De veritate EN 30



While admitting that God acts through His intellect and not under the compulsion of His nature, some have said that He intends only one thing, namely, creature in general, and the distinction between creatures is brought about by secondary causes. They declare that God first established one intelligence that produced three things: a soul, the world, and another intelligence; and by means of this pro cession a plurality of things issued forth from the one first principle. According to this position, there would, indeed, be an idea in God, but only one common to all creation. The proper idea of each individual thing would exist only in secondary causes. This opinion, Dionysius says, was held by a certain philosopher named Clement, who maintained that higher beings were the archetypes of lower.

This opinion, however, cannot stand, because if the intention of an agent is directed toward one thing only, whatever else that follows is apart from his intention and, as it were, a chance happening, which happens accidentally in conjunction will that which he principally intended. This would make the agent like someone who wants to produce something that is triangular, and whether it is small or large is a matter of indifference to him. Now, to whatever is general some thing special is indirectly connected. Hence, if an agent intends merely something general, in whatever way it is determined by something special it is entirely apart from his intention. For example, if nature intends to generate only an animal, it is apart from nature’s intention that what is generated be a man or a horse. Consequently, if God’s intention when He acts regards only creatures in general, then all distinction between creatures happens by chance. But it is hardly correct to say that this difference between creatures is related only accident ally to the first cause and essentially to second causes, since what is essential is previous to what is accidental, and the relation of a thing to the first cause is previous to its relation to a second cause, as is clear from The Causes. Consequently, it is impossible for the distinction between creatures to be related only accidentally to the first cause and essentially to a second cause. The opposite, however, can happen; for we see that those things that happen by chance as far as we are concerned are foreknown by God and ordained by Him. Hence, we must say that all the distinction between things is predefined by God. Consequently, we must affirm that intelligible characters proper to individual things exist in God and that for this reason there are in Him many ideas.

From this the plurality of ideas can be understood. A form can exist in the intellect in two ways. First, it can exist there so as to be a principle of the act of understanding, as is the form had by a knower in so far as he understands. This is the likeness of what is understood, existing in him. Second, the form can exist in the intellect so as to be the end-term of the act of understanding. For example, by under standing an architect thinks out the form of a house; and since that form has been thought out by means of an act of understanding and is, as it were, effected by that act, it cannot be a principle of the act of understanding and thus the first means by which the understanding takes place. It is, instead, the understood, by which the knower makes something. Nevertheless, it is the second means by which understanding takes place, because it is by means of the excogitated form that the architect understands what he is to make. Similarly, will respect to the speculative intellect, we see that the species by which the intellect is informed so that it can actually understand is the first means by which understanding takes place; and because the intellect is brought into ace by means of this form, it can now operate and form quiddities of things, as well as compose and divide. Consequently the quiddities formed in the intellect, or even the affirmative and negative propositions are, in a sense, products of the intellect, but products of such a kind that through them the intellect arrives at the knowledge of an exterior thing. Hence, this product is, in a fashion, a second means by which understanding takes place. If, however, the intellect of an artist were to produce a work that resembled itself, then, indeed, the very intellect of the artist would be an idea, not in so far as it is an intellect, but in so far as it is understood.

Now, will respect to those things made in imitation of something else, we sometimes find that they imitate their archetype perfectly. In such a case, the operative intellect when preconceiving the form of what was made, possesses as an idea the very form of the thing imitated precisely as the form of the thing imitated. At other times, however, we find that that which is made in imitation of another is not a perfect imitation. In this case, the operative intellect would not take as its idea or archetype the form of the archetype itself, absolutely and exactly as it is, but it takes it will a definite proportion varying according to the degree of closeness will which the copy imitates the original.

I say, therefore, that God, who makes all things by means of His intellect, produces them all in the likeness of His own essence. Hence, His essence is the idea of things not, indeed, His essence considered as an essence, but considered as it is known. Created things, however, do not perfectly imitate the divine essence. Consequently, His essence as the idea of things is not understood by the divine intellect unqualifiedly, but will the proportion to the divine essence had by the creature to be produced, that is, according as the creature f ails short of, or imitates, the divine essence. Now, different things imitate the divine essence in different ways, each one according to its own proper manner, since each has its own act of existence, distinct from that of an other. We can say, therefore, that the divine essence is the idea of each and every thing, understanding, of course, the different proportions that things have to it. Hence, since there are in things different pro portions to the divine essence, there must necessarily be many ideas. If we consider the essence alone, however, there is but one idea for all things; but if we consider the different proportions of creatures to the divine essence, then there can be said to be a plurality of ideas.

Answers to Difficulties:

1. Personal properties introduce a distinction of persons in God be cause they are opposed to each other by relative opposition. But properties that are not opposed, such as common spiration and paternity, do not distinguish one person from another. Moreover, neither the ideas nor other essential attributes are opposed by relative opposition. Hence, there is no similarity.

2. The same thing is not true of ideas and essential attributes. In their principal meaning, the essential attributes do not signify anything more than the essence of the Creator. Hence, strictly speaking, they are not plural, although God is compared to creatures will reference to them. For example, will reference to His goodness, we say that creatures are good; will reference to His wisdom, we say that they are will. An idea, however, in its principal meaning signifies something other than God’s essence, namely, the proportion a creature has to His essence; and this completes the formal notion of an idea. Because of this there are said to be many ideas. Nevertheless, the ideas may be called essential attributes inasmuch as they are related to the essence.

3. A plurality of concepts is sometimes reduced to a diversity in the thing. For example, there is a rational distinction between Socrates and Socrates sitting, and this is reduced to the difference that there is between substance and accident. Similarly, man and animal differ rationally; and this difference is reduced to the difference between form and matter, because genus is taken from matter but the specific difference from form. Consequently, such a conceptual difference is repugnant to the highest unity or simplicity. On the other hand, a conceptual difference sometimes is reduced not to any diversity in the thing, but to its truth, which call be understood in different ways. It is in this sense that we say that there is a plurality of intelligible characters in God. Hence, this plurality is not repugnant to His highest unity or simplicity.

4. In. this passage, the Philosopher speaks of intelligible characters as definitions. But we cannot talk of there being many intelligible characters in God as though these were definitions, for none of these comprehends the divine essence. Hence, this passage is not to the point.

5. The form in the intellect has a double relationship. It is related not only to the thing whose form it is, but also to the intellect in which it exists. On the basis of its first relation, the form is not said to be of a certain kind but rather of a certain thing, for the intellectual form of material things is not a material form, nor is the intellectual form of sensible things sensible. It is on the basis of its second relationship that the intellectual form is said to be "of a certain kind," because its kind is determined by that in which it exists. Hence, from the fact that some of the things of which ideas are had imitate the divine essence more perfectly than others, it does not follow that the ideas are un equal, but that they are ideas of unequal things.

6. The one first form to which all things are reduced is the divine essence, considered in itself. Reflecting upon this essence, the divine intellect devises—if I may use such an expression different ways in which it can be imitated. The plurality of ideas comes from these different ways.

7. The ideas are multiplied according to the different relations they have to things existing in their own natures. It is not necessary that these relations be temporal even if the things are temporal, because the action of the intellect—even of the human intellect—can extend to something even when it does not exist, as, for example, when we know the past. Moreover, as is said in the Metaphysics, a relation follows upon action; hence, even relations to temporal things are eternal in the divine intellect.

8. The relation existing between God and creature is not a real relation in God. However, it is in God according to our manner of understanding Him; similarly, it can be in Him according to His own manner of understanding Himself, that is, in so far as He understands the relation things have to His essence. Thus, these relations exist in God as known by Him.

9. An idea does not have the character of that by which a thing is first understood, but, rather, of that which is understood and is existing in the intellect. Moreover, whether or not there is to be but one form in the understanding is determined by the Unity of that by which a thing is first understood, just as the unity of an action is determined by the unity of the form of the agent which is its principle. Hence, although the relations understood by God are many (and it is in these relations that the plurality of ideas consists), nevertheless, because He understands all things by means of His essence, His understanding is not multiple but one.


Parallel readings: Summa Theol., I, 14, 16; 15, I Sentences 36, 2, 3; De div. nom., c. 5, lectura 3 (P. 15:352a seq.); De potentia 1,, ad 10-11; 3, 1, ad 13.


