Negating what is finite in intelligence

We’re constrained to say the Creator has intelligence or something transcending it, and so has reasons for creating. But this sense of reason needs to be sifted of what is peculiar to finite reason.

Our reason takes reasons from outside itself, and so there is a difference in existence between things known as they exist and as they exist in understanding. This makes the reasons abstract, but since we always act for the sake of something concrete, we can always distinguish our reasons from what we act for.* There is always a formal end, or an aspect under which we see something as desirable and the objective end, or the concrete thing that appears to us under that aspect. So Robin Hood’s formal end is the relief of the poor and his objective end is money. The first is an abstract ideal; the second a concrete thing.

Infinite intellect negates this division between formal and objective end. This opens up certain theological possibilities. If formal and objective end are unified, might be able to see the concrete reality as such as the intelligible aspect under which it is created. There is not some abstract reason motivating the creation of this concrete entity, the concrete entity just is the reason. This is, for us, an impediment to understanding providence, since we look for reasons that might be alienated from the individual as such.

The identity of the formal and objective end also means that created realities exist not merely notionally in the Creator, but even according to what we are constrained to call a “physical” existence. To put the created only notionally in the Creator would be to alienate formal and objective ends.


*This abstract/ concrete binary is the Aristotelian one, which sees the intellectual existence of things as posterior to their sensual existence. Plato reverses this order, but it would lead to a mere vocabulary change, i.e. we would say that we know the thing itself, but act to attain a participation in it.

1 Comment

  1. October 4, 2014 at 5:20 pm

    Two observations:
    1) this helps to illustrate the unity of divine intellect and will. If we would put one – either one – before the other, that would be to take just this distinction between formal and objective ends we find in ourselves and ascribe it to God.
    2) If it does not belong to intellect to be subject to a division of formal ends and objects, then, to call back your post ‘Haecceitas’, although we cannot exhaustively adduce our reasons for loving another, this may be why it still feels natural to try.
    3) A digression?: there seems to be a parallel division of existence and existence-in-sense for all the senses, except touch. The object seen, heard, smelt or tasted is not the object itself in the same way the object touched is the object itself.
    Objection: I am confusing the object touched with the object felt. Surely a stone is distinct from the stone-felt much as the stone-seen?
    I don’t think so, as the stone-felt is acted upon in a way the stone-seen is not, and so the stone itself is still more the unified object of the one sense than the other.
    One reason the touching-sciences are so distinct from the ‘looking’ sciences (in both senses)?
    3a) And if I touch not a stone, but another person? Not only is there then a unity, but a mutuality unique to touch.


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