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85. The Manner or Mode of Man's Understanding

1. In this life, the human intellect rises from sense-findingsto concepts. The human intellect is contrasted in this operationwith the angelic intellect which descends from the knowledge ofnonmaterial things to the knowledge of material things.

2. Man's intellect, by its concepts, knows reality.The ideas are that by which reality is known; they are notthat which is known. For the intellect is not directlyaware of its own ideas, but of what the ideas represent. Theintellect, however, by reflecting upon itself, can become aware ofits concepts as such, and aware of the way in which these conceptsare formed. But by its direct operation the intellect knowsthings, not its own knowing of things.

3. Even though intellectual knowledge in man is acquiredfrom individual and material phantasms, it is at first general andindefinite and afterwards more special and distinct. So at first achild might call all men father, but later learn to specifyone.

4. The intellect cannot understand many things at one timeexcept in so far as they are included in one concept orintelligible species. Our knowledge may include many things, but weunderstand and think of the items of knowledge one at a time. Asthe eye cannot see more than one view at a time, but can behold themany visible things that belong to that view, so the intellectcannot think of more than is contained in the one concept on whichits attention is fixed, but it can understand many things thatbelong to that concept.

5. Intellect compares ideas, pronouncing upon them byaffirming or denying their agreement as subject and predicate. Inmaking an affirmative judgment, such as "A plant is a livingbody," the intellect puts together or composessubject-idea and predicate-idea. In making a negative judgment,such as "A plant is not a sentient body," the intellectdivides subject-idea and predicate-idea by its denial.Thus the intellect knows things by composing and dividing. And theintellect proceeds from judgments to further judgments by reasoningor discursive thinking. The elements of intellectual knowledge inman are ideas or concepts which are formed upon sense-findings. Theactual items of human intellectual knowledge are judgments, whetherthese be made directly by composing and dividing, or arrived at byinference from other judgments, that is, by reasoning.

6. The intellect cannot be false in itself. Errorin intellectual knowledge comes from something accidentalto the intellect, not from the intellect itself. For example, errormay come from careless use of the intellect.

7. One human intellect cannot understand a thingmore than another, but one intellect can understandbetter than another. Just so, two men, one with cleareyesight and the other with imperfect vision, look upon the samescene; one does not see more actually than the other sees, but onesees better or more clearly than the other.

8. Confused knowledge regularly precedes distinctknowledge. Weknow things first in a general way, and later ina more detailed and distinct way. We first know a thing asundivided before we advert to its divisions; we know a whole objectbefore we have knowledge of its various parts and their relation toone another.

"The greatest glory we can give to God is to do his will in everything."
St Alphonsus de Liguori

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"Lord, take from me everything that hinders me from going to You. give me all that will lead me to You. Take me from myself and give me to Yourself."
St Nicholas Flue

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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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