De veritate EN 12



Our knowledge, taking its start from things, proceeds in this order. First, it begins in sense; second, it is completed in the intellect. As a consequence, sense is found to be in some way an intermediary between the intellect and things; for will reference to things, it is, as it were, an intellect, and will reference to intellect, it is, as it were, a thing. Hence, truth or falsity is said to be in sense in two respects. The first is in the relation of sense to intellect. In this respect, the sense is said to be true or false as a thing is, namely, in so far as it causes a true or false judgment in the intellect. The second respect is in the relation of sense to things. In this, truth and falsity are said to be in sense as they are said to be in the intellect, namely, in so far as the sense judges that what is, is or is not.

Hence, if we speak of a sense in the first meaning, in a way there is falsity in sense, and in a way there is not. For sense, in itself, is a thing; and it also passes judgment on other things. If, in its relation to the intellect, it is considered as a thing, then there is no falsity in sense; for a sense reveals its state to the intellect exactly as it is affected. Hence, Augustine says, in the passage referred to: "The senses can report to the mind only how they are affected." On the other hand, if sense is considered in its relation to the intellect as representing some other thing, it may be called false in view of the fact that it sometimes represents a thing to the intellect other than it actually is. For, in that case, as we said about things, it is such as to cause a false judgment in the intellect—but not necessarily, since the intellect judges on what is presented by sense just as it judges about things. Thus, hi its relation to the intellect, sense always produces a true judgment in the intellect will respect to its own condition, but not always will respect to the condition of things.

If sense is considered in its relation to things, however, then there are truth and falsity in sense in the manner in which these are in the intellect. For truth and falsity are found primarily and principally in the judgment of the intellect as it associates and dissociates, arid in the formation of quiddities, only in their relation to the judgment following upon this formation. Hence, truth and falsity are properly said to be in sense inasmuch as it judges about sensible objects, but inasmuch as it apprehends a sensible object, there is not properly truth or falsity, except in the relation of this apprehension to the judgment, in so far as a judgment of this or that sort naturally follows upon a particular apprehension.

The judgment of sense about certain things for example, proper sensibles—takes place spontaneously. About other things, however, it takes place by means of a certain comparison, made in man by the cogitative power, a sense power, whose place in animals is taken by a spontaneous estimation. This sensitive power judges about common sensibles and accidental sensibles. However, the spontaneous action of a thing always takes place in one way, unless by accident it is impeded intrinsically by some defect or extrinsically by some impediment. Consequently, the judgment of sense about proper sensibles is always true unless there is an impediment in the organ or in the medium; but its judgment about common or accidental sensibles is some times wrong. Thus, it is clear how there can be falsity in the judgment of sense.

As regards the apprehension of the senses, it must be noted that there is one type of apprehensive power, for example, a proper sense, which apprehends a sensible species in the presence of a sensible thing; but there is also a second type, the imagination, for example, which apprehends a sensible species when the thing is absent. So, even though the sense always apprehends a thing as it is, unless there is an impediment in the organ or in the medium, the imagination usually apprehends a thing as it is not, since it apprehends it as present though it is absent. Consequently, the Philosopher says: "Imagination, not sense, is the master of falsity."

Answers to Difficulties:

1. In the macrocosm the higher bodies do not receive anything from the lower. Just the opposite occurs. In man, the microcosm, the intellect, which is superior, does receive something from sense. Hence, no parallel can be made.

2-3. Our previous discussion will easily answer the other difficulties.


Parallel readings: Summa Theol., I, 17, 3; 58, 5; 85, 6; I Sentences 19, 5, 1, ad 7; Contra Gentiles I, 5 III, io8; Ill De anima, lectura 11, nn. 746-51, 760-64; I Perihermen., lectura, nn. 3-10; Vi Metaph., lectura, nn. 1223 seq., esp. n. 1241; IX Metaph., lectura II n. 1896 seq.


It seems not, for

1. The intellect has two operations. By one it forms quiddities, and, as the Philosopher says, the false is not in this. By the other it joins and separates, and the false is not in this either, as is clear from Augustine’s saying: "No one has intellectual knowledge of false things." Consequently, falsity is not in the intellect.

2. According to Augustine: "Whoever is deceived does not under stand that in which he is deceived." The intellect is always true, there fore, and there can be no falsity in it.

3. Algazel says: "Either we understand something as it is or we do not understand." But whoever understands a thing as it is truly under stands it. Therefore, the intellect is always true, and there is no falsity in it.

To the Contrary:

The Philosopher says: "Where there is a joining of concepts, there the true and the false begin to be." Hence, falsity is found in the intellect.



The name intellect arises from the intellect’s ability to know the most profound elements of a thing; for to understand (intelligere) means to read what is inside a thing (intus legere). Sense and imagination know only external accidents, but the intellect alone penetrates to the interior and to the essence of a thing. But even beyond this, the intellect, having perceived essences, operates in different ways by reasoning and inquiring. Hence, intellect can be taken in two senses.