It seems that they belong only to practical knowledge, for According to Augustine: "Ideas are the principal forms of things, according to which everything is formed that has a beginning or an end." But, since nothing is formed by reason of speculative knowledge, ideas do not belong to this type of knowledge.

2. It was said, however, that ideas are related not only to those things which have a beginning or an end, but also to those which can have a beginning or end, as Augustine says in the same passage. Consequently, ideas are related to those things which do not exist, will not exist, and never have existed, but nevertheless can exist. of these, God has speculative knowledge.—On the contrary, practical knowledge is said to be that knowledge according to which one knows how a thing is done, even if he never intends to do it. This is why part of medical study is called practical. Now, God knows how the things which He can make are to be made, even though He does not intend to make them. Therefore, God has practical knowledge of them. Hence, in both ways, ideas pertain to practical knowledge.

3. An idea is nothing but the exemplary form. Now, one can speak of the exemplary form only in connection will practical knowledge, because an exemplar is that upon which a thing else is modeled. There fore, ideas pertain only to practical knowledge.

4. According to the Philosopher, the practical intellect pertains to those things whose principles are within us. But the ideas existing in the divine intellect are principles of the things that are modeled on the ideas. Therefore, they belong to the practical intellect.

5. All the forms in the intellect either are from things or have a relation to things. The latter type of forms belongs to the practical intellect; the former, to the speculative. But no forms in the divine intellect are from things, since it receives nothing from things. There fore, the forms in the divine intellect have a relation to things, and thus belong to the practical intellect.

6. If in God an idea of the practical intellect were other than an idea of the speculative intellect, this diversity could not be based on something absolute in Him; for everything of this kind in God is one and one only; nor could it be based on a relation of identity such as exists when a thing is said to be identical will itself, because such a relation involves no plurality. Finally, it could not be based on a relation of diversity, since a cause is not multiplied even when its effects are multiple. Therefore, there is no possible way of distinguishing an idea of speculative knowledge from an idea of practical knowledge.

7. But it was said that these ideas are distinguished because a practical idea is a principle of being, while a speculative idea is a principle of knowing.—On the contrary, principles of being and of knowing are the same. Therefore, a speculative idea cannot be distinguished from a practical idea on the basis suggested.

8. God’s speculative knowledge seems to be the same as His simple knowledge. God’s simple knowledge, however, is nothing other than bare knowledge. Now, since an idea adds a relation to things, it seems that an idea does not belong to His speculative knowledge but only to His practical knowledge.

9. The end of the practical intellect is the good. Now, the reference of an idea can be determined only to a good; for, if evil occurs, that is outside of God’s intention. Consequently, an idea pertains only to the practical intellect.

To the Contrary:

1’. Practical knowledge extends only to those things which are to be made. But by His ideas God knows not only what things are to be made, but also those things that are made and have been made. There fore, ideas are not restricted merely to practical knowledge.

2’. God knows creatures more perfectly than an artist knows the products of his craftsmanship. But by means of the forms through which he acts, an artist, who is merely a creature, has speculative knowledge of his handicraft. How much more must this be true of God.

3’. Speculative knowledge is that which considers the principles and causes of things, as well as their properties. But by ideas God knows all that can be known of things. Therefore, the divine ideas pertain not only to practical, but also to speculative knowledge.



As is said in The Soul: "Practical knowledge differs from speculative knowledge in its end." For the end of speculative knowledge is simply truth, but the end of practical knowledge, as we read in the Metaphysics, is action. Now, some knowledge is called practical be cause it is directed to a work. This happens in two ways. In the first way, it is directed in act—that is, when it is actually directed to a certain work, as the form is which an artist preconceives and intends to introduce into matter. This is called actual practical knowledge and is the form by which knowledge takes place. At other times, however, there is a type of knowledge that is capable of being ordered to an act, but this ordering is not actual. For example, an artist thinks out a form for his work, knows how it can be made, yet does not intend to make it. This is practical knowledge, not actual, but habitual or virtual. At still other times, knowledge is utterly incapable of being ordered to execution. Such knowledge is purely speculative. This also happens in two ways. First, the knowledge is about those things whose natures are such that they cannot be produced by the knowledge of the knower, as is true for example, when we think about natural things. Second, it may happen that the thing known is something that is producible through knowledge but is not considered as producible; for thing is given existence through a productive operation, and there are certain realities that can be separated in understanding although they cannot exist separately. Therefore, when we consider a thing which is capable of production through the intellect and distinguish from each other realities that cannot exist separately, this knowledge is not practical knowledge, either actual or habitual, but only speculative. This is the kind of knowledge a craftsman has when he thinks about a house by reflecting only on its genus, differences, properties, and other things of this sort which have no separate existence in the thing itself. But a thing is considered as something capable of execution when there are considered in its regard all the things that are simultaneously required for its existence.

