Summary Against Modern Thought: God Acts Through His Wisdom

This may be proved in three ways. The first...
This may be proved in three ways. The first…
See the first post in this series for an explanation and guide of our tour of Summa Contra Gentiles. All posts are under the category SAMT.

Previous post.

Another small chapter showing the meticulousness of our saintly guide. Next week is some really juicy material: How God is said to be unable to do some things.

Chapter 24 That God works according to his wisdom (alternate translation)

[1] FROM the foregoing it is clear that God produces His effects according to His wisdom.

[2] For the will is moved to act by some kind of apprehension: since the apprehended good is the object of the will. Now God is a voluntary agent, as we have proved. Since, then, in God there is none but intellectual apprehension, and since He understands nothing except by understanding Himself, to understand Whom is to be wise, it follows that God works according to His wisdom.

Notes In modern English, apprehension is a term indicating nervousness, uncertainty, but in older usage (as here) it means to grasp, to understand, which is to say, it is an act of intellection. The word has, in effect, turned into its opposite. Not unlike many things, eh, dear reader?

[3] Again. Every agent produces its like. Hence it follows that every agent works by that according to which it bears a likeness to its effect: thus fire heats according to the mode of its heat. Now in every voluntary agent, as such, the likeness to his effect is in respect of the apprehension of his intellect: for if the likeness to his effect were in a voluntary agent according only to the disposition of his nature, he would only produce one effect, since the natural reason of one is only one. Therefore every voluntary agent produces an effect according to the reason of his intellect. Now God works by His will, as already proved. Therefore He brings things into being by the wisdom of His intellect.

Notes This is, like the majority of arguments in philosophy, a proof of the existence of an ability and not a demonstration of how the ability works. The same sorts of things are common in mathematics—existence versus constructive proofs—and these provoke no misunderstandings. But in our day, where people are only familiar with physics, the assumption that metaphysics must be exactly like physics often produces incomprehension and, in cases of scientism, incredulity.

[4] Moreover. According to the Philosopher (1 Metaph.) it belongs to a wise man to set things in order: because the ordering of things cannot be done except by the knowledge of the things ordered as to their relation and proportion both to one another and to something higher which is their end: since the mutual order of certain things is on account of their order to the end.

Now knowledge of the mutual relations and proportions of certain things belongs only to one who has an intellect; while it belongs to wisdom to judge of certain things by the highest cause. Wherefore it follows that all ordering is done by the wisdom of an intelligent being. Thus in mechanics those who direct the order of buildings are called the wise men of the building craft. Now the things produced by God have a mutual order which is not casual, as it is the same always or for the most part. Hence it is evident that God brought things into being by ordering them. Therefore God brought things into being by His wisdom.

Notes Next time somebody asks you about wisdom, quote them this: it belongs to wisdom to judge of certain things by the highest cause. And then ask yourself whether it is a coincidence that modern metaphysics tosses teleology.

[5] Further. Things that proceed from the will are either things that may be done, such as acts of virtue, which are the perfections of the doer: or they pass into outward matter and are things that can be made.

Wherefore it is clear that created things proceed from God as made. Now the reason about things to be made is art, as the Philosopher says. Therefore all created things are compared to God as products of art to the craftsman. But the craftsman brings his handiwork into being by the ordering of his wisdom and intellect. Therefore God also made all creatures by the ordering of His intellect.

Notes And so does it follow, dear reader, that since the abandonment of the end the state of art is no longer state of the art?


  1. Scotian

    “In modern English, apprehension is a term indicating nervousness, uncertainty, but in older usage (as here) it means to grasp, to understand, which is to say, it is an act of intellection.”

    The translation was done in 1924 from your link. Has the language changed significantly since then?

    Isn’t Chapter 24 similar to the watchmaker analogy of William Paley?

    “And so does it follow, dear reader, that since the abandonment of the end the state of art is no longer state of the art?”

    Very obtuse. What does it mean?

  2. Joy

    Apprehend, to hold as in the prisoners were apprehended.
    So the word hold is also used in legal argument.

  3. Gary

    The word has, in effect, turned into its opposite.

    Is there a teleological reason for why this happens?

  4. Sick, bad and wicked also morphed into their opposite meaning.

  5. Ye Olde Statistician

    apprehend. Among the educated, “apprehend” continued to mean exactly what the word states: from ad- “toward” + prehendere “to seize” (see prehensile). So there is a sense of reaching out to grasp something. The metaphoric extension to “seize with the mind” took place already in Latin, and was the sole sense of cognate Old French aprendre (also compare “apprentice”).

    It was only in common parlance that the secondary meaning of “apprehension” (anticipation with dread) has overwhelmed the primary. “Apprehension” from Latin apprehensionem, noun of action from past participle stem of apprehendere. Sense of “seizure on behalf of authority” is 1570s; that of “anticipation” (usually with dread) is recorded from c. 1600. “Apprehensive” meaning “fearful of what is to come” is recorded from 1718. Note that this secondary meaning is derived from the first.