First, it can be taken merely according to its relation to that from which it first received its name. W are said to understand, properly speaking, when we apprehend the quiddity of things or when we understand those truths that are immediately known by the intellect, once it knows the quiddities of things. For example, first principles are immediately known when we know their terms, and for this reason intellect or understanding is called "a habit of principles." The proper object of the intellect, however, is the quiddity of a thing. Hence, just as the sensing of proper sensibles is always true, so the intellect is al ways true in knowing what a thing is, as is said in The Soul. By accident, however, falsity can occur in this knowing of quiddities, if the intellect falsely joins and separates. This happens in two ways: when it attributes the definition of one thing to another, as would happen were it to conceive that "mortal rational animal" were the definition of an ass; or when it joins together parts of definitions that cannot be joined, as would happen were it to conceive that "irrational, immortal animal" were the definition of an ass. For it is false to say that some irrational animal is immortal. So it is clear that a definition cannot be false except to the extent that it implies a false affirmation. (This two fold mode of falsity is touched upon in the Metaphysics. Similarly, the intellect is not deceived in any way will respect to first principles. It is plain, then, that if intellect is taken in the first sense—according to that action from which it receives the name intellect—falsity is not in the intellect.

Intellect can also be taken in a second sense—in general, that is, as extending to all its operations, including opinion and reasoning. In that case, there is falsity in the intellect. But it never occurs if a reduction to first principles is made correctly.

From this discussion, the answers to the difficulties are clear.

QUESTION 2: God’s Knowledge


Parallel readings: Summa Theol., 1, 14, 1; I Sentences 35, 1; C. G. I, XII Metaph., lectura 8, n. 2542 seq.; lectura 11, n. 2600 seq.; Comp. Theol., I, CC. 28-32.


It seems not, for

1. That which is had by an addition to another cannot be found in most simple being, and God is most simple. Therefore, since knowledge is had by an addition to the essence—for life adds something to the act of existence and knowledge adds something to life—it seems that knowledge is not in God.

2. The answer was given that knowledge does not add anything to God’s essence, since knowledge merely indicates a perfection God has that is not indicated by essence.—On the contrary, perfection is the name of a thing. But in God, essence and knowledge are absolutely one thing. The same perfection, therefore, is indicated by both words, essence and knowledge.

3. No noun can be used of God which does not signify the entire divine perfection; for if it does not signify His entire perfection, it signifies nothing about Him, since parts are not found in God and can not be attributed to Him. Now, knowledge does not represent His entire perfection, for God "is above all names which name Him," as is stated in The Causes. Therefore, knowledge cannot be attributed to Him.

4. Moreover, science is the habit of conclusions, and understanding, the habit of principles—as is clear from what the Philosopher says. But God does not know anything as a conclusion: for this would mean that His intellect would proceed from premises to conclusions, though, as Dionysius has shown, this is not true even for the angels. Hence, science is not in God.

5. Whatever is known scientifically is known through something more known. For God, however, there is not anything more known or less known. Therefore, scientific knowledge cannot be in God.

6. Algazel says that knowledge is an impression of the known in the intellect of the knower. But an impression is entirely alien to God, for it implies receptivity and composition. Therefore, knowledge can not be attributed to God.

7. Nothing implying imperfection can be attributed to God. But knowledge implies imperfection, for it is regarded as a habit or first act—the operation of considering being regarded as second act, as is stated in The Soul. But a first act is imperfect will respect to the second since it is in potency to the second. Therefore, knowledge cannot be in God.

8. The answer was that there is only actual knowledge in God.—On the contrary, God’s knowledge is the cause of things. Therefore, if knowledge is attributed to God, it existed eternally in Him; and if only actual knowledge is in God, He produced things from all eternity. This is false.

9. Whenever there is anything which corresponds to the concept have of the word knowledge, of it we know not only that it is but also what it is, for knowledge is a distinct reality. But, as Damascene says, we cannot know what God is, but only that He is. Therefore, in God there is nothing corresponding to our concept expressed by knowledge. Knowledge, therefore, does not exist in God.

10. Augustine states that God is not accessible to the intellect since He eludes every form. But knowledge is a form which the intellect conceives. Hence, God also eludes this form, and so there cannot be knowledge in God.

11. To understand is more simple and of greater dignity than to know. But as stated in The Causes, when we say that God understands or is an intelligence, we are not naming Him will a proper noun but "will the name of His first effect." Much less, then, can we use knowledge of God.

Quality implies a greater composition than quantity does, for quality inheres in a substance by means of quantity. We do not at tribute anything of the genus of quantity to God because of His simplicity, for everything quantified has parts. Hence, since knowledge is in the genus of quality, it cannot be attributed to God.

To the Contrary:

1'. The Epistle to the Romans (11:33) says: "O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God!"

2’. According to Anselm, we must attribute to God everything which in each thing it is better absolutely to have than not to have. Since knowledge is a perfection of this kind, it must be attributed to God.

