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Sunday, 22 March 2015

Knowledge of Divine Things Twenty

A genius friend of mine noted that we in the Church must discuss ignorance as well as grace.

Pointing out St. Thomas Aquinas on ignorance, I thought this would be a good inclusion in this discussion on "divine things".

St. Thomas notes in the Summa I:11; Q 6; A 8 that there are three different kinds of ignorance. I have written many times on this blog that I do not believe that in the West there is inculpable ignorance or invincible ignorance. Much teaching in seminaries and catechetical courses have distorted Church teaching on this point.
The three kinds of ignorance are concomitant, consequent, and antecedent. My comments are in blue.

If ignorance causes involuntariness, it is in so far as it deprives one of knowledge, which is anecessary condition of voluntariness, as was declared above (Article 1). But it is not every ignorance that deprives one of this knowledge. Accordingly, we must take note that ignorance has a threefold relationship to the act of the will: in one way, "concomitantly"; in another, "consequently"; in a third way, "antecedently." "Concomitantly," when there is ignorance of what is done; but, so that even if it were known, it would be done. For then, ignorance does not induce one to wish this to be done, but it just happens that a thing is at the same time done, and not known: thus in the example given (Objection 3) a man did indeed wish to kill his foe, but killed him in ignorance, thinking to kill a stag. And ignorance of this kind, as the Philosopher states (Ethic. iii, 1), does not cause involuntariness, since it is not the cause of anything that is repugnant to the will: but it causes"non-voluntariness," since that which is unknown cannot be actually willed. 

The key to understanding this is the relationship between the will and the intellect (I do not like the word "mind" as it has been so misued in pyschology). Concomitant ignorance does not cause something, but is in the realm of the unknown consequence. But, if the end was known, one would still act.

Ignorance is "consequent" to the act of the will, in so far as ignorance itself is voluntary: and this happens in two ways, in accordance with the two aforesaid modes of voluntary (3). First, because the act of the will is brought to bear on the ignorance: as when a man wishes not to know, that he may have an excuse for sin, or that he may not be withheld from sin; according to Job 21:14: "We desire not the knowledge of Thy ways." And this is called "affected ignorance." 

Many people think that affected ignorance is invincible ignorance. But, when one freely does not pursue knowledge because one wants to continue in sin, this is not invincible but caused ignorance. This intellectual attitude may be seen in St. Augustine's famous phrase, "...da mihi castitatem et continentam, sed noli modo", "Lord give me chastity and continence, but not yet." He was not yet willling repentance and holiness.

Secondly,ignorance is said to be voluntary, when it regards that which one can and ought to know: for in this sense "not to act" and "not to will" are said to be voluntary, as stated above (Article 3). And ignorance of this kind happens, either when one does not actually consider what one can and ought to consider; this is called "ignorance of evil choice," and arises from some passion or habit: or when one does not take the trouble to acquire the knowledge which one ought to have; in which sense, ignorance of the general principles of law, which one to know, is voluntary, as being due to negligence. Accordingly, if in either of these ways, ignorance is voluntary, it cannot cause involuntariness simply. 

The first point here is that one must learn and, also, pay attention to natural law, which is denied today. Passions and habits are our faults. We fall into these through repeated sin. Ignorance of this type is voluntary and causes voluntary actions. So many people excuse others by saying, "They are deceived." No, these who live in sin have chosen deception. This type of ignorance is consequent ignorance.

Nevertheless it causes involuntariness in a certain respect, inasmuch as it precedes the movement of the will towards the act, which movement would not be, if there were knowledge. Ignorance is "antecedent" to the act of the will, when it is not voluntary, and yet is the cause of man's willing what he would not will otherwise. Thus a man may be ignorant of some circumstance of his act, which he was not bound to know, the result being that he does that which he would not do, if he knew of that circumstance; for instance, a man, after taking proper precaution, may not know that someone is coming along the road, so that he shoots an arrow and slays a passer-by. 

Now remember the previous posts this week on the movement of the will towards action and the movement of the intellect which informs the will.  Antecedent ignorance is that which involves a person acting in such a way as not to know the consequences, spiritual or physical, of his action. 

One may question, as I do, whether there are people who really live in antecedent ignorance in 2015. Natural law is in the souls of all men, because they are human. No one is exempt from natural law. The Ten Commandments are based on natural law.

Such ignorance causes involuntariness simply.

Those who chose not to reflect either on natural law, ignoring the instincts which make us human, and those who refuse to study, or be obedient, as responsible for their actions. Most problems with ignorance are owing to sin. To keep stating people are deceived is to forget the fact that these people allowed satan to deceive they by choosing sin over and over, thus destroying knowledge of the good and discernment. Those living in mortal sin are in darkness by choice.

From this may be gathered the solution of the objections. For the first objection deals with ignorance of what a man is bound to know. The second, with ignorance of choice, which is voluntary to a certain extent, as stated above. The third, with that ignorance which is concomitant with the act of the will.

Recall what I wrote days ago in this series, that the intellect moves the will. A person is responsible for those choices, even though this person has habitually turned against grace and knowledge, and has followed his passions.

Readers might want to review these older posts.

12 Sep 2014
3) Self-discipline. After concentration will come perseverance . ... And I add; virtues of perseverance, honesty, diligence, temperance, justice, prudence, obedience, purity, courage (bravery), self-control, rectitude, integrity, love.
22 Sep 2012
Perfect Rectitude of the Will from the Master, St. Thomas Aquinas. If God allows me to do so, I just want to study St. Thomas for the rest of my life. There is so much in his work to ponder.
22 Sep 2012
Rectitude of the Will in Thomas Aquinas-One. Posted by Supertradmum. The entire reason why we are here is to come to know, love and serve God in this world and to praise Him in the next. That is right out of my childhood ...
12 Sep 2014
That some people cannot see goodness is others may be because they have been subjected to so much evil that they no longer believe in rectitude of the will. One of the greatest heresies is the denial of free will. Another ...

To be continued...