation of the finite essences which He is about to create.

We now pass to the consideration of the theory which seeks the explanation of God's foreknowledge in physical premotion. The premotion of the will, even in its free actions, seems to have been the teaching of the Thomist school from early times. Whether the doctrine is contained in the writings of St. Thomas himself has been disputed; it would, however, be beside our purpose to touch on this question.

It is contended on behalf of the Thomist view that it is a necessary deduction from assured principles of metaphysics. It is impossible, it is urged, for a secondary agent to perform an action of any kind unless determined to do so by a cause other than itself. Be the agent free or necessitated, the passage from potentiality to act must in the last resort be referable to the operation of the First Cause: and this conclusion is as true of the choice made by a human will as it is of the motion of purely material bodies. The one, as the other, takes place and can only take place in virtue of a divine premotion. Nor need this, they maintain, do away with liberty. Just as God in virtue of His infinity is the source of every sort of being, spiritual or corporeal, so too He is able to premove each to its connatural mode of action, be that free or necessitated. He predetermines both the act and the mode of its production. Only by reason of His decree can we say of a free creature that in certain contingencies it would act in such and such a way. Without a decree determining what its action shall be, it would not act at all. Its action would not be a conditionally future act, but a mere 'possible.' If these conclusions be admitted, the whole problem of Divine foreknowledge disappears. God knows our future actions, because they, like all else in the created order, are due to His decree. We do not need to have recourse to the plea that the how of the Divine knowledge is beyond the range of our understanding. God knows this, as He knows all things, in His essence, but in His essence as it includes the free decree by which He has fixed the order of His providence in regard to creatures.

At first sight it might seem that there is no room whatever in this system for any conditionally future event. Unless God has decreed that a free agent shall actually adopt a given course, its choice, it would appear, is wholly indeterminate, so that it is not more true to say that it would act in one way than that it would act in another. This is, in fact, the solution of a few of the Thomist writers. But the position was theologically difficult, in view of certain Scripture passages which seem to shew that God has full knowledge of what men would do, if placed in circumstances which in fact are never realized.{14} To solve this difficulty, the advocates of this view commonly maintain that, besides the decree which God has made determining the actual future, He has also made many decrees regarding the course which He would take in other orders of things, and that where such decrees exist, the conditional future becomes a possible subject of predication. The passages in question are to be explained in this way.

The Thomists contend that their doctrine is to be preferred, not merely on account of its intrinsic merits, but because of insuperable difficulties which beset scientia media on metaphysical grounds. That theory, they object, involves that the will can give itself a new actuality apart from the determining influence of the First Cause: that the First Cause is supposed to abdicate its office as the universal source of all being and all action, and the secondary cause to become a primary initiator of change. This, it is urged, is wholly incompatible with the axiomatic truth, Quidquid movetur ab alio movetur. It demands the metaphysical absurdity of a thing passing from potentiality to act of its own accord, and thus is a patent violation of the principle of sufficient reason.

Nor is this all. It is on both sides admitted that the Divine knowledge has no other source than the Divine essence. But, argue the Thomists, even if the free agent could, as is supposed, make its act of choice independently of a Divine predetermination to a particular alternative, the Divine essence could not in that case be a source of knowledge regarding the act. For if the essence be considered purely as it is in itself, i.e., apart from its decrees concerning the created order, there is no reason why it should represent one alternative rather than another: ex hypothesi either might equally well have occurred. But if the theory of scientia media be accepted, there is nothing save the Divine essence as it is in itself which can come into consideration as a source of knowledge. The existence of a Divine decree is denied: and God cannot depend for His knowledge on the act itself or on anything belonging to the created order.