3’. Only three things are required for knowledge: an active power in the knower by which he judges about things, a thing known, and the union of both. But in God there is the most active power possible and an essence that is most knowable; consequently, there is a union of both. God, therefore, knows in the highest degree. Our proof of the minor premise is drawn from the fact mentioned in The Intelligences, namely: "The first substance is light." But light has active power most of all, as is shown from its diffusion and multiplication. It is, besides, highly knowable and, because of this, also makes other things known. Therefore, the first substance, God, has an active power to know and is Himself also knowable.



All attribute knowledge to God, but in different ways. Some, not being able by their own intellectual power to go beyond the manner of created knowledge, have believed that knowledge is in God like some sort of disposition added to His essence, as is the case will us. This is quite absurd and erroneous. For, if it were true, God would not be absolutely simple. There would be in Him a composition of sub stance and accident, and, further, God would not be His own act of existence; for, as Boethius says: "What exists can share in something else, but existence itself in no way shares in anything else." If God shared in knowledge as if it were a state added to His essence, He would not be His own act of existence, and, thus, He would have His origin from another who would be the cause of His existence. In short, He would not be God.

For this reason others have asserted that, when we attribute knowledge or something of the same sort to God, we postulate nothing positive in Him but merely designate Him as the cause of knowledge in created things. In other words, God is said to be a knower merely because He communicates knowledge to creatures. Although a partial for the truth of the proposition "God is a knower" may be that He causes truth (and Origen and Augustine seem to say this), it is not the whole truth for two reasons. First, by the same reasoning we should have to predicate of God whatever He causes in creatures, and so we should have to say that He moves since He causes motion in things. This, of course, cannot be said. Second, those attributes which are predicated of both causes and effects are not said to be in the causes because of the effects. Rather, they are said to be in the effects because they are found in the causes. For example, because fire is hot, it induces heat into the air. The converse is not true. Similarly, because the nature of God is to have knowledge, He communicates knowledge to us, and not the other way about.

Still others have said that knowledge and the like are attributed to God in a certain proportionate likeness, as anger, mercy, and similar passions are attributed to Him. For God is said to be angry in so far as He does something similar to what an angry man does, for He punishes. In us, this is the effect of anger. Propcrly speaking, of course, the passion of anger cannot be in God. In the same way, they say, God is said to be a knowcr because His cffects resemble those of a knowing agent. For example, the works of one who has scientific knowledge procecd from determincd principles to determined ends and so do the divinely originated works of nature—as is clear from the Physics. But, according to this vicw, knowledge is attributed merely meta phorically to God, as are anger and other like things—an opinion con trary to the words of Dionysius and other saints.

Consequently, one must give another answer and say that, when knowledge is attributed to God, it signifies something which is in Him. The same is true of life, essence, and the like. These attributes do not differ as regards the reality which is signified, but only in our manner of understanding them. For God’s essence, life, knowledge, and what ever else of this sort that may be predicated of Him are all the same; but in understanding essence, life, and so forth in His regard, our intellect has different concepts for each. This does not mean that these concepts are false; for our intellectual conceptions are true inasmuch as they actually represent the thing known by a certain process of assimilation. Otherwise they would be false, that is, if they corresponded to nothing.

Our intellect, however, cannot represent God in the same way that it represents creatures; for, when it knows a creature, it conceives a certain form which is the likeness of the thing according to its entire perfection; and in this manner defines the things understood. But since God infinitely exceeds the power of our intellect, any form we conceive cannot completely represent the divine essence, but merely has, in some small measure, an imitation of it. Similarly, extramental realities imitate it somewhat, but imperfectly. Hence, all different things imitate God in different ways; and, according to different forms, they represent the one simple form of God, since in His form are found perfectly united all the perfections that are found, distinct and multiple, among creatures. This is like the properties of numbers, which all, in a certain sense, pre-exist in unity, and like all the individual authorities of royal officials, which are all united in the authority of the king. If there were anything that could perfectly represent God, that thing would be unique, for it would represent Him in one way and according to one form. For this reason, there is in God only one Son, who is the perfect image of the Father.

Accordingly, our intellect represents the divine perfection by means of different conceptions, for each one of them is imperfect. If one were perfect, it would be the only one, just as there is only one Word in the divine intellect. There are, therefore, many conceptions in our intellect that represent the divine essence, and the divine intellect corresponds to each one of these as a thing corresponds to an imperfect image of itself. Thus, even though we have several intellectual conceptions about one thing, they are all true. Moreover, since names do not signify things without the mediation of the intellect, as is pointed out in Interpretation, the intellect applies several names to one thing according to the different ways in which it understands it, or (what comes to the same thing) according to different formal aspects. To all of these, however, there corresponds something in reality.

Answers to Difficulties

1. Knowledge is not had by an addition to being, except in so far as our intellect grasps someone’s knowledge and essence as distinct; for addition presupposes distinction. In God, knowledge and essence are not really distinct, as is clear from our discussion. They are merely conceived in this way. Therefore, knowledge is not in God by an addition to His essence, except according to our way of understanding.

2. One cannot correctly say that knowledge in God signifies a perfection other than His essence. It is merely signified as though it were another perfection, since our intellect applies to Him the names referred to from the different concepts we have of Him.

3. Since names represent concepts, a name signifies the totality of a thing in direct proportion to the intellect’s understanding of it. Our intellect can understand the whole of God, but not wholly. With God, one must know the whole or nothing at all, since in Him there is no question of part and whole. I say "not wholly," however, since the intellect does not know Him perfectly in so far as He is knowable by His very nature. Thus, our knowledge is hike that of a man who knows will probability the conclusion, "The diameter is asymmetric to the side," merely because all men assert it. He does not know this conclusion wholly, since he does not arrive at the perfect manner of knowing will which it is capable of being grasped. Yet he knows the entire conclusion and is ignorant of no part of it. So, too, the names which are applied to God signify the whole God, but not wholly.

4. What is in God without imperfection is found will some defect in creatures. Hence, if we attribute to God something found in creatures, we must entirely remove everything that smacks of imperfection so that only what is perfect will remain; for it is only according to its perfection that a creature imitates God. I point out, therefore, that our scientific knowledge contains both some perfection and some imperfection. Its certitude pertains to its perfection, for what is known scientifically is known will certainty. To its imperfection belongs its progression from principles to the conclusions contained in that science; for this progression happens only because the intellect, in knowing the premises, knows the conclusions only potentially. If it actually knew the conclusions, there would be no need of it to go further, since motion is simply the passage from potency to act. Knowledge is said to be in God, therefore, because of its certitude about things known, but not because of the progression mentioned above, for, as Dionysius says, this is not found even in angels.

5. If we take into consideration the manner proper to God as a knower, there is nothing more known or less known in God, because He sees all will the same intuition. If we consider the condition of the things known, however, He knows some to be more knowable in themselves and some less knowable; for example, of all the things He knows, the most knowable is His own essence, through which He knows everything not by a progression, however, since by seeing His essence He simultaneously sees all things. If this order of things known in the divine cognition is considered, the notion of science can also be verified in God, for He knows all things principally in their Cause.

6. That statement of Algazel is to be understood of our knowledge, which is acquired by the impression upon our souls of the likenesses of things. The opposite is true of God’s cognition, for it is from His intellect that forms flow into creatures. Our knowledge is the impressing of things in our souls; but the forms of things are the impressing of the divine knowledge in things.

7. The knowledge posited of God is not like a habit but rather like an act, since He always actually knows all things.

8. Effects proceed from acting causes according to the condition of the causes. Hence, every effect which proceeds by reason of knowledge follows the determination of that knowledge, which limits its conditions. Therefore, the things which have God’s knowledge as their cause proceed only when it has been determined by God that they shah proceed. Consequently, it is not necessary that things actually exist from eternity, even though God’s knowledge is actual from all eternity.

9. The intellect is said to know what a thing is when it defines that thing, that is, when it conceives some form of the thing which corresponds to it in all respects. From our previous discussion, it is clear that whatever our intellect conceives of God falls short of being a representation of Him. Consequently, the quiddity of God Himself remains forever hidden from us. The most we can know of God during our present life is that He transcends everything that we can conceive of Him—as is clear from Dionysius.

10. God is said to elude every form of our intellect, not because there is no form of our intellect that can represent Him at all, but because there is no form that can represent Him perfectly.

11. As is said in the Metaphysics: "An intelligible character signified by a noun is a definition." Hence, the name of a thing is proper if its meaning is its definition. Now, since no intelligible character signified by a name defines God Himself, no name we apply to God is proper to Him. It is proper rather to the creature defined by the character signified by the name. These names, though the names of creatures, are attributed to God, however, in so far as a likeness of Him is found in some way in creatures.

12. The knowledge attributed to God is not a quality. Furthermore, a quality that follows upon quantity is a bodily quality a spiritual quality, as knowledge s.


Parallel readings: Summa Theol., 1, i 2; Contra Gentiles 1, XII Metaph., Iect. 8, n. 2544; lectura X n. 2600 seq.; De causis, lectura 13 (P. 21:736b seq.); Comp. Theol., I, C. 30.; III Sentences 27, I, 4, sol.


It seems that He does not, for

1. A knower is related to the thing known because of his knowledge. Now, as Boethius says: "The essence accounts for the divine unity, and the relations account for the multiplicity of the Trinity of Per- sons." In God, therefore, the thing known must be personally distinct from the knower. Furthermore, the distinction of Persons in God will not permit a reciprocal predication the Father is not said to have generated Himself because He generated the Son. Consequently, we can not grant that God knows Himself.

2. In The Causes we read: "Everyone knowing his own essence re turns to it by a complete return." But God does not return to His essence, since He never leaves it; and there cannot be a return if there has been no departure. God, therefore, does not know His own essence and does not know Himself.

3. Knowledge is an assimilation of a knower to a thing known. But nothing is similar to itself, for, as Hilary says: "likeness is not referred to oneself." Hence, God does not know Himself.

4. Scientific knowledge is on about universals. But God is not a universal, for every universal is had by abstraction. There can be no abstraction from God, however, since He is perfectly simple. Hence, God does not know Himself.

