De veritate EN 159



There is a twofold knowledge by which something can be known. One is that by which we know whether a thing exists, and according to this in the state of innocence Adam knew the angels both by natural knowledge and divine revelation far more fully and familiarly than we know them. The other is that by which we know what a thing is, and this is to know it through its essence. And, as I see it, Adam in the state of innocence did not know the angels in this way. The reason for this is that a twofold knowledge is ascribed to Adam: natural knowledge and knowledge due to grace.

That he did not know angels through their essence will natural knowledge can be seen will certainty from this. In no genus does a natural passive power extend farther than that to which the active power of the same genus extends, just as in nature there is a passive power only will reference to those things to which some natural active power can extend, as the Commentator says. In the under standing of the human soul, however, there is a twofold power: passive, the possible intellect, and the other active, the agent intellect. Consequently, the possible intellect is naturally in potency to have produced in it only those things which the agent intellect is naturally constituted to produce. However, this does not exclude the possibility of other things being produced in it by divine activity, as they are produced in physical nature through miraculous activity. But the action of the agent intellect does not make intelligible those things which are of themselves intelligible, such as the essences of the angels, but things which of themselves are potentially intelligible, such as the essence of material things, which are received through sense and imagination. Hence, in the possible intellect there are naturally produced only those intelligible species which are abstracted from phantasms. However, it is impossible to reach vision of the essence of separated substances through this type of species, since they have no proportion to separated substances and belong, as it were, to a different genus from spiritual essences. Therefore, by natural knowledge man cannot attain to knowledge of the angels through their essence.

Similarly, Adam was not capable of this even through the knowledge due to grace. For knowledge due to grace is higher than knowledge due to nature, but this elevation can be taken will reference either to the intelligible object or to the manner of understanding. With reference to the intelligible object, manís knowledge is indeed raised through grace even without a change of state, as when we are raised to a knowledge of things which are above reason through the grace of faith, and similarly through the grace of prophecy. But, in so far as its manner of knowing is concerned, human knowledge is not elevated without a change of manís state. But the manner in which his understanding knows naturally is by receiving from phantasms, as has been said. Consequently, un there is a change in manís state, his understanding, even in the know due to grace, which is through divine revelation, must always recur to phantasms. This is what Dionysius says: "It is impossible for the divine radiance to shine on us in any other way, except as shrouded in a variety of sacred veils."12 But in the state of innocence Adam was in the state of a wa farer. Hence, in all knowledge due to grace he had to look to phantasms. The essences of angels, however, cannot be seen will that mode of knowledge, as has been said. Thus, Adam did not know the angels through their essence either through natural knowledge or through knowledge due to grace, unless, perhaps, we say that he was elevated to a higher state through grace, as Paul was in his rapture.

Answers to Difficulties:

1. All we can conclude from the authoritative citation from Gregory is that Adam knew the angels in some lofty vision, not, however, so lofty that it reached a knowledge of their essence.

2. If we understand that Adamís sleep was of the same nature as Paulís rapture, there would be nothing to prevent us from saying that he saw the angels through their essence in that rapture. But this was above the common mode of knowing which then belonged to hmm. However, if we understand that his sleep was not of such a nature that in it Adam in some respect was elevated to the state of the blessed, but was Jike that in which it is customary for the minds of the prophets to be raised to vision of the divine mysteries, as the words of the Gloss seem to intend, then he is said to have shared the company of the heavenly court through a certain pre-eminence of knowledge, which still did not reach their essence.

3. Adam had knowledge of the angels in so far as they were made for his sake. For he knew that they would be companions of his beatitude and helpers for his salvation in this life, in so far as he knew the distinction of [ orders and their duties much better than we know them.

4. Difficulty in understanding arises in two ways. In one, the difficulty comes from the thing known; in the other, from the one knowing. On the part of the thing known, it is more difficult to make some thing intelligible and understand it than to understand that which of itself is intelligible. But, on the part of the one knowing, it can be more difficult to know that which is of itself intelligible. And this is the case will the human understanding, since naturally to understand separated essences is out of proportion will its power, for the reason we have given.

