THE LORD OF THE WORLD
The unknown lord
A GREAT deal has been made recently of the things we do not know about man. A best seller of not so long ago spent many dark pages on detailed statements of the damage our ignorance has done, institutes of human relations have been set up in great centers of learning to weave our piecemeal knowledge into a durable fabric; scientists are busy with every detail of man’s physical life. For all our awakened interest in the study of man, the cardinal point has been overlooked, namely, that the essential thing to know about man is what he is.
Essential knowledge about man
We must at least know the nature of man before we can intelligently discuss any detail of his life. If this much is not known, there can be no real knowledge of the powers of man: we may be impatient at them, as a child is angry with a toy bird because it will not sing; or we may overlook them, as a starving man might sit down to die on a priceless antique chair, not knowing its value in terms of money and food. Without this essential knowledge, a man can be satisfied to eat the husks of swine when he might have been dining on the fare of kings or he can be straining after the impossible, surely he cannot know the boundlessness or the limitations of his hopes. The very necessity of nature itself guarantees the different actions of a pet monkey and a canary bird, but man has to know what he is and where he is going; he must choose a goal for his actions and point them at that goal, for his actions are deliberate. Only by knowing such a goal, fitted to the kind of nature he has, can a man determine whether his life has been a success or a failure, for it is only in terms of a human goal that a human life can be judged.
Essential ignorance about man
The essential ignorance about man, then, is the defect of this essential knowledge. Man must know himself, must know at least what he is, if he is to live a human life. In spite of the essential importance of this fundamental knowledge, men from the beginning — and perhaps more so today — have made serious mistakes about the very nature of man.
He has been seen as pure spirit, an angel or a god, with the disastrous results of despair or the tragically comic results of childish pretense. He has been judged to be a mixture or conglomeration of spirit and matter, a lost spirit imprisoned in the flesh or a wandering mind; a strange monster whose constituent elements are more incompatible than oil and water. In our time, the tendency has been to exclude the spiritual from man altogether; from this premise, the steps have led steadily downward until there is now no further step to be taken.
In this materialistic light, man has been seen as a mere animal, a nice, bright, friendly animal, to be sure, but no different essentially from the rest of the animal world. Some of those who see man this way think he should make the most of his animality; others advise him to try, for appearances’ sake, to forget it; still others ask him, while insisting on his pure animality, to act as though he had a spiritual soul. Another group sees man as merely a chemical compound. His essence will some day be reduced to a chemical formula, his dreams are no more than the things that happen in a test tube: meanwhile he is not to be too upset by the action and reaction, the explosions, the precipitations and strange flavors that mark his life, since there is, after all, nothing he can do about it. This would seem to place man low enough in the scale of things to satisfy his bitterest enemy; but another group has found a still more insulting estimate of man. Man is only a machine, necessarily producing the acts he does, the thoughts he thinks, the struggles he puts up, the illusion of love much as a sausage machine turns out its product if the right material is fed into it.
These truly terrible estimations of the nature of man might have come as a numbing shock to our age if we had not been so well prepared for them. As a matter of fact, they are not even a surprise; they are the inevitable result of a refusal to take the whole of man into consideration in determining his nature, the willingness to take the frosting or the cake, but not both. Then, too, this insulting ignorance of man did not happen today or yesterday. Very early in the history of mankind the attempt was made to get along without the material world. A no less energetic denial of the spiritual world dates from the Greek materialists and is almost universal in America today. Naturally, if either matter or spirit is denied in human nature, that quiet, peace-loving creature we call man is replaced by a monster. Modern philosophy eased into the denial of the spiritual by quietly assassinating the intellect. With that out of the way and man’s knowledge completely limited to the field of the senses, there is little to differentiate man from the physical world in which he moves.