5. If God knew Himself scientifically He would understand Him self, since understanding is more simple than scientific knowledge and, for this reason, is the more to be attributed to God. But God does not understand Himself; hence, I-le does not know Himself scientifically. Proof of the minor premise: Augustine says: "Whatever understands itself comprehends itse1f." However, only a finite being can be comprehended, as Augustine clearly shows in the same passage. There fore, God does not understand Himself.

6. Augustine argues as follows: "Our intellect does not will to be infinite (although it is able so to will), since it desires to know itself." Hence, what wishes to know itself does not will to be infinite. But God wishes to be infinite, since He is infinite; for, if He were some thing He did not will to be, He would not be supremely happy. Consequently, He does not will to be known to Himself and, hence, does not know Himself.

7. The answer was given that, although God is simply infinite and wills to be such, He is not, however, infinite but finite to Himself, and SO does not will that He be infinite.—On the contrary, as is pointed out in the Physics, something is said to be infinite if it is untraversable, finite if it is traversable. But, as is proved in the Physics, the infinite cannot be traversed by means of either a finite or another infinite being. Therefore, although God is infinite, He cannot be finite to Him self.

8. What is a good to God is simply good. Therefore, what is finite to God is simply finite. But God is not simply finite. Hence, He is not finite to Himself.

9. God knows Himself only in so far as He enters into a relation will Himself. Therefore, if He were finite to Himself, He would know Himself in a finite manner; but, since He is infinite, He would be knowing Himself other than He is and, consequently, have false knowledge of Himself.

10. of those who know God, one knows Him more than another, according as his manner of cognition surpasses that of the other. But God knows Himself infinitely more than any one else knows Him. Hence, His manner of knowing is infinite, He knows Himself infinitely, and is not finite to Himself.

11. St. Augustine proves that one person cannot understand a thing more than another can. He argues as follows: "Whoever knows a thing otherwise than as it is, is deceived, and anyone who is deceived about a thing does not understand it. Hence, whoever understands anything otherwise than as it is does not understand it; for nothing can be understood in any other way than as it is." Since a thing exists in one manner, it is known in one manner by all. Hence, no one under stands a thing more than another does. Therefore, if God were to understand Himself, He would not understand Himself more than others understand Him. Thus, in some respect a creature would be equal to his Creator; this, however, would be absurd.

To the Contrary:

Dionysius declares: "By knowing itself, the divine wisdom knows all else." Hence, God knows Himself especially.



When it is said that a being knows itself, it is implicitly said to be both the knower and the known. Hence, in order to consider what kind of knowledge God has of Himself we have to see what kind of a nature it is that can be both knower and known.

Note, therefore, that a thing is perfect in two ways. First, it is perfect will respect to the perfection of its act of existence, which be longs to it according to its own species. But, since the specific act of existence of one thing is distinct from the specific act of existence of another, in every created thing of this kind, the perfection falls short of absolute perfection to the extent that that perfection is found in other species. Consequently, the perfection of each individual thing considered in itself is imperfect, being a part of the perfection of the entire universe, which arises from the sum total of the perfections of all individual things.

In order that there might be some remedy for this imperfection, another kind of perfection is to be found in created things. It consists in this, that the perfection belonging to one thing is found in another. This is the perfection of a knower in so far as he knows; for something is known by a knower by reason of the fact that the thing known is, in some fashion, in the possession of the knower. Hence, it is said in The Soul that the soul is, "in some manner, all things," since its nature is such that it can know all things. III this way it is possible for the perfection of the entire universe to exist in one thing. The ultimate perfection which the soul can attain, therefore, is, according to the philosophers, to have delineated in it the entire order and causes of the universe. This they held to be the ultimate end of man. We, how ever, hold that it consists in the vision of God; for, as Gregory says: "What is there that they do not see who see Him who sees all things? "Moreover, the perfection of one thing cannot be in another according to the determined act of existence which it has in the thing itself. Hence, if we w to consider it in so far as it can be in another, we must consider it apart from those things which determine it by their very nature. Now, since forms and perfections of things are made determinate by matter, a thing is knowable in so far as it is separated from matter. For this reason, the subject in which these perfections are received must be immaterial; for, if it were material, the perfection would be received in it according to a determinate act of existence. It would, accordingly, not be in the intellect in a state in which it is knowable, that is, in the way in which the perfection of one thing can be in another.

Hence, those ancient philosophers erred who asserted that like is known by like, meaning by this that the soul, which knows all things, is materially constituted of all things: its earth knows the earth, its water knows water, and so forth. They thought that the perfection of the thing known had the same determined act of existence in the knower as it had in its own nature. But the form of the thing known is not received in this way in the knower. As the Commentator re marks, forms are not received in the possible intellect in the same way in which they are received in first matter, for a thing must be received by a knowing intellect in an immaterial way.

For this reason, we observe, a nature capable of knowing is found in things in proportion to their degree of immateriality. Plants and things inferior to plants can receive nothing in an immaterial way. Accordingly, they are entirely lacking in the power of knowing, as is clear from The Soul A sense, however, can receive species without matter although still under the conditions of matter; but the intellect receives its species entirely purified of such conditions.

