Summary Against Modern Thought: Equality Is False

Summary Against Modern Thought:  Equality Is False

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Equality cannot be the case since there is a hierarchy among men.


1 As a matter of fact, human souls hold the lowest rank in relation to the other intellectual substances, because, as we said above, at the start of their existence they receive a knowledge of divine providence, wherein they know it only in a general sort of way.

But the soul must be brought to a perfect knowledge of this order, in regard to individual details, by starting from the things themselves in which the order of divine providence has already been established in detail. So, the soul had to have bodily organs by which it might draw knowledge from corporeal things. Yet, even with such equipment, because of the feebleness of its intellectual light, man’s soul is not able to acquire a perfect knowledge of the things that are important to man unless it be helped by higher spirits, for the divine disposition requires this, that lower spirits acquire perfection through the higher ones, as we showed above.

Nevertheless, since man does participate somewhat in intellectual light, brute animals are subject to him by the order of divine providence, for they participate in no way in understanding. Hence it is said: “Let us make man to our own image and likeness,” namely, according as he has understanding, “and let him have dominion over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and the beasts of the earth” (Gen. 1:26).

Notes Angels (and demons) whispering in ears on shoulders is not so far wrong. And animals, as such, do not make it into Heaven.

2 Even brute animals, though devoid of understanding, have some knowledge; and so, in accord with the order of divine providence, they are set above plants and other things that lack knowledge. Hence it is said: “Behold I give you every herb bearing seed upon the earth, and all trees that have in themselves seed of their own kind, to be your meat, and to all the beasts of the earth” (Gen. 1:29-30).

3 Moreover, among things utterly devoid of knowledge one thing comes under another, depending on whether the one is more powerful in acting than the other. Indeed, they do not participate in anything of the disposition of providence, but only in its execution.

4 Now, since man possesses intellect, sense, and bodily power, these are interrelated within him by a mutual order, according to the disposition of divine providence, in a likeness to the order which is found in the universe. In fact, corporeal power is subject to sense and intellectual power, as carrying out their command, and the sensitive power is subject to the intellectual and is included under its command.

5 On the same basis, there is also found an order among men themselves. Indeed, those who excel in understanding naturally gain control, whereas those who have defective understanding, but a strong body, seem to be naturally fitted for service, as Aristotle says in his Politics [I, 5: 1254b 25]. The view of Solomon is also in accord with this, for he says: “The fool shall serve the wise” (Prov. 11:29); and again: “Provide out of all the people wise men such as fear God…who may judge the people at all times” (Exod. 18:21-22).

6 Now, just as in the activities of one man disorder arises from the fact that understanding follows the lead of sensual power, while the sensual power is dragged down to the movement of the body by virtue of some disorder of the body, as is evident in the case of men who limp, so also does disorder arise in a human government, as a result of a man getting control, not because of the eminence of his understanding, but either because he usurps dominion for himself by bodily strength or because someone is set up as a ruler on the basis of sensual affection.

Nor is Solomon silent on this kind of disorder, for he says: “There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, as it were by an error proceeding from the face of the prince: a fool set in high dignity” (Eccles. 10:5-6). But disorder of this kind does not exclude divine providence; it comes about, indeed, with divine permission, as a result of the deficiency of lower agents, just as we explained in connection with other evils.

Nor is the natural order entirely perverted by such disorder, for the dominion of fools is weak unless strengthened by the counsel of the wise. Hence it is said in Proverbs (20:16): “Designs are strengthened by counsels, and wars are to be arranged by governments”; and again: “a wise man is strong, and a knowing man stout and valiant: because war is managed by due ordering, and there shall be safety when there are many counsels” (Prov. 24:5-6). And since he who gives counsel rules the man who takes counsel, and in a sense governs him, it is said in Proverbs (17:2): “a wise servant shall rule over foolish sons.”

7 So, it is evident that divine providence imposes order on all things; thus, what the Apostle says is certainly true: “the things which are of God are well ordered” (Rom. 13:1).


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