Summary Against Modern Thought: Sin In Demons

Summary Against Modern Thought: Sin In Demons

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1 Now, if malice is not natural in the demons, and if it has been shown that they are evil, it must follow that they are had voluntarily. So, we must ask how this can be, for it seems to be altogether impossible.

2 Indeed, it was shown in Book Twos that no intellectual substance is naturally united to a body except the human soul, or also, according to some thinkers, the souls of celestial bodies. But, in regard to the latter, it is not appropriate to think that they are evil, since the motion of the celestial bodies is most orderly, and in a way is the source of the entire order of nature.

Now, every other cognitive potency besides the intellect uses animated bodily organs. So, it is not possible for there to be in substances of this kind any cognitive power other than understanding. Hence, whatever they know, they understand. Now, one does not err in regard to the object which one understands, since all error arises from a failure to understand. Therefore, there can be no error in such substances’ knowledge. Moreover, no sin can occur in the will without error, since the will always tends toward the good as apprehended. Consequently, unless there is an error in the apprehension of the good, there cannot be a sin in the will. Therefore, it seems that there can be no sin in the will of these substances.

Notes The key is in “whatever they know, they understand”. Meaning they lean entirely through induction, the highest form of induction, the infallible intuition.

3 Again, in our case, as regards the things of which we possess universal knowledge, sin occurs in our will because the judgment of reason is impeded on a particular point by some passion which shackles the reason. But these passions cannot occur in demons, because such passions belong to the sensitive part of the soul, which cannot operate without a bodily organ. So, if separate substances of this kind have right knowledge on the universal level, it is impossible for their will to incline to evil because of a defect of knowledge on the particular level.

Notes Hence for us, the supreme utility in self-mastery.

4 Besides, no cognitive power is deceived in regard to its proper object, but only in regard to something foreign to it. For instance, sight is not deceived in judging color, but, when a man judges by sight concerning the taste or species of a thing, deception may occur in that case. But the proper object of understanding is the quiddity of a thing. Hence, in the cognitive act of an intellect, provided it apprehend pure quiddities, deception cannot occur. Rather, all intellectual deception seems to happen because it apprehends the forms of things mixed together with phantasms, as happens in our case. But such a mode of knowing is not found in intellectual substances that are not united with a body, since phantasms cannot be without a body. Therefore, it is not possible for cognitive error to occur in separate substances; neither, then, can sin be in their will.

Notes Meaning we can misidentify essences, but demons cannot.

5 Moreover, falsity occurs in our case in the intellectual operation of composing and dividing, as a result of the fact that it does not apprehend the quiddity of a thing simply, but, rather, combines something with the thing that is apprehended. Of course, in the operation of the intellect, whereby it apprehends that which is, no falsity occurs except accidentally, by virtue of mixing, even in this operation, some part of the operation of the intellect composing and dividing. Indeed, this happens because our intellect does not immediately attain the knowledge of the quiddity of a thing, but with a certain order in the process of inquiry.

For example, we first apprehend animal, then we divide it into the opposed differences, and, leaving one aside, we put the other with the genus, until we come to the definition of the species. Now, falsity may occur in this process if something is taken as a difference in the genus which is not a difference in the genus. Of course, to proceed in this way to the quidditative knowledge of something pertains to an intellect reasoning discursively from one thing to another. This is not proper to separate intellectual substances, as we showed above. Hence, it does not seem that any error can occur in the knowledge of these substances. Consequently, neither can sin occur in their will.

6 Furthermore, since in no case does the appetite of a thing tend to anything other than its proper good, it seems impossible for that for which there is uniquely but one sole good to err in its appetite. For this reason, though something wrong may happen in natural things because of a contingent defect in the working of the appetite, such wrong never occurs in natural appetite; thus, a stone always tends downward, whether it achieves its goal or is stopped.

But sin does occur in our act of appetition, because, since our nature is composed of the spiritual and the corporeal, there are several goods for us. Our good in regard to understanding is indeed different from what it is according to sensation, or even according to the body. Now, there is a certain order of these various things that are man’s goods, based on the fact that what is less primary is subordinated to what is more primary.

Hence, a sin occurs in our will when, failing to observe this order, we desire what is only relatively good for us, in opposition to what is absolutely good. However, such a complexity and diversity of goods is not found in the separate substances; on the contrary, every good for them is according to the understanding. Therefore, it is not possible for there to be a sin in the will for them, as it would seem.

7 Again, in us sin occurs in the will, as a result of excess or defect, and virtue consists in the mean between these. So, in things which do not admit of excess or defect, but only of the mean, it is not possible for the will to sin. For instance, no one can sin by desiring justice, for justice is itself a certain mean.

Now, separate intellectual substances cannot desire anything except intellectual goods; indeed, it is ridiculous to say that those who are incorporeal in their nature desire corporeal goods, or that those without sense power desire sensible goods. But among intellectual goods one can find no excess, for these goods are in themselves means between excess and defect; just as the true is a mean between two errors, one of which goes too far, the other not far enough. Consequently, both sensible and corporeal goods achieve the mean, to the extent that they are in accord with reason. So, it does not seem that separate intellectual substances can sin by their will.

Notes One can sin by misidentifying the essence of justice, however.

8 Besides, incorporeal substance seems farther removed from defects than is corporeal substance. But, in the case of corporeal substances that are without contrariety, no defect can occur; for instance, in the celestial bodies. Much less possible, then, is it for any sin to occur in separate substances, which are removed both from contrariety, from matter, and from motion, from which sources any possible defect would seem to come.


  1. Sheri

    Glad you’re back in business!

  2. C-Marie

    That which is named sin in Catholicism, is an act of the will against God’s commands. The guilt associated with the sin act, is judged by man for the common good, but is judged in the fullness of truth by God, for He alone knows why the sin act took place.

    The demons sinned once and they were judged accursed by God. They can do nothing but be against God in the fullness of their selves. Demons do not sin again and again, for the sin which they committed was complete. There is no salvation for them. They are assigned to Hell in the forever, although they are allowed by God to be about in the spirit world, for now, working temptations to sin against mankind, in utter hatred of God and mankind, until Christ Jesus comes again, at the end of time, for the Final Judgment of mankind.

    In the fullness of hatred, demons absolutely fear God and the Name of His Son, Jesus Christ Who is Lord, God, and Judge.

    If St. Thomas Aquinas wrote the above or it was written from his works, it
    seems that he must have been in an intellectual whirlwind. See the report below about the vision God gave to him, which is reported as follows at:

    What happened, according to an early biographer, was this: While saying mass on this day, December 6, 1273, the noble-minded philosopher experienced a heavenly vision. Urged to take up his pen again, he replied, “Such things have been revealed to me that all that I have written seems to me as so much straw. Now I await the end of my life.”

    God bless, C-Marie

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