There is likewise a hierarchy among knowable things; for, as the Commentator says, material things are intelligible only because we make them intelligible; they are merely potentially intelligible and are made actually intelligible by the light of the agent intellect, just as colors are made actually visible by the light of the sun. But immaterial things are intelligible in themselves. Hence, although less known to us, they are better known in the order of nature.

Since God, being entirely free of all potentiality, is at the extreme of separation from matter, it follows that Fie is most knowing and most knowable. It follows, too, that the know ability of His nature is directly proportioned to the act of existence which it exercises. Finally, because God is by reason of the fact that Fie possesses His own nature, it follows that God knows to the extent that He possesses His nature as one most knowing. For this reason Avicenna says: "He Him self knows and apprehends Himself because His own quiddity, being completely stripped (that is, of matte1 is that of a thing perfectly identified will Himself."

Answers to Difficulties:

1. In God, the Trinity of Persons gets its plurality from the real relations in Him, namely, the relations of origin. When one says "God knows Himself," the relation connoted is not a real relation but a rational relation, for, whenever a thing is referred to itself, the relation is not real but merely rational. A real relation demands two terms.

2. The dictum stating that one who knows himself returns to his essence is metaphorical. For, as shown in the Physics, there is no motion in intellection, and hence, properly speaking, no departure or re turn. Intellection is said to be a progression or movement to the extent that in it one passes from one thing known to another. In us, this takes place by a sort of discourse; and so, when the soul knows itself, there is a departure from the soul and a return to it. For the act, going out from the soul, first terminates in the object. Then one reflects upon the act, and finally upon the power and the essence, in so far as acts are known from their object, and powers by their acts. In divine cognition, however, there is, as was pointed out above, no progression from the known to the unknown. Nevertheless, from the point of view of the thing known, one can find a certain cycle in God’s knowledge; for in knowing His own essence He beholds all other things, and in these things He sees a likeness of His own essence. Hence, in some way He may be said to return to His own essence—not, however, in the sense that He knows His essence only from other things, as is the case will our soul.

Note, however, that in The Causes the return to one’s own essence is called the very subsistence of a thing in itself; for non-subsistent forms are, as it were, poured out upon something other than them selves, and are not in possession of themselves. But subsistent forms reach out to other things, perfecting them and influencing them—in such a way, however, that they still retain their immanence and self possession. In this way, God returns to His essence in the highest degree, for He provides for all, and, because of this providence, in a sense He goes forth and out into all things, although in Himself He remains unmoved and uncontaminated by anything else.

3. A likeness which is a real relation demands a distinction of things. If it is merely a conceptual relation, a distinction of reason between the things which are similar is sufficient.

4. A universal is intelligible in direct proportion to its separation from matter. Hence, those things which have not been separated from matter by an act of our intellect but are, in themselves, free from all matter, are most knowable. Consequently, God is most knowable, even though He is not a universal.

5. God knows, understands, and comprehends Himself, although, absolutely speaking, He is infinite. He is not infinite privatively—as a quantity is infinite, having part after part ad infinitum. If such an in finite had to be known according to the formal character of its infinity, one could never comprehend it; one could never come to its end, for it does not have an end. But God is said to be negatively infinite since His essence is not limited by anything. Now, every form received in a subject is limited according to the capacity of the subject; but since the divine act of existence is not received in a subject, for He is His own act of existence, His act of existence is infinite and, for that very reason, His essence is said to be infinite.

The knowing power of every created intellect is finite, since it is received in some subject. Consequently, our intellect cannot come to know God as clearly as He is capable of being known. Accordingly, our intellect cannot comprehend Him, for it cannot attain that full ness of knowledge which is the meaning of comprehend, as was mentioned above. But the divine essence and its knowing power possess the same infinity, and God’s knowledge is just as powerful as His essence is great. Consequently, He attains a perfect knowledge of Him self and is thus said to have comprehensive knowledge— because such comprehension imposes some limits on the thing known, but rather because the knowledge is perfect and there is nothing lacking to it.

6. Since our intellect is finite in its nature, it cannot comprehend or perfectly understand anything infinite. Augustine’s reasoning proceeded on the assumption of this limited nature. The nature of the divine intellect, however, is different; so the argument does not follow.

7. If the word God, properly speaking, is given its full meaning, He is finite neither to Himself or to others. He is said to be finite to Him self merely because He knows Himself as a finite intellect knows a finite thing; for, just as a finite intellect can attain a complete knowledge of a finite thing, so the divine intellect can have a complete knowledge of God Himself. But that characteristic of the infinite by which its end can never be reached is proper to a privative infinite. But this is entirely beside the point.

8. In regard to those perfections which involve quantity, if anything in reference to God has a certain attribute, the consequence is that it has that attribute absolutely. Thus, whatever is great in reference to God is, as a consequence, simply great. But in regard to those terms which involve imperfection, the same thing does not follow. If, for instance, something is small in comparison will God, it is not necessarily, as a consequence, small absolutely. All things are, indeed, nothing in comparison will God, yet they are not absolutely nothing. What is good in the sight of God, therefore, is good absolutely; but it does not follow that what is finite for God is finite absolutely, be cause finite involves imperfection, but good expresses a perfection. In either case, however, anything which is found in the divine judgment to have a certain attribute has that attribute absolutely.

