Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Q85 A3: Whether the more universal is first in our intellectual cognition?

Yes. Our intellect knows "animal" before it knows "man", and the same reason holds in comparing any more universal idea with the less universal, because our intellect proceeds from a state of potentiality to a state of actuality.

Prius occurrit intellectui nostro cognoscere animal quam cognoscere hominem, et eadem ratio est si comparemus quodcumque magis universale ad minus universale, quia intellectus noster de potentia in actum procedit.

And every power thus proceeding from potentiality to actuality comes first to an incomplete act, which is the medium between potentiality and actuality, before accomplishing the perfect act.

Omne autem quod procedit de potentia in actum, prius pervenit ad actum incompletum, qui est medius inter potentiam et actum, quam ad actum perfectum.

Knowledge of the singular and individual is prior, as regards us, to the knowledge of the universal, as sensible knowledge is prior to intellectual knowledge. But in both sense and intellect the knowledge of the more common precedes the knowledge of the less common.

Cognitio singularium est prior quoad nos quam cognitio universalium, sicut cognitio sensitiva quam cognitio intellectiva. Sed tam secundum sensum quam secundum intellectum, cognitio magis communis est prior quam cognitio minus communis.

The reason of this is clear: because he who knows a thing indistinctly is in a state of potentiality as regards its principle of distinction; as he who knows "genus" is in a state of potentiality as regards "difference." Thus it is evident that indistinct knowledge is midway between potentiality and act.

Et huius ratio manifesta est. Quia qui scit aliquid indistincte, adhuc est in potentia ut sciat distinctionis principium; sicut qui scit genus, est in potentia ut sciat differentiam. Et sic patet quod cognitio indistincta media est inter potentiam et actum.

The universal can be considered in two ways.

Universale dupliciter potest considerari.

First, the universal nature may be considered together with the intention of universality. And since the intention of universality--viz., the relation of one and the same to many--is due to intellectual abstraction, the universal thus considered is a secondary consideration. Hence it is said (De Anima i, 1) that the "universal animal is either nothing or something secondary." But according to Plato, who held that universals are subsistent, the universal considered thus would be prior to the particular, for the latter, according to him, are mere participations of the subsistent universals which he called ideas.

Uno modo, secundum quod natura universalis consideratur simul cum intentione universalitatis. Et cum intentio universalitatis, ut scilicet unum et idem habeat habitudinem ad multa, proveniat ex abstractione intellectus, oportet quod secundum hunc modum universale sit posterius. Unde in I de anima dicitur quod "animal universale aut nihil est, aut posterius est." Sed secundum Platonem, qui posuit universalia subsistentia, secundum hanc considerationem universale esset prius quam particularia, quae secundum eum non sunt nisi per participationem universalium subsistentium, quae dicuntur ideae.

Secondly, the universal can be considered in the nature itself--for instance, animality or humanity as existing in the individual. And thus we must distinguish two orders of nature: one, by way of generation and time; and thus the imperfect and the potential come first. In this way the more common comes first in the order of nature; as appears clearly in the generation of man and animal; for "the animal is generated before man," as the Philosopher says (De Gener. Animal ii, 3). The other order is the order of perfection or of the intention of nature: for instance, act considered absolutely is naturally prior to potentiality, and the perfect to the imperfect: thus the less common comes naturally before the more common; as man comes before animal. For the intention of nature does not stop at the generation of animal but goes on to the generation of man.

Alio modo potest considerari quantum ad ipsam naturam, scilicet animalitatis vel humanitatis, prout invenitur in particularibus. Et sic dicendum est quod duplex est ordo naturae. Unus secundum viam generationis et temporis, secundum quam viam, ea quae sunt imperfecta et in potentia, sunt priora. Et hoc modo magis commune est prius secundum naturam, quod apparet manifeste in generatione hominis et animalis; nam prius generatur animal quam homo, ut dicitur in libro de Generat. Animal. Alius est ordo perfectionis, sive intentionis naturae; sicut actus simpliciter est prius secundum naturam quam potentia, et perfectum prius quam imperfectum. Et per hunc modum, minus commune est prius secundum naturam quam magis commune, ut homo quam animal, naturae enim intentio non sistit in generatione animalis, sed intendit generare hominem.

The universal, as understood with the intention of universality, is, indeed, in a way, a principle of knowledge, in so far as the intention of universality results from the mode of understanding by way of abstraction. But what is a principle of knowledge is not of necessity a principle of existence, as Plato thought: since at times we know a cause through its effect, and substance through accidents. Wherefore the universal thus considered, according to the opinion of Aristotle, is neither a principle of existence, nor a substance, as he makes clear (Metaph. vii, Did. vi, 13).

Universale, secundum quod accipitur cum intentione universalitatis, est quidem quodammodo principium cognoscendi, prout intentio universalitatis consequitur modum intelligendi qui est per abstractionem. Non autem est necesse quod omne quod est principium cognoscendi, sit principium essendi, ut Plato existimavit, cum quandoque cognoscamus causam per effectum, et substantiam per accidentia. Unde universale sic acceptum, secundum sententiam Aristotelis, non est principium essendi, neque substantia, ut patet in VII Metaphys.

But if we consider the generic or specific nature itself as existing in the singular, thus in a way it is in the formal aspect of a formal principle in regard to the singulars: for the singular is the result of matter, while the formal aspect of species is from the form. But the generic nature is compared to the specific nature rather after the fashion of a material principle, because the generic nature is taken from that which is material in a thing, while the formal aspect of species is taken from that which is formal: thus the formal aspect of animal is taken from the sensitive part, whereas the formal aspect of man is taken from the intellectual part.

Si autem consideremus ipsam naturam generis et speciei prout est in singularibus, sic quodammodo habet rationem principii formalis respectu singularium: nam singulare est propter materiam, ratio autem speciei sumitur ex forma. Sed natura generis comparatur ad naturam speciei magis per modum materialis principii, quia natura generis sumitur ab eo quod est materiale in re, ratio vero speciei ab eo quod est formale: sicut ratio animalis a sensitivo, ratio vero hominis ab intellectivo.

Thus it is that the ultimate intention of nature is to the species and not to the individual, or the genus: because the form is the end of generation, while matter is for the sake of the form. Neither is it necessary that, as regards us, knowledge of any cause or principle should be secondary: since at times through sensible causes we become acquainted with unknown effects, and sometimes conversely.

Et inde est quod ultima naturae intentio est ad speciem, non autem ad individuum, neque ad genus: quia forma est finis generationis, materia vero est propter formam. Non autem oportet quod cuiuslibet causae vel principii cognitio sit posterior quoad nos: cum quandoque cognoscamus per causas sensibiles, effectus ignotos, quandoque autem e converso.