5. Adamís understanding did not suffer from the lack of any perfection which should have been in it at that time. However, it did have some natural deficiencies, among which one was that in knowing it had to look to phantasms. But this is a natural condition of human understanding by reason of its union will the body, and by reason of the fact that by its nature it is the lowest in the order of intellects.

6. By abstraction, understanding can reach a quiddity of a natural thing which does not have another quiddity, and which it can under stand because it abstracts it from phantasms and makes it intelligible through the light of the agent intellect. From this it receives the possibility of being perfected by the quiddity as by a proper perfection. But it cannot rise from this quiddity to a knowledge of the essence of a separated substance, because the former quiddity is completely incapable of representing the latter, since quiddity does not exist in separated substances and in material things in entirely the same manner, but, as it were, equivocally, as the Commentator says. And, granted that through this quiddity he could know in some general way that the quiddity of separated substance is of such a nature, he nevertheless would not see the essence of an angel in such a way that he could know the difference between any one separated essence and the others.

7. Although human understanding is not destroyed by an excessively intelligible object, it lacks the proportion needed to be able naturally to reach the highest intelligibles. Hence, we cannot conclude from what the Philosopher says that it understands the highest intelligibles, but only that, if it did understand them, it would not understand others less.

8. The Philosopher leaves this question unsolved when he inquires whether an intellect joined [to a body] can understand separated substances. Nor does he solve the question anywhere else in the works which have come down to us. And his followers have disagreed on this point.

For some have said that our intellect cannot achieve an understanding of separated essences. Some, however, have held that it can. Some of these men have given insufficient reasons, as Avempace, who gave the argument about quiddity, and Themistius, who gave the argument about ease of understanding. Both of these arguments, the Commentator answered. Some, however, as Alexander and the Commentator himself, have taken non-Aristotelian positions, which are against the faith. For Alexander says that, since the possible intellect can be produced by generation and can perish, it can in his theory in no will reach an understanding of the separated substances. But, at the term of its perfection, it does reach the point where the agent intellect, which Alexander makes one of the separated substances, is unit to us as form. In that state we understand through the agent intellect, just as now we understand through the possible intellect. And it is because the agent intellect, as a separated substance, understands separated substances that we understand separated substances in that state. In his opinion it is in this that the final happiness of man will consist.

However, since it does not seem possible for something which is incorruptible and separated, as the agent intellect, to be united as the form for the possible intellect, which, for Alexander, is corruptible and material, it has seemed to others that the possible intellect itself is separated and incorruptible. Hence, Themistius says that the possible intellect, too, is separated, and that it is natural to it to understand not only material things but also separated substances. He adds that its intelligible objects are not temporal, but eternal, things, and that the speculative intellect, by which we understand, is made up of the agent and the possible intellects. But, if this is so, we can know separated substances from the beginning, since the possible intellect is united to us from the beginning.

Therefore, the Commentator takes a third way, between the opinion of Alexander and that of Themistius. For he says that the possible intellect is separated and eternal, in which he agrees will Themistius and differs from Alexander, and, nevertheless, that the objects of the speculative understanding are temporal things and produced through the activity of the agent intellect. In this he agrees will Alexander and differs from Themistius. He says that these objects have a double existence: one, by which they are based on phantasms, and in this sense they are in us; the other, by which they are in the possible intellect. Consequently, through the mediation of these intelligible objects the possible intellect is united to us.

Now, the agent intellect is related to these intelligible things as form to matter. For, since the possible intellect receives intelligibles of this type which are grounded in phantasms, and also receives the agent intellect, and since the agent intellect is more perfect, the proportion of the agent intellect to intelligibles of this sort, which are in us, must be like the proportion of form to matter. This is like the reciprocal proportion between light and colour which are received in the transparent, as also between all things, one of which is more perfect than the other, which are received in one thing. Therefore, when the production of such intelligibles takes place in us, then the agent intellect is united to us perfectly as a form. And in this way we will be able to know separated substances through the agent intellect, just as we are nowable to know through the understanding which is in its habitual state.