9. The statement, "God knows Himself limitedly," can be understood in two ways. In the first way, limitedly is applied to the thing known, so that God would know Himself to be limited. In this sense the statement is incorrect, for then God’s knowledge would be false. In the second way, limitedly is applied to the knower. Then, two interpretations are possible. Either limitedly means perfectly, so that the /knower is said to know limitedly whose knowledge attains its end— and, in this sense, God actually does know Himself "limitedly"; or limitedly pertains to the efficacy of cognition—and in this sense God knows Himself, not limitedly, but infinitely, for the extent of the power of His cognition is the infinite itself. However, from the fact that He is finite to himself in the manner described, one cannot conclude that His knowledge of Himself is limited, except in the sense in which this was said to be true.

10. That argument is based on the word infinite being taken as referring to the efficacy of knowledge. Consequently, it is clear that God does not know Himself finitely.

11. The statement that one person can understand more than an other may be taken in two ways. In the first, the word more refers primarily to the thing known. In this sense, no one of those who understand understands more than another of the thing understood, provided that it is understood. for whoever attributes more or less to the thing known than is in the nature of the thing is in error and does not, properly speaking, understand. But the word more can also be taken as referring to the mariner in which one knows. In this sense, one understands more than another because he understands more clearly as an angel understands more clearly than a man, and God more than an angel, because of a greater power of understanding. 'We must similarly distinguish another phrase assumed in this proof, that is, "to know a thing other than as it is." For, if the word other refers primarily to the thing known, then no one who understands knows a thing other than it is; for this would be to understand it to be in some other way than it is. If the word other, however, refers to the manner by which one knows, then everyone who understands a material thing knows it other than it is, because a thing having a material act of existence is under stood only in an immaterial way.


4. The medium through which a thing is known ought to be pro Parallel readings: Summa Theol., 1, 14, 5; I Sentences 35, 2; Contra Gentiles I, 48-49; XII Metaph., lectura xx, nn. 2614-16; De causis, lects. ID, 13 (P. zi: seq.; 74 Comp. Theol., I, CC. 132—35.


It seems that He does not, for

1. The known is a perfection of the knower. But nothing distinct from God Himself can be His perfection; otherwise, something would be more noble than He is. Therefore, He can know nothing distinct from Himself.

2. But it was said that in so far as a thing or creature is known by God, it is one will Him.—On the contrary, a creature is one will God only inasmuch as it is in Him. Hence, if God knows a creature only as it is one will Him, He will know it only as it is in Him, and not as it is in its own nature.

3. If the divine intellect knows a creature, it knows it either through its essence or through something extrinsic. If it knows it through some extrinsic medium, then, since every medium of knowing is a perfection of the knower, because it is his form as knower (as is evident of the species of a stone in the pupil of the eye), it would follow that something extrinsic to God would be one of His perfections. But this is absurd. On the other hand, if He knows a creature through His own essence, since His essence is something distinct from the creature, it will follow that from knowing one thing He will know another. Now, every intellect that knows one thing from another is one which discourses and reasons. Consequently, there is discursive thought in the divine intellect, and, therefore, imperfection. But this is absurd.

4. The medium through which a thing is known ought to the proportionate to that which is known through it. But the divine essence is not proportionate to a creature since it infinitely surpasses it, and there is no proportion between the infinite and the finite. Therefore, by knowing His own essence, God cannot know a creature.

5. The Philosopher proves that God knows only Himself. Now, only means "not will something else." Therefore, He does not know things other than Himself.

6. If God knows things other than Himself, since He knows Himself, He knows either Himself and other things also under the same formal aspect or Himself under one formal aspect and other things under another. If He knows both under the same formal aspect, then, since He knows Himself through His own essence, it follows that He knows other things through their essence. But this is impossible. How ever, if He knows one under one formal aspect and the other under another, then, since the knowledge of the knower is specified by the formal aspect under which the thing is known, there would be multiplicity and diversity in the divine cognition; but this is repugnant to the divine simplicity. Therefore, God does not know a creature in any way whatsoever.

7. A creature is farther removed from God than the person of the Father is from the nature of the Godhead. But God does not know that He is God in the same act that He knows that He is the Father, for, when it is said that He knows He is the Father, the notion of Father is included, which is not included in the statement, "He knows that He is God." Much more is it true, then, that, if God knows a creature, He will know Himself under a different formality than that under which He will know the creature. This, however, would be absurd, as is proved above in the sixth difficulty.

8. The principles of being and of knowing are the same. But, as Augustine says, the Father is not the Father by the same principle that He is God. Therefore, the Father does not know that He is the Father by the same principle that Fie knows He is God, and much more so the Father does not know Himself and a creature by the same principle if He does know any creatures.

9. Knowledge is an assimilation of the knower to the thing known. But the least possible likeness exists between God and a creature. Therefore, God has the least possible knowledge, or none at all, of creatures

10. Whatever God knows He beholds. But, as Augustine says: "God does not behold anything outside Himse1f." Therefore, Fie does not know anything outside Himself.

