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79. The Intellective Human Faculties

1. The intellective faculties of man are powers of the soul. They are the intellect and its appetency called the will.

2. The intellect (or mind, or understanding) is, first of all, a passive power; that is, it receives its knowledge and does not make it up. But the intellect is not passive in a lifeless fashion as marble is passive under the chisel of the sculptor. It does not act to make knowledge, but it re-acts to the impression of knowledge. It receives knowledge and expresses it within itself in its own way.

3. Now, in this life all human knowledge begins with thesenses. Man's intellect must therefore receive knowledge fromthe senses. But the sense order is the order of material andsingular reality, whereas the intellect is a spiritual power tograsp things in universal. Hence there must be a power, belongingto the order of intellective faculties, which preparessense-finding for the intellect proper; there must be anintellectual agency which renders sense-findings intelligible. Thisis the special intellectual faculty called the intellectusagens or active intellect. Therefore, man has theseintellectual or intellective faculties: the activeintellect, the intellect proper or passive intellect(called intellectus possibilis), and thewill.

4. The active intellect is a faculty of the soul. Itbelongs to the intellective order, not the sentient order.

5. It is not true (as some have taught) that there is onlyone active intellect for all men, which renders things intelligiblefor everyone even as one sun renders things visible for everyone.The active intellect is a faculty of each soul.

6. The intellect proper, the intellectuspossibilis, is the intellect which actually understands. Now,it retains what it understands, and in this function it is calledthe intellectual memory. Hence memory (in the intellective order)is not a faculty distinct from intellect; it is the intellect in adefinite service or function. The recalling of things experiencedin the past is rather the work of the sense-memory (one of theinterior senses) than of the intellect.

7. Therefore the intellective memory is an act oroperation of the intellect, and not a special faculty. It belongsto understanding to retain as well as to receive.

8. And the intellect often grasps or understands by aconnected series of points or steps. It can think things out. Inthis operation the intellect (that is, the knowing intellect, thepassive intellect) is called reason. The work ofreasoning, of moving in connected steps of thought to reach aconclusion, is called discursive thought. The human reason is not,therefore, a special faculty; it is the act or operation of thefaculty called intellect. {-Sometimes the termreason is used to signify man's rational nature,including both intellect and will. Thus we speak of a person's"coming to the use of reason," and of keeping thepassions "subject to reason."-}

9. St. Augustine draws a distinction between the higherreason which contemplates eternal truths, and the lower reasonwhich thinks on temporal things. This is an accidental distinctionof reason, not a multiplication of faculties. Reason itself is nota faculty really distinct from intellect; hence no types orvarieties of reason can be distinct faculties.

10. In its actual operation of knowing, of understanding,of pronouncing true judgment, the intellect is calledintelligence. Whether the judgment expresses aself-evident truth, or a truth known by immediate inference, or atruth reasoned out by discursive thinking, the very act of judgingis called an act of intelligence. Hence intelligence is not afaculty distinct from intellect; it is intellect in aprecise operation or action.

11. The intellect is called speculative inasmuchas it knows what is so; it is called practical inasmuch asis it knows what to do. Hence the speculative intellect and thepractical intellect are not two faculties, but two functions of onefaculty.

12. By his rational nature (that is, by his human essenceequipped with understanding and will), a person comes early in lifeinto possession of certain items of knowledge that enlighten andguide him in thinking and acting. These items of knowledge amountto first truths and first laws; we call them firstprinciples. (a) First intellectual principles are: aperson's direct awareness that he exists; that he can thinkstraight; that what he thinks about cannot be what it is and, atthe same time, something else. (b) First moral principles,or will-principles (that is, laws of conduct), are drawn from thedirect awareness that there is such a thing as right and good, sucha thing as wrong and evil, such a thing as obligation or duty. Andthus first moral principles are, "Do good," "Avoidevil." And, since the knowledge of good and evil is not whollyabstract, it involves certain manifest objective instances of whatis good and what is bad. This fundamental moral equipment of ahuman being, achieved as a person emerges from infancy to an age ofresponsible conduct, is called synderesis. Now, firstprinciples, intellectual or moral, are habits, that is, enduringqualities, of intellect and will. Knowledge of first truths (thatis, intellectual principles) is an intellectual habit; so issynderesis in so far as it is knowledge; synderesis in so far as itis a habitual guide and influence upon the will is a moralhabit.

13. When a person reaches a reasoned conclusion about hisown duty, the conclusion is a practical judgment. This judgment iscalled conscience. Hence conscience is not a specialfaculty; it is an act of the faculty of intellect as reason.Sometimes people confuse consciencewith synderesis, and callsynderesis itself by the name conscience. This is an inaccurate useof terms. Synderesis is a habit; conscience is anact; neither is a faculty. Reason draws upon synderesis informing the conscience-judgment.

"To do God's will -- this was the goal upon which the saints constantly fixed their gaze. They were fully persuaded that in this consists the entire perfection of the soul. "
St Alphonsus de Liguori

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"A person who rails at God in adversity, suffers without merit; moreover by his lack of resignation he adds to his punishment in the next life and experiences greater disquietude of mind in this life."
St Alphonsus de Liguori

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"The more you know and the better you understand, the more severely will you be judged, unless your life is also the more holy. Do not be proud, therefore, because of your learning or skill. Rather, fear because of the talent given you."
Thomas á Kempis

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