It is evident from the statements of these philosophers that they could find no way for us to understand separated substances except by understanding through some separated substance. But it is not in harmony will the truths of the faith to say that the possible or the agent intellect is a separated substance. Neither does it agree will the opinion of the Philosopher, who holds that agent and possible intellects are part of the human soul.

Accordingly, if we retain that position, it does not seem possible for man by his natural knowledge to achieve a knowledge of separated essences.

9. In the state of innocence man knew his act of understanding perfectly because he understood some intelligible object perfectly. And, since the act of understanding is an effect proportionate to, and commensurate will, the power from which it proceeds, it follows that he understood the essence of his soul perfectly. But it does not follow from this that he understood the essence of the angels, since that act of understanding is not commensurate will the power of his under standing.

10. As the angelic nature is intermediate between the divine and physical nature, so the knowledge by which an angelic essence is known is intermediate between the knowledge by which the divine essence is known and by which the essences of material things are known. But there can be many things intermediate between two extremes. And it is not necessary for anyone who exceeds one extreme to reach every intermediate level, but to reach some intermediate level. Accordingly, in the state of innocence man reached one intermediate level, namely, that of receiving knowledge of God not from sensible creatures but from internal revelation. However, he did not arrive at the level of knowing angelic essences. Nevertheless, when the angels were created and not yet beatified, they had arrived at this level.


Parallel readings: II Sentences 23, 2, 3; Summa Theol., 94, 4,


It seems that he could, for

1. As Ambrose says, error is the source of every sin. But Adam could sin. Therefore, he could be mistaken.

2. The will concerns only that which is good or regarded as good. But, when the will deals will what is good, there is no sin. Therefore, there is never sin unless there is an antecedent evaluation in which something is regarded as good, but is not. But in every such evaluation there is deception of some sort. Therefore, before he sinned, Adam in the state of innocence was deceived.

3. The Master says: "The woman was not frightened by the fact that the serpent talked because, since she knew it was created, she considered that it had received even the power of speech from God." But this was false. Therefore, the woman judged falsely before she sinned. Hence, she was deceived.

4. According to the Master, and as Augustine also says: "The devil was allowed to come in that form in order that his malice could be easily detected." But, if in the state of innocence man could not have been deceived, the devil could have been detected in any form in which he came. Therefore, man could be deceived.

5. When the woman heard what the serpent promised, she hoped to be able to obtain it; otherwise, her desire would have been stupid. However, there was no stupidity before the fall. But no one hopes for what he considers impossible. Therefore, since what the devil promised was impossible, it seems that in believing this the woman was deceived before the fall.

6. In the state of innocence manís understanding argued to conclusions and needed deliberation. But it needed deliberation only to avoid error. Therefore, in the state of innocence it could err.

7. The understanding of demons, since it is not united to a body, seems to be much more discerning than the understanding of man in the state of innocence, which was joined to a body. But a demon can be deceived. Consequently, the saints say that, when the demons saw Christ sulfering infirmities, they thought He was simply man, but, when they saw him working miracles, they thought He was God. Therefore, man in the state of innocence will much greater reason can be deceived.

8. While man was committing the first sin, in that act itself he was not in the state of guilt. For, since the state of guilt is caused by sin, there would have been another sin before the first sin. But in the act by which man first sinned he was deceived. Therefore, he could be deceived before the state of guilt.

9. Damascene says: "This," that is, fallacious knowledge, "existed in Adam when he was first created." But whoever has fallacious knowledge is deceived. Therefore, Adam was deceived when he was first created.

10. Speculative knowledge is distinguished from the affections. But there can be sin in the affective part without deception in the speculative part. For, many times we have knowledge and act contrary to it. Therefore, in the first man, too, there could have been deception in the speculative part before there was sin in the affective part.

11. As the Gloss on the first Epistle to Timothy (2:14), "Adam was not seduced...,"reads: "Adam was not led astray in the way the woman was, that is, so that he thought that what the devil suggested was true, still we can believe that he was led astray in this, that he thought that the sin committed was venial when it was mortal." Therefore, before the fall Adam could be deceived.

12. No one is freed from deception except through knowledge of the truth. But Adam did not know all things. Therefore, he could not have been free from deception in all things.