    BTW, it is remarkable how many terms relating to intellective activity derive from words relating to manual activity. Do you grasp it?

    art.. The original distinction between the two perfections of ars and scientia related to the will. “Science” (knowledge) was a perfection of the intellect itself, but “art” was a perfection of the intellect directed toward the will. With art, one was expected to do something. Science was “know-what” and Art was “know-how.” A bachelor of science was expected to know his stuff. A bachelor of arts was expected to do something with that stuff. Cf. “statistics” vs. “applied statistics.”

    A practitioner of arts was an “artisan,” which by the Renaissance had become an “artisan-engineer.” (“Engineer” had been a medieval coinage: ingeniator, as in the epitaph Ricardus ingeniator, vir artifiosis, “Richard the engineer, man of artifacts.”) Terms related to art were “artifact,” “artificial,” et al. Not all arts were learned at university. Most were learned by apprentices (thus neatly tying the two terms together!)

    “Artist” meant artisan. The modern sense developed in 1747. “Scientist” was coined in 1834 in deliberate analogy by William Whewell. “Artist” parted company with “artisan” in the late-19th century and the starving artist in the garret popularized by the Romantics became distinct from the robust, no-nonsense artisan. What Briggs complains about is that the Late Modern “artist” is no longer an accomplished “artisan”; that is, no longer seems a master of the techniques of his art.

    (Or does not care to be: the early Picasso showed he really could paint. But by then the Renaissance style of representationalism had been exhausted and there was nothing more to be done but churn out more of the same portaits and landscapes. Impressionism was brilliant, and anticipated very well the new quantum physics and relativity. But Post-impressionism, like the French Jacobins, went too far. As John Lukacs wrote: at the Armory show of 1913 the phillistines were outside protesting while at the 50th anniversary show of 1964, the phillistines were all inside praising. People like Cezanne and Duchamps had broken new ground, but by 1964 artists were still imitating them. Oh well. Thus does the Revolution become institutionalized.)

  6. Doug Cotton

    God is in control of climate. He knew mankind would industrialize.

    Will you join the fight against the corrupt climatology that is causing immeasurable poverty, starvation and death?

    Consider this comment I’m postting on many climate threads today …

    John O’Sullivan from Principia Scientific International (without a background in physics) acts just like one of those power-hungry editors of those notorious journals that publish climatology papers, deciding all by himself what’s right and wrong science. So PSI “science” is just as corrupt and easily refuted with empirical evidence.

    Note however that PSI member Dr Hans Jelbring (with a PhD in climatology) fully supports what I say and my efforts to expose the fallacious physics at PSI and elsewhere. Evidence also supports my hypothesis without exception.

    What a JOKE it is to watch Jef Reynen and Joseph Postma (in their PSI articles) fight it out with totally different radiation figures each supposedly explaining Earth’s surface temperature. Both of them ignore the simultaneous surface cooling by evaporation and sensible heat which even the IPCC and NASA know must be deducted from the incident radiation before determining the maximum temperature such radiation could achieve.

    Jef Reynen talks about a mean of 180W/m^2 spread over the whole surface, so that could NOT make the mean surface temperature more than 237.4K (about -36°C) but Joseph Postma (considering only the sunlit hemisphere) not only forgets about the non-radiative cooling mentioned above, but also the 20% of solar insulation that is absorbed by the atmosphere. So he gets about 303K (30°C) from about 480W/m^2 which you will notice is more than twice Jef Reynen’s 180W/m^2, even though the area is only halved.

    Of course their fictitious physics doesn’t work on other planets like Venus, but they gloss over the inadequacies of their conjectures so to do.

    Every vortex cooling tube EXHIBITS the “HEAT CREEP” PROCESS as the central region becomes colder due to heat from it to the outer region that is becoming hotter – as a result of centrifugal force. If downward free convective heat transfer did not happen we’d all freeze to death.

    If John O’Sullivan without a physics background, thinks what I say is flawed, then he should get some physicist who understands entropy maximization and thermodynamics to study it and publish a refutation. I’ll show you in my responses where he is mistaken if he thinks I’m wrong. Do you see any refutations in the comment thread on my blog ? And I don’t delete any that indicate they understand what the hypothesis is saying and the evidence that supports it, and they keep to discussing my hypothesis, not the radiative GH conjecture which says the opposite.

  7. swordfishtrombone


    I suspect that the advent of impressionism in art had less to do with any sudden “exhaustion of representationalism” and more to do with the invention of the camera.

  8. Ye Olde Statistician

    more to do with the invention of the camera.

    That may have played a role as regards portaiture, except that we know the motivations of the impressionists who were rejected by the Salon of 1863. We also have paintings by the representationalists, and seldom are they such that a camera could have taken the picture. Favored subjects were historical and mythological, and it was hard to round up Achilles or Caesar for a photo shoot. And what camera might Rubens have used to snap this pix of the meeting of the King of Hungary and the Cardinal-Infant of Spain on the field of Nördlingen?

    The same holds for all the angels and such in the Glory of St. Ignatius Loyola:

    In La Grande Odalisque, Ingres added extra vertebrae to the figure to achieve the curve he wanted, and it was not uncommon even in landscapes for the artist to move trees around from their actual positions to achieve the proper balance.

    IOW, “Modern” painting (i.e., the dominant style of the Modern Ages) was not photorealism but representationalism.

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