Thursday, February 13, 2014

On tyranny

SINCE A TYRANT, despising the common good, seeks his private interest, it follows that he will oppress his subjects in different ways according as he is dominated by different passions to acquire certain goods. The one who is enthralled by the passion of cupidity seizes the goods of his subjects; whence Solomon says [Pr 29:4]: “A just king sets up the land; a covetous man shall destroy it.” If he is dominated by the passion of anger, he sheds blood for nothing; whence it is said by Ezekiel: “Her princes in the midst of her are like wolves ravening the prey to shed blood.” Therefore this kind of government is to be avoided as the Wise man admonishes [Si 9:13]: “Keep far from the man who has the power to kill,” because he kills not for justice’ sake but by his power, for the lust of his will. Thus there can be no safety. Everything is uncertain when there is a departure from justice. Nobody will be able firmly to state: This thing is such and such, when it depends upon the will of another, not to say upon his caprice. Nor does the tyrant merely oppress his subjects in corporal things but he also hinders their spiritual good. Those who seek more to use, than to be of use to, their subjects prevent all progress, suspecting all excellence in their subjects to be prejudicial to their own evil domination. For tyrants hold the good in greater suspicion than the wicked, and to them the valour of others is always fraught with danger.

So the above-mentioned tyrants strive to prevent those of their subjects who have become virtuous from acquiring valour and high spirit in order that they may not want to cast off their iniquitous domination. They also see to it that there be no friendly relations among these so that they may not enjoy the benefits resulting from being on good terms with one another, for as long as one has no confidence in the other, no plot will be set up against the tyrant’s domination. Wherefore they sow discords among the people, foster any that have arisen, and forbid anything which furthers society and co-operation among men, such as marriage, company at table and anything of like character, through which familiarity and confidence are engendered among men. They moreover strive to prevent their subjects from becoming powerful and rich since, suspecting these to be as wicked as themselves, they fear their power and wealth; for the subjects might become harmful to them even as they are accustomed to use power and wealth to harm others. Footnote  Whence in the Book of Job it is said of the tyrant [15:21]: “The sound of dread is always in his ears and when there is peace (that is, when there is no one to harm him), he always suspects treason.”

It thus results that when rulers, who ought to induce their subjects to virtue,” are wickedly jealous of the virtue of their subjects and hinder it as much as they can, few virtuous men are found under the rule of tyrants. For, according to Aristotle’s sentence [Eth. III, 11: 1116a 20], brave men are found where brave men are honoured. And as Tullius says [Tuscul. Disp. I, 2, 4]: “Those who are despised by everybody are disheartened and flourish but little.” It is also natural that men, brought up in fear, should become mean of spirit and discouraged in the face of any strenuous and manly task. This is shown by experience in provinces that have long been under tyrants. Hence the Apostle says to the Colossians: “Fathers, provoke not your children to indignation, lest they be discouraged.”

So, considering these evil effects of tyranny King Solomon says [Pr 28:12]: “When the wicked reign, men are ruined” because, forsooth, through the wickedness of tyrants, subjects fall away from the perfection of virtue. And again he says [Pr 29:2]: “When the wicked rule the people shall mourn, as though led into slavery.” And again [Pr 28:28]: “When the wicked rise up men shall hide themselves”, that they may escape the cruelty of the tyrant. It is no wonder, for a man governing without reason, according to the lust of his soul, in no way differs from the beast. Whence Solomon says [Pr 28:15]: ”As a roaring lion and a hungry bear, so is a wicked prince over the poor people.” Therefore men hide from tyrants as from cruel beasts and it seems that to be subject to a tyrant is the same thing as to lie prostrate beneath a raging beast.

~St. Thomas Aquinas: Excerpt from De Regno (On Kingship to the King of Cyprus), Bk. 1, Ch. 3.

Five Proofs for the Existence of Santa Claus

Question 2, Article 3: Whether Santa Claus exists?

We proceed thus to the third article (of discussion): It seems that Santa Claus does not exist.

Objection 1. It seems that Santa Claus does not exist, because Christmas gifts are able to be given to us by the good elves. Therefore, Santa Claus does not exist.

Objection 2. If Santa Claus did exist, there would be no chimneys too narrow for him. But there are chimneys too narrow for him, and sometimes none at all. So Santa Claus does not exist.

On the contrary, Kay Starr says "I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus’".

I answer that, The existence of Santa Claus can be proved in five ways.

The first and most manifest way is the argument from Christmas trees. It is certain and evident to our senses that some things in this world are Christmas trees. Now no fir becomes a Christmas tree unless it is trimmed. But to be trimmed means that one receives an ornament. And since one cannot go to infinity in the passing on of Christmas tree ornaments, there must be a first Untrimmed Trimmer, and this everyone understands to be Santa Claus.