13. It was said that through divine providence he was saved from deception.óOn the contrary, divine providence brings assistance especially in necessary matters. But in his greatest need, when it would have been most useful for him to be freed from being led astray, divine providence did not protect him from being misled. Therefore, will much less reason would divine providence have freed him from being led astray in other matters.

14. In the state of innocence man would have slept, and likewise would have dreamed, as Boethius says. But every man is deceived in dreams, since to some extent he considers the likenesses of things as if they were the things themselves. Therefore, in the state of innocence Adam could be deceived.

15. Adam would have used his bodily senses. But there is frequent deception in sense knowledge, as when one thing seems to be two, and when something which is seen from a distance seems small. Therefore, in the state of innocence Adam would not have been altogether free from deception.

To the Contrary:

1í. As Augustine says: "To accept as true things that are false is not natural for man as he was created, but a punishment for the con demfled."8 Therefore, in the state of innocence he could not be de ceived, which is to accept as true things which are false.

2í. The soul is more noble than the body. But in the state of inno cence man could suffer no bodily defect. Therefore, much less could he suffer deception, which is a defect of the soul.

3í. In the state of innocence there could be nothing contrary to manís will, since pain thus would have been able to exist in him. But in man, to be deceived is contrary to his will, according to Augustine, even in those who want to deceive. Therefore, in the state of innocence man could not be deceived.

4í. Every error is due either to guilt or to punishment, neither of which could exist in the state of innocence. Therefore, error could not exist there either.

5í. When that which is higher in the soul directs what is lower, there cannot be any error, because the whole of manís knowledge is corrected by that which is higher in the soul, that is to say, by synderesis and the understanding of principles. But in the state of innocence that which is lower in man was subject to higher reason. There fore, there could rmt then be deception.

6í. According to Augustine: "The capacity to believe is in manís nature, but actual belief is a gift of grace to the faithful." Therefore, by the same token, the capacity to be deceived is due to nature, but to be deceived is a defect. But in the state of innocence there were no defects. Therefore, neither could there be deception.

7í. Damascene says that in the state of innocence man "delighted in the sweetest fruit of contemplation, being nourished by this [contemplation] "h1 But, when man is turned toward the things of God, he is not deceived. Therefore, in that state Adam could not be deceived.

8í. Jerome says: "Whatever evil we suffer, our sins have merited." But deception is evil. Therefore, it could not exist before sin.



There are two opinions on this question. For some say that, since Adam did not have full knowledge of everything, but knew some things and was ignorant of others, in the things which he knew he could not be deceived, that is, in those which he knew naturally and those which were divinely revealed to him. But in other things, which he did not know, such as menís secret thoughts, future contingents, and individual things absent from his senses, he could indeed judge falsely, if without serious consideration he formed some false opinion about these things, not, however, in such a way that he gave unqualified assent. Accordingly, they say that error could have no place in him, nor could he accept something false as true, because in these things there is question of unqualified assent to that which is false.

But others attempt to reject this declaration because Augustine calls every false judgment error and also says that every error is evil, great in important matters, and small in small matters.

But we should not insist too much on this, because we should pass over the question of names when we are treating of things. Hence, I say that in the state of innocence there could be not only no error but not even false opinion of any sort. This is evident from the following.

Although in the state of innocence some good could be absent, in no sense could there be any corruption of a good. However, the good of our understanding is the knowledge of truth. Accordingly, those habits by which the understanding is perfected for knowledge of the truth are called virtues, as is said in the Ethics, because they make the act of the understanding good. Falsity, on the other hand, is not only lack of truth but also a corruption of it. For one who has no knowledge of truth at all, who lacks the truth, yet has no contrary opinion, does not have the same relation to truth as one who holds some false opinion and whose judgment is vitiated by falsity. Consequently, just as truth is the good of the understanding, so that which is false is its evil. For this reason, the habit of opinion is not an intellectual virtue, since by it one says what is false, as we see in the Ethics. But no act of virtue can be evil, as if the false opinion itself would be an evil act of [the virtue of] understanding. Consequently, since in the state of innocence there was not any corruption or any evil, there could not be any false opinion in that state.