It is not to be denied that both of these are weighty objections. And we have endeavoured so to state them that their real force may be understood. Nevertheless, they do not seem to be conclusive. Our reply to the first can best be given in connection with our treatment of the Divine concurrence. It must, therefore, be deferred till we speak of that subject (chap. xvi., § 6). As regards the second, we may freely admit that we are wholly ignorant how the Divine essence can be a source of knowledge as regards the free act: and, further, that no enquiry on our part will throw light on the matter and enable us to read the riddle. At the same time, in view of the fact that we are dealing with the Infinite, who is Himself the source of the created agent and of all its powers, we have no right to declare that because our mind cannot solve the difficulty, it is therefore evident that we are asserting what is intrinsically impossible. We must take our stand upon that of which we have certain knowledge. It is certain that the future in all its detail is known to the Infinite Mind. It is certain, moreover, that our will is free. The doctrine of scientia media holds to both these truths, though it recognizes the inability of the human intellect to explain how the independence of the action can be reconciled with the independence of the Divine knowledge. To affirm that God knows our free acts in His predetermining decree does not solve the problem. It cuts the knot by a reply which amounts, as we maintain, to a direct contradiction. Predetermination and freedom are, as we shall shew, exclusive the one of the other. Moreover, the doctrine of predetermination is open to the gravest objections on another side: for it leads directly to conclusions which seem incompatible with the moral attributes of God.

Liberty, as commonly defined, is the power of the will, when two or more alternatives are presented to it, each of which may be viewed as good in some respect, to choose the one or the other as it may itself determine. Our choice may lie only between acting and abstaining from action. In this case we are said to have libertas exercitii -- freedom in the exercise of our powers. Or we may have the choice between action of various kinds. This is termed libertas specificationis -- freedom in the specification of the act.

It is of primary importance to notice that the will can only choose what the mind regards as good. 'Good' is the object of the will, as colour is of the eye, and sound of the ear. In so far as the mind pronounces an object to be good, the will tends instinctively towards it. One object there is, which the will must needs desire, if it acts at all in its regard, viz., full and complete happiness -- beatitude. Where this object -- the perfect good -- is concerned, it possesses merely a libertas exercitii: it need not desire it here and now. But it is not free to prefer something else to it: it does not enjoy libertas specificationis where it is concerned. But only in this one case is the will under this constraint. All other things which are viewed as good may he considered in some other aspect as unsuitable, even as repugnant: God Himself, Whom reason shews to be the supreme good, may be considered simply as the source of retributive justice, and may be held in aversion. Thus it is that in regard of every other object of desire save complete happiness the will is free to yield to some rival attraction and give its preference to what is, perhaps, intrinsically far inferior.

The ground of man's liberty is to be sought in his rational nature. The faculty of intellect enables us to recognize in what consists the goodness of any object, what it is that makes it in some particular respect suitable to our needs. It is through our intellect that we can compare its goodness in one regard with its unsuitableness in another, and having weighed the one against the other, can adopt it or reject it, as we determine. The animal, endowed with sense-faculties and sense-instincts alone, sees an attractive object, and forthwith pursues it. Its appetites can doubtless be modified by habit. The dog can be taught to wau patiently till his master gives the signal for it to take its food. But here there is no freedom, no elective choice to follow this or that motive. The action is ruled by habit, exactly as it would otherwise have been ruled by impulse. But man is free, because he knows that none of the goods which present themselves to him are the supreme and all-sufficing good, which alone imposes itself upon his choice and constrains his will to desire it. He sees, e.g., that the service of his Creator is good in one respect and repellent in another: that his rational nature demands that God should be his first aim, and that on the other hand obedience to the moral law is painful to flesh and blood. His will determines the issue. In obedience to his elective choice the judicium ultimo-practicum declares that here and now the motive of duty or the motive of present gratification is to prevail.

It is characteristic of our present life that we should be able to elect what is morally evil because of some partial and inadequate good annexed to it. Here lies the probation of man. Yet the power to choose evil is not essential to liberty. In the next life, as we trust, we shall be free, without the possibility of being misled by apparent good. We have argued above (chap. v.) that man's destiny is the possession of that all-sufficing good, which is God Himself. Just as in this life it is impossible for us to desire anything save for some goodness belonging to it, so those who possess Him who is Essential Goodness can desire nothing except in reference to Him. But the love of God as the ultimate aim of all action no more involves determinism in those actions than does the love of the good in general involve determinism in our present choices.

