05 May 2005

Ph.D.s Need Not Apply (Themselves)

Yes, I want to post something serious about whether opsis at DA 425a13-16 can mean an act of seeing. (Caston requires this; Johansen denies it.) But two words will explain why that may need to wait until tomorrow: papers, exams. I'm sure not a few readers of Dissoi Blogoi will understand. (That's litotes for you.)

Allow me, then, a light hearted post or two. Here's one for students only, or for other readers who do not claim to be doctors.

I like to include 'identification' questions on my final exams, especially for courses in which there is much reading, just to keep my students honest. Now mark the economy of providence: what was a terrifying trial for them, becomes now a pleasant recreation for us. (Two uses of schole, after all.)

So then: The following passages are from my History of Medieval Philosophy final. Identify the author and work. (If, on the off chance, something is by Aquinas, and it belongs in the Summa Theologiae, then you must specify I, IaIIae, or IIaIIae.) Give your answers as a 'Comment'. But beware: You'll be competing against Anonymous, who has already proved himself to be clever with those many intelligences that Howard Gardner talks about (or is with only one Intelligence, as the medieval philosopher . . . . . . . . . . . maintained?).

(Yes, it's true, most of these can be deduced. But shouldn't they be that way, if they're to be fair? That they're relatively easy... well, I was feeling indulgent when I wrote the exam. These could of course be made as difficult as one wants.)

1. "One day I would form the resolution to quit Baghdad and get rid of these adverse circumstances; the next day I would abandon my resolution. I put one foot forward and drew the other back. If in the morning I had a genuine longing to seek eternal life, by the evening the attack of a whole host of desires had reduced it to impotence. Worldly desires were striving to keep me by their chains just where I was, while the voice of faith was calling, 'To the road! to the road! What is left of life is but little and the journey before you is long. All that keeps you busy, both intellectually and practically, is but hypocrisy and delusion.'"

2. "In fact, everything else there is, except You alone, can be thought of as not existing. You alone, then, of all things most truly exist and therefore of all things possess existence to the highest degree; for anything else does not exist as truly, and so possesses existence to a lesser degree. Why then did 'the Fool say in his heart, there is no God' when it is so evident to any rational mind that You of all things exist to the highest degree?"

3. "On the basis of these statements, I laid down, along with other conclusions, one which was this: From the fact that some thing is known to exist, it cannot be evidently inferred, by evidence reduced to the first principle, or to the certitude of the first principle, that some other thing exists."

4. "As Augustine says, 'That which is not just seems to be no law at all.' Hence the force of a law depends on the extent of its justice. Now in human affairs a thing is said to be just from being right, according to the rule of reason. But the first rule of reason is the law of nature, as is clear from what has been stated above. Consequently, every human law has just so much of the nature of law as it is derived from the law of nature. But if in any point it departs from the law of nature, it is no longer a law but a perversion of law."

5. "[The reason I think that the interior sense is superior to the senses by which we perceive corporeal objects] is because I recognize that it is in some kind of way a ruler and judge among the other senses. If they failed in their duty it would be like a master demanding a debt from a servant, as we just recently were saying. The eye cannot see whether it has vision or not and therefore cannot judge where it is defective or where it is sufficient. That is what the interior sense does, as when it teaches a beast to open its eyes and supply what it perceives is lacking. No one doubts that he who judges is superior to that over which he exercises judgment."

6. "It is impossible for any created good to constitute man's happiness. For happiness is the perfect good, which lulls the appetite altogether; else it would not be the last end, if something yet remained to be desired. Now the object of the will, that is, of man's appetite, is the universal good; just as the object of the intellect is the universal true. Hence it is evident that naught can lull man's will, save the universal good. This is to be found, not in any creature, but in God alone; because every creature has goodness by participation. Wherefore God alone can satisfy the will of man, according to the words of Ps. 102.5, 'Who satisfieth thy desire with good things.' Therefore God alone constitutes man's happiness."