The Commentator also says that a false opinion has the same place in matters of knowledge as a monstrosity has in physical nature. For a false opinion is one which originates without being intended by first principles, which are the seminal powers, as it were, of knowledge, just as monstrosities originate without being intended by the natural power which is at work. This is because all evil is "unintended," as Dionysius says. Hence, just as in the state of innocence there would be no monstrosities in the conception of the human body, so in understanding there could be no falsity.

This is likewise clear from the fact that disorder always arises when a thing is moved by something which is not its proper mover, as would happen if the will should be moved by what gives pleasure to sense, since it should be moved only by what is noble. The proper mover of the understanding, however, is that which contains infallible truth. Consequently, whenever the understanding is moved by some fallible sign, there is some disorder in it, whether the movement is complete or incomplete. As a result, since in the state of innocence there could be no disorder in manís understanding, it would never have been inclined more to one part than to the other except by an infallible motive.

From this it is clear that not only was there no false opinion in manís understanding, there was no opinion there at all. And whatever he knew, he knew will certainty.

Answers to Difficulties:

1. That error from which all sin proceeds is an error of choice, in so far as one chooses what should not be chosen. According to this, the Philosopher says that everyone who is evil lacks knowledge. But this error presupposes disorder in the appetitive part. For it is due to the fact that sensible appetite is drawn toward that which delights it and the higher appetite does not resist it, that reason is hindered from choosing that which it has habitually. Consequently, it is evident that this error does not entirely precede sin, but follows it.

2. That which is perceived as an apparent good cannot lack all goodness whatsoever. Rather, it is good to some extent, and in this respect it is perceived as good from the beginning. This is the case when some forbidden food is perceived as agreeable to see and pleas ant to taste, and when the sensible appetite is attracted to such a good as to its proper object. But when the higher appetite follows the lower, it follows that which is good in some respect, as though it were good for it without qualification. Therefore, error of choice follows after ward from disorder of appetite, as has been said.

3. If we understand that the woman believed that the serpent had received the use of speech as part of its nature, this argument seems to be contrary to both opinions. For those who believe that in the state of innocence man could be deceived do not at all believe that he could be deceived when judging about the natures of things, since he had full knowledge of natural things. However, it is contrary to the serpentís nature to have the use of speech naturally, since this belongs only to rational animals. Therefore, we have to say that the woman did not believe that the serpent had the use of speech by its nature, but by reason of some power acting inside it in a hidden way. She did not consider whether it was from God or from the demon.

4. That reason why he appeared in the form of a serpent should not be taken to mean that he could not be detected under whatever form he appeared, but that he could be more easily detected under such a form.

5. The woman hoped that in some way she would be able to get what the serpent promised, and she believed that this was in some way possible. In this she was led astray, as the Apostle says (1Tm 2,14). But a certain elation of mind preceded that leading astray, and because of it she inordinately desired ber own excellence, which she realized as soon as the serpent spoke, as men frequently are lifted above themselves when they hear words of flatterers. And this exaltation which preceded concerned her own proper excellence in general and is the first sin. There followed this the seduction by which she believed that what the serpent was saying was true. Thus, there resulted the exaltation will which she definitely desired this excellence which the serpent promised.

6. In the state of innocence manís understanding needed deliberation in order not to fail into error, just as he needed to eat in order that his body might not waste away. However, be was so gifted will correct deliberation that by deliberating he would be able to avoid every error, just as by eating he could avoid every bodily infirmity. Therefore, just as he would commit a sin of omission if he did not eat, so, if he did not deliberate when the occasion was given, error and sin would follow.

7. It was by his natural power that man in the state of innocence was protected from internal bodily suffering, as that of fever and the like, but it was not by any internal power that he was protected from external suffering, as blows or wounds, since he did not have the gift of impassibility. This was due rather w divine providence, which pre served him from all injury. Similarly, it was by the strength of his own reason that he was protected from the deception which comes from within, as when someone independently reasons incorrectly, but it was by the divine aid, which he had at that time for all necessary matters, that he was protected from deception from without. The demons, however, do not have this; hence, they can be deceived.

