JMC : The Metaphysics of the School / by Thomas Harper, S.J.

Chapter III. Truth.


IT occurs at once to inquire, why the consideration of Truth should precede that of Goodness, supposing, (as we most justly may), that there is a reason for the order of sequence in these Chapters. The question resolves itself into this: Has Truth, metaphysically speaking, any sort of priority over Goodness? And the answer is, that it has; and that in two ways. First of all, it has a nearer propinquity to Being than has Goodness. For Truth hears a simple and immediate reference to Being, as such; whereas Goodness, (as we shall see in the next Chapter), is a consequent of Being, not formally as such, but as perfect and perfecting. In the next place, the Intellect is naturally prior to the Will; for, though in act there is such a vital intercommunion between these two faculties, that it is difficult to determine, in each individual case, with which the efficiency commences; yet, considering the two absolutely and in the abstract, it is plain that the Will, because itself is blind, must depend upon that faculty which sees. To put it otherwise; the Intellect must perceive the object to be true, before the Will can pursue it as a Good. The Angelic Doctor gives this answer{1} but he likewise adds another, taken from a different point of view. For one object, as he tells us, is conceptually prior to another, when it has precedence in intellectual cognition. 'But the intellect, first of all, apprehends simple Being, then it apprehends its own cognition of Being; and, after that, it apprehends its appetence of Being. Wherefore, first comes the idea of Being; then the idea of the True; and, lastly, the idea of the Good.'{2}

Of Truth, in the full latitude of its signification, there can be no definition; for not only does it include a Transcendental, the main object of the present investigation, (and Transcendentals, as we have seen, cannot be defined); but it is predicated, equivocally or, at the most, according to analogy, of all save its primary significate. It behoves us, therefore, straightway to consider it under its diverse forms.

St. Thomas enumerates four kinds of Truth,{3} to which a fifth may be added, by way of complement.

i. There is Truth in speech or writing, considered purely and simply as the vehicle of thought. It may be at once dismissed; since the investigation of it properly belongs to Dialectic or Grammar. The same Truth exists proportionately in other symbols of thought, such as actions, telegraphic signals or communications, and the like.

ii. There is moral Truth in word and, to a certain extent, in action; accordingly as the one or the other corresponds with the inner thought. Because it is moral, it claims a place in the special subject-matter of the ethical Science.

iii. There is logical Truth, which consists in the correspondence between the thought and the formal laws of thought, and is the object of pure Logic.

iv. There is conceptual Truth, which consists in the correspondence between the representative thought and the represented object. It enters into the subject-matter of Ideology; but cannot be ignored by the metaphysician.

v. There is ontological or Transcendental Truth, which (to speak summarily) may be said to consist in the actual or possible correspondence of Being with Intelligence. Such Truth is the proper object of Metaphysics. For this Queen of Sciences pursues the investigation of Truth in two ways. She aims at a scientific knowledge of her subject-matter, which may be called the pursuit of Truth materially in its relation to, and connection with, the object of cognition. This aim, however, is common to all the sciences, properly so called. But she likewise aims at a scientific knowledge of Truth, as it is formally in itself, of its essential nature, attributes, and the like; and this is her peculiar and exclusive province.

The present Chapter will open with an inquiry into the nature and characteristics of conceptual Truth. There are three principal reasons for such a course.

(a) The idea of Truth was originally derived from the judicial acts of the human mind, and the primary signification of the word corresponds with the original idea; its other meanings are derivatives from this source. So far, all are agreed. It is natural, therefore, to suppose, that an examination into the nature of conceptual Truth, will prepare the way for, and throw great light upon, the great question of Transcendental Truth, which is the direct and principal object of metaphysical research.

(b) Philosophical method requires, that an inquiry into the easier should precede an investigation of the more difficult; when both are pertinent to the subjeet-matter. But, evidently, conceptual Truth is more easily apprehended by the human mind, because it is an accidental perfection of the mind's own acts; whereas ontological, or Transcendental, Truth is objective, inasmuch as it runs parallel with Being with which it is really identified. And, though it is true that the latter includes the Subjective with the Objective, because the Ego (to borrow from modern phraseology) is included, equally with the non-Ego, within the circumference of Being; yet, regarded in this light, the Subjective is objectivized in thought, and becomes involved in the general obscurity of the Transcendental.

(c) But the paramount motive for adopting the present order of inquiry, is implicitly contained in the reason first given. Truth formally exists only in the intellect; and when the term is applied to sensible perception or to Being, it is so applied by analogy either of proportion or of attribution. As, then, in order to acquire an accurate knowledge of the secondary significates or analogates, it is necessary first of all to understand the primary; it follows, that we must commence with conceptual, in order that we may be the better enabled to understand ontological, Truth.

{1} 'Verum absolute loquendo, prius est quam bonum; quod ex duobus apparet. Primo quidam ex hoe quod verum propinquius se habet ad ens quod est prius quam bonum. Nam verum respicit ipsum esse simpliciter et immediate; ratio autem boni consequitur esse secundum quod est aliquo modo perfectum; sic enim appetibile est. Secundo apparet ex hoe quod cognitio naturaliter praecedit appetitum. Unde, cum rerum respiciat cognitionem, bonum autem appetitum, prius erit verum quam bonum secundum rationem.' 1ae xvi, 4, 0.

{2} 'Secundum hoc est aliquid prius ratione quod prius cadit in intellectu. Intellectus autem per prius apprehendit ipsum ens, et secundario apprehendit se intelligere ens, et tertio apprehendit se appetere ens. Unde primo est ratio entis, secundo ratio veri, tertio ratio boni.' 1ae xvi, 4, ad 2m.

{3} De Verit. Q. 1, e. 3, C. v. fi.

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