If physical premotion be admitted it is, to say the least, extremely hard to see where liberty comes in, and in what sense we can speak of a probation. God decides which course we shall adopt, and premoves us to its adoption. We could not, if we would, choose another alternative, for the simple reason that God does not supply us with the premotion necessary for it. Those who hold the theory contend that God so premoves us that we choose freely. But to this it is replied that the answer involves two altogether incompatible conceptions. For freedom implies, not merely that we approve the choice which we have made, but that, had we wished, we might have chosen otherwise: whereas, if the theory of premotion be true, we could not act otherwise. To say then that we are premoved by God and, as such, act freely, is to say that our action is at the same time free and not free.

It is of interest to observe that Cajetan, the greatest of St. Thomas's commentators, recognizes the difficulty involved in the doctrine that our actions must inevitably be as God has foreordained. He says that he sees no solution except to hold that the divine providence so foreordains the future that we can neither say that our actions are avoidable, not yet that they are unavoidable. These terms, he thinks, have no applicability: for the divine decree operates upon a higher plane, which is beyond the reach of our minds. But, he urges, whatever the solution may be, it is absolutely essential that in all our investigations our starting point should be that of which we are absolutely certain: and that is our own freedom.{15}

The other difficulty which the doctrine of premotion seems to involve, concerns moral evil. Evil, it is true, is nothing positive: it is a mere privation. The human will contracts moral evil when it adheres to something contrary to that due order which right reason requires. God permits evil: He allows the created will to violate right order by desiring objects which it is bound to avoid, by turning away from objects to which it ought to adhere. But in no sense is God the Author of evil. For since evil is simply a privation, the creature in virtue of its own defectibility can be a prime agent in its regard.{16} God simply concurs in the physical act, which is in itself morally indifferent. Yet if man fails to act in accordance with right order because God has denied him the premotion requisite for obedience, it seems to follow as a necessary conclusion that God is the author of sin. This conclusion, it is needless to say, is repudiated by the doctors who defend the doctrine; but only, as it would appear, at the price of inconsistency with their own principles.

It may be freely admitted that neither theory affords a complete solution of the problem. In both a difficulty remains. Yet surely it is more prudent to leave the difficulty, as does scientia media, in the mysterious region of the divine knowledge and of the activity of secondary causes, than to adopt a solution which seems to place in jeopardy both human freedom and the moral attributes of God.

{1} "Duplex est actio. Una quae transit in exteriorem materiam: ut calefacere et secare. Alia quae manet in agente ut intelligere, sentire et velle. Quarum haec est differentia: quia prima actio non est perfectio agentis quod movet sed ipsius moti: secunda autem actio est perfectio agentis." Summa Theol., I., q. 18, art. 3, ad 1. In the creature immanent action involves change. There is transition from quiescence to activity, or at least from one mode of activity to another. This, however, is not essential to the notion of immanent activity as such.

{2} Cf. e.g. J. Caird, "We know of no other reason than one, and what cannot be brought into coherence with that reason is to us equivalent to the absurd or self-contradictory. Of what is in itself knowable, though beyond our present knowledge, we can pronounce that it is not contrary to reason. But we cannot say the same of that which is above reason in the sense of absolutely transcending human intelligence, of that which can never be construed by human thought. What lies beyond reason in this sense is simply the irrational or nonsensical." Philosophy of Religion, p. 68.

{3} Cf. e.g. Pringle-Pattison, Idea of God, p. 312.

{4} "There is always a consciousness of objects other than self on which the reflex consciousness of self depends." Sorley. Moral Values, etc., p. 139.

{5} Essentia igitur Dei, qui est actus purus et perfectus, est simpliciter et secundum seipsam intelligibilis: unde Deus per suam essentiam non solum seipsum sed etiam omnia intelligit. . . . Sed quia connaturale est intellectui nostro, secundum statum praesentis vitae quod ad materialia et sensibilia respiciat, consequens est ut sic seipsam intelligat intellectus noster secundum quod fit actu per species." Summa Theol., I., q. 87, art. 1.