The escape from it
Not infrequently, the denial of the material or the spiritual in man has been motivated by cowardice, a flabbiness of heart that sought escape from the difficulties of human life by denying the humanity of it. For there are difficulties in the material side of human nature that no shocked rolling of the eyes, no amount of deep breathing or self-hypnosis can obliterate; just as there are terrific responsibilities in the spiritual side of man’s nature that no amount of pleasure, no constant round of activity, no self-induced forgetfulness can wipe from the mind of a man. To men and women who shudder to mix with the rough reality of physical existence, an easy way out has been to deny it; just as those who preferred to cast their lot with the animal, or even with the inanimate, world, made their path easier by denying the spiritual. The pity of it has always been that these men could not follow their chosen paths alone but have always attempted to justify themselves in their own eyes, and in the eyes of men, by preaching their foolishness from the housetops to ensnare the simple, silly ones of the world.
Life of the lord of the world
There is no need to set up a super-science and dedicate it to a life-long search of hosts in order to get some hint of what man is. The knowledge of human nature is not so difficult to come at. All we need do is to look at the human activity that goes into the living of human life all about us, or, indeed, within us. We may whip a puppy for chewing up shoes, but we are not silly enough to whip a tree for crashing through the roof in a storm; we know one little bit about these different natures by the way they act, at least we perceive that the whipping may do the puppy some good and that it will have no effect on the tree whatsoever. We are not surprised that lilacs do not sing, though we expect song from a bird; and we are sure that no amount of careful watering or fertilizing will make a sidewalk any longer. In all this, we are proceeding on a judgment of different natures reached by a knowledge of the activities of those natures. It always remains true that activity follows the same line as the nature from which it proceeds; things have specifically different activities because of their specifically different natures.
Principle of life
So we can tell immediately the difference between the living and the dead. To ask what is a man is only to ask what does a man do, what is his particular specific activity, what can we expect from a man that we can expect from absolutely nothing else in the world. If he is alive, he must be active, for, as we have seen in an earlier chapter, life is immanent activity. That activity avid mirror the nature of the principle from which it flows in man, just as it does in a bird, a tree or a horse.
Its immaterial and subsistent character
One of the obviously distinctive things a man does is to know. From the objects with which this knowledge deals we have an immediate indication of the nature of man. Just from these few pages, it is clear that man knows cake, frosting, puppies, trees, canary birds, sidewalks and lilacs; as a matter of fact, man knows all material things, or he can know them, something he could not do if his faculty of knowledge had anything of material in it, any more than his faculty of vision can see all colors looking through green glasses. In other words, all corporal natures are fixed within corporal limitations; if the mind of man were corporal, then that corporal limitation would impede its knowledge of other corporal natures, just as a bad taste in a man’s mouth affects his relish of everything he eats. From the point of view of its objects, then, one action of man, the act of intellectual knowledge, is immaterial, which is the same as saying that it is spiritual.
We are thus forced to admit, from the ordinary activity of man, that man has an operation independent of corporal nature. If the activity is independent, of course the principle from which that activity flows is of that same nature — it is independent of corporal nature, it is spiritual. This independent principle of activity, since it can operate free of corporal nature, can exist free of corporal nature; for always the operation follows in the steps of the nature from which it proceeds.
To look at the matter from the point of view of man’s activities themselves, rather than the objects of those activities, the very fact that man reasons is evidence that the principle of his reasoning is independent of corporal nature. At first sight, this statement looks obscure; but if we take it apart, see it step by step, its full force is clearly seen. Reasoning is no more than the comparison of judgment with judgment; and a judgment is normally a comparison with an abstract idea. In other words, the independent nature of reasoning has its first foundation in our possession of abstract ideas. We may grumble at wetness or marvel at beauty, but we shall never drown from falling into wetness or be injured by bumping into beauty. We can know not only this thing, but things in the abstract; a feat that surpasses the concrete character and singularity of the corporal world. This is an activity explicable only by a principle that itself surpasses the corporal, for, as the non-lethal blows of an infant’s fist will clearly show us, the effect is not greater than its cause, the activity does not surpass the manner of existence.
Many consequences of man’s possession of abstract ideas are advanced in proof of the spiritual character of his soul. It is noted, for instance, that man alone speaks, has a moral sense, holds to religious ideals, can learn, cook his food, concoct weapons and so on. To these are added the long list of outstanding human achievements. But, as a matter of fact, these additional arguments are quite unnecessary; from the basic arguments of the objects of man’s activities and the activities themselves we have a clear insight into the fundamental differentiation of man’s soul from the souls of the brutes.