8. Instantaneous actions have their effect as soon as they begin, just as the eye sees in the same instant that the air is illuminated. Hence, since the movement of will, in which sin primarily consists, is instantaneous, one loses the state of innocence in the same instant in which he sins. Thus, he could be deceived in that instant.

9. Damascene is speaking of the fallacy of the first man by which he was deceived lii the sin itself. And, indeed, he committed this sin shortly after he was created, for he did not long persevere in the state of innocence.

10. Since the soul of man in the state of innocence was united to the highest good, there could be no defect in man as long as this union lasted. But this union was brought about principally through the affections. Consequently, no deception could exist in the understanding nor any defect in the body before the affective part was comipted, although, conversely, there could be defect in the affections without a pre-existing defect in speculative understanding, since the union will God is not completed in the understanding but in the affections.

11. In Adam the elation of spirit preceded the false opinion by which he believed that what was mortally sinful was only venially so, just as happened will the woman, as has been said.

12. In those things which he did not know he was able to be protected from deception partly from within, since his understanding would not be inclined to one part except for a sufficient motive, and partly, and more especially, by divine providence, which preserved him from deception.

13. In the state in which he sinned had he turned w God, he would have had divine help to keep him from being led astray. But, since he did not do this, he fell into sin and was led astray. Yet, his being led astray followed the sin, as is clear from what has been said.

14. Some say that in the state of innocence Adam did not dream. But this is not necessary, for the Vision of dreams is not in the intellective, but in the sensitive, part. Hence, the deception would not have been in the understanding, which does not have free exercise in sleep, but in the sensitive part.

15. When sense represents what it receives, there is no falsity in sense, as Augustine says, but falsity is in the understanding, which judges that things exist in reality in the way in which sense portrays them. However, this never happened in Adam, since his understanding would either have refrained from judgment, as in dreams, or, when judging about sensible objects when awake, would have had a true judgment.


Parallel readings: II Sent,, 23, 2, 2; Summa Theol., I, 101, 1.


It seems that they would, for

1. According to Anselm, Adam would have begotten Sons such as he himself was. But Adam had full knowledge of all natural things, as has been said. Therefore, his sons, too, would have had that knowledge immediately at birth.

2. As the affections are perfected by virtue, so the understanding is perfected by knowledge. But the Sons born of Adam, in the state of innocence, would have had the fullness of all the virtues immediately at birth. For he would have passed original justice on to them, as Anselm says. Therefore, they would likewise have had all knowledge.

3. According to Bede, weakness, concupiscence, ignorance, and malice result from sin. But there would have been no wickedness, weakness, or concupiscence in those children immediately at birth. Therefore, there would not have been any ignorance either; hence, they would have had all knowledge.

4. It would have been more fitting for them to be born perfect in soul than in body. But they would have been born without any bodily defect. Therefore, there would likewise have been no ignorance in their souls.

5. According to Damascene,5 man in the state of innocence was "as another angel." But, immediately upon their creation, the angels had knowledge of all natural things. Therefore, for the same reason, men in the state of innocence had it, also.

6. Adamís soul and the souls of his Sons had the same nature. But in its very- beginning Adamís soul was created full of all natural knowledge, as has been said. Therefore, the souls of his sons would have been created will the same fullness of knowledge.

7. Greater perfection of knowledge belongs to man than to the other animals. But, immediately at birth, the other animals have natural [instinctive] judgment of what is helpful and what is harmful. Thus, a newborn lamb flees from the wolf and follows its mother. Therefore, children in the state of innocence will much greater reason would have had perfect knowledge.

To the Contrary:

1'. Hugh of St. Victor says that they would not have been born will perfect knowledge, but would have reached it in the course of time.

2í. Since the soul is the perfection of the body, its development must be proportionate to that of the body. But in the state of innocence Adamís children would not have had full bodily stature as Adam did when he was first created. Therefore, for the same reason they would not have had the fullness of knowledge as Adam had.

3í. Sons receive existence, nature, and instruction from their father. But, if Adamís sons had had full knowledge as soon as they were born, they would not have been able to receive instruction from him. There fore, the full relationship of paternity wou have not been preserved between them and the first parent.

De veritate EN 159