De Veritate: Q. 1, a. 8

Below is a summary that I quickly wrote up for a class I am taking on St. Thomas' De Veritate. This article can be found at the following web address: As will be seen in my summary, St. Thomas concludes this article in way that is surprising to me. Since I do not understand it I thought I would post my summary and raise the question for your consideration, my venerable brethren. Any assistance you can offer would be greatly appreciated.

In the eighth article St. Thomas is seeking whether every truth is from the first truth. St. Thomas will argue that all truths are from the first truth. As is clear from the context of the article, what is meant by "from the first truth" means, from it as an effect is from a cause. First truth, according to the previous articles, refers to God. Therefore, the objections that arise concerning this article involve knowledge of sins, deficiencies and evils. The basic argument being the following: there are evil things in truth, both in things and in the adequation of things to an intellect. Therefore if God is going to be the cause of the truth of these things, then God is the cause of evil. This, however, is impossible. Therefore, every truth is not from the first truth.
St. Thomas begins his response by bringing forth conclusions from the previous articles. He brings up the point that just as the human intellect measures artifacts, so the divine intellect measures things, and these same things measure the human intellect. He then adds something that we have not seen. St. Thomas argues that all things exist through their forms, thus the forms of things have in their account esse. The form, however, is that by which we know things. Therefore, the truth of existing things includes the account of the being of the things. Further, this form, as known, also has the account of adequation to the human intellect.
It is important to note that in the above argument St. Thomas qualifies what he is saying by speaking only of existing things. The remainder of the article will concern itself with the existence of privations (i.e. evils, deficiencies and sins). However, since we only know privations through existing things St. Thomas will compare the privation of blindness with a stone.
All negations and privations which exist outside the soul do not have a form through which they exist, and therefore, no form through which they can be known to exist. The truth of a stone has within it the account of the being of the thing with the superadded account of being in the intellect, as is clear from what has been said. The truth about blindness, however, does not include in it the privation. That is to say, we do not have some privative form. Non-being does not have a form. Blindness does have some existence in the intellect, however, as known. That is to say, we truly know that someone is blind. The blindness in the person is not caused by God, but the truth that we know is caused by God.
At this point it seems that St. Thomas could conclude thus: It is therefore clear that every truth has some existence, insofar as every truth must in someway be in a soul. All existing things, however, come from God. God is therefore the cause of every truth. Therefore every truth is from the first truth. However, St. Thomas instead brings in the account of the good. He argues that it is a good of the human intellect to know things and that insofar as the things are good they come from God. Therefore, every truth is from God. It seems strange that St. Thomas would argue through the good, because the good is a narrower notion than that of being. Consequently, it seems that one could object and say that perhaps it is not good to know a certain truth. For instance, were a layman to know some individual's sins, or faults that he was not well acquainted with would not seem to benefit him at all. Rather, such things are often considered malicious gossip or slander. Therefore, to my mind, this is left as a puzzle that I have not worked out and is worth further inquiry.


  1. Natural_Inquirer said...
    First...let us look at what Thomas gives as a sort-of definition of truth.
    Patet ergo quod veritas in rebus creatis inventa nihil aliud potest comprehendere quam entitatem rei, et adaequationem rei ad intellectum vel aequationem intellectus ad res...

    In looking at this it is apparent that this is a composite. The first part of the composite is the entitatem rei. But then there is the et. This et refers to the adequation that takes place in the intellect. Further this adequation is the proper operation of the intellect achieving its proper end. And in the case of intellectual beings, their achievement of natural end is good.

    This seems why he next says quod totum est a Deo. The reason being, again by referring to the different parts of the earlier definition, cum omne bonum sit a Deo, et omnis forma,is his conclusion that, without qualification, omnis veritas sit a Deo.
    Dawnwatchman said...
    Frater, a question. It seemed to me that St. Thomas was advancing a two-fold argument, one from the forms of things, and the other from the good or end of the intellect. As I read:

    He first sets both of these out:
    "...quod totum est a Deo, quia et ipsa forma rei, per quam adaequatur, a Deo est, et ipsum verum sicut bonum intellectus..."