Animals, as living creatures, also have innate principles of life and activity, they have souls. In their activity, however, the brutes betray no operation that is independent of corporal nature; their activities are the activities of sense life. Consequently, the principle from which this activity flows, as it cannot act dependently, cannot exist independently; again that central truth must be insisted on, activity is an indication of the nature of the soul, as an effect is an indication of the nature of its cause. The very intensity of these brute activities is distinctly limited; noises too loud will deafen them as lights too bright will blind them, for the corporal change demanded in every sensitive operation corrupts the sense which it affects. On the contrary, the object of intelligence, as it is more perfect, rather than corrupting the intellect, perfects it for other and more intense operations. To put the whole thing simply, it is enough to point out that even in their knowledge the brutes do not know things; they know this or that thing, not the abstract. It is not surprising, then, that they have never reached to the consequences that have followed in man from the possession of abstract ideas. It has been well said that the “animal is a queer mixture of stupidity and natural accomplishment; of cleverness and unteachableness; of natural ability and no development.” These things cannot be said of a man.
To conclude, from the independent existence of the human soul, that the soul was the whole man, would be a serious mistake. A man is, or at least should be, no less human when he eats than when he thinks. It would be much less tiring if a woman could accomplish her shopping in the few seconds it takes the mind to run through a department store, while her body was tossed into a corner or laid out comfortably on a bed; but it cannot be done. It is the same person who walks, laughs, talks and thinks. Man is not to be defined by his soul alone. That human soul, great as its prerogatives may be, is still only a part of man, an essential element of the composite that is man. It is no less a deformity to exclude the body from the notion of what man is than to exclude the soul; whether you make a god, an angel or an animal of man, you have destroyed man. This point need not be labored: if man’s nature is indicated by the objects with which his activities deal and by those activities themselves, it demands no philosophical cleverness to see that he has a body as well as a soul.
In fact, we can push this further and say that even though that immaterial soul is spiritual and immortal, it is still incomplete without the body. Obviously the human soul is simple. for, lacking all material, it cannot have parts. The very notion of parts postulates quantity, a divisibility that is inseparable from matter and so unthinkable in a substance that is immaterial. Moreover, the fact that it is utterly simple and at the same time capable of subsisting of itself (as it quite evidently is capable of operating of itself) is a definition of its spirituality; a subsistent principle of activity independent of matter is spiritual. It is immortal, for there is no way to destroy it. It cannot unravel, it cannot come apart; it cannot be separated from that which gives it life, for it is itself the principle of life; it cannot be swept into oblivion by the destruction of another on which it depends, as a lamp might be destroyed by the collapse of the stand on which it has been placed, for it is independent. In other words, it is incorruptible because there is no possibility of either intrinsic or extrinsic corruption.
It can, of course, be annihilated by God. But this is not so much a question of God’s reaching out to strike it into nothingness, as of God’s not reaching out to conserve it, cutting off the supply of existence from the human soul. For the soul of man, like everything created, merely borrows its finite existence from the infinite existence of God; it is not independent of the first cause either in its entry into existence or in the continuation of its existence. In common with all created things, the human soul has the metaphysical composition of essence and existence.
Yet this soul without its body is incomplete; it is not fully itself unless it be united to the body. It is not an angel, assuming a fictitious body for an occasion; it is the lowest substance in the intellectual world and ordered, by its very nature, to union with the body. Left to itself, it could discern nothing; its mind would remain a blank sheet, radically incapable of completing itself by its own strength, sterile and inactive without the complement by which alone it enters into relation with the objects it can know and assimilate.
It is an extremely grave mistake to look upon the soul’s presence in the body as a punishment, making the body a prison in which the soul serves its time. The body is good and a source of good to the soul joined to it; it is the one link by which the soul can attain its complete perfection. Nor is this an oddity in the universe. Rather, it is a continuation of the harmony that runs through all the work of the divine architect: the imperfect is always for the perfect, the eye for the whole man, vegetative life for sensitive life, sensitive life for intellectual life, all for the sake of the whole. On a larger scale, each creature is for its own act, its own perfection, the less noble for the more noble, all for the universe and the universe for God. The soul, then, is an incomplete substance tending to complete itself; and by this very tendency, it is a principle of operation. It is a perfection crying for its fullness; and that fullness is obtained through union with the body.