{6} Cf. Augustine, De Trin., XV., c. xiii."Universa autem creaturas suas et spirituales et corporales, non quia sunt, ideo novit, sed ideo sunt, quia novit. Non enim nescivit quae fuerat creaturus. Quia ergo scivit, creavit: non quia creavit, scivit. Nec aliter ea scivit creata quam creanda: non enim ejus sapientiae aliquid accessit ab eis: sed illis existentibus sicut oportebat et quando oportebat mansit quod erat."

S. Thomas Aq., De Verit. Q. 1, art. 2, Sciendum quod res aliter comparatur ad intellectum practicum, aliter ad speculativum. Intellectus enim practicus causat res, unde est mensuratio rerum quae per ipsum fiunt: sed intellectus speculativus, quia accipit a rebus est quodammodo motus ab ipsis rebus: et ita res mensurant ipsum. Ex quo patet quod res naturales ex quibus intellectus noster scientiam accipit, mensurant intellectum nostrum: sed sunt mensuratae ab intellectu divino: in quo sunt omnia creata, sicut omnia artificiata in mente artificis."

{7} Study of Religion, vol. ii., p. 277.

{8} Op. cit., p. 279.

{9} Realm of Ends, p. 308. Professor Ward would appear to be under the impression that the treatment of the subject by Jonathan Edwards, the eighteenth-century Calvinist, is adequately representative of the theistic standpoint. This argues a curious want of familiarity with the literature of theism.

{10} Belief in God, p. 126, cf. p. 142. It is true that Dr. Gore declines to pronounce definitely that Divine prescience is necessarily irreconcilable with human freedom. The two are incompatible "within the range of our present capacity for thinking." But the qualification thus made is destitute of value. If our intellect as at present conditioned judges the two to he inconsistent with each other, this can only be because it sees that this simultaneous admission involves a breach of the principle of contradiction. To allow that further light could lead to a reversal of such a judgment would be to call in question the veracity of the intellect, and to open the door to scepticism.

{11} De Interpretatione, c. ix. Truth, he urges, is relative to being (homoiôs hoi logoi alêtheis hôsper ta pragmata). So that, since there is no determinate fact, neither is there any determinate truth. Suarez in his treatise De Scientia Futurorum Contingentium, lib. i., c. ii., n. 12, declares this reasoning fallacious: "Respondetur, veritatem harum propositionum non esse sumendam ex causis secundum se, sed ex determinatione earum quam in aliquo instanti habebunt." Cf. c. viii., 11. 3. Opera, Vol. X., pp. 166, 183 (Venice 1741).

{12} "Deus per scientiam naturalem se ipsum comprehendit, et in se ipso omnia quae in ipso eminenter sunt, atque adeo liberum arbitrium cujuscumque creaturae quam per suam omnipotentiam potest condere. Ergo ante ullam liberam determinationem suae voluntatis, ex altitudine suae scientiae naturalis, qua infinite superat singula quae in ipso eminenter continet,pcnctrat quid liberuni arbitrium cuj uscuncjuc creatufic, data hypothesi quod velit illud creari, in hoc vel in illo ordine rerum cum his vel illis circumstantiis aut auxiliis, pro sua innata libertate sit facturum." Concordia, Q. 14, art. 13, disp. 49 (ed. 1876), p. 290.

{13} Oeuvres (ed. Cousin, 1825), c. ix., p. 374, cited by Martineau, op. cit., p. 274.

{14} I. Sam., xxiii., 11-12; Matt., xi., 21-23.

{15} Cajetan, in Summ. Theol., I., q. 22, art. 4, ix. "Optimum autem atque salubre consilium est in hac re inchoare ab his quae certo scimus, et experimur in nobis, scilicet quod omnia quae sub libero arbitrio nostro continentur, evitabilia a nobis sunt."

{16} "Peccare nihil aliud est quam deficere a bono quod convenit alicui secundum suam naturam. Unaquaeque autem creatura . . . potest per seipsam deficere a bono, sicut et per seipsam potest deficere in non esse, nisi divinitus conservaretur." S. Thomas Aq., Summa Theol., I., q. 109, art. 2, ad 2.

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