    There is the explication of the good of the intellect from the Ethics, and then:

    "Unde, cum omne bonum sit a Deo, et omnis forma..."

    So if I understand the argument, St. Thomas concludes through two middle terms, goodness and the forms of things, that every truth is from God. Does this seem right to you?

    Granted, this doesn't address your difficulty. Another question for that: wouldn't the example you propose of knowledge not tend towards the perfection of the intellect, and hence not be its good?

    One last thing that confused me: you wrote that "He then adds something that we have not seen. St. Thomas argues that all things exist through their forms, thus the forms of things have in their account esse." Could you explain this?
    Frater Asinus said...
    It seems to me that both of you are in agreement that the there are two parts of the the argument. As DW said, St. Thomas is arguing through two middle terms. As I think back over the argument, this seems right, and it also seems that he has set the argument up to proceed thus from the beginning. I am still puzzled as to why he brings in the good.

    As to your question,DW, about my example: I don't see how Thomas' account excludes such knowledge as being a perfection of the intellect. I have actually been kind of amazed at how Thomas does not bring in knowledge of universals in an explicit way at all in his questions on Truth thus far. He refers almost exclusively to knowledge of particulars. This seems to be a puzzle in its own right.

    Finally, all I meant by that statement is that St. Thomas is bringing in a knew premise to bare after recapping things that he had gone over in previous articles in the De Veritate. When Thomas starts bringing in the account of forms importing their esse, this is new to the De Veritate.

    So we seem to be still left with the puzzle of why he argues through the good, though it seems clear enough that the article is itself consistent.
    Further thoughts?
    Dawnwatchman said...
    I was originally confused about the "forms importing their esse" premise because it seemed that in the argument St. Thomas intended that things (and hence their forms) as known (i.e. as true) imported their esse, not things/forms as such: "...unde veritas rerum existentium includit in sui ratione entitatem earum..."

    As for the "layman's knowledge of sins" example. Why wouldn't the perfection of the intellect exclude knowledge of such sins from it's good? The example you give is first, of a layman, and second, states that it is not to his benefit. However such knowledge to a priest could be beneficial. So the layman's intellect "ought not" know such things because they do not pertain to his perfection in virtue. If I'm missing the force of you're objection, please let me know; I haven't been able to read the previous articles where you mention an emphasis on knowledge of singulars which seemed to bear on your particular choice of that example.
    Natural_Inquirer said...
    To further illustrate my point, I think it helpful to consider deficient causality. That is, insofar as something comes to be by or through some deficiency, then in that way it is not Good. Not being good, it would not be from God, insofar as it is through deficiency. Keeping in mind the question then, it is necessary to see how it is that God is the principle and cause of truth.

    Now if it were possible for adequation to take place according to some intellectual deficiency, then this integral part of what it is to be truth could not come from God. But since adequation takes place according to the natural power achieving its proper end, it does not happen by deficiency and is, therefore, good. Which is from God.
    ho mathetes said...
    This possibly is an incomplete semantical answer: St. Thomas directly refers to' VI Ethic' as he nears his conclusion. Now, I have seen other instances where St. Thomas, for lack of a better word, 'adapts' the language or ratio of Aristotle when citing him in an argument (presumably out of piety). I'd like to see what exactly is happening in that citation.

    However it remains, if I'm right, why Aristotle would choose the ratio of the good as a middle term is the next unanswered question.
    ho mathetes said...
    Per the "layman's knowledge" example of the discussion I have these thoughts.

    Any knowledge, as such, is good. Conversely, the evil of the intellect is falsehood. Hence, forbidden (or generally sinful) knowledge, precisely insofar as it is knowledge, is still a good.

    Hence it seems to me that knowing something sinful is per accidens a fault against some intellectual virtue.

    Rather it would be a fault against prudence (or some other virtue which would have disposed the layman to chose aright)which he acted against in the act of acquiring the sinful knowledge.

    Thus I think the layman example can be dismissed.

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