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.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Ignorance of the Wrong-How is it We are Hoodwinked

IGNORANCE LEADS TO ERROR, and so we tend to conflate the two concepts. Ignorance, which is the lack of knowledge in a person who is capable of having such knowledge, causes error in the practical intellect. The error in the practical intellect is, when it all comes down to it, an error where an apparent good instead of an authentic or true good is sought. The apparent good must have some good inhering in it, or else it would not be able to disguise itself as an apparent good. If it can even be conceived, something that would be a total evil would never be sought, because it could never deceive anyone as an apparent good, having no goodness with which it could drape itself to make itself becoming to a person who is blinded by an error in practical intellect caused by ignorance. Evil always woos under the guise of being good and true. Omne malum fundatur in aliquo bono, et omne falsum in aliquo vero. (Iª q. 17 a. 4 ad 2) Every evil is founded in some good, and every falsity in some truth.

How is it that the intellect can be so deceived? One would think that the intellect would not embrace something as something when it is in fact something that is nothing. Since evil is nothing other than privity or absence of some good, how is it that the intellect accepts the privity or absence of good as its opposite, as good? One would think that the intellect could detect the black as black, and the white as white.

Seeing Evil as Good

The error in judgment comes from the fact that we do not apprehend the object in its fulness with our intellect. Knowledge is not intuitive, grasped at once. In the realistic philosophical system of St. Thomas Aquinas, the intellect actualizes in itself in a manner of speaking the object that it comprehends (its essence), and it does this, not intuitively, but through means of the senses. The error comes through this sometimes imperfect means of transmission, a means which can further be manipulated by a disordered will. The object in the mind is therefore not adequate to the reality outside oneself, and this is, by definition, something that is neither true or good.

The proper object of knowledge in the present state of union between soul and body is the sensible thing which can only become a part of the knowing subject through the avenue of the senses. Those avenues are often by-paths which lead to error as they grasp only outer qualities which may be shared by diverse but apparently similar thing. it must be carefully observed, however, that the senses are not the cause, but the occasion of intellectual error. . . . [T]he intellect's dependence upon sense knowledge is a fertile ground for error . . . . [since] associations and combinations may be effected [in the mind] which have no corresponding realities, and this disproportion may be enhanced because the work of the internal senses may be, in part, subconscious and not subject to the directed control of reason.

Bertke, 60-61.

As suggested above, the human will plays its part masking evil as good or falsity as true. The will can cause the human to assent to something where the intellect's grasp of the object is incomplete or inadequate. The will plays this commanding part in assent in two instances: in faith or belief and in error. In faith, the will commands the intellect to assent to a truth (though the senses do not inform the intellect of it) because of the authority of the one revealing that truth. In error, the will commands the intellect to assent to a truth (though the senses do not inform the intellect of it) because of an improper desire.
Since the intellect never will never assent unless solicited by at least some semblance of the truth, the good desired by the will must be, under some aspect, a true good. This is especially the case when the will solicits the intellect in a practical judgment under the influence of a sensible good, the possession of which is here and now contrary to the natural law.
Bertke, 62.

In summary, then, error in the practical judgment is the result of errors in translation between the real world and our minds which may be caused either (i) by problems or difficulties associated with the translation of reality outside us to the reality inside us through our senses, or (ii) a disordered will which meddles with the process because it is enthralled or wooed by some disordered desire.

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