The second way is from the motion of Christmas presents. In this world we find the giving of Christmas presents. Now he who gives Christmas presents either got them from someone else or made them in his workshop. And since if no one makes Christmas presents in his workshop, there won’t be any giving of Christmas presents, there must be a First Giver of Christmas presents, to which everyone gives the name Santa Claus.

The third way is from the plastic images of Santa Claus. In all department stores we see plastic things which represent Santa Claus. Now these things are representative either because of Santa Claus himself or because of other images of Santa. But there can be no infinite regression in representation, so there must be something which is like Santa Claus because it is Santa Claus.

The fourth way is taken from degrees of Christmas spirit. We see that people in this world have more or less Christmas spirit. But ‘more’ or ‘less’ can be said only in reference to a ‘most’. So there must be someone who has the most Christmas spirit, and this person we call Santa Claus.

The fifth way is from the conduct of children. As Christmas approaches, we see children, who lack intelligence, acting for an end, which is shown by their always being good, or almost always. But children would not be good for Christmas unless someone ensured that they be good. This someone is known by everyone to be Santa Claus.

Reply to Objection 1. Since the good elves got the presents they give from someone else, they must at most be Santa’s helpers.

Reply to Objection 2. It is not impossible that Santa Claus uses the door like everyone else.

Source: Summa Contra Scroogica

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Whether the object of faith can be something seen?

Objection 1. It would seem that the object of faith is something seen. For Our Lord said to Thomas (Jn 20:29): "Because thou hast seen Me, Thomas, thou hast believed." Therefore vision and faith regard the same object.

Objection 2. Further, the Apostle, while speaking of the knowledge of faith, says (1 Cor 13:12): "We see now through a glass in a dark manner." Therefore what is believed is seen.

Objection 3. Further, faith is a spiritual light. Now something is seen under every light. Therefore faith is of things seen.

Objection 4. Further, "Every sense is a kind of sight," as Augustine states (De Verb. Domini, Serm. xxxiii). But faith is of things heard, according to Romans 10:17: "Faith . . . cometh by hearing." Therefore faith is of things seen.

On the contrary, The Apostle says (Hebrews 11:1) that "faith is the evidence of things that appear not."

I answer that, Faith implies assent of the intellect to that which is believed. Now the intellect assents to a thing in two ways. First, through being moved to assent by its very object, which is known either by itself (as in the case of first principles, which are held by the habit of understanding), or through something else already known (as in the case of conclusions which are held by the habit of science). Secondly the intellect assents to something, not through being sufficiently moved to this assent by its proper object, but through an act of choice, whereby it turns voluntarily to one side rather than to the other: and if this be accompanied by doubt or fear of the opposite side, there will be opinion, while, if there be certainty and no fear of the other side, there will be faith.

Now those things are said to be seen which, of themselves, move the intellect or the senses to knowledge of them. Wherefore it is evident that neither faith nor opinion can be of things seen either by the senses or by the intellect.

Reply to Objection 1. Thomas "saw one thing, and believed another" [St. Gregory: Hom. xxvi in Evang.]: he saw the Man, and believing Him to be God, he made profession of his faith, saying: "My Lord and my God."

Reply to Objection 2. Those things which come under faith can be considered in two ways. First, in particular; and thus they cannot be seen and believed at the same time, as shown above. Secondly, in general, that is, under the common aspect of credibility; and in this way they are seen by the believer. For he would not believe unless, on the evidence of signs, or of something similar, he saw that they ought to be believed.

Reply to Objection 3. The light of faith makes us see what we believe. For just as, by the habits of the other virtues, man sees what is becoming to him in respect of that habit, so, by the habit of faith, the human mind is directed to assent to such things as are becoming to a right faith, and not to assent to others.

Reply to Objection 4. Hearing is of words signifying what is of faith, but not of the things themselves that are believed; hence it does not follow that these things are seen.

~St. Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologica, Secunda Secundæ Partis, Q. 1, Art. 4.

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas, by Caravaggio
(Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, 1571 - 1610). 
Oil on Canvas, 1601-02. Schloss Sanssouci, Potsdam.

"I God to live is to understand"

"IN GOD to live is to understand. In God intellect, the thing understood, and the act of understanding, are one and the same. Hence whatever is in God as understood is the very living or life of God. Now, wherefore, since all things that have been made by God are in Him as things understood, it follows that all things in Him are the divine life itself...

"Creatures are said to be in God in a twofold sense. In one way, so far are they are held together and preserved by the divine power; even as we say that things that are in our power are in us. And creatures are thus said to be in God, even as they exist in their own natures. In this sense we must understand the words of the Apostle when he says, "In Him we live, move, and be"; since our being, living, and moving are themselves caused by God. In another sense things are said to be in God, as in Him who knows them, in which sense they are in God through their proper ideas, which in God are not distinct from the divine essence. Hence things as they are in God are the divine essence. And since the divine essence is life and not movement, it follows that things existing in God in this manner are not movement, but life."

~St. Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologica, I, Q. 18. Art. 4.

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