Summary Against Modern Thought: You Can’t Know All About God

Summary Against Modern Thought: You Can’t Know All About God

Previous post.

Nietzsche was wrong. Plus, except for the truly satanic, I do not think it is disputed that one cannot know all of God. A very simple lesson this week.


1 It is evident from this that, though the created intellect may see the divine substance, it does not know all that can be known through the divine substance.

2 For it is only in the case of the principle being comprehended by the intellect that, once the principle is known, all its effects are of necessity known through it. Indeed, in that case, when all its effects are known from itself, a principle is known in its entire capacity. Now, other things are known through the divine essence, as the effect is known from its cause. But, since the created intellect cannot know the divine substance in such a way that it comprehends it, the intellect does not have to see all things that can be known through this substance, when it sees it.

3 Again, the higher the nature of an intellect, the more does it know: either in the sense of a multitude of things, or even in the sense of a greater number of reasons for the same things. But the divine intellect surpasses every created intellect. So, it knows more than any created intellect does, and it does not know anything without seeing its essence, as we showed in Book One [49]. Therefore, more things are knowable through the divine essence than any created intellect can see, through the aforesaid essence.

4 Besides, the quantity of a power depends on the things that it can do. So, it is the same to know all the things that a power can do and to comprehend the power itself. But, since the divine power is infinite, no created intellect can comprehend it, just as its essence cannot be comprehended, as we have proved. Nor can the created intellect know all that the divine power can do. But all things that the divine power can do are knowable through the divine essence, for God knows all and in no other way than through His essence. Therefore, the created intellect, seeing the divine substance, does not see all that can be seen in God’s substance.

Notes Not forgetting there are infinities and infinities, in a never-ending stream of cardinalities.

5 Moreover, no cognoscitive power knows a thing except under the rational character of its proper object. For instance, we do not know anything by sight except according as it is colored. Now, the proper object of the intellect is that which is, that is, the substance of a thing, as is stated in Book III of On the Soul [4: 429b 10]. Therefore, whatever the intellect knows about any thing, it knows through knowing the substance of the thing. Consequently, in any demonstration through which the proper accidents become known to us, we take as our principle that which is, as is stated in Posterior Analytics I [4: 73a 37].

Now, if the intellect knows the substance of a thing through its accidents, in accordance with what is said in Book I of On the Soul [1: 402b 21], that “the accidents contribute a good deal to the knowing of that which is,” this is accidental, inasmuch as the intellect must attain to substance through the knowledge of sensible accidents. For this reason, this procedure has no place in mathematics, but only in the area of physical things. Therefore, whatever is in a thing and cannot be known through a knowledge of its substance must be unknown to the intellect.

However, what a volitional agent wills cannot be known through a knowledge of his substance, for the will does not incline to its object in a purely natural way; this is why the will and nature are said to be two active principles.

So, an intellect cannot know what a volitional agent wills except, perhaps, through certain effects. For instance, when we see someone acting voluntarily we may know what he wishes: either through their cause, as God knows our will acts, just as He does His other effects, because He is for us a cause of our willing; or by means of one person indicating his wish to another, as when a man expresses his feeling in speech. And so, since many things are dependent on the simple will of God, as is partly clear from earlier considerations, and will later be more evident, though the created intellect may see God’s substance it does not know all that God sees through His substance.

6 Of course, someone can object against the foregoing that God’s substance is something greater than all the things which He can make, or understand, or will, apart from Himself; hence, if the created intellect can see God’s substance, it is much more possible for it to know all things which God understands, or wills, or makes, except for Himself.

7 But, if it is carefully considered, the fact that something is known in itself does not have the same meaning as that it is known in its cause. For some things easily known in themselves are not, however, easily known in their causes. So, it is true that it is a greater thing to understand the divine substance than anything whatever other than that substance which might be known in itself. However, to know the divine substance and to see its effects in it is a more perfect knowledge than to know the divine substance without seeing the effects in it. And this seeing of the divine substance can be done without comprehension of it. But for all things which can be understood through it to be known is something which cannot happen without comprehending this substance, as is evident from what we have said.

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *