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86. What the Intellect Knows in Material Things

1. In this fife in which man's soul and body aresubstantially united, the object of the human intellect is theessences of material things. The intellect knows such essencesin universal by acquiring ideas or concepts in the manneralready described. By a second act which is a kind of reflex act orreflection, the intellect knows material things inindividual. The intellect inquires, in this bodily world,"What kind of thing is that?" When it knows thekind or essence, it can advert to the individual things and say,"Yes, these are things of that kind." Primarily anddirectly, the intellect knows universals; secondarily and reflexly,the intellect knows singulars, that is, individual materialthings.

2. The human intellect is a created and finite power.Therefore it cannot perfectly know the infinite. The intellect canknow potential infinity, which means unlimitedpossibility. The intellect itself has potential infinity inasmuchas it is never filled up, but can always know something more. Butthe intellect cannot know perfectly actual infinity.

3. Contingent things (that is, changeable things; thingsthat have not in themselves a necessity for existing) are thedirect object of sense-knowledge. The intellect, by itssecondary and reflex act, can know singulars; hence theintellect can know contingent things. The intellect also knows thenecessary and universal principles that are back of contingentthings, such, for instance, as the truth that movement alwaysrequires a mover.

4. The human intellect cannot know the future except incause. To know a thing in cause is to foresee the effects whichwill come from existing and necessitating causes. Thus astronomersknow, even centuries before the event, the exact time at which aneclipse of the sun is to occur. To know the future, not merely incause, but in itself, is beyond creatural power; suchknowledge belongs to God alone. The human intellect has anabundance of conjectural knowledge of the future; such knowledge isa reasonable guess or supposition; it is usually founded uponexperience of what has happened in the past.

"It is vanity to love what passes quickly and not to look ahead where eternal joy abides. "
Thomas á Kempis

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"God gives us some things, as the beginning of faith, even when we do not pray. Other things, such as perseverance, he has only provided for those who pray."
St Augustine

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"There is nothing which gives greater security to our actions, or more effectually cuts the snares the devil lays for us, than to follow another person’s will, rather than our own, in doing good."
St Philip Neri

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