Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Being and Natural Law: Being and Ratio Entis

IN PRIOR POSTINGS WE HAVE DISCUSSED the issue of analogical thinking and the concept of analogon and analogates. We used the examples of analogons of "charming cities," of "great ball players," and "holiness" and "law." The first two were examples of analogy of proportion. The latter two of analogies of proportionality. It is clear that these analogons have limited analogates. The analogon of "charming cities," for example, would probably not include Al-Fashir, the capital of city of North Darfur in the Sudan. The analogon of "great ball players" does not include most of us. The analogon of saints does not include the vicious or the unbeliever. The analogon of Law does not include the unjust law.

Some analogons, however, are distinctive because they include all things. These analogons have everything as their analogates. These analogons are known as the Transcendentals. Being, Unity, the True, and the Good are such transcendental analogons.

The transcendentals are what is behind the intellectual and moral life of man. Dr. Knasas focused on the analogon of being, on the ratio entis, before going to the analogon of the good, the ratio boni. The analogon of being has to be a transcendental, and has to embrace all things and all their differences, because if it did not include the differences in things, if the differences were somehow excluded from the analogon, then "the differences would reduce themselves to non-being," and this would mean that the differences were not real things, and being is "one undifferentiated thing." For the differences to be real--for them to have being--they need to be included in the analagon of being. Differences in things, then, are included within the ratio entis. This would include all substances, all accidents.

The Good Samaritan (1849) by Eugène Delacroix (1798 – 1863)
The Good Samaritan Recognized His Neighbor as
Fellow "Intellector of Being" and "Willer of Good"

Knowledge of transcendentals is, in a manner of speaking, "useless" knowledge as Maritain called it. It is "useless" because it is not the kind of knowledge that yields any material boon. It is not the Baconian type of scientific knowledge expressed in his Meditationes Sacrae, wherein "knowledge is power," scientia potentia est.It is not the knowledge of American pragmatism. We cannot put this knowledge to work in any practical way, and so it is not likely that William James would have embraced the importance of the transcendentals. It is knowledge for knowledge's own sake; it is knowledge whose very value is having it. It is the knowledge that Socrates referred to when he said that the unexamined life is not worth living, ὁ δὲ ἀνεξέταστος βίος οὐ βιωτὸς ἀνθρώπῳ (Apology, 38a). It is this knowledge that, in particular, enriches human life: crescat scientia, vita excolatur. The pursuit of being, the value of pursuing knowledge of the transcendentals, is only known by those who Dr. Knasas said are "slain by being." To some extent, we are wired for it. Therefore, the man who frustrates his wife by his attraction to baseball is perhaps trying to understand the analogon "great ball players." He has misdirected the natural desire to understand the greatest of all analogons, the transcendentals. The pursuit of the knowledge of the one, being, of the good, of the true is a pursuit that, though "useless," is never wasted.

To intellectually apprehend being is to experience an earthquake in one's intellectual life. Thereafter one is not the same. Everything becomes of interest, because every thing in its uniqueness gives one another look at the ratio entis. . . . Jacques Maritain wrote most passionately of the intellectual perception of being. Maritain called it the intuition of being, l'intuition de l'être.

This intuition of being that is in man is his unique characteristic. Because of the intuition of being, we are "intellectors of being." No other animal appears to have this intuition, and it is the fundamental ability to be "intellectors of being" that characterizes us as a rational animal, a ζῷον λογικόν. It is also what makes us a ζῷον πολιτικόν φιλάλληλον, a political and philanthropic animal. Ultimately, we recognize not only that "I" am an "intellector of being," and that I therefore have a dignity above other beings, one that demands a moral response (love yourself). But my recognition that others of my kind are also "intellectors of being" demands a moral response to them (love your neighbor as yourself). It is the fact that we recognize that we are "intellectors of being" that is, in Dr. Knasas's view, the source of moral obligation.

But that begins to take us to the notion of the good, the ratio boni, which is a matter we will reserve for our next posting on Dr. Knasas's lectures.

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