God’s knowledge is related to things in these four ways. Since His knowledge causes things, He knows some things by ordaining by a decree of His will that they come into existence at a certain time of these things Me has actual practical knowledge. Moreover, He knows other things which He never intends to make, for He knows those things which do not exist, have not existed, and never will exist, as we said in the preceding question of these things He has actual knowledge, not actually practical knowledge, however, but merely virtually practical. Again, since He knows the things which He makes or is able to make, not only as they exist in their own act of existence, but also according to all the notes which the human intellect can find in them by analysis, He knows things that He can make even under an aspect in which they are incapable of execution. Finally, He knows certain things of which His knowledge cannot be the cause—evils, for exam pie. Therefore, it is very true to say that there is both practical and speculative knowledge in God.

Now we must see which of the preceding ways is proper to the ideas which must be attributed to God’s knowledge. As Augustine says, if we consider the proper meaning of the word itself, an idea is a form; but if we consider what the thing itself is, then an idea is an intelligible character or likeness of a thing. We find, moreover, in certain forms, a double relation: one relation to that which is informed by these forms, and this is the kind of relation that knowledge has to the knower; another to that which is outside, and this is the kind of a relation that knowledge has to what is known. This latter relation ship, however, is not common to all forms, as the first is. Therefore, the word form implies only the first relation. This is why a form al ways has the nature of a cause, for a form is, in a sense, the cause of that which it informs—whether this informing takes place by inherence, as it does in the case of intrinsic forms, or by imitation, as it does in the case of exemplary forms. But an intelligible character and a likeness also have the second relationship, which does not give them the nature of a cause. If we speak, therefore, of an idea, considering only the notion that is properly conveyed by that word, then an idea includes only that kind of knowledge according to which a thing can be made. This is knowledge that is actually practical, or merely virtually practical, which, in some way, is speculative. On the other hand, if we call an idea an intelligible character or likeness in a will sense, then an idea can also pertain to purely speculative knowledge. Or, if we will to speak more formally, we should say that an idea belongs to knowledge that is practical, either actually or virtually; but an intelligible character or likeness belongs to both practical and speculative knowledge.

Answers to Difficulties:

1. Augustine is referring the formative action of ideas not only to those things which are made but also to those which can be made. For, even if these latter never exist, they are, in a certain sense, known, speculatively, as is clear from what has been said.

2. This argument refers only to knowledge which is practical virtually, not actually. Nothing prevents us from calling this speculative in some sense in so far as it fails short of actual execution.

3. Although an exemplar implies a relation to something outside, it is related as a cause to that extrinsic thing. Therefore, properly speaking, it belongs to knowledge that is practical, either habitually or virtually. But an exemplar is not necessarily restricted to that which is actually practical, because a thing can be called an exemplar merely if something else can be made in imitation of it—even though this other thing is never made. The same is true of ideas.

4. The practical intellect pertains to those things whose principles are within us not in any manner whatsoever, but as being capable of being executed by us. Hence, as is evident from what we have said, we can also have speculative knowledge of those things whose causes are within us.

5. The speculative intellect is not differentiated from the practical because one has its forms from things, and the other, forms related to things, because our practical intellect, at times, also receives its forms from things, as happens, for example, when an artist, having seen some work of art, conceives a form according to which he intends to make something. Therefore, it is not necessary, either, that all the forms which pertain to the speculative intellect be received from things.