11. A creature is compared to God as a point to a lime. Hence, Trismegistus says: "God is an intelligible sphere, whose center is every where, and whose circumference is nowhere"; and by its center, as Alanus explains, he means a creature. Now, a line loses none of its quantity if a point is taken from it. Hence, the divine perfection loses none of its perfection if knowledge of a creature is taken from it. But whatever is in God pertains to His perfection, since nothing is in Him as an accident. Consequently, He does not have any knowledge of creatures.

12. Whatever God knows He knows from eternity, since His knowledge does not vary. Now, whatever He knows is a being, for knowledge is only of being. Hence, whatever He knows existed from eternity. But no creature existed from eternity. Consequently, He knows no creature.

13. Whatever is perfected by something else has a passive potency in regard to that thing, because perfection is, as it were, a form of that which is perfected. But God does not have any passive potency in Himself, for this is a principle of change, which is far removed from God. Therefore, God is not perfected by anything other than Him self. Now, the perfection of a knower depends on the object of his knowledge, for his perfection consists in his actual knowing; and this is only something that can be known. Therefore, God does not know anything other than Himself.

14. As is said in the Metaphysics, "The mover is prior by nature to what is moved." But, as is said in the same place, just as the object of sense moves the sense, so the object of the intellect moves the intellect. Therefore, if God were to know something other than Him self, it would follow that something were prior to Him. But this is absurd.

15. Whatever is known causes some delight in the knower. Hence, it is said in the Metaphysics: "all men naturally desire knowledge. An indication of this is the delight of the senses..." some books have this passage. If, therefore, God knew something other than Himself, that something would be a cause of delight in Him. But this is absurd.

i 6. Nothing is known except through the nature of being. But a creature possesses more non-existence than existence, as is evident from Ambrose and from the sayings of many saints. Hence, a creature is more unknown than known to God.

17. Nothing is apprehended unless it has the character of truth, just as nothing is desired unless it has the character of goodness. But in Scripture visible creatures are compared to lies, as is evident in Ecclesiasticus (34:2): "The man that giveth heed to lying visions is like to him that catcheth at a shadow and followed after the will." Therefore, creatures are more unknown than known.

18. However, it was noted that a creature is said to be a non-being only in comparison will God.—On the contrary, a creature is known by God only in so far as it is compared will Him. Therefore, if a creature, as compared will God, is a lie and a non-being, then it is un knowable and cannot be known by God in any way whatsoever.

19. Nothing is in the intellect that was not previously in sense. But in God there is no sensitive cognition, because this is material. There fore, He does not know created things, since they were not previously in His sense.

20. Things are known most thoroughly by a knowledge of their causes, especially of those that are the cause of the thing’s act of existence. But of the four causes, the efficient and final are the causes of a thing’s becoming. Form and matter, however, are causes of a thing’s existence because they enter into the thing’s constitution. God, how ever, is only the efficient and final cause of things; hence, what He

knows about creatures is very little.

To the Contrary:

1'. The Epistle to the Hebrews (4:13) says: "all things are naked and open to his eyes..."

2’. When one of two related things is known, the other is known. But a principle and that which arises from the principle are said to be related. Therefore, since God is the principle of things through His essence, by knowing His essence He knows creatures.

3’. God is omnipotent. For the same reasons, He should be said to be omniscient. Hence, He knows not only delightful but also useful things.

4’. Anaxagoras affirmed the existence of an intellect that was un mixed so that it could know all things; and for this he is praised by the Phi1osopher. But the divine intellect is unmixed and pure in the highest possible degree. Therefore, God knows all things in the highest possible degree, not only Himself but things other than Himself.

5’. The more simple a substance is, the more it can comprehend a number of forms. Now, God is the most simple substance there is. Hence, He can comprehend the forms of all things, and consequently He knows all things, not merely Himself.

6’. A cause always contains the perfection of its effect in a higher degree. But God is the cause of knowing for all who know; for He is the "light, which enlightened every man that cometh into this world" (John I:9). Therefore, He knows creatures in the highest possible degree.

7’. Augustine proves that nothing is loved unless it is known. But God "loved all things that are" (Wisdom II:25). Hence, He knows all things.

8’. The Psalmist asks rhetorically: "Fie that formed the eye, doth he not consider?" (Ps 93,9), implying the answer "Yes." Consequently, God Himself, who has made all things, considers and knows all things.

9'. The following is also found in the Psalms (32:15): "He who hath made the hearts of every one of them: who understandeth all their works." Now, the person referred to is God, the maker of hearts. Therefore, Fie knows the works of men, and thus things other than Himself.

10’. The same conclusion must be drawn from what is said else where in the Psalms (135: g): "Who made the heavens in understanding"; for, as the Psalmist says, Fie knew the heavens which He created.

11’. When a cause, especially a formal cause, is known, the effect is known. Now, God is the formal exemplary cause of creatures. There fore, since He knows Himself, He also knows creatures.

De veritate EN 12