Thursday, May 16, 2013

Per se nota (I, 2, 1)

This article in St. Thomas is great as a brief consideration of what is self-evident and what is not. Here is just a list of all the claims made about what is per se notum:
  • Knowledge of the per se nota is in us naturally
  • Per se nota are known as soon as the terms in the propositions are known
    • e.g. When it is known what a whole is and what a part is, it is known that the whole is greater than the part
  • The principles of demonstration are per se nota
  • The existence of truth is per se notum
    • Whoever denies truth to be concedes its existence
    • For if truth is not, then it is true that it is not
  •  No one is able to think the opposite of what is per se notum
 All of those propositions are from the objections and the contrary. They serve to get one thinking about per se nota, to consider what they are and examples of them. Then the body gives the important distinction:
  •  Something is said to be per se notum in two ways
    • According to itself, but not with respect to us
    • According to itself, but with respect to us
  • Some proposition is per se nota when its predicate is included in the account of the subject
    • e.g. Man is an animal; this is self-evident because the predicate is in the account of the subject
  • If the what of the subject and predicate is know to all, then the proposition will be known to all
    • e.g. common terms which no one is ignorant of as being and non-being, whole and part, and like things (including like and unlike!)
  • If the what of the subject or the predicate is not known, then the proposition is in itself per se nota, but not to those ignorant of the terms
So this is all that he states about per se nota generally. He then applies what he's said to God. Even the replies to the objections have only to do with the application to God. Yet what he says about God still makes even clearer certain things about the per se nota. "God is" is a per se notum in itself since God is the same with his existence, yet not with respect to us since we don't know the essence of God. He then says that we need to prove it through what is more known to us. This shows that it is not intrinsically impossible to prove what is in itself per se notum, but then it raises a question: Is every true scientific proposition per se notum in itself? For example, if someone really knew the what of a triangle and the what of having angles equal to two rights, would they known that every triangle has its angles equal to two rights? What is important for this article is showing that God's existence is not self-evident in such a way that we know it without proof. The same is true about the triangle proposition, regardless of whether or not the predicate is somehow contained in the subject.

The first reply concedes that it is self-evident that God exists in a common way, insofar as our beatitude is known. Here is a the brief argument:
  • Man naturally desires beatitude
  • What is naturally desired by man is naturally known by him.
    • For one cannot desire what one does not know
  • Therefore, man naturally knows beatitude
A difficulty occurs to me. That last statement looks like a conclusion to me, but St. Thomas seems to think that it is per se notum, and insofar as it is per se notum, God is per se notum in a confused way (since he happens to be our beatitude). But if what makes something per se notum is having the statement known as soon as the subject and predicate are known, then we need only look at the terms. Beatitude is by definition what all men desire, therefore all men desire beatitude. Desire by definition follows upon apprehension or knowledge. Something can only be desired to the extent it is known, but if it is desired naturally then it must needs be known naturally. Therefore, man naturally knows beatitude. As long as one keeps the notion of beatitude very vague there, it is clearly self-evident.

The last reply helps reaffirm that knowledge of axioms are in a way about everything, but in a confused and indistinct way that asks for more. It is per se notum that the some common truth exists, but not that the first truth exists.

No comments:

Post a Comment