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Of God and His Creatures
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CHAPTER XXXIXThat Happiness does not consist in the Knowledge of God which is to be had by Demonstration

AGAIN there is another knowledge of God, higher than the last mentioned: this knowledge is acquired by demonstration, by means of which we come nearer to a proper knowledge of Him, since demonstration removes from Him many attributes, by removal of which the mind discerns God standing apart from other beings. Thus demonstration shows God to be unchangeable, eternal, incorporeal, absolutely simple, one. A proper knowledge of an object is arrived at, not only by affirmations, but also by negations. Thus as it is proper to man to be a rational animal, so it is proper to him also not to be inanimate or irrational. But between these two modes of proper knowledge there is this difference, that when a proper knowledge of a thing is got by affirmations, we know both what the thing is and how it is distinct from others: but when a proper knowledge of a thing is got by negations, we know that the thing is distinct from other things, but what it is remains unknown. Such is the proper knowledge of God that we have by demonstrations.574574See B. I, Chap. XIV, note. But that is not sufficient for the final happiness of man.

1. The individuals of a species arrive at the end and perfection of that species for the most part; and natural developments have place always or for the most part, though they fail in a minority of instances through something coming in to mar them. But happiness is the end and perfection of the human species, since all men naturally desire it. Happiness then is a common good, possible to accrue to all men, except in cases where an obstacle arises to deprive some of it. But few they are who arrive at this knowledge of God by way of demonstration, on account of the difficulties mentioned above (B. I, Chap. IV). Such scientific knowledge then is not the essence of human happiness.

3. Happiness excludes all misery. But deception and error is a great part of misery. Now in the knowledge of God by demonstration manifold error may be mingled, as is clear in the case of many who have found out some truths about God in that way, and further following their own ideas, in the failure of demonstration, have fallen into many sorts of error. And if any have found truth in the things of God so perfectly by the way of demonstration as that no error has entered their minds, such men certainly have been very few: a rarity of attainment which does not befit happiness, happiness being the common end of all.575575Patet eos fuisse paucissimos, quod non congruit felicitati, qui est communis finis. These words have a bearing on another question, the number of the elect.

4. Happiness consists in perfect activity. Now for the perfection of the activity of knowledge certainty is required: but the aforesaid knowledge has much of uncertainty.


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