6. God’s practical and speculative ideas should not be distinguished as though they were two kinds of ideas. They are distinguished be cause, according to our way of understanding, to the speculative idea the practical adds a relation to an operation. It is just as we say that man adds rational to animal, even though man and animal are not two things.

7. Principles of being and principles of knowing are said to be the same, because whatever is a principle of being is also a principle of knowing. The opposite, however, is not tue, since effects are not in frequently principles of knowing causes. Consequently, there is no reason why the forms of the speculative intellect should not be merely principles of knowing, while the forms of the practical intellect are principles both of knowing and of being.

8. We speak of God’s simple knowledge, not to exclude the relation which His knowledge has to what He knows, for such a relation is in separably joined to all knowledge, but to exclude from it things that are outside the genus of knowledge. Such things are the existence of things (which is added by His knowledge of vision) and the relation of His will to the things that He knows and will produce (which is added by His knowledge of approval). It is just as we cal fire a simple body, not to deny that it has essential parts, but rather to exclude foreign elements from its definition.

9. The true and the good include each other, since the true is a good and every good is true. Therefore, the good can be considered speculatively when only its truth is considered. For example, we can define the good and show what its nature is. But the good can also be considered practically if it is considered as a good, that is, as an end of a motion or operation. Consequently, it clearly does not follow that the ideas or likenesses or intelligible characters in the divine intellect be long only to practical knowledge simply because they have a relation terminating in a good.

Answers to Contrary Difficulties:

1'. Time has no ebb or flow in God, because His eternity, which is entirely simultaneous, includes all time. Hence, He knows the past, present, and future in the same way. This is precisely what Ecclesiasticus (23:29) says: "For all things were known to the Lord God, be fore they were created: so also after they were perfected he beholdeth all things." Hence, it is not necessary that an idea properly so called should exceed the limits of practical knowledge merely because the past is known by means of it.

2’. If the knowledge of his handicraft which an artist, who is a creature, has by means of forms referred to action is a knowledge of his work as it can be produced, although he does not intend to produce it, then that knowledge is not speculative in all respects but is habitually practical. But that knowledge by which the artist knows works, not, however, as he can produce them, is purely speculative. It does not contain ideas corresponding to the work, although it might possibly contain likenesses or intelligible characters of it.

3’. Both speculative and practical knowledge are had by means of principles and causes. Consequently, this argument cannot prove that a science is speculative or that it is practical.


Parallel readings: De veritate, 2, I5 Summa Theol., 1, 14, 10; 15, 3, ad I; I Sentences 36, 1, 2; Contra Gentiles 1,71; Quolibet XI, 2, 2.


It seems that there is, for

2. God knows evil things in His science of simple knowledge. But the ideas belong to His science of simple knowledge in some way if idea is taken in its broader meaning of a likeness or intelligible character. Therefore, there is an idea of evil in God.

2. There is no reason why evil cannot be in a good not opposed to it. Now, the likeness of evil is not opposed to the good, just as the likeness of black is not opposed to white, because the species of contraries in the soul are not contrary. Therefore, there is no reason why there cannot be an idea or likeness of evil in God, even though He is the highest good.

3. Wherever there is any community, there is likeness. Now, from the fact that a thing is a privation of being, being can be predicated of it; hence it is said in the Metaphysics that negations and privations are called beings. Therefore, from the fact that evil is the privation of good, some likeness of it exists in God, who is the highest good.

4. Whatever is known in itself has its idea in God. But the false, like the true, is known in itself; for, just as first principles are known in themselves in their truth, so also are the opposites of these principles known in themselves in their falsity. Hence, the false has its idea in God. Now, the false is a kind of evil, just as the true is the good of the intellect, as we read in the Ethics. Therefore, evil has an idea in God.

5. Whatever has a nature has an idea in God. Now, since vice is the contrary of virtue, it has a nature which belongs to the genus of quality. Therefore, it has an idea in God. But because it is vice, it is evil. Therefore, evil has an idea in God.

6. If evil has no idea, the only reason for this is that evil is non-being. But the forms by which one knows can have non-beings as their objects. There is nothing to prevent us, for example, from imagining golden mountains or chimeras. Therefore, there is no reason why evil cannot have an idea in God.

7. If a thing has no mark upon it and exists among other things that are marked, the very lack of a mark becomes its mark, as is clear in sheep which are marked. Now, an idea is, in a way, a sign of that of which it is an idea. Therefore, since all good things have an idea in God, and evil does not, evil itself should be said to be modeled upon or formed in the likeness of an idea.

8. Whatever comes from God has its idea in Him. But evil, that is, the evil of punishment, comes from God. Therefore, it has an idea in God.

To the Contrary:

1’. All effects of an idea have an act of existence determined by that idea. But evil does not have a determined act of existence, since it does not have any existence, and is, instead, a privation of being. Therefore, evil does not have an idea in God.

2’. According to Dionysius, the divine exemplar or idea is a pre definition of the divine will. But the divine will is related only to what is good. Therefore, evil has no exemplar in God.

3’. "Evil," according to Augustine, "is the privation of form, measure, and order." Now, Plato says that ideas themselves are beautiful. Consequently, evil can have no idea.



As pointed out previously, an idea, according to its proper nature, implies a form that is the principle of informing a thing. Consequently, since there is nothing in God that can be a principle of evil, evil can not have an idea in God if idea is taken in its proper sense. This is like will true if it is taken in its broad sense as meaning a likeness or intelligible character, because, as Augustine says, evil gets its name from the fact that it lacks form. Hence, since a likeness is considered as a form that is in some way shared by others, evil can have no like ness in God, because a thing is called evil for the very reason that it falls short of any participation in divinity.

Answers to Difficulties:

1. God’s science of simple knowledge has as its object, not only evil, but also certain good things that do not exist, will not exist, and never did exist. It is will respect to these non-existing things that there is an idea in God’s simple knowledge, but there is no idea in it of evil things.

2. We deny that evil has an exemplar in God, not just because of its opposition, but because evil has no nature through which it could in some way participate in something that is in God and which could, therefore, be called a likeness of it.

3. That community by which something is predicated both of being and of non-being is a community merely of reason, because negations and privations are merely beings of reason. Such a community is not enough for the likeness of which we are now speaking.

4. That this principle, "No whole is greater than its part," is false is a truth. Therefore, to know that it is false is to know something true. However, the falsity of this principle is known only by its privation of truth, just as blindness is known by its being a privation of sight.

5. Just as evil actions are good in so far as they have existence and come from God, so also in this sense are the habits good which are the principles or effects of these actions. Therefore, the fact that they are bad does not posit any nature but only a privation.

6. A thing is called a non-being for two reasons. First, because non- existence is included in its definition; and this is why blindness is called non-being. It is impossible to conceive, cither in our imagination or in our intellect, any form for such non-beings; and evil is a non-being of this type. Second, because the non-being is not found in the realm of nature, even though the privation of existence is not included in its definition. Here, however, there is no reason why we cannot imagine such non-beings and conceive their forms.

7. Because evil has no idea in God, God knows it by means of the idea of the good opposed to it. In this way, evil is related to His knowledge as though it had an idea—not that the privation of an idea stands in the place of an idea, however, because there can be no privation in God.

8. The evil of punishment proceeds from God as part of His order of justice. Hence, it is good and has an idea in Him.


Parallel readings: Summa Theol., I, 15, 3, ad I Sentences 36, 1, 1.


It seems not, for

1. According to Augustine: "An idea is a form." But matter has no form. Therefore, in God there is no idea corresponding to matter.

2. Matter is merely a being in potency. Now, if an idea has to correspond to its effect, if matter has an idea, the idea of matter will be merely in potency. There is, however, no potentiality in God. There fore, first matter has no idea in Him.

3. As they exist in God, the ideas are of those things which are or can be. But first matter does not exist separately, that is, by itself, nor can it so exist. Therefore, it has no idea in God.

4. An idea is that according to which a thing is informed. But first matter can never be informed so that a form would belong to its essence. Therefore, if it did have an idea, that idea would be useless in God. This, however, is absurd.

To the Contrary:

1'. Whatever derives its act of existence from God has an idea in God. Matter belongs to this class of beings. Therefore, it has an idea in God.

2 Every essence is derived from the divine essence. Therefore, whatever has an essence has an exemplar in God. Matter belongs to this class of beings. Therefore.

De veritate EN 30