Its incompleteness: General notion of matter and form.
The difficulty is how to unite such a splendid spiritual substance with the matter which, thus united, becomes the human body. A mere mixture of the two will not do. An utterly simple soul cannot be stirred into matter as sugar is in coffee, any more than a mathematical point can be dropped into a glass of wine. It is not sufficient merely to throw them together, as so many rocks in one pile; for the secret of this creature man is his unity, he is precisely one whole and all his acts testify to that unity. Nor is it enough to postulate a mere association of the two, like a rider in a saddle or a motor in a boat. These two incomplete substances must be united in a way that will result in one complete unit, one complete whole. In other words, the soul must be the substantial form of the body.
To a man who is not a philosopher, the words “matter” and “substantial form” look as formidable as a mechanic’s tool kit does to one who lacks mechanical ability. If we describe matter as the determined element and substantial form as the determining element of physical things and then look at the two in the concrete, their terrifying aspect vanishes for then they cease to be strangers and we recognize them as old, familiar neighbors. It is obvious, for instance, that before the soul’s coming, there is only the possibility of a man, the seed and the ovum, not a man; after the soul departs, there is nothing left but a corpse. It is clear, then, that if is the soul that determines the matter of the body to its human status; it is the soul that gives the body its specific note, making it human. It gives the body being and is the source of the body’s human activities; we should be quite right in being frightened, astonished or utterly incredulous if a corpse sat up and guffawed in the face of the mourners.
The same truth is evident if we look at it from the side of the specific operations of man. It would be pointless to sit hour by hour by a corpse trying to argue with it, waiting for an inspiring word or a flash of genius to come from the dead man’s mouth. It is the soul that is the principle of intellectual operations, that is, of the operations by which man is distinguished from every other creature, his specific operations. It is, then, the determinant of the species in man, his substantial form.
Substantial forms are an active, domineering race. The common note of their work has left a common mark on all of them, however low or high they may be, they are as easily recognized as officers of an army drilled to the perfection of precision. No one of them, for examples can tolerate doing its work through an underling; no one of them will give an equal a word to say in its work; all are much too self-sufficient to travel in pairs; all are fussy enough, and capable enough, to keep every inch of their domain under their thumb every single moment.
The soul the form of the body
Of course, the soul of man, being a substantial form, shares these common characteristics. It is not united to corporal matter through a medium, an underling, such as a sensitive soul, one other body, or some other accidental or substantial form. its union is immediate; and it leaves no room for any other soul in man. The soul is the unique cause of man’s being, of his living, his animality, his human characteristics. Nor is this particularly surprising. It is a common fact of nature that the more powerful forms have more extensive activity. Thus, in the hierarchy of forms, the inanimate have the very minimum of activity, that of being; plant forms embrace the activity of the inanimate forms and add their own; animal forms include the activity of the inanimate and the plant forms, and add their own; and 50 on. To put it another way, the higher forms have a greater quantity of being; they have shared more fully, participated more completely of that supreme being. They imitate God more closely and exclude all inferior forms as superfluous; they themselves have all that the inferior forms possess, and more. Like every other substantial form, the soul is present in every part of the matter it informs, in every part of the body; and it is whole in every part of the body. The tail is not less feline than the head of a cat, nor is a finger less human than the head of a man; yet what there is of humanity in every part of man comes from the specific principle of humanity within man, from his soul. Instead of thinking, as we ordinarily do, of the body, containing the soul, it would perhaps be more accurate to thinly of the soul containing the body.
Man, then, is a composite made up of matter and form, of spirit and matter. Neither of these constitutes the species, both are incomplete; but from their substantial union comes that lord of the material world which we call man, the creature whose form is supreme among all forms in matter, reaching that peak of domination of things physical that brings us to the borderland of angelic independence. So much for the nature of man. We know now that he is not divine, not angelic, not bestial, but human.
Equipment for action of the lord of the world:
In general: Distinction and number of the potencies of man.
A glance, however, at man’s actions will show us at once that we have not investigated all of man’s equipments The soul is the radical principle of all action; but then, the locomotive is the principle of all motion of the train, but it moves by its wheels. That is, the soul does not directly produce these actions of man; a man walks but with his feet and legs, he talks but withhis tongue, he thinks but with his intellect. As a matter of fact, God is the only one whose act flows directly from his essence, He alone rather is His intelligence than has His intelligence. This truth seems obscure, but actually it is so obvious that it is hard to see. A man’s soul is a substantial form: it acts directly in the substantial line to complete the substantial composite. Now, patently, man’s actions are not substantial things: his laughs do not clutter up the house his thoughts do not have to be bathed, fed and sent off to school; they are accidents in the philosophical sense of existing only in something else, not in themselves. Their immediate cause, then, is one proportioned to them, an accidental form, not a substantial one. Supposing the contrary were true, suppose the soul did produce all the acts of man directly. By its very essence the soul is a determining principle, it is the active, the moving principle; it cannot take a day off, demand a sick leave, or retire for a siesta for its very nature demands ceaseless determining activity. Of it is the direct cause of our actions, then we never stop talking, thinking, willing, hearing, seeing and all the rest; which, thank God, is completely false.
If we are to act, we must have proximate accidental principles of action. Being what we are, we shall have to have a great many of them. Creatures below man reach a moderate perfection by few movements; man himself reaches a very high perfection by many and complex movements; the angels reach complete perfection by very, very few movements; while God has infinite perfection without any movement at all. Perhaps the full significance of this can be grasped from a parallel in the human order: some men maintain a precarious health by many remedies; some maintain perfect health with a few remedies; while others, have perfect health without ever entering a drugstore or consulting a doctor. In other words, the multiplicity of our accidental forms is at the same time a statement of our perfection relative to the material world, and a statement of our imperfection relative to the spiritual world.
For all their number and complexity, there is no difficulty distinguishing these proximate accidental principles of operation which are called the powers or faculties of man; we have only to look at their destination to escape the misfortune of trying to we the ear for sight or the eye for sound. There is, in fact, a distinct hierarchy of these powers of man nicely graduated according to the universality of the objects at which they aim. The vegetative powers act only on man’s own body; the sensitive powers work on all sensible bodies; while the intellective powers extend to all being. The same hierarchy can be traced if our measuring rod is the degree of immateriality of the object at which the different powers aim. Thus bare life transcends the inanimate character of matter; sense knowledge receives material things within the knower, stripping them of the ragged clothes of matter, but leaving them the familiar material conditions; intellectual knowledge completely strips its guests of all matter and material conditions, insisting that they put on the bright garment of immateriality before they enter the house of the mind.
Neither is there much difficult in determining, in a general way, the location or place of residence of these faculties in man. The inorganic powers of intellect and will which operate with intrinsic independence of matter are to be found in the only inorganic element of the human composite, in the soul of man. It is only the soul that can act with intrinsic independence of matter. The vegetative and sensitive faculties of man are clearly not to be found in the soul alone, for they are intimately involved in matter; neither are they to be bound in the body alone, for the body alone cannot produce the acts proper to these powers. Rather they are powers subjected in the composite of soul and body; not in either of the constituents of this composite. From this it is evident that the faculties of intellect and will endure as long as the soul endures, that is, forever; on the other hand, the vegetative and sensitive faculties endure only as long as the composite which is man endures, that is, until the separation of the soul and body in death.
Coming down to an examination of these powers of man in particular, we encounter somewhat the same difficulty as would be found in a complete survey of the life of the universe. Man is a little universe in himself; certainly he has, in himself, a summary of the life of the universe and, consequently, a multiplicity of faculties that is al bewildering, in its way, as the spectacle of the varied life in the world in which we live. To inspect each of these faculties in itself, without relation to anything else, would seem to serve no purpose beyond increasing our bewilderment, just as a study of the individual parts of the universe, with no attempt at correlation merely packs a man’s head so full of facts and his eyes so full of sights that he can neither think nor see. We must, then, throughout, try to see these faculties of man in their relation to man himself and to the rest of life in the universe; we must read them in their context, not in isolated texts; they must be seen in the grandeur of the whole picture, not in violently extracted sections.
: Some lower potencies:
From this point of view, man has powers in common with the plants, others in common with the animals, and still others that are entirely distinctive to himself. In all three we meet again that harmonious flowing of one into the other that marks the whole genius of creation. There is a union between these different faculties so close as almost to defy an attempt to mark clearly the line that distinguishes them; it is this close harmony that has been, too often, the cause of the eager attempts to conclude that man is only a plant or only an animal, or that all animals and plants are intelligent beings as man is.
The vegetative powers, common to man and plants, have, as their primary purpose, the inception of life and the protection of that life; this purpose is accomplished through three distinct operations, namely: generation; growth or increase to the point demanded by the perfection of the body; and finally nutrition or the conservation of that life. Of the three, generation is supreme and intimately approaches the activity of the animal or sense faculties; it is the only vegetative faculty that operates on a body other than its own.
The sensitive powers of man parallel the same powers in an animal. A teacher, who was not at all sure of himself, facing a class that was far too inquisitive for comfort, could hurry past these by stating dogmatically that these powers are of two kinds, external and internal, frowning heavily the while to snuff out any question before it could break into flame. But, of course, this would be cheating; for it would be ignoring the fact that there are five external senses and four internal ones, for a grand total of nine. Still, the teacher certainly would have his reasons for sidestepping a subject as complex as this.
The whole picture of the five external senses in operation can be obtained by observing so commonplace an affair as a man coming home from work and wandering into the kitchen as dinner is being prepared; providing, of course, that the man is normal, that he does take a taste of this and that, drop a comment or two and then get out from under his wife’s feet. If he spent the long moments that intervene before the serving of dinner in analyzing that little jaunt of his into the kitchen, he would discover something like this. Two of his external senses had made a contact with sensible reality as real as a contact of a fist with a face, and with the same consequent material modifications, on a much milder scale, to be sure: his sense of touch had been struck by the warmth of the kitchen; his sense of taste was affected by the nibble which did things both to the sense itself and to the food he had so cautiously pilfered. Ruminating further, he would notice that two other external senses, while not smashing into sensible reality, had definitely been in contact with it through a medium: he had smelled the cooking food and heard his own words to his wife. The last of his external senses, his sight, had accomplished its purpose without direct contact, without material change either in his eyes or in the objects of sight: his eyes had not actually caressed his wife, she had not climbed into his eyes, nor was the food mangled by his greedy glance.
A great help in drawing up his analysis was furnished by his internal sense which goes by the name of common sense, discriminating between the work of the external senses, protecting him from using his eye for tasting and so on. For each of the external senses is nailed down to its particular object; consequently some common centre of sense perception is necessary, some clearing house which distinguishes between the external senses and their operations. This man was led to the kitchen in the first place by another of his internal senses, his imagination; for obviously, viewing these senses now purely from the animal or sensitive angle, it is only by the power of retaining a sense species gathered by the external senses that an animal can set itself in motion to obtain an absent good. His retreat from the kitchen was dictated by his estimative faculty with its power to directly apprehend the harmful or beneficial qualities of sensible things that are certainly not the object of the eye, the ear, the nose or any of the other external senses. These are not strictly sense qualities. Finally, as he sat there thinking it all over, he would be regaled by his memory, the last of his internal senses, which is a storehouse of the sensible species; from it are spontaneously revived species precisely aspast, a non-sensible quality that escapes the imagination and so demands another faculty or power and which is so particular, so contingent, as to demand that it be taken care of by the sense powers of man. It is to be noted that the estimative power and the memory approach analogously very close to the operations of the intellect, being differentiated from it by the particular character and material limitations of their objects.
Higher potencies of knowledge
Over and above the vegetative and sensitive principles of operations, man’s distinctively human faculties are the spiritual powers of intellect and will, of knowledge and volition. These are so complex in their operation, and so very important that they will receive separate treatment in the two succeeding chapters of this volume. In this chapter, however, a few rough strokes must be added to complete the picture of man’s specific equipment at least as regards knowledge.
Active and possible intellect
Two intellectual faculties are distinguished in man: one that can know but as yet does not, the possible intellect; the other, which does not know but makes knowledge a proximate possibility. This distinction is really no more than our recognition of the fact that man does learn and that he learns of abstract things. He has, then, a faculty that acquires knowledge. But the objects of our knowledge are universal or abstract (as we have already seen to some degree and will see more thoroughly later) and universals are not to be found wandering about the streets, hiding in woods or swimming in streams. If only the possible intellect existed, only the faculty which acquires knowledge, nothing would ever be known. Another faculty is necessary to make these concrete, existing things of the world fit subjects of our knowledge; the faculty that universalizes these concrete things, that makes them abstract, is called the active intellect.
Reason and Intellect
What we ordinarily call intellectual memory is really not a separate faculty at all; it is merely the act of our intellects retaining the intellectual species. Certainly it does not retain these species precisely as past, for that is a concrete, limited, material connotation which is proper to the sense faculties and impossible to immaterial, universal objects. Neither do the words “intelligence” and “reason” denote different faculties, but rather different acts of the same faculty: the one, a simple direct knowledge of truth which approaches the mode of angelic knowledge; the other, the labored acquisition of truth by way of comparison which is proper to man. “Synderesis” and “conscience,” too, must be ruled out as distinct faculties: the first is no more than the habit by which we hold to first practical principles; the second is merely a practical judgment of the intellect as to what is to be done or avoided, what is right or wrong.
1. Philosophy based on ignorance of man is a philosophy of degradation
From even this superficial glance at man, it is evident that he is a composite of body and soul. Within himself he contains the powers of inanimate, plant and animal creation; and surpasses them by his distinctively human power. He is not an animal, though he has a body, he is not an angel, though he has a spiritual soul that cannot be destroyed. He is a man, the connecting link between the material and the spiritual worlds. A philosophy that is blind to this essential knowledge of man is necessarily a philosophy of degradation, however sincerely its authors intend to defend man’s humanity, however high they hope to elevate man, however desperately they champion human beings.
It is possible only by a distortion of one side of human nature
These are not merely large statements that can be supported only by fragmentary evidence and loose interpretations. They are facts evidenced abundantly in both the theoretical and practical sphere of twentieth century life. On the theoretical level, for example, modern philosophy, neglecting the spiritual in man, degrades man to the level of an animal, a chemical or a machine; or, neglecting the material in man, degrades him to wraith-like proportions and exiles him from the world in which he must live. In either case, there has been an ignorance of man and so an ignorance of man’s life. He has been tricked into attempting to live the life of an animal or to parody angelic or divine life; but it has been made consistently more difficult for him to lead human life.
Its result is the destruction of the whole of human nature
In the practical spheres if man is an animal obviously he can demand no more from himself than he demands from other animals; if made, such demands are hopeless of fulfillment. High ideals, noble goals, respect, honor, enduring love, self-mastery, justice and all the rest are illusions he is foolish to take seriously. Under these circumstances, why should not a man plunge into gangsterism to the contempt of the rights of all others; why should not a government be contemptuous of the human individual, of the human rights of its own subjects, what is there to hold it back from sheer brutality practised on the most immediately advantageous scale? Or, to go to the other extreme, why should men not despair in the evident hopelessness of trying to live an angelic life devoid of angelic equipment, why should they not mock at themselves as they absurdly pose on the throne of divinity? What motive is left For a man to struggle for success, for mastery of himself, for virtue and a goal worth reaching for?
Its goal is despair
To ignore one side of man is to make a monster out of him. To make him all angel or all animal, we must destroy half of him. And man can no more live in that condition than can a horse that has been split in half. His very animality becomes a thing of disgust to the animal world; his angelic parodies, a shock to the invisible world. The end of either mistake can only be a complete loss of the notion of a human individual, a sacred person, not to be sunk in a mass, a race, a nation, not to be debarred from contact with a world into which he has been born. That is, the end of either mistake must be despair. Man has one end and he was given a nature equipped for the attainment of that end — and adequate to no other. Of course he must fail miserably if he is made to aim at an inhuman goal by reason of his conviction of inhuman